There’s a big shift happening and people are starting to notice. Netflix is featuring vegan health documentaries in the “popular” section, grocery stores are dedicating entire aisles to plant-based options, and meatless restaurants are sprouting up faster than wheatgrass. It seems like everyone and their neighbour knows an herbivore so what’s the deal? Is veganism just a trend or is it here to stay?
When Did this Whole Vegan Thing Start?
Veganism is by no means a recent phenomenon but its recognition and popularity has attracted considerable hype in the last ten years. The Vegan society became a registered charity in 1979. This society released their mission statement as such:
[…] a philosophy and 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; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.
The concept of vegetarianism was recognized before veganism (in terminology). The term “vegetarian” was coined by the British Vegetarian Society in the mid-1800’s. However, vegetarianism itself dates back to a time before the internet, books, or even spoken word can track. Many anthropologists believe that most early humans ate mainly plant foods, being more like gatherers than hunters.
The Counter-Culture: Organic Farming, Diet, and Environmental Consciousness
Vegetarianism itself was not common in North America until the publishing of Frances Moore Lappé’s bestseller Diet for a Small Planet. This book explored the environmental implications of dietary choices and discussed how it takes 14 times as much grain to feed an animal than what you get out of it in meat — an enormous waste of resources.
The time period in which Lappé’s book was released also marked a transformative time in North American culture. During the 1960’s and 1970’s a counter-culture was forming that had a degree of distrust toward food producers and was moving toward organic farming approaches.
How Vegans and Vegetarians Became Mainstream
It was only in the 2010’s that veganism and vegetarianism began to enter mainstream culture as a more accepted and prevalent dietary choice. The global mock-meats market increased by eighteen percent between 2005 and 2010, by 2016, forty-nine percent of Americans were drinking plant milk, and in the United Kingdom, the plant milk market increased by 155 percent in two years.
The Changing Perception of Vegans
Veganism was once referred to as “strict vegetarianism” and the word strict implies a rigid and unbending way of eating. Vegans were seen as self-depriving activists who cared more for animals than their fellow humans and lived a straight edge life. Vegans were also seen as granola-crunching hippies, not athletes, urban dwellers, or mainstream citizens.
By 2015, veganism had begun a full re-brand in the eyes of the public. Plant-based started to resonate among the California elites, the glamorous celebrities, politicians, and yes… even athletes. Chain restaurants began marketing vegan options, the vegan diet was featured on big time health and wellness restaurants, and renowned doctors became advocates for a vegan diet to reverse heart disease and promote long-term health benefits.
But Why Would Someone Become Vegan?
Why would anyone give up meat, cheese, milk, and all those other tasty animal products we grew up on and were told are not only good for us but necessary? Turns out there are a number of reasons to go vegan and people are catching on. A few reasons include:
- Improve health and increase lifespan
- Not supporting unethical factory farming
- Biological and evolutionary aligned
- Environmental sustainability
- Not supporting poor working conditions for people
- Avoid exploiting vulnerable populations
- Compassion and cruelty-free for animals
Is Veganism a Trend or is It Here to Stay?
I believe that the plant-based diet is here to stay. Information surrounding the health risks of consuming a multitude of animal products is reason alone to pick up more plants. When you add in ethical implications, environmental destruction, and increasing availability of delicious and nutritious plant-based foods, the vegan diet becomes much more than just a trend; it becomes a viable option for real positive change.
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