Veganism- the philosophy and lifestyle that rejects using animals in the production of anything consumed by humans, has rapidly moved into the mainstream. Once viewed as a practice only undertaken by a minority of subcultures, plant-based lifestyles have suddenly exploded in popularity throughout society.
The Vegan Society; a leading vegan charity, claim 56% of the British population practice vegan buying habits; checking the ethical and sustainable nature of their beauty products and purchasing dairy-free produce. 43% of the vegans in the UK changed lifestyle in 2018 alone and in 2017, demand for meat-free food increased by 987%. This trend has seen one-in-three British people dramatically reduce their meat consumption and start buying plant-based milks, leading Britain to become the greatest producer of vegan products in the world.
The Vegan Society believe the rapid rise in veganism is attributed to ‘documentaries on the shocking realities of animal agriculture that have gained prominence; peaceful activists are educating the public about veganism on the streets and in schools and delicious vegan recipes have multiplied online and on social media.’ According to their statistics, 31% of British people said they cut back on red meat for health reasons and 25% said they did so because of their concern for the environment. Young people are leading the revolution, with 42% of all vegans being in the 15-34 age category.
A 2018 study by the University of Oxford, looking into the benefits of veganism, found that ‘avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth.’ A study published in Environmental Research Letters found that veganism has three-times more impact than washing clothes in cold-water and four times more impact than recycling. The United Nations reported a global shift for veganism would be the most effective way to end world hunger and poverty.
In 2017, they claimed that globally, around one-in-nine people are undernourished. whilst 83% of the world’s farmland is being used for meat production, malnutrition will continue to spread. Three meat companies alone, were estimated to have emitted more greenhouse gases in 2016 than the whole of France. Approximately 14.5% of the planet’s global warming emissions come from keeping and eating livestock (largely cow methane); more than the entire transport sector. If the whole world became vegan, the use of land would be cut by 76% and the emission of greenhouse gases would be halved.
Research has found vegan diets have the potential to improve your health as the nutrients in plant-based foods are full of goodness. Greater consumption of fruits, nuts and fibres lowers cholesterol and blood pressure resulting in vegans being at 75% less risk of heart disease.
There is evidence that cutting out dairy and consuming certain soya products can reduce the risk of some cancers. According to Diabetes UK, vegans have a much lower risk of developing type-2 diabetes, due to the low sugar levels, and is more effective than the diet recommended by the American Diabetes Association. Veganism can help you lose weight and increases collagen and vitamin C, which is beneficial for your skin.
Cutting out the huge levels of oestrogen that are stored in meat fat can contribute to a more even balance of hormones. However, veganism has to be done properly, as an unhealthy or unbalanced diet can cause a low intake of essential fatty acids, vitamin B12, iron, calcium, iodine or zinc, counteracting all of the health benefits veganism can cause.
As veganism has grown, so has research around replacements for meat and dairy. Chickpea water, when whisked, has a consistency that resembles egg whites and chefs often make meringues from it. Jackfruit replicates pulled pork and a recently popularised wheat-based ingredient Seiten creates excellent vegan chicken.
Vegan charity Viva! told us that “You can also use cauliflower to make ‘steaks’ and tempeh (fermented soya beans) to make ‘bacon’.” Melissa Morgan, owner of “Ms. Cupcake”, a vegan cupcake shop in Brixton, replaces eggs with a variety of products such as fruit or veg purees and flax seed.
Sharks are responsible for approximately 12 human deaths a year, whilst humans kill a staggering 11,414 of them per hour. Yet we are taught that they are our biggest enemy.
A free range egg farmer can legally house 16,000 birds in one building; which can mean nine birds per square meter.
Pigs are entitled to one square meter of space and are housed in a type of crate that is illegal everywhere else in Europe. Shockingly only 3% of UK pigs will have spent their entire lives outside.
Every year over 90,000 male calves are shot as they can’t be used for meat production; being sold off as a by-product. Female dairy cows are bred to produce 10 times more milk than they’re naturally able, resulting in 30% having mastitis; a bacterial infection of the udder.
In 2014, vegan charity PETA offered a $1 million reward to the first company who created meat grown from stem cells, claiming: ‘We believe it’s the first important step towards realising the dream of putting environmentally sound, humanely produced real meat into the hands and mouths of the people who insist on eating animal flesh.” Bill Gates has contributed funds to the development of what has been titled ‘clean meat’ and if successful, one study predicts it could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 96%.
Some American and one Dutch company, have set to work to develop a sustainable and cost-efficient meat, which doesn’t involve killing animals. The process works by taking the stem cells from the muscle of an animal and multiplying them, so that a sufficient amount of meat can be made. In labs, the conditions of the animal’s body are recreated in order to allow the stem cells to grow. If this product is successful, one tissue sample has the potential to yield 80,000 burgers. However, in 2013 the cost of creating one patty cost £300,000 and journalists claimed it was too dry. Since then costs have dropped to approximately £600 per patty.
The Vegan Society told us because ‘these products include starter cells derived from animals, they aren’t vegan.’ Currently, clean meat relies on serums and growth enhancing proteins that can only be found in the blood of animals; popularly foetal bovine serum.
Viva! said: ‘it is vital that the cells are grown in a vegan medium and do not replace one form of cruelty with another. We are also concerned for the animals used for the biopsies until self-renewing cells are developed.’ They also claim clean meat ‘fosters the perception that we need meat, which is simply not true.’
Whilst the rock we all blissfully co-habit, continues to hurtle through space, we are swiftly running out of time to achieve a full recovery and save our planet earth. If cutting out animal products is your chosen contribution to the mass attempt at cooling down our planet, then there is no better time than right now to jump on the herbivorous band wagon.
Photo credits: Ms. Cupcake at www.mscupcake.co.uk, Tyne Chease at www.tynechease.com