Each year, World Vegan Day is celebrated on November 1. It was founded in 1994 by Louise Wallis, the president of the vegan society in England. She intended to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Vegan Society and to continue the work of a recognized vegan association. Since 1994, World Vegan Day has been celebrated around the world. Vegans also use the opportunity to educate the public about veganism and actively promote its benefits. By engaging in dialogue, omnivores and vegetarians are brought to an awareness of how their consumer behavior can impact their well-being and the planet at large.
A bit about veganism
Veganism is a lifestyle choice whereby individuals only consume plant-based food products and avoid items like meat and poultry products, dairy and sometimes even honey. Vegans may also choose to avoid other non-food animal products like textiles such as leather and wool.
The vegan lifestyle is becoming more popular around the world. In January 2022, approximately 629,000 people from over 220 countries and territories took the Veganuary pledge. This is when you pledge to only consume plant-based foods in January. While not everyone continues this diet throughout the year, it encourages people to limit their animal product intake going forward. These statistics are up by 129,000 from the previous year and are likely to increase each year.
Why adopt a vegan lifestyle?
Considering that humans have lived omnivorous lifestyles for thousands of years, why are people making the switch to a plant-based lifestyle? Veganism offers a variety of benefits from our health and daily life to the planet at large.
Diet and health
Veganism offers several health perks, including improved energy levels, sleep, digestion and overall fitness. Studies show that two of the main hopes for people adopting a vegan lifestyle are to increase fruit and vegetable intake, as well as to improve digestion and limit bloating. After becoming vegans, more than half of participants report better digestion and energy levels. This is likely due to the high fiber found in legumes, fruits, vegetables and grains, which induce the growth of good gut bacteria. Healthy nutrient levels of plant-based diets can also help prevent chronic illnesses like diabetes and obesity by enhancing the body’s lipid control.
The agriculture industry
Agricultural activities are responsible for approximately 5.79 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year. From these emissions, meat-eaters are responsible for twice as many diet-related emissions as vegetarians are. This increases to two and a half times when you compare omnivores to vegans.
The two primary ways that the animal agriculture industry is responsible for environmental strain are habitat destruction and pollution. Land is clear-cut to grow feed or rear animals, thus threatening biodiversity and killing trees that could sequester excess carbon dioxide (CO2) each year. Meanwhile, overfishing in aquatic ecosystems is creating dead zones and severely accelerating species endangerment.
Animal agriculture severely impacts water and air pollution. To grow feed crops, farmers use fertilizers with harmful substances that seep into waterways through run-off. With regard to air pollution, livestock is a primary cause for concern. When livestock such as cattle expel gas, it is in the form of methane. Methane’s ability at absorbing heat is estimated to be 84 to 100 times more powerful than CO2. This means that it further warms the planet and exacerbates climate change.
Adopting a plant-based lifestyle has several advantages to overall health for individuals and the local ecosystems. Even through small lifestyle adaptations of limiting animal products, we can even lessen the effects of global warming and climate change.
New vegan food innovations
When people swap from an omnivorous to a vegan lifestyle for health or environmental reasons, they may still miss the flavors and textures of animal-based food products. To account for this, the vegan food market has been expanding to incorporate a variety of plant-based alternatives to animal products. These range from plant-based “meats” to dairy-free chocolates and cheeses.
Some of the newest vegan alternatives in the U.S. this year include lots of new plant-based meat options, like Abbot Butcher’s “Chorizo” and Daring Foods’ “Gluten-Free Breaded Plant Chicken.” There are also non-meat options like Sorbabes’ new range of Sorbet Bars and Crepini’s new “Plant-based Eggless Wraps.” Internationally, there is also significant growth. Lindt is debuting their vegan chocolate range in Australia and La Fauxmagerie has launched plant-based artisanal cheeses in the U.K.
The vegan food industry is growing on an international scale. Plant-based alternatives are growing more popular and becoming increasingly easy to find. In fact, the industry is expanding so rapidly that it is estimated to exceed $22 billion by 2025!
Where the vegan food industry is headed
With the increasing popularity of veganism, businesses and organizations are becoming more mindful of plant-based options. Recently, the three-Michelin star restaurant Eleven Madison Park made history as they retained their status after completely swapping to a plant-based menu. It is the first (and currently the only) plant-based three-Michelin-star restaurant in the world.
Besides restaurants adapting their menus to reduce or eliminate animal products, other organizations are also following suit. All 11 New York City hospitals will serve vegan meals by default. This change was put in place by The Better Food Foundation, the city’s health department, and the Mayor’s Office. So far, the initiative has been successful. Of those that selected the vegan meals, 95% of patients were satisfied with their choice, even though only 1% of them identified as vegan or vegetarian.
The Mayor of New York City, Eric Adams, has introduced many new healthy meal initiatives to the city. In fact, they have also begun “Plant-Powered Fridays” in NYC schools and integrated fresh produce into the municipal emergency food system.
Overall, the vegan lifestyle is gaining popularity because of its benefits for well-being and environmental footprint. How will you be celebrating World Vegan Day this year? Even if you are not vegan, you may want to use the day to challenge yourself to incorporate more plant-based meals into your diet.
Via World Vegan Day
Images via Unsplash