Words Kara Stevens
Veganism focuses on living a life free of animal products and by-products. This includes the exclusion of dairy, meat, fish, poultry, eggs and any products derived from animals from one’s diet.
It’s a lifestyle that has become increasingly popular over the past 10 years with celebrities like Zac Effron, Beyonce, Joaquin Phoenix and even Bill Clinton opting to go vegan.
So why the sudden spike in popularity? Globally there has been a significant shift towards minimising the negative impact we have on the world around us, not just for altruistic reasons but because climate change is a very real problem and – if we don’t do something drastic to reduce our carbon footprints – we may not have a world left to save.
Climate change is real and it’s not going away. We’re seeing more severe weather patterns around the world, culminating in record-breaking flooding and fires. In addition to this, we have seen large-scale animal extinctions over the past 50 years. This is directly linked to the choices we make and the impact we have on our environment.
But is going vegan really the answer? A scientific study published by the journal Science investigated this very question on a grand scale. The study analysed data from almost 40 000 farms in 119 countries and covered 40 food products that represent 90 per cent of all that is eaten globally.
According to Joseph Poore, who led the study: “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication (caused by water pollution), land use and water use.”
The study found that meat and dairy use a staggering 83 percent of the world’s farmland. The production of meat and dairy produces 60 per cent of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. Conversely, meat and dairy make up only 18 per cent of the world population’s calories consumed and 37 per cent of the protein consumed.
When compared with the least sustainable vegetables or grains, even the lowest impact meat still has a more adverse impact on the planet.
Essentially, if entire the population went vegan overnight – the greenhouse gases produced by what we consume from agriculture would decrease by approximately 25 to 50 per cent.
The meat and dairy industry represents trillions of dollars, which isn’t something that can be replaced overnight. Fortunately, over $1-billion has been invested in the vegan meat replacement industry.
Scientists have recognised the need for change and they have been working on methods to produce cultured meat, a vegan alternative meat that is biologically identical to animal-derived meat but is cruelty- and slaughter-free.
Consultancy AT Kearney compiled a report investigating cultured meat and predicts that by 2040 the majority of meat consumed will be vegan. Even companies like Tyson Foods, a leading meat producer in the USA, have recognised the need to go vegan. They invested in Israeli clean meat company Future Meat Technologies in 2018.
Rosie Wardle from the Jeremy Coller Foundation, which provides grants to support environmentalism stated: “The shift to more sustainable patterns of protein consumption is already under way, driven by consumers, investors and entrepreneurs and even pulling in the world’s biggest meat companies.”
We’re clearly living in a world where there’s been a conscious shift towards taking action, looking after the environment and not mindlessly consuming products that are exacerbating the issue of climate change.
It’s not enough just to have a voice, to post on social media and to protest against inept governments controlled by big business. We need to be a part of the positive change we want to see in the world and switching to a vegan lifestyle is a leap in the right direction.
Let’s take that leap, let’s embrace conscious living and let’s adopt a vegan lifestyle. Our bodies, minds, spirits and the world around us will be all the better for it.
Top Tips for Going Vegan
Tread Softly. For most people, going vegan overnight is hard. Particularly when you find out just how many foods contain animal products. If you find you’re struggling, consider starting with a few days a week and then building on this.
Do Your Research. Make sure you read up on how to ensure that you’re eating a balanced diet and getting enough B12 and protein. You’ll quickly discover that ingredients like cashew cream and nutritional yeast are magical.
Start with Foods You Love. The transition is going to be a lot less painful if you’re eating foods that you know you love and that satisfy you, so start with these and learn how to make delicious versions of them. You may even want to consider how you can make your favourite non-vegan meals vegan-friendly and experiment with this.
Stock Up. Once you realise just how many foods contain animal products you will want to start stocking up on things like nut butters, sustainable cooking oils, herbs, spices and vegan snacks to keep you satisfied and keep your diet exciting. Your pantry will likely start looking very different after just a few months.
Buy a Vegan Cookbook. Coming up with delicious, creative meals when you first go vegan often trips people up. So why not buy a cookbook to get you started? We suggest: Vegan on a Budget, by Olivia Biermann.
Be Adventurous. Going vegan will likely see you try foods you’ve never even heard of before. Don’t be shy, if you try something and you don’t like it – just don’t eat it again. You’ll probably find more foods that you love than hate.
Find a Friend. If you don’t already know someone who is vegan, try to find a friend, community or group of people with whom you can interact and share ideas – and to whom you can turn if you’re having a rough time with the transition. If you’re not the social type, there are many online forums, groups and communities you can join too.
It’s OK to Fail. Starting out you may have a few slip ups and you may even eat a few cheeseburgers or pizza slices. This is normal, very few people can go 100 per cent vegan overnight without the occasional craving and or cheat meal. Just keep fighting the good fight and try to do better the next day.
Not Everyone is Going to Embrace It. There are a lot of people out there who may not agree with your choice to switch to a vegan lifestyle. They may even have you questioning your decision. Stay true to yourself, trust in your decision and know that what you’re doing is ultimately better for you and for the world around you.
Fast Facts – Why Go Vegan?
- Vegans spare the lives of about 30 animals each year.
- Being vegan cuts your carbon footprint in half.
- Vegans live longer.
- Vegans save over 4 000 litres of water each day.
- Vegans are less likely to die from heart disease.
- Vegans save over 20kg of grain each day.
- Vegans are less likely to have a stroke.