Veganism — the way of living that excludes all exploitation and cruelty to animals for food, clothing or any other purpose, according to the Vegan Society — has been gaining new followers. However, this now-popular diet wasn’t always this prominent. As few as 20 years ago, veganism was practically unheard of; in fact, the term “veganism” was only coined in 1944. The movement was originally tied to religion and philosophy, as its earliest supporters were religious sects and philosophers like Pythagoras.
Today, the veganism movement is more closely tied to health, environmentalism and animal rights. While going vegan used to be thought of as losing a huge part of one’s life, it is now seen much more optimistically; veganism is about gaining a new lifestyle, full of enlightenment, harmony and health.
Although it may be easy to dismiss the veganism movement as a fad, the statistics say otherwise. The majority of vegans are relatively young, showing the diet is only just emerging. Also, vegan foods are becoming much more popular. Most notably, the plant-based milk market is experiencing drastic growth. Plant-based milks, such as oat milk, are exploding in popularity, breaking into Starbucks and many grocery stores.
The movement seems to be an ingrained element of society; it’s in magazines, lifestyle blogs and social media. According to a 2017 Report Buyer study, approximately 6% of the United States claim to consume this plant-based diet, a dramatic increase from 2016’s 0.5%. With this recent rise of veganism, popular food chains are offering up more plant-based options. Burger King has its famous Impossible Whopper and even KFC is testing out plant-based chicken.
There are many reasons the rise of veganism is promising for the future.
First, meat production is extremely detrimental to the environment. Food production makes up a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. Of these emissions, 58% come from animal products. According to Earth Save’s Steve Boyan, creating one pound of hamburger meat is comparable to using a car for three weeks. In fact, meat agriculture produces more greenhouse gases than the world’s transportation, according to PETA. It uses an immense amount of water, creates lots of pollution and is the cause of much deforestation.
Animal agriculture also brings pain to innocent sentient beings. The chicken industry practices chick culling, which is the killing of unwanted chicks. Chicks that are of no use to the factory, such as male chicks who cannot produce eggs, are put through a grinder days after birth. This happens to approximately seven billion male chicks a year.
Veganism has several health benefits. Some people may be concerned that veganism is an unhealthy diet option because protein is an important part of the human diet. However, there are many alternatives to animal products that offer high amounts of protein. Vegans can achieve their daily protein intake through meat substitutes such as tofu, tempeh and chickpeas. Plant-based diets are also linked to reduced risk for cardiovascular disease and other health issues.
Encouragingly, more and more people are becoming vegan. In Southern California, Los Angeles has its fair share of vegans. L.A. itself has 30 vegan restaurants. In the heart of L.A., many USC students are part of the vegan movement. Conscientious Living Organization for Veganism, Environmentalism & Reducetarianism, or CLOVER, is a conscientious living club at USC. They are active in the animal rights movement, participating in marches and visiting animal sanctuaries.
Despite being thought of as scrawny and pretentious in the past, veganism has shed its old stereotypes. The diet is no longer unusual and is much more accessible than before. The recent trend in veganism promises a more environmental, ethical and healthy world.