In this article we delve into the details behind the inexorable rise of veganism and we also look at the health and environmental aspects of a plant based diet.
Your thoughts are welcome, please submit your comments at the end of the post 🙂
What Is Veganism?
I’m sure you’ve got a pretty good idea of what veganism is but here’s a very quick explanation …
Veganism is a life choice which is primarily rooted in the animal rights movement and involves dietary choices that avoid the consumption of any animal products or by-products.
This means no meat, dairy, eggs, and honey, as well as other products derived from animals such as leather and fur.
In this piece I will keep pointing out that veganism has nothing to do with health or the environment, despite what you may have read elsewhere.
It is 100% concerned with abolishing the speciesist way of life we currently engage in.
Why Are More & More People Switching To Veganism?
Increasing numbers of people are switching to veganism because the plight of our ‘food animals’ is no longer hidden from view.
With the internet and especially social media it’s now very difficult to be unaware of how humans treat the billions of sentient beings which are slaughtered annually … all for a moment on the lips.
If you’re really interested in the reality then have a watch of this video from vegan activist Joey Carbstrong and bear in mind this is classed as one of the more ‘humane’ establishments!
Some people are still ignorant of what actually goes on behind closed doors, others simply don’t care.
But if you have an ounce of empathy in you then chances are you’re appalled by the wholesale mass slaughter that humans perpetrate on our fellow creatures of Earth.
There are also those switching to plant-based for health and environmental reasons but to be clear they are not strictly classed as vegan. If animal rights is your primary driver then you’re vegan … anything else is plant-based.
What Is The Evidence For This ‘Big Switch’?
The exploding popularity of veganism is clearly evident from the ever growing number of vegan food options in restaurants, supermarkets, and especially fast-food chains.
In fact, just the other day my family and I were travelling back home from a few days away and we were looking for something to eat at the motorway services. All the Greggs vegan sausage rolls were gone so I readied myself to be utterly fleeced and we headed over to Burger King!
My daughter was delighted 🙂
3 plant based whopper meals later and my wallet 30 quid lighter, we were actually feeling quite full … which is certainly not always the case after a BK.
The point I’m trying to make, in a somewhat round about way, is that just a few short years ago there would have been almost no vegan options at the motorway services …
You might have scored a small bag of fries but other than that it would be a very expensive bag of crisps (potato chips). But these days there’s vegan options everywhere!
I’ve been vegan for more than a decade now and I’ve seen a significant rise in vegan-friendly products like cruelty-free cosmetics and plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy.
Vegan and plant-based options are now everywhere and this shows the growing demand and acceptance of veganism in mainstream society.
The History of Modern Veganism
Veganism actually goes way back. More than 4000 years in fact.
But the origins of the movement we know today can be traced back to the mid-20th century. The term “vegan” was coined in the 1940’s by Donald & Dot Watson (actually Dot came up with the word, according to their daughter, Janet). He was a carpentry teacher born in Yorkshire, UK and was to marry a Welsh girl by the name of Dorothy Morgan
Along with some other early adopters, Watson created The Vegan Society in 1944 after a dairy-free subset of the vegetarian contingent decided they needed a home.
… and from these humble beginnings, through advocacy for the ethical treatment of animals throughout the food chain and beyond, modern veganism was born.
Today, more than 75 years later, it is hard to ignore.
Veganism will always be wholly an animal rights movement but over the years it has become conflated with issues around health and the environment.
Many would argue that this blurring of the boundaries dilutes the core vegan message … that being the absolute opposition to animal exploitation.
… and that is probably true but social movements always evolve and expand. Any health and environmental benefits associated with veganism are a welcome benefit, in my book.
It is only a relatively recent thing where we see the vast array of ‘cruelty free’ foods readily available to us. For those growing up in the 40’s, like Watson and his merry band of vegans, it was a very different story.
But through dedicated and continued devotion to the cause over the years, the marketing bods are finally taking notice and supply chains are responding.
In more recent history the world wide web and social media in particular has played a huge role in the growth of our movement and we look a little closer at this below.
