Veganism is on the rise with more persons globally being vegan than ever before. A large percentage of these vegans are generation Z and millennials. 3% of respondents in both the UK and US identify Vegan as stated by sentient media.
What is veganism?
According to the Vegan Society, veganism is a philosophy and way of living that actively aims to exclude the exploitation of animals. This means that vegans typically avoid food products and by-products of animals as well as animal testing and materials derived from animals such as leather.
Plant-Based vs Vegan
A popular topic of conversation within the Vegan community is the distinction between ‘plant-based’ and ‘Vegan’. So what is the difference? In a nutshell, a vegan diet is more strict than a plant-based one which may seek to avoid meat, dairy, and egg products but may sometimes choose convenience over restriction.
Why is veganism popular?
Veganism has been on the rise and due to this demand, the supply of vegan and plant-based foods has also increased, making the lifestyle more accessible over time. With a growing movement, you may be wondering why so many persons are gravitating towards this lifestyle.
Veganism has several benefits…
Environment. Firstly, Veganism has been found to reduce one’s negative environmental impact. This diet lessens the amount of resources such as water and land needed to produce food. In fact, according to the Vegan Society, it takes approximately three times more water to feed a meat-eater than it does a Vegan. Moreover, the uncurbed expansion of the cattle industry, in addition to unsustainable farming practices, is the leading driver of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, home to 30% of the world’s species.
Animal rights. Veganism promotes a lifestyle with reduced levels of cruelty towards animals. This is the case as many vegans value animal rights and protection, not just for endangered species but also for species often regarded and food. Vegan activists are known globally for their powerful and often graphic protests with organizations such as PETA. Activists like ‘Earthling Ed’ and ‘James’Aspey’. As stated by ‘Million Dollar Vegan’, animal farming results in unnecessary suffering for billions of animals. Animal agriculture features large scale production through which over 70 million land animals globally are killed for food each year, according to data obtained in 2018.
Health. This is a common motivation for going vegan as stated by bbc. Persons following a vegan diet have been found to have reduced risk of the most common causes of death such as heart disease and cancer (bbc). Vegans have been found to have an increased risk of stroke however as a lack of B12 is of concern. Another common concern associated with Veganism is iron deficiency. This myth has been debunked by Marco Springmann, senior researcher of environmental sustainability and public health at the University of Oxford. Spingmann states that once one’s diet consists of fruits and vegetables of varying colours, iron deficiency is unlikely.
Like many controversial topics nowadays however, Veganism has been subject to criticism. One main criticism is the ‘extreme’ nature of the lifestyle due to the strict restrictions with regard to food and other aspects such as clothing and beauty products. This criticism may be due to the fact that Veganism opposes existing societal norms, according to ‘Million Dollar Vegan’.
In addition to the positives, Veganism presents several cons including…
A harsh transition. Everybody is different and therefore everyone may have a different experience when transitioning to a new lifestyle such as Veganism. Furthermore, change is uncomfortable, making this a delicate subject of conversation.
A lack of affordable Vegan food. Although a growing industry, Vegan alternatives such as ‘The Impossible Burger’ and ‘Beyond Meat’ may be seen as luxuries due to their high price range. Like any diet, a plant-based diet may be affordable or unobtainable depending on factors such as location, income and other dietary restrictions. For example, vegan food is less accessible in developing nations such as islands in the Caribbean when compared to in the United States of America.
So, you have explored the pros and cons, what next?
Here are some tips for engaging in a more plant-based diet…
Research. This is a great way to receive more tips as well as to educate yourself on the do’s and don’ts of a plant-based diet.
Read labels carefully. It may take some time to memorize products and by-products which are not considered plant based. It may be a good idea to make a list of foods that are unsuitable versus those that are acceptable.
Seek alternative recipes. As opposed to altering your regular meals completely, opt to swap out meat, dairy, and eggs for a plant-based alternative, making it easier to prepare meals. Also, seek recipes from vegan chefs and content creators who may provide easy recipes for vegan foods.
Go at your own pace. As previously mentioned, everybody is different and it is therefore important to listen to your own body and adopt a plant-based diet at a pace that is ideal for you. Some people tell stories of going vegan overnight, known in the vegan community as the ‘overnight vegan’. Others require a slower transition however, emphasising the importance of setting one’s own pace.
Include adequate sources of protein and vitamins. The key to any balanced diet is incorporating all important aspects of a healthy diet. A healthy and balanced plant-based diet is no different. In order to reap the short term and long term benefits of this diet, a healthy version of it must be followed.
Overall, a vegan or plant-based diet has several pros and cons with control factors including location, income, and lifestyle restrictions. This diet has been praised by many while criticised by others, but is undeniably on the rise.
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