A few years ago, if you were a vegan, to most people you were a twat. You’re still a twat to some people (William Sitwell, we’ll never forget…) but times are a changing and they are changing reassuringly quickly. Now, the twats are the ones who sit in their meaty, narrow-minded corners, lamenting their issues with constipation and looking for vegans and vegetarians to ridicule.
Anyone reading this probably doesn’t need to be told this but veganism is the fastest growing movement for ethical and environmental change that we’ve seen in our lifetime (I was born in the 80s). Google trends reports 25 times more UK searches using the term ‘vegan’ in 2019 compared with 2009; more impressively a 2018 survey by Compare the Market found that there are 3.5m people in the UK identifying as ‘vegan’, equating to 7% of the population.
That’s a lot of society to be pissing off with your bigoted views. Granted, it’s still a minority, but it’s a growing minority and it’s one that’s extremely vocal on social media and highly effective at enlisting others to the plant-based snowball.
The figures reported by Compare the Market could easily be misrepresentative, in the sense that many of those identifying as vegan at the time, were likely not strictly vegan. Many were probably just experimenting, jumping aboard a social trend or just in the middle of a temporary health kick. But the point is – they were perfectly proud to identify as vegan, suggesting the stigma is disappearing. And that’s progress.
In my mind, there’s only one respectable reason for following a plant based diet and that’s because you don’t think animals should suffer; followed secondly by giving a fuck about what meat consumption does to the environment for animals and for us. Health benefits, to me, are an added bonus. On that basis, there shouldn’t be degrees of caring. Animal suffering is animal suffering – so we should all just sack the fuck up and go hard or go home. But then I remember – Rome wasn’t built in a day and every combined effort towards giving up animal products makes a difference in supply and demand. I know vegans who cook and serve meat to their families and they leave me especially perplexed (enraged, even) – but hey, what does in-fighting solve? We’re too hung up on labels.
Likewise, I know vegans who boycott places like McDonalds because of their part in the meat problem. I get this, completely. But I also think that continuing to visit places like that and demanding non-animal products, is what instigates the kind of mass change that we all want to see. Making it really difficult for yourself is a recipe for failure and a fast-track to becoming one of those people who says “I used to be a vegan, but I couldn’t carry on, it was too limiting.” What’s better for animals? 50% of the population being mostly vegan or 3% of the population being strictly vegan?
Let’s not make this a short term trend, let’s make this so fucking normal that we can all be the kind of carefree, effortless vegans who barely need to check a packet because it’s so damned easy. Strict vegan, on a path to vegan or simply flexitarian, we’re all part of an ethical change and the bigger the change the better the options.
My food blog, The Ⓥ Sign, is dedicated to the mainstream options available to vegans and those aspiring to be vegan or at least avoid animal products, when eating out (and sometimes in). I want people to know about the options and to seek them out. Because they’re being made available – and it’s absolutely vital that we consume them and maintain the demand. Enjoy! And remember to give two fingers to the meat-eating haters. x
Cow photograph by Thomas Volter