The Rise of Veganism
Updated: Oct 30, 2018
The world is a worrying place right now. Climate change, cruelty, cancer... It’s sometimes difficult to see the light, and just thinking of a way to help can be overwhelming. For many, veganism seems to be the answer.
The movement is growing exponentially, with a study commissioned by the Vegan Society in 2016 showing that the number of people following a plant-based lifestyle in the UK had increased more than 350% in a decade, from 150,000 to 542,000. Many believe that since this analysis was carried out the number may have even doubled again. It’s visible everywhere from supermarkets to social media that this trend is on the rise; restaurants are offering more vegan options, ‘Free From’ aisles are expanding, and communities online are becoming stronger. And it’s so easy to see why this increase is happening; it’s a way of life that brings health and happiness to humans, animals, and the planet alike.
Anybody with concerns about the environment should take time to consider the benefits of avoiding animal-based foods. According to the UN, veganism is one of the most important ways we can tackle climate change. Adopting a plant-based diet can help reduce greenhouse gases, pollution and even deforestation.
The production of meat and other animal goods requires a large amount of land, water and energy. Areas of forest are destroyed to make way for grazing livestock; according to a Greenpeace report, an area of the Amazon equivalent to the size of Portugal disappeared during a ten year period in Brazil, wiping out habitats for wild animals, damaging ecosystems, and negatively affecting the world’s carbon balance. In comparison, plant-based foods require just a fraction of the space to grow the same number of calories.
The carbon emissions produced from animal agriculture are shocking. From growing the crops to feed the animals, to burning fossil fuels in the process of slaughtering and transporting them, a vast amount of energy is consumed. Studies have found that factory farming for meat actually contributes more to global warming than all planes, trains and cars combined. Plant-based proteins, however, can be produced with approximately eight times less energy.
It’s not only land and air that are affected by the meat industry, but water is seriously impacted too. The earth faces limited freshwater concerns, yet farming consumes an astonishing amount of water to function. It has been reported that it requires more than 4,000 gallons of water per day to produce a typical meat eater's diet, but only 300 gallons for a typical vegan’s. Additionally, runoff from factory farming and livestock grazing is one of the leading causes of pollution in rivers and lakes, causing even more issues.
The detrimental environmental consequences of animal agriculture are clear. The production of plant-based foods requires less energy, land and water, and so by removing animal products from our diet, we can significantly reduce our ecological footprint. The truth is, the simplest way to reduce our damaging effect on the environment is to eat less meat, and a growing number of people are realising that becoming a vegan is the best thing they can do for our earth.
The most obvious reason for becoming a vegan is to avoid participating in the industry that slaughters animals. Many believe that animals don’t deserve to suffer their entire life simply to satisfy our taste buds, that they are not ours to be used. The growth in veganism can be explained by the fact that people are finally becoming aware of the true brutality of what really goes on in the manufacture of meat and dairy. An increasing number of documentaries exposing the unethical treatment and grim conditions involved are being created and shared across the internet.
Some argue that fishing is less cruel than farming, as the animals are not brought up simply to be murdered. However, the unfortunate unintended effects of many commercial fishing methods are now also coming to light; damage to ocean floor habitats and the accidental killing of marine life such as dolphins and turtles, being two of the main casualties of the process. The tragedy of plastic pollution in our waters is a well-known issue, but those participating in the fight to reduce the harm inflicted on sea animals should also look into the way their seafood is sourced.
In the UK we are renowned for being animal lovers and the hypocritical nature of also being meat eaters is becoming too much for some. Vegans can rest easy in the knowledge that they are fuelling themselves without harming other living beings in the process.
Unfortunately, we all know someone who has battled with cancer. Analysis suggests half of us will be struck with the disease, it infects the lives of millions. The risk of being affected by this, or by another life-threatening illness, is something we are all keenly aware of. As more research is carried out and we have a better understanding of the causes, an increasing number of us are becoming mindful of how healthily we live our lives, with conscious action taken to try and increase our chances of avoiding sickness. One of the ways in which we can do this is to become a vegan.
It has been shown that vegans are around 40% less likely to get cancer than meat-eaters are, and the risk of developing other health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimers and strokes, is also greatly reduced. Because of the well-known benefits to be gained from consuming fruit and veg, vegetarian and vegan recipes have multiplied on the internet and social media. The vegan way of life has spread rapidly in recent years, motivating people to change and making it easier than ever to do so.
There’s not really a downside to vegan living. Animal and earth-friendly, as well as good-for-you?! So why aren’t more of us a part of the “v-gang”?