Veganism. It’s everywhere you go. To the point where you can’t utter the word without hearing a chorus of ‘my flatmate is vegan’, ‘my cousin was vegan last month’ or ‘is that the one with weird milk?’. The word has the power to strike terror in a dinner party host and destroy a family Sunday roast quicker than a game of Monopoly. In Britain the percentage of vegans has risen by 360% in the past 10 years. What has driven this popularity? Is it because information is more accessible, enabling us to make more educated choices? Is it because society and the world is adapting, making vegan products more available, affordable and sustainable? Or is it simply just another trend; a fleeting fad we all have to keep up with, soon to be left to gather dust along with last years yoga mats, unused juicers and bags of kale?
Many of my friends live a vegan lifestyle, some also opted in to #veganuary for 2017. However it appears to me, that labeling individuals as ‘meat eater’ and ‘non meat eater’ isn’t that simple. It seems to make more sense to explain it as a line, with absolute ‘Animal products come no where near me’ (or ‘Herbivore’) at one end and ‘Steak with a side of bacon’ (or ‘Carnivore’) at the other. No matter how hard you can work to stay at one point along this line, everyone will inevitably drift sometimes. Even those I know who commit to never eating animal products, not using anything tested on animals and absolutely never buying leather, even they will unknowingly move along the scale at times. There are so many everyday things that contain animal based products, from the stearic acid used in your bike tyres, to the glue used to hold your violin together. Living as a true vegan in the western world is nearly impossible due to our nature and societal norms. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, right?
I recognise the impact that the consumption of animal products can have on the environment and have since, decreased my personal intake, dining vegetarian at least 2 days a week (along with 40% of the population). This small change can result in making you 32% less at risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as have countless positive effects on your carbon footprint. Because of this I personally think I sit somewhere between Omnivore and Herbivore, meaning I regularly cook and enjoy vegan meals, but if I fancy a steak; I’ll have one. I love food, ask anyone, and strongly believe that you should never deny yourself anything you want to have, equally you should never have to try anything you don’t want to, and more importantly, you should never have to justify your decisions to anyone. When identifying as vegan, people often get shamed if they show any sign of wanting something that doesn’t fit that ideal, or get told they’re not consuming enough nutrients; in reality, there isn’t substantial evidence to prove that vegan diets are bad for you, apart from a lack of the vitamin B12, which supplements need to be taken for. However, meat eaters also get shamed for not caring about animal welfare or the planet, when actually meat can be sourced from local, organic and sustainable farmers where the animals are more likely to have had a good quality of life as opposed to the factory farming industry. It’s all about knowing where your food comes from and what you’re putting in your body. This page explains what all those supermarket labels mean. A little research can go a long way.
Realistically, if we all aim to eat a little more locally, a little more healthily, and little more mindfully; the planet, the animals and our bodies, will reap the benefits. If you’re skeptical or fancy an alternative to your usual burger, then check out The Vurger Co pop up, returning to PillBox Kitchen in Bethnal Green throughout March.
So whether you’re sitting down to a dinner of spiralised courgettes and firm tofu, or roast chicken with all the trimmings; I hope you thoroughly enjoy it, when you’re done posting it on Instagram, of course.