Choosing to be vegan is not some new millennial trend that will fade away once we all ‘grow out of it’. People have been choosing to avoid eating meat and other animal products for around 2000 years. Vegetarianism can even be traced back to 500 BC where Pythagoras (yes, the same philosopher and mathematician who taught us about triangles) promoted kindness to all species.
Sure, in the last few years there has been an incredible surge of people making the switch to veganism, but that’s only because the way in which we are communicating with one another has become so instant. In 2019 there were 600,000 recorded vegans in the UK, which is quadruple the amount recorded in 2016.
Of course, there are various reasons why people go vegan: for the animals, health, the environment. Yet regardless of reason, each decision was made based on awareness and knowledge of the world around us. For many of us, this most probably snowballed from watching a documentary or two. Maybe Cowspiracy? What The Health? Earthlings? These films are so easily accessible online it’s no wonder so many people are making the change. Films like these have exposed the damage our current farming practices are having on the environment, how eating animals can negatively impact our health but most obviously, they have opened eyes to the horrific scenes of slaughterhouses, factory farms and animal ‘wet’ markets across the world.
Scenes of animal slaughter were once kept hidden from society. Every year in the UK, over one billion farmed animals are killed in slaughterhouses and yet it was still so easy to ignore where the meat in our supermarkets come from. It was very easy to forget that the bacon on our plate was once a beautiful, living, breathing pig. For once, I think we can thank social media for the spread of this information. Although, many people still turn a blind eye to where meat comes from and this is perhaps because eating animals is so ingrained into our culture. It is even financially ingrained into our society. Thus, it is incredibly hard for some people to understand a more vegan point of view. Yet for many people, realising the violent truth of the meat and dairy industries, and deciding they no longer want to contribute to them, it is almost like a weight has been lifted. This is possibly why Kip Anderson, co-director of Cowspiracy, has said: “before, veganism may have been viewed like you were giving up something, now it’s been reframed as what you gain.” And if all you gain is a new perspective on life then that is still pretty incredible.
Others, however, are searching to gain a healthier lifestyle by becoming vegan. Research has found this to be overwhelmingly possible too. In 2019 a study was conducted with more than 12,000 people and found that people who ate predominantly plant-based foods were 32% less likely to die from heart disease. The dangers of eating meat are plain to see when you look to the World Health Organisation, who classify processed meat as a group 1 carcinogen. This means it is in the same category as cigarettes, alcohol and even asbestos. The WHO has also classified red meat as a group 2A carcinogen. It is somewhat mind-boggling that these facts can be overlooked for the fleeting enjoyment of taste. Furthermore, by eating our plant-based crop yield, instead of feeding it to farmed animals, we could feed twice as many people on the planet as we do now.
One of the biggest reasons, currently, for avoiding animal products is for the positive impacts it can have on the environment. Recently, society has taken notice of what scientists have been shouting about for years; Climate change, although it has now been renamed as the climate crisis. In 2018, Oxford University found that following a vegan diet is the best way to reduce our impact on the planet. The UN has stated that animal agriculture contributes 14.5% to all manmade greenhouse gas emissions. This is almost equivalent to the emissions of every car, plane, train and ship on the planet. And it is much easier to stop eating meat than it is to stop travelling.
Greenhouse gases increase the temperature of our planet by trapping heat in the atmosphere. We have been alerted that if global temperatures rise above 2 degrees, then the effects of climate change will get significantly worse. This can include extreme weather and rising sea-levels, which we are already experiencing; It seems as if we are being warned. These issues will have, and already have had, detrimental outcomes for animals and people alike. As a species, humans are the most dangerous creature on Earth, just think of the damage we cause the natural world. Even the presence of COVID-19 has shown us that the planet would thrive without us. Humans essentially control the fate of our planet and so we cannot afford to ignore the science. It is our job to protect it and as many a protest sign has stated: there is no planet B.
Unlike passing food trends such as juice cleanses, avoiding sugar and CBD-infused products, there is substance to veganism. Firstly, it is clear it has a strong ethical backbone. This means that there is a large motivation for people to stay vegan once they have adopted the lifestyle: there is far more to being vegan than just eating vegan. Veganism is a whole new mindset, which influences how we live our lives. It is an ever-growing club where the only way to get in, is to become more respectful of animals and planet Earth. It can even be viewed as giving a voice to the voiceless. Needless to say, it is far from superficial and it is here to stay.