November is the time when we celebrate World Vegan Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness about the vegan lifestyle and the benefits it offers to our health, the planet, and animal welfare. In this blog post, we will explore the significance of World Vegan Month and the reasons why more and more people are choosing to embrace this compassionate way of living.
What is Veganism?
Veganism is a form of vegetarianism (abstaining from eating meat) and takes it a step further. Veganism is practice to avoid the use of products derived from animals. This is often associated with eating habits but can also include other products such as clothing, cosmetics, and other materials and items that a person might use.
What is Plant-Based?
You may have also heard of the term “plant-based” used recently and often interchangeably with “vegan.” These are similar lifestyles with plant-based referring to eating habits as well. Plant-based eating habits consist of mostly or entirely plant-based foods while vegan eating habits eliminate the use of animal products entirely.
While both referring to the primary consumption of plant-based foods, they can be different. If you are unsure and are providing food for someone, make sure to ask them what they are okay with because people may have different interpretations of what plant-based means for them.
History of Vegetarianism and Vegansim
Veganism, while it may seem like a new trend, has been around for centuries. Many modern cultures often include meat as a primary source of food, but vegetarians and vegans have existed long before.
Vegan and vegetarian foods and eating habits have been an important part of many cultures. India is known for many vegetarian and vegan dishes where a history of these eating habits can be found in Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Roughly 20% of the population of India is vegetarian, over 200 million people. Of course, many people in India are meat-eaters, but many vegan and vegetarian dishes and practices can be traced to India. The earliest record of vegetarianism dates back to the 5th Century BCE in India.
China has approximately 50 million people that follow a vegetarian diet, which is less than four percent of the population. However, some plant-based foods such as tofu are very popular and have become a staple in many people's vegan and plant-based diets.
Greece is known for many things and that includes a history of vegetarianism. Ancient Greek philosophy has referenced animal advocacy. The famous philosopher and mathemetician, Pythagoras, believed that a vegetarian diet was healthy for the body and the mind, and this lifestyle was even referred to as the Pythagorean Diet.
Jamaica is also known for vegetarian and vegan eating habits. Many Rastas follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. Today, many of the younger generations in Jamaica are leaders in the resurgence of vegan eating habits.
These are few cultures (of many) that have lent a hand in influencing vegetarian and vegan diets over the years. The modern surge of vegan diets in western cultures has become prevalent as seen from the creation of mock meats, plant-based milks, and even labels in restaurants. Studies have found that in the U.S. about 5% of people report as vegetarian and 3% report as vegan. These eating habits are more common in younger eaters (18-29) and people in the 30-49 age range.
Why do people choose vegan?
Health and Well-being
One of the primary motivations for people to adopt a vegan lifestyle is the positive impact on their health. Studies have shown that a plant-based diet can lower the risk of diseases like heart disease and diabetes.
Sustainability is another reason that a person may choose a vegan diet. Animal-based foods are often associated with much higher carbon emissions and environmental impact. This includes land use, farming, water use, and other metrics that impact the environment. Plant-based foods can help reduce our carbon footprint to create a healthier planet.
But isn’t soy environmentally destructive? Like all things in life, overconsumption and irresponsible land management and farming practices have a negative impact. Soy is a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and high demands in resources. However, beef has about 31.48 times more carbon emissions than tofu (soy). Furthermore, only seven percent of soy produced globally is used directly for human food products like tofu, soy milk, tempeh, and others. About 77% is used to feed livestock for meat or dairy production. The rest is used fo biofuels, industry, or vegetable oils.
Perhaps the most poignant reason to embrace veganism is the ethical consideration for animals. Many animals that are raised in factory farming endure inhumane treatment. This can include overcrowding, lack of access to the outside, and painful slaughter practices. Veganism can be one way to stand against animaly cruelty and promote call for more humane eating practices.
Will I miss out on nutrients if eat vegan?
A concern for a veganism is often over whether or not it can provide all of the macro and micro nutrients that a person needs. Many people are concerned about Vitamin D, B12, calcium, and especially protein intake. Vegan eating habits, like any food choices, can be healthy and unhealthy. Everyone needs to eat well-rounded foods which can be accomplished (or not) with both vegan and non vegan eating habits. If you have any concerns about switching to a plant-based or vegan diet, make sure to reach out to your healthcare provider to see if it it’s right for you.
World Vegan Month: A Time for Reflection
World Vegan Month is not only a celebration but also an opportunity for reflection. It invites us to consider our own food choices and how they impact our health, the environment, and animals. Consider trying a vegan recipe or simply learning more about veganism. The following provides several suggestions to get involved.
- Try New Vegan Recipes: Experiment with delicious plant-based dishes. This can easily be done by swapping out a meat for a mock meat or another source of plant-based protein. It doesn’t have to be scary, and odds are that you’ve eaten a vegan meal before without having the label on it. Vegan recipes are also more than just salads so try your hand at something new or pick something off a menu that’s vegan. It’s also important to note that it’s not all or nothing. Give something a try and even try incorporating vegan meals into your rotation every now and then.
- Learn More: Take the time to educate yourself about the environmental and ethical aspects of veganism. The more you know, the more you can make informed decisions. Whether it’s incorporating a vegan meal into your rotation every now and then or simply understanding the impact of various foods on the environment.
- Join the Conversation: Engage in discussions about veganism with friends, family, and colleagues. Share your experiences and insights to help raise awareness and listen to why people may choose veganism.
- Support Vegan Businesses: Seek out and support local vegan businesses and restaurants.
- Advocate for Change: Use your voice and influence to advocate for policies that promote animal welfare and sustainability.
World Vegan Month serves as a reminder that every choice we make, including our dietary choices, has consequences. By embracing a vegan lifestyle, we can make a positive impact on our health, the environment, and the well-being of animals. The compassionate choice of veganism is not just a passing trend but a path to a more sustainable and ethical future. So, as we celebrate this month, let's remember that a small change in our diets can lead to significant changes in the world.