In the last 20 years, veganism has become much more mainstream. Veganism is a lifestyle in which the use or consumption of animal products is prohibited. This includes the wearing of products like leather and wool, as well as the consumption of meat, eggs and any other animal byproduct.
The reasoning for this increase is not a simple one. Firstly, animal welfare has become significantly more important in society over the last decade. Animal testing within the beauty industry is now widely criticised by the masses and considered unnecessary, despite originally being a key component in the creation of health and beauty products. There has also been a new wave of online media awareness, in which charities and organizations like PETA have created a voice to call out the mistreatment of animals around the world.
More and more people are becoming scared of the impending doom that is climate change
A further, and arguably the biggest component of why veganism is on the rise is climate change. The 2014 documentary ‘Cowspiracy’ was one of the first to ever explore the impact meat consumption and animal agriculture can have on the planet. Spoiler: It’s quite an impact, and unfortunately very negative. The documentary explained to many people across the world – many of whom had never thought about it before – that meat is actually speeding up the climate problems we’re having, and one of the biggest ways an individual is able to help is by cutting down or eliminating their meat/animal product consumption.
Despite there being no actual proof that Cowspiracy caused an increase in veganism, a Forbes article highlighted that ‘the number of U.S. consumers identifying as vegan grew from 1% to 6% between 2014 and 2017, a 600% increase, according to GlobalData.’ More and more people are becoming scared of the impending doom that is climate change. The more information that is produced about how veganism can help slow down or even stop this, even a little, is something a lot of people are jumping onto – because it’s all we can really do, right?
‘One of the biggest ways an individual is able to help is by cutting down or eliminating their meat/animal product consumption’
But veganism isn’t exactly global knowledge. For example, to watch Cowspiracy, you probably have the internet, and that’s not a privilege available to everyone. I very much believe that the veganism movement is powered by education. It is a movement that you can be easily engulfed in if you attempt to explore and learn about the benefits it can have – whether on the environment, body or your health. Therefore, if you can’t access these resources or have these conversations, the last thing you’d think about is becoming vegan.
I sometimes find it difficult to talk about veganism as a global phenomenon because it’s not. It’s a diet of utter privilege, because people in developed countries like Australia and the UK (where veganism has the highest population) can go to a supermarket and choose from the endless amounts of options in every aisle, as well as having internet access to look up some recipe ideas beforehand. Millions upon millions of people around the world don’t have these possibilities, with their main priority being more focused on the need for nutrition, and ensuring they are as healthy as can be (which is a totally different global crisis, by the way). When people tend to ignore that, and continue to emphasise how important it is for EVERYONE to go vegan, I think it shows a level of ignorance that needs to be criticised.
is veganism just a middle-class movement?
The privilege of veganism isn’t always a global concept. People tend to forget sometimes that veganism can be incredibly expensive. It’s a new craze people in the western world are jumping on, and food companies know that. More and more people are intrigued by these new meat substitutes and the new vegan milkshakes, so the demand is there, and where there’s a demand, there’s profit. Lots of it. The demand for vegan goods has risen, so supermarkets are charging customers more money for vegan products, like meat substitutes, than they would for actual meat, leaving those who are able to afford it in a difficult position. Where is the middle ground for holding an individual moral code and the extent to which you can afford your dinner for the evening?
Luxury vegan products like vegan chocolate, ice cream and cheese are also expensive to buy, and therefore aren’t always accessible for everyone. The education needed to ensure that all nutrients and dietary requirements are being met on this diet isn’t common knowledge, and the funding to have a vegan diet of variety isn’t a cheap one. Therefore, a difficult question must be asked: is veganism just a middle-class movement?
Yes and no. As the movement dominates more in mainstream society, more awareness is being raised on how to be vegan cheaply, and more information is being added to the internet about the diet every single day, so now is the time to get involved. Sometimes it’s easy to become too immersed by a change in lifestyle, particularly when it is such a huge one like veganism. However, keeping a level of awareness about the privileges an individual must have to be vegan is one of extreme importance, and I personally believe that holding a level of consciousness when it comes to meat and animal consumption is much more realistic. Making a conscious decision to lower animal product intake during the week is something I’d recommend to those for whom veganism might not be an option.
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