Vegans Rising!

OK…I know a lot of you seemed to like my post yesterday about unconditional love. What’s not to like. It was about babies and our children and about families. It was low hanging fruit, right?

So, I’m not sure how many of you will follow up with “likes” for a post on one of the most rapidly changing food/life-style choices out there but I have to say….it just ain’t China that’s rising. Veganism — or plant-based eating — is on the move at a rate that is making some of us who have been following a plant-based approach to life for a while marvel.

Since 2014 the number of vegans in the US has grown by 600%. Now admittedly, the base was low, but that still puts the number of those who identify as vegan or plant-based at 20 million. That doesn’t include those who are vegetarian but not vegan. That’s a real number and folks are noticing.

The dairy industry is seeing profits fall…sales declined by over $1.1 billion dollars last year — an 8% drop. Burger King is introducing a Vegan Whopper. Del Taco has added vegan beef to its lineup. Taco Bell too. Carl Jrs. has a vegan burger on the menu and White Castle has added vegan sliders. Red Robin is jumping in …exclusively vegan restaurants and chains are growing by crazy numbers. Plant milks abound and more of the big companies, including the dairy giants are getting into the mix. The same thing is happening with vegan cheeses…we just tried our first vegan feta recently. It’s crazy.

Every time we turn around there are new vegan options. Vegan pork-less Thai curry, lamb-less vindaloo, vegan sausages, vegan donuts. There are wonderful vegan tex-mex restaurants and vegan fine dining. The world is changing and the companies are following the money. I think it’s not a bad thing. I’m thrilled with the ever-expanding array of options.

I’m not a vegan zealot. But after almost two years of a plant-based diet I will say I have no regrets about my choice. I’m healthier. I’ve lost weight, have plenty of energy and it feels right.

The choice wasn’t just about health or weight. It was driven as well by concerns about the livestock business. About treating cows, pigs, lambs, and chickens only as commodities not as living creatures. I was concerned about the environmental degradation associated with animal waste and methane and the huge demands of water. I was troubled by the demand for more and more land to raise animals at the expense of forests and fields. I was troubled by the over-fishing of our seas at a time when fish stocks are already under intense pressure from climate change and related ocean acidification.

My choice was driven by concerns about sustainability and economics, and environment and ethics, in addition to health. It was hard for me to ignore the arguments I had heard for years. The more I looked, the more I read, and the more I listened, the less sense that animal protein made to me and, in my view, to the future of the planet.

I made a choice to try. Not a firm commitment. Just a commitment to try. But once I did, I never looked back. I know that this isn’t for everyone. That’s OK. We all make our own decisions. But ultimately, for me this choice is as much a reflection of how I want to define my engagement with the world around me as well as how I want to eat.

As someone who loves food, I find that I now experiment more. Eat far more fresh food, I’ve prepared myself while eating less and less processed food and generating far less trash. And as long as beer and scotch and wine (well, maybe not all wine but I don’t look too closely) are vegan, I’m going to do just fine.

The world is changing and the way we eat, and what we eat will change dramatically too. And with the fast food giants even introducing vegan choices (we had a vegan McDonald’s burger in Sweden last year) we’ll still have to exercise good sense in our choices to ensure it remains as good for us as I think it will be for the planet but I’ll worry about that later. Tonight I’ll just raise my glass of wine to Vegans on the Rise.

These days the V isn’t for Victory. It’s for Vegan!

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