Health Benefits of Plant Based Diets
Veganism has nothing to do with health. This is another conflation which has slowly seeped into the discourse.
Any health benefits of going vegan are really just a nice bonus. The driving force behind veganism will always be to free animals from the slavery and torture they currently endure in this mad world.
A true dystopia where we slaughter over 80 billion sentient land animals every single year.
But it is true the health benefits of eating plant-based are difficult to ignore. We have a wealth of studies now and almost all of them point towards positive health outcomes.
Don’t get me wrong … there’s plenty of unhealthy, junky vegan food but if you focus on whole, plant-based foods (WFPB) then the research does confirm that a balanced diet can:
- Reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer.
- Help with weight loss: Whole plant-based foods often have fewer calories and fat than animal-based foods. It’s much easier to shed those extra pounds by going plant-based and of course, this reduces the risk of obesity-related illness.
- Improve gut health: A plant-based diet invariably contains more fiber than a meat-heavy diet. This benefits the gut microbiome and can lead to a more healthy digestive system.
- Lower cholesterol levels: Saturated and trans fats are much more prevalent in animal-based diets, but generally very low in WFPB diets. Whatever you think about sat fat, the scientific data indicates a strong correlation between WFPB and lower LDL cholesterol levels. Less LDL means a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Improve blood sugar control: Plenty of research shows a positive relationship between WFPB and a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Many people even report reversing this debilitating condition after switching to plant-based.
As I’ve already said, improved overall health is a nice little bonus to our vegan lifestyle … but never forget the animals!
Could Veganism Save Our Burning Planet?
Unless you’re one of these weird climate science deniers then you’ll probably be at least a little bit concerned about the state of our global environment.
The greenhouse effect, plastic pollution, chemical experimentation … the human race seems to be trying very hard to bring about it’s own extinction at the moment.
… and animal agriculture is intrinsically linked to this environmental degradation. There’s no getting away from it but still the industry lobbies hard to maintain the status quo.
It honestly feels like we’re just going backwards sometimes!
Many studies show that switching to a vegan lifestyle which is centered around whole foods has a massive impact on our environmental footprint and this has been another key driver in the ever increasing popularity of veganism.
Again, it’s about the animals not the environment but the benefits of a WFPB diet are clear for all to see in the scientific literature.
Some even argue that animal agriculture is the biggest cause of climate change, bar none … and it’s a convincing argument!
Numerous studies conclusively show that moving to a more plant-based existence for humans results in:
- Reduced greenhouse gas emissions: it’s not all about CO2 … animal ag is a major producer of methane and nitrous oxide, both potent greenhouse gases. Not to mention the inefficient use of energy in meat and dairy production. It all feeds into the climate change equation.
- Conservation of land and water resources: animal based food systems consume vast amounts of land and water. Cows drink a lot of water and the crops we grow to feed them are draining rivers dry.
- Preservation of biodiversity: when you buy meat and dairy you are driving the loss of biodiversity due to deforestation, habitat conversion and ecosystem disruption. The Amazon rainforest is the lungs of the world and it’s being decimated to raise livestock and grow soy for animal feed. Simple, verifiable facts.
- Mitigation of water pollution: factory farming produces a lot of waste and guess where it often ends up? Yep, in the water course … and it’s not only the poo. Excessive use of antibiotics and hormones in CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) also contaminates water bodies.
I need to keep reiterating that veganism is not about the environment or health but purely concerned with animal rights.
But becoming more plant-based as a global society means we all benefit. The carnivores can thank us later 🙂
Social Media – Love It Or Hate It
Even though Elon is doing a very good job of ruining Twitter ( or ‘X’ as it is now known! ) it cannot be denied that social media networks have played a decisive role in the ever increasing popularity of veganism.
The animal ag barons have done a pretty good job over the years of hiding the truth behind your steak and chips or your chicken wings.
But we now live in a digital age where an image or a video can traverse the globe 5 times over before you’ve even got your pants on in the morning!
