Becoming vegan not only helps saves the lives of animals, but also helps the environment. The last decade has seen a vast increase in the number of vegans in Britain
Imagine your favourite meal. Fish and chips? Spaghetti Bolognese? Burgers? Whatever it is, there is a high chance that it has meat or animal products in it. It is easy to forget the simple pleasure that comes with eating fruit and vegetables, from the earthy smell of carrots and lettuce, to the vibrant, tantalising colours of strawberries and blueberries. Simply swapping minced beef with edamame and white kidney beans in a stew, will instantly add colour back into your food and can help to save the planet.
Veganism is becoming an increasingly popular lifestyle choice. The number of vegans in the UK has risen by 360% over the last ten years, and this figure continues to rise. But what is it that has caused such an influx in the number of people following a vegan lifestyle? Is there more accessibility to vegan produce, or are people simply becoming more aware of animal exploitation?
“The number of vegans in the UK has risen by 360% over the last ten years”
It could be argued that the rise of social media has greatly influenced people’s views and opinions on veganism. Bloggers with large followings are portraying the lifestyle as exciting and desirable, and are using their platforms to spread the word about the benefits of the lifestyle. People now associate veganism with colourful, fresh produce and improved health because of the vegan hashtag on Instagram and videos uploaded on to YouTube. Vegan YouTuber, Poppy Sansom, believes that social media has really helped veganism to grow in recent years as people are very influenced by what they see online. However, Poppy learnt from her own experience that going vegan for the right reason is very important. She said, “not knowing enough or doing enough research is why people don’t stick to veganism – if they knew all the scientific evidence that is out there then I believe they’d be much more likely to stick with it.” Poppy did her own research on why the vegan lifestyle is so beneficial and she has now been vegan for over a year and half.
For many years, veganism was burdened with some old stereotypes, but in the last decade, the diet has become widely associated with improving the lives of animals and the state of the planet, as well as boasting numerous health benefits to those who follow it. It is thanks to social media that people are now more aware of many of the other benefits of a vegan lifestyle. Spokesperson for The Vegan Society, Dominika Piasecka, feels that “the image of veganism is undergoing the most radical change in its history.” She believes that many vegans are “concerned with the huge impact that animal agriculture has on the environment” and states that a fourth benefit of a vegan lifestyle is that it helps to fight world hunger. She says, “3.5 billion humans could live off the food currently fed to farm animals,” and we “quite simply, do not have enough land to feed a growing population on an animal-based diet.”
According to statistics, it seems that the health benefits of a vegan lifestyle are undeniably positive. However, nutritionist, Julia Taylor does not think that such an extreme dietary commitment is necessary to live a healthy, balanced lifestyle. She believes rather, that veganism is simply “on trend” and that “newspaper articles are often biased.” It is believed that some people have adopted the vegan lifestyle after the revelation in 2015 that red meats have been linked to cancer. Although there is evidence to suggest that high consumption of processed meat can be associated with cancer, Julia feels that there is no problem with eating “moderate quantities of well-sourced, grass-fed, good-quality meat.” Julia also said that, “the availability of vegan food in supermarkets is just due to trend- rather than the other way around (as) supermarkets are masters of their client base.”
Social media has undoubtedly played a huge role in the rise of veganism in the last decade. It is difficult to decide whether this has been completely positive for the vegan community. While veganism continues to grow in popularity, it is highly likely that many people opting into this lifestyle in recent years, have done so because it is fashionable and trendy, or because of societal pressures online. If people have not chosen the lifestyle for the correct reasons, it is possible that a few years down the line the number of vegans could start to decrease again. However, veganism is now being shown in a much more positive light than in previous years which can only be encouraging for the community.