It’s the question that vegans get sick of hearing: “So why are you a vegan?” Teamed with: “Is it not difficult cutting meat out of your diet? I mean, like, what do you even eat”. For many people, the vegan diet is clearly a strange concept.
The popularity of veganism and vegetarianism, especially amongst university students, has grown hugely over the years. There are now an estimated 150,000 vegans in the UK alone, and around 4 million vegetarians.
Considering that my grandmother thought that vegans were people who’d never had sex, it goes to show that knowledge surrounding meat-free diets has grown over the past 50 or so years.
Whilst I completely understand why people would want to become vegan or vegetarian – I run a cookery blog which has many vegan and vegetarian recipes (www.mazwo.com) – it isn’t a lifestyle choice I’d personally make.
I wanted to find out what makes someone decide to cut out meat, and their responses were interesting. My former maths teacher said that he’d cut meat out in order to be rebellious and as a way to be different, whereas my school friend took the moral approach and cut out meat for ethical and environmental reasons; apparently it takes around 18,000 gallons of water just to make one hamburger.
I also took to Twitter to ask some of my fellow vegan and vegetarian bloggers about why they choose to live meat-free, or ‘cruelty-free’ as it has been coined.
Blogger Dane Cobain from High Wycombe told me that he decided he cut out meat because he loves animals and doesn’t need meat to survive. Chantal Cooke doesn’t eat meat as she believes the meat production industry in the UK is far too cruel.
The more I thought about it, the more I realised that maybe it was us, the meat-eaters, who were the weird ones. I decided to ask some carnivores about why they would be unwilling to give up meat. Meat and animal products may taste delicious, but what about from an ethical or moral standpoint? Do they see nothing wrong with eating something which was previously alive, and had feelings and a family? It seems most people turn the other cheek when it comes to the realities of meat production.
Thanks to Jamie Oliver and his ‘meat free Mondays’, as well as ‘meat-free week’ which happened earlier in the year, more and more people are opening up to the idea of not eating meat, as well as learning about where their food comes from.
It goes without saying that high-profile celebrities such as Russell Brand, Pamela Anderson, Simon Amstell and Morrissey, have helped increase awareness of a meat-free lifestyle, but does the rise in vegans and veggies have anything to do with social media? I posted on my Instagram account a simple picture of pasta with tomato sauce, and captioned it “#Vegan”. Within half an hour I had 21 likes and four new followers. Is it thanks to chefs such as Madeleine Shaw and her #GetTheGlow motto that more people are ditching bacon in favour of an avocado, or swapping their helping of roast beef for a hearty serving of butternut squash?
In the past, vegans were associated with long-haired, hessian-wearing hippies, but there are now people like Kerry McCarthy, Corbyn’s shadow farming minister, who, get this, looks like a normal woman, shock horror (!)
It used to be borderline impossible to dine at a restaurant and be confident that they would not just have a vegan option but that it would be worth spending money on. Now, due to its rising prominence, vegan options are becoming more readily available; it is much easier to follow the diet and be able to eat out and find vegan choices in mainstream supermarkets.
Of course, anyone who cuts anything out of their diet is going to be called faddy. Even people who cut gluten out, most of whom do so as they’re allergic to it, are named ‘fussy’ by cooks like Gizzi Erskine, people who you’d hope would have a bit more knowledge, and a more open minded approach about food.
This was originally posted by Forge Press – http://forgetoday.com/press/who-needs-meat-anyway/