Social media educates, inspires, raises awareness, enables advocacy and empowers us to stand up for the billions of sentient beings abused and tortured by the human race every year.
These people are driving the movement to ever greater heights through platforms like YouTube and Tik Tok. They reach the younger demographic more readily and veganism is now becoming very popular with the kids.
Oh man … I sound old now :-/
Veganism, Animal Welfare and Ethics
And here’s the motherlode folks!
The biggest reason veganism is becoming so popular is because issues around animal welfare ( or lack thereof ) are increasingly difficult to ignore.
We see footage of pigs writhing in agony as they’re lowered into gas chambers (previous link) and dairy cows being kicked in the face as their calves are forcibly removed so humans can drink that milk.
Then there’s the abject horror clearly visible in the eyes of those beef cows as they hear the blood curdling screams of their companions, minutes before they suffer the same fate.
Or the factory farmed chickens who’re unable to support their own body weight due to selective breeding … they lie on the floor in amongst their own excrement as the other birds peck them until they bleed.
I could go on … and often do!
Most of us have a functioning empathy gland and when we see this dystopian hell our ‘food animals’ have to suffer, for many of us a switch is flicked inside.
… and I can never envisage myself switching that back off. Once you know the truth, how can you be anything other than vegan?
For decades the truth has been cleverly concealed from us by ‘big ag’. Those idyllic images of smiling cows in green fields on your bottle of milk. Happy pigs on the side of the butcher’s wagon and then the mass misinformation campaigns around the supposed health benefits of animal foods.
That’s another subject which is being seriously challenged in this age of enlightenment.
Embracing the vegan way of life means you are someone who:
- Rejects cruelty in animal agriculture … in fact we simply reject animal exploitation in all its myriad forms.
- Has empathy and compassion for all animals … we love our pugs but not our pigs? They are all intelligent, feeling, loving beings. There is no difference
- Raises awareness of the cause simply by being vegan.
- Is driving a real shift in social norms … the future of the human race is an evolution towards veganism!
Conclusion – Is It Your Turn?
So there is a bit of a paradox here.
Even though it seems veganism is growing in popularity by leaps and bounds every day, the stats paint a contradictory story.
If you try to find data on the percentage of vegans in the world you’ll likely come across a figure of around 3% – 4% … and this hasn’t changed for a while.
In fact Google trends (US) indicates a small drop off in popularity for the term ‘vegan’ over the last few years. Similar for the term ‘veganism’ although the term ‘plant based’ is doing well.
Now Google trends is not the oracle and veganism is definitely perceived to be more popular among the younger generations … a contingent who use social media much more to get their news and information.
So Google trends may not be reflecting the true picture but does seem to tie in with this 3% figure we see commonly.
The main problem is people quitting veganism, for whatever reason. We have lots of new vegans every day but the attrition rate remains high.
Personally, I have a hard time accepting that a person can simply ignore what they know when they went vegan in the first place because they couldn’t accept the way our animals are treated in the food industry.
I mean … what changed for that person? The animals treatment certainly didn’t so unless they’re one of the vanishingly small number of people who can’t go vegan for health reasons (yes there are a few) then they’re simply re-engaging with the cognitive dissonance which pervades our societies.
In my heart I feel I will be vegan for the rest of my days. I can never envisage a time where I’d go back to meat and dairy. I certainly have no health requirement to do so.
If you love animals, as many of us claim to do, then why do you still eat them?
Is it your turn to be vegan? I truly hope so …
I hope this article has helped to answer your question in an informative way. If you have more questions please leave them in the comments below – I always respond. Please also share this article with your network using the social buttons.
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Thanks so much for reading and have a peaceful day.
Rohan McAvee is just another vegan blogger trying to navigate the sometimes choppy waters of veganism and plant-based living. Based in the UK, for more than a decade he has been walking the vegan walk, trying to do the right thing for the animals. He’s never really wavered or been tempted to stray from the path and now feels he’s at the point where he can offer advice to new vegans and those considering making the switch. Vegan and loving it!
Veal crate calf photo by Cottonbro Studio from Pexels