It’s estimated that around 1% of, or around 542,000 people in Britain are vegan, a number that has increased by 360% over the last 10 years.
The Vegan Society defines Veganism as “a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose”. To do so vegans avoid eating meat, dairy and honey, wearing any animal fabrics including leather and silk and products tested on animals.
Veganism has become the next cool thing and an alternative to dieting for those trying to stay lean. Google Trends even showed a 90% increase in searches for ‘vegan’ in 2016. Large chain supermarkets like Tesco and Sainsbury’s in the UK now stock a vegan friendly line. Tesco’s ‘free from’ range expanded in recent years to including a vegan diet, not just allergies. This is no doubt a reaction to the massive growth in veganism across Ireland and the UK.
There’s always the joke when it comes to veganism that you’ll know one when you see them, because they’ll tell you. So what’s really driving the spike in veganism? Is it just another food trend and people trying to look unique or are we all becoming more self-aware about the world we live in and the impact we have on it.
With documentaries like Cowspiracy, Food Matters and Forks over Knives coming out in public media, including Netflix, it’s not surprising that more and more people are changing their diets. Although some people might be just jumping on the bandwagon, with documentaries like this trending on social media and even winning awards, it’s impossible to deny we’re becoming more aware of the connection between meat and its negative effects on us, the animals and the environment.
When we look at a vegan diet compared to a meat eater, there is no doubt that the former is better for you. Looking at red meat alone it’s high in saturated fat which can raise cholesterol. A study by JAMA Internal Medicine found that eating processed meat can, over time, increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This is just to name two problems that stem from eating red meat. So fashion statement or not, it’s fair to conclude if done correctly a vegan lifestyle can be a much healthier one.
What’s difficult to say is how many people are ethical vegans, choosing to avoid all animal products for the sake of animals and the environment as well as diet and how many see it as simply a new diet; those who use veganism as a way to lose weight or keep up with the media craze. Although it’s probable that the social media attention and number of vegan YouTubers and bloggers will slow down and get less mainstream attention, it looks like veganism is here to stay.
Living in a more aware and vocal world like we do now with more knowledge of how what we eat gets to our plates, it’s impossible to go back to blissful ignorance. We now know more than we ever have about the harmful effects of meat and other animal products and som although the “trend” of veganism will slow down eventually, the lifestyle will continue to grow and become more normalised in mainstream society.