Veganism is not totally new, but it is taking off in a way that has not been seen before. The number of self-identifying vegans in the United Kingdom has risen by 350% in the last decade, and things are even more impressive across the pond. In the United States, that figure climbed 600% between 2014 and 2017.
As always, it’s important to look at the whole picture. This massive climb means that 7% rather than 1% of North Americans choose a fully vegan lifestyle – still nowhere near a majority. But for people advocating the lifestyle, it is an encouraging step in the desired direction.
Why Choose to be Vegan?
The 3 main reasons for choosing this way of eating seem to be that it is thought to be healthier, that it is better for the environment, and that cruelty to animals is all too common in the food industry. There is no cholesterol and plenty of fibre in plants, and some studies are now showing that you can get all the proteins human beings need from plants.
Claiming land for agriculture has long been destructive to natural ecosystems and species, and the huge global population of cows is taking our levels of methane gas to terrifying levels. When you add the fact that the dairy and meat industries are full of the most appalling examples of animal cruelty, from farming battery chickens to fattening calves for veal by not allowing them to move, the trend towards this lifestyle becomes even more understandable.
How Easy is it to Go Vegan?
Enjoyable vegan eating takes some doing. You need to get creative with the ingredients, and be prepared to spend a large amount of your time preparing your meals. Mushrooms as steaks and vibrant vegetables that don’t get boring require some dedication on your part, though it is easier today than it’s ever been before. As the idea becomes more popular, eateries around the world are accommodating these diners with vegan dishes on their menus.
Dedicated restaurants that celebrate veganism are also becoming more common, along with those committed to local farming and other ethical decisions. The Beyond Meat company’s Beyond Burger recreates animal-based burgers with plants incredibly successfully, and there are hundreds of products that make mayonnaise, fish sauce, sausages and almost everything else possible in a vegan diet.
Veganism is Still Only Possible for Privileged Individuals
More celebrities and top athletes are becoming vegan all the time, but they can afford to do so. Almost everything is available in vegan format these days, but comes at a much higher price point, complete with hipster-like, infinitely Instagrammable presentation. You could be vegan and live on nothing but chickpeas, but that seems pretty unappealing and is actually rather unhealthy too.
Those working for minimum wage, or surviving on food stamps, simply cannot afford to make this decision, unless they win big at a casino, or receive a large windfall that changes their financial situation. There may be plenty of jokes that millennials (the fastest-growing group of vegans) are buying avocados instead of making down payments on houses, but the fact remains that this is what they are spending money on – and what they appear to be prepared to pay a lot for.
Something is Better than Nothing in Veganism
If a massive lifestyle change is too difficult due to finances, or the idea of cutting out meat completely just seems too daunting, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything. A diet that is mostly plant-based and still includes some meat products will lower the impact you are having on the planet, and can still be better for your health.
This so-called “flexitarianism” is gathering traction in major organisations, with Google adding more plant-only meals to the menus that they serve their staff. Certain school districts in France and America are doing the same.
A Human Approach to Eating Plants
The idea that you can be better if not perfect, and do something if not nothing, is an important one in our modern world. Following the chronic drive for overachievement in the 1990s and 2000s, it focuses on taking downtime as well as working hard, and, essentially, doing better when you know better.
The flexible, pro plant-based food approach to living the best vegan life that you can fits right into the trend of doing the best you can with whatever your current circumstances are. And that might be the most Instagram-worthy concept of all.