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Meat-free Goes Mainstream

Mar 12

Written by:
12/03/2018 12:13  RssIcon

Simon Birch talks to a couple of vegans about why they’ve given meat the shove and asks, why is veganism now so popular? 


Danielle Saunders is a revolutionary. The 27-year-old from Birmingham is just one of the many people from around the world who have turned their back on the meat and dairy industry and who are, instead, helping to turn the current surge in veganism into a global revolution.


Image: vegan food


The number of vegans here in the UK has increased by a whopping 360% in the past decade to over half a million. And with similar increases being recorded in many other countries, it’s fair to say that after decades of being thought of as a fringe and freaky lifestyle, veganism is finally hitting the mainstream.

At the vanguard of this revolution are the younger generation, and Danielle’s conversion to a meat-free life is typical of many young women:

“I’d been working on a graduate training scheme for a national restaurant chain famous for its meat products and dishes. Consequently, I used to see the very worst of the meat industry and how disposable animals are.”

Danielle’s friends then showed her a couple of documentaries which highlighted negative environmental and ethical impacts of the meat industry.

“It was like a switch being turned on as I hadn’t considered the environmental impact of the meat industry whatsoever. Working for a company that actively encouraged people to consume more meat made me feel very guilty and very ignorant.”


Image: Vegan society

Danielle from The Vegan Society 


It was at this point that Danielle decided to stop supporting the meat industry by becoming a vegan.

“Now that I’m no longer eating meat it’s made me feel much happier that I’m no longer ignoring something that’s cruel and horrible.”

“Becoming a vegan has completely changed my life including my career path as I’ve found a new job with the Vegan Society. The whole process has been 100% positive.”

It’s been a similar path for 25-year-old Emilia from Manchester, who made the decision to go vegan after watching an online documentary about the meat industry. 

“It instantly made me think about things in a completely different way and, together with my partner, we stopped eating meat and became vegan pretty much overnight,” says Emilia.

“What I find shocking is that when I was a meat-eater I was desensitised about where the chicken breast or steak came from. After you stop eating meat you suddenly realise that you’re actually eating part of a dead animal.”


Social media drivers

But, given that it’s been common knowledge for a long time that the meat and dairy industry has an appalling ethical, health and environmental impact, why are so many people suddenly turning vegan now, what’s changed?

“Social media has been at the centre of the vegan movement as it’s highlighted how normal being a vegan really is and has helped to break down negative stereotypes,” replies Danielle. 

As well as helping vegans to network with each other and prevent them from feeling isolated, social media has been crucial in spreading information about vegan lifestyles in a way that was unimaginable up until only recently, with online vegan bloggers attracting a huge and growing following.

“In the past, the pamphlets and brochures we used would inform just a small number of people compared with what can be done today with the internet and social media,” adds Julian Lucas from Plamil, the world’s first vegan company, which has played a crucial role in the development of the vegan movement.


Don’t forget fossil fuels

And whilst this surge of support for veganism is welcome news, some, such as vegan and climate change activist Danny Chivers, argue that it’s important to acknowledge that veganism alone won’t save the world.

Writing in the New Internationalist Danny says:

“If you want more people to understand that animal agriculture is a significant part of the climate change picture, bear in mind that there are lots of good reasons why many people are focusing on the fossil fuel industry, and it’s not an either/or issue."

“Fossil fuels are the biggest cause of climate change, and the companies that profit from them wield huge political power. We need to find ways to support each other’s causes and tackle all these problems together rather than fight over which one is more important.”

Meanwhile, Danielle isn’t surprised that veganism resonates so strongly with people in her generation:

“As a whole I think our generation, the millennials, are tolerant and open-minded. We welcome diversity more than any previous generation. We encourage and are often willing to fight for justice and understanding so it’s only logical that veganism would speak to us.” 


See our guide to meat free sausages and burgers









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