Medical experts seem to change their mind every few years on what is good and bad for you. Go back 20 years and smoking was uber cool; these days if you light up at least 3 people will give you a dirty, lung-cancer look. As they should. Red meat used to be a good source of zinc, but now The World Health Organisation has said it is a probable cause of cancer. Dairy was a hearty source of protein and Vitamin C, but there has been a rise in those suffering from lactose intolerance due to human overconsumption of milk and eggs. The Independent commented on a controversial study that claimed vegetarians are less healthy and have a lower quality of life than meat-eaters, but livestrong.com outlined the many health benefits of a plant-based diet. It is hard to know what to listen to.
With continuing growth and popularity of social media, everything is more accessible. I read an article on The Guardian online about the rise of vegan teenagers, and how apps like Instagram have made the vegan lifestyle look so desirable, as well as promoting the benefits of it. Now, this isn't a blog post to promote veganism, or to convince you to screw the cows and get a big, fat XXXL bacon cheeseburger. I'm really wondering what has happened to make veganism so popular.
If you didn't know, the vegan diet consists of plants and excludes anything that derives from animals, including dairy products, eggs and meat. With around 150,000 vegans in the UK in 2006, there has been a 350% increase in those opting for a plant-based diet. The rise of 'young vegans' is most measurable through social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram. Whether you see the vegan community as preachy, informative, annoying or inspirational, there is a growing number of twitter users publicising their vegan lifestyles.
Not only is there an increasing number of those choosing this diet, but the attitudes towards veganism seems to be changing for better. Go back 10 years, there was a very negative stereotype of 'lettuce preachers with malnutrition', but now it seems people are more open to the idea of veganism. But why?
Veganism is now trendy, and society is adapting to this. There are more options in supermarkets and restaurants that are meat and dairy free. Quorn, Linda McCartney, Violife, Alpro and Oatly are big companies that solely manufacture vegetarian and vegan products. There are over 100 vegan cafes and restaurants in London, and this number is expanding. My flatmate at University is a vegan, and she unknowingly has changed my perceptions of veganism. She eats normal meals; curry, stir fries, chilli, sausage and mash, spaghetti bolognese. If she wants something, she finds a vegan way to make it. When I ask her why she's made such a big lifestyle change, she says "because I care more about animals lives and well-being than having something that tastes nice", which is fair enough really.
Of course there is a backlash on social media. Simply type 'vegans' into Twitter to see a series of humorous-but-lacking-truth tweets that will make you laugh, and often make you think. The logic of veganism can't be ignored, but will a society that's so accustomed to eating animal products ever change worldwide? Pret a Manger has introduced its first ever vegan Christmas baguette (carrot, parsnip puree, crispy onions, festive chutney, and toasted pistachios), so maybe it's just about taking baby steps.
Love it or hate it, the plant-based diet is well and truly on the rise...all the world needs now is a Louis Theroux documentary on veganism and that should do it.