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Veganuary 2021: The Movement Continues

A record number of people signed up this year for Veganuary, a global movement that encourages people to pledge to be entirely vegan in January. 525,000 individuals signed up for the challenge this year, demonstrating the increasing interest in and popularity of the plant-based diet.

No longer is veganism a fringe movement that many people are either unaware of or do not know how to define. The mass proliferation of plant-based substitutes for animal products in the past few years is a testament to the increased demand for such food worldwide. Even those who are not (yet) willing to become fully vegan are interested in adding more plant-based meals to their diet.

With the rise of the vegan movement has come an increased awareness of the detrimental effects of animal agriculture on the planet. Six years ago it was still highly controversial to bring up the large quantities of greenhouse gas emissions or rainforest destruction stemming from raising livestock. Now, however, even omnivores admit that animal products, in particular beef, are not climate friendly. The wide acceptance of this fact and the concern it inspires was demonstrated in a recent poll by analytics company DVJ Insights. This survey found that 70% of Germans, Dutch, and French citizens would support a meat tax of €.10 per 100 g of meat to factor in environmental costs, with the tax money going towards subsidizing fruits and vegetables and supporting farmers who improve their animals’ welfare and practice sustainability.

This survey shows monumental progress in the widespread acceptance that meat consumption should be reduced for the good of the planet. Results from the UN’s recent poll on attitudes toward climate change are also promising. In the poll, 43% of UK respondents said that they would support the promotion of plant-based diets as a way to combat climate change. This high percentage demonstrates the large proportion of UK residents who recognize the importance of dietary changes in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Overall, the vegan percentage of the population in even the most vegan-friendly countries remains small. However, that does not mean that the movement does not have power. Now that there are vegan alternatives to almost any animal-based product available in many grocery stores, people do not have to fret about what they will eat if they go vegan. It’s clearer than ever before that becoming vegan does not mean giving up all the foods you love. For people who still want that meaty or cheesy flavour in foods, there are plenty of brands out there, from Beyond burgers to Chao cheese slices.

Being vegan often requires a certain level of support from people you know. Changing your diet when you have no personal friends or acquaintances who have done the same thing can be incredibly daunting. Yet with a significant increase of vegans in the population, the chance that you know someone who has already gone vegan and is willing to support you rises in tandem. Now it is far more likely that a given person knows someone who is vegan and can provide reassurances about what to eat and how to meet the challenges of this lifestyle change.

In the future, I would like to see more work exposing the link between animal agriculture and pandemics and antibiotic resistance. Making these arguments will recruit new supporters to the vegan movement, particularly as we have seen first-hand the grave consequences of continuing to eating animals over the past year. Some people won’t go vegan for the climate, but may make the choice if it lessens the risk of another pandemic and a loss of many useful antibiotics.

To get more people on board with veganism, it is also important to emphasize the health benefits of the vegan diet (documentaries such as The Gamechangers have done a great job at this in the context of athletes). There is still much confusion about what constitutes a healthy diet, as evidenced by the keto, paleo, and all-meat diets. Too many people equate rapid weight loss with long-term health, which is a tragic misconception. The plant-based diet can treat and in many cases reverse the chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer that plague countries across the world. A handy guide for the science behind the plant-based diet is the website, founded by Dr. Michael Greger. Dr. Greger’s work is a great place to start for education about nutrition:

I look forward to seeing the increasing embrace of veganism in the year to come.

UN climate change attitudes report:


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