A fair few of us are guilty of assuming that veganism is the hardcore, labour intensive big sister to vegetarianism. Anyone can sack meat from their diet, can’t they? But when we consider swapping out eggs, dairy, and any additives derived from animal products, the concept suddenly gets a little harder to digest. So is it worth it? Is this a trend with staying power?
So who are the vegans?
The stats in the “pro” camp are crazy – the number of vegans in the UK has risen by 350% since 2006. 42% of vegans are in the 15-34 age bracket, with powerful documentaries such as Cowspiracy and Earthlings being cited as triggers for the change. Helping the upswing are influential lifestyle vloggers such as Niomi Smart, whose new vegan-inspired cookbook loots set to sweep the non-fiction charts.
Does it help animals?
PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) refers to veganism as “a compassionate plant-based diet”. This compassion extends past animals too – the most effective way to minimise our carbon footprint is to avoid all animal products, negating the “farm to fork” energy expenditure. This is not just about eating meat. Its about anything that uses animals in a way detrimental to them. We're pretty sure that half of us don't even realise that everyday things harm animals. Such as.... >
Wanting to eliminate the exploitation of animals and help the environment isn’t always a key driver for choosing veganism as a lifestyle choice, though. Thanks to the recent surge in a clean eating, consumers are looking for accessible ways to eradicate the baddies from their diet. What could be better for our bodies than, well, stuff made from plants?
Does going Vegan have a detrimental impact on our health?
It’s true that a menu devoid of meat and dairy is likely to be low in saturated fat, which contributes to high cholesterol. However, according to nutritionist Mary Lynch, a vegan diet is naturally low in calcium, vitamin D, iron, vitamin B12, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids. The former advisor to Jamie Oliver claims that “it is essential that you get enough of these nutrients through specific vegan food sources – and may even need to take additional supplements.”
This adds to the debate that turning vegan is tricky to get right, and can be expensive. Ready-made substitute products are often set at a much higher price point, with a limited selection available in mainstream stores. Dining out can also be a minefield. Lucy Watson, the no-nonsense star of Made in Chelsea, admits that social occasions can be tricky. “I have seriously struggled eating out, places just do not have vegan options…I have to research before I go. I always look at the menus, sometimes I call ahead.”
See Lucy's full vegan story here. She make's a compelling case without trying to force her diet unto others. Instead, she encourages everyone to just get better informed about the food choices out there.
Could you be a vegan?
Whatever the driving motive, be it the desire to save animals, help the environment or cleanse from within, veganism is big news worldwide. The boom looks set to continue with high-profile celebrities such as Ellie Goulding and Liam Hemsworth turning to all things plant.
Perhaps Ellie gives the concept a touch of realism, by calling herself an aspiring vegan. “It’s actually easy to be a bad vegan, because a lot of junk food is vegan-friendly. Veganism is challenging, but not impossible.”
Our final word
We think it's great that the motivation behind veganism has turned into a process of education. There used to be a joke that vegans couldn't help but tell everyone that they were vegans - people found it strange. But - they were probably screaming it from the rooftops as there seemed to be no mainstream sources to understand what it was all about. Thankfully - that has changed, and it's no surprise there is a mammoth increase in people being a vegan. Cowspiracy is a mammoth eye-opener. :(
What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments box below....