In recent years there has been a steady increase in the number of people who chose to lead vegan lifestyles. Whether it is a shift to plant-based diets or advocacy for animal rights, veganism has grown both as a term and an idea. It is now frequently described as a “mainstream” movement by mass media. The general acceptance of the concept has grown even among those who do not adopt vegan diets or exclude animal products from their lives. In the UK, the number of people who chose vegan lifestyles has risen “from 150,000 in 2006 to 542,000 in 2016” (Lundahl, 2018, p. 242). In Germany, the plant-based food market had been growing between 20% and 43% a year in the past decade (Castricano & Simonsen, 2016). The US has also shown an increase: nowadays, there are more than7 a million vegans there, which accounts for about 2 % of the population (Springmann et al., 2018). There are different factors that contribute to an individual’s decision to introduce these changes into their lives, but three main causes are environmental protection, health benefits of plant-based diets, and animal rights activism.
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First, the animal industry is increasingly associated with global environmental problems. Due to technological advances and the rapid spread of information, more people have become aware of the dangers that meat production poses to the environment. Scientists claim that it is responsible for more than half of greenhouse emissions, greatly contributing to global warming. Since the livestock industry needs enormous land resources, it has also become the major reason for deforestation. These issues are gaining media coverage, which encourages people to lower their meat consumption. As a result, individuals concerned about the condition of the planet and the deterioration of nature choose to stop using animal products to reduce their carbon footstep.
Another major reason for the rise of veganism is the growing popularity of plant-based diets. In addition to being environmentally-friendly, these dietary choices have proved to be beneficial for health. Scientists, as well as registered dieticians, explain how cutting back on meat can lower blood pressure, prevent heart disease and type 2 diabetes, reduce the risk of cancer, boost the immune system and maintain a healthy weight (Springmann et al., 2018). Given the unhealthy habits and lifestyles that many people currently have, these conditions do not show any signs of decline. According to Springmann et al. (2018), the stress of modern life and the lack of physical activity results in high disease rates. In an attempt to reduce the risks of possible health problems, an increasing number of people started to eat more plant-based foods, either limiting or completely excluding meat, fish, and dairy products from their diets.
The third reason for the growing veganism trend is represented by animal rights movements, which have grown significantly in recent years. Although not many factory farms and slaughterhouses reveal information about the conditions in which animals are kept there, more resources have appeared that raise awareness of animal cruelty. Movements and organizations such as Animal Rebellion, Animal Justice Project, The Humane Society of the United States, and many others are working hard to spread the information about animal suffering and abuse (Schuck-Paim, 2020). Since the world population is currently bigger than it has ever been, meat consumption is still high. To meet the demand, factories have to produce large amounts of meat and dairy products. Despite the proportion of the land that is being used in the animal industry, there is still not enough space for the animals to be kept inhumane conditions and to be treated kindly. Numerous cases of cruelty towards animals and inhumane treatment that they get in factory farms are available on the Internet. Having seen the way meat is produced, many people decided to change their diets and lifestyles.
All these changes would not be of such scale and intensity if the media and celebrities did not take part in promoting veganism. In the past decade, celebrities’ involvement in activities to protect animals and the environment has been larger than ever before. Actors and singers have participated in protest actions, adopted plant-based diets, made documentaries on climate change and the animal industry. These measures helped to draw public attention to the problem. Having changed the portrayal of veganism, which once seemed strange and unnecessary to most people, celebrities turned it into a so-called “trend” (Lundahl, 2018). Thus, the popularity of the movement grew as many devoted fans followed their example.
This allows the conclusion that several main concerns caused the rise of veganism as a movement and a lifestyle. They are raising awareness about environmental problems, and animal agriculture allowed for the promotion of veganism and plant-based diets in general. Celebrities have played a significant role in the process of the “destigmatization” of veganism (Lundahl, 2018). The activities of animal rights organizations have revealed the meat production process in detail, which transformed the way people viewed their dietary choices. Being able to select from a wider variety of plant-based foods and meat substitutes, many have switched to vegetarian and vegan diets.
Castricano, J., & Simonsen, R. R. (2016). Introduction: Food for thought. Critical Perspectives on Veganism, 13(6), 1-11. Web.
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Lundahl, O. (2018). Dynamics of positive deviance in destigmatisation: Celebrities and the media in the rise of veganism. Consumption Markets & Culture, 23(3), 241-271. Web.
Schuck-Paim, C. (2020). Intensive animal farming conditions are a major threat to global health. Animal Sentience, 5(30). Web.
Springmann, M., Wiebe, K., Mason-D’Croz, D., Sulser, T. B., Rayner, M., & Scarborough, P. (2018). Health and nutritional aspects of sustainable diet strategies and their association with environmental impacts: A global modelling analysis with country-level detail. The Lancet Planetary Health, 2(10), 451-461. Web.