Veganism is growing. The more news the world sees how we are destroying the planet and the solutions that need to be implemented, the more the world is turning vegan. There are your die-hard environmentalists who easily turned to veganism once given a good reason, there are a large number of 1st world youths who want their kids to know what a wild animal is and there are those who were not aware but are doing their best to change their lifestyle to veganism even if it is not a total switch. And more and more people are joining in.
After decades in which the number of people choosing to cut out meat from their diet has steadily increased, 2019 is set to be the year the world changes the way that it eats. The core message is to discourage meat and dairy, seen as part of an “over-consumption of protein” – and specifically to target consumption of beef.
In the three years following 2014, according to research firm GlobalData, large numbers of people in the US identified as vegans in the US - the same story is happening in the UK, where the number of vegans has increased by 350 percent, compared to a decade ago, according to research commissioned by the Vegan Society.
And luckily Asia, where there is a huge part of the world population, many governments are promoting plant-based diets. New government dietary guidelines in China, for example, call on the nation’s 1.3 billion people to reduce their meat consumption by 50 percent. Flexitarianism, a mostly plant-based diet with the occasional inclusion of meat, is also on the rise.
And large food companies are keeping up with the shift in food dynamics. Now they are jumping on the vegan train. Unilever, for instance, is a very vocal partner. Recently, the multinational announced it was acquiring a meat-substitute company called “The Vegetarian Butcher”. It described the acquisition as part of a strategy to expand into plant-based foods that are healthier and have a lower environmental impact. Currently, Unilever sells just under 700 products under the “V-label” in Europe.
“The Vegetarian Butcher” was conceived in 2007 by farmer Jaap Kortweg, chef Paul Brom and marketer Niko Koffeman, a Dutch Seventh-Day Adventist who is vegetarian for religious and ideological reasons. Koffeman is also at the origin of the Partij Voor de Dieren, a political party advocating for animal rights in The Netherlands. Like EAT, the Vegetarian Butcher seeks to “conquer the world”. Its mission is “to make plant-based ‘meat’ the standard” – and the alliance with Unilever paves the way.
An important issue comes up when we think of the world going vegan - having a healthy, nutritious diet. The world needs to be educated on how to eat properly to ensure that everyone is getting their diet needs. Some may need nutrients that are supplemented with critical micronutrients (such as vitamin B12 and certain long-chain fatty acids), and the list goes on. When a vegan diet fails, for instance, due to poor supplementation, it may result in serious physical and cognitive impairment and failure to thrive.
Pregnant women need to be very careful during this period of their lives and it is advised to not start a vegan diet at that time. The best is to start beforehand, understand your body and go to a nutritionist. Animal products are exceptionally nutrient-dense dietary sources – removing them from the diet compromises metabolic robustness.
What’s more, change cannot happen too quickly. As fast as we need to be to save the planet, there are benefits of moving slowly, such as having animals graze fields naturally rather than having a man do it. Understanding that not everyone believes in not eating animals and perhaps they never will. Eating sustainably from farms that take care of their animals before slaughtering them will also help the planet and a smooth transition that is realistic for the planet to achieve needs to be put in place.
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