Once upon a time plant eaters were marginalised as health nuts. But veganism is no longer just a weird diet or an alternative lifestyle. It’s a protest movement being driven by socially-networked millennials and Generation Zs and in 2019 it’s set to go viral.

These 21st century’s ‘children of the revolution’ are turning their noses up at the Sunday roast and refusing to ‘go to work on an egg’ because of the consequences for animals, the planet and their health. For the meat and dairy industry, it’s a demographic time bomb that’s already ticking.

“This is not a trend, it’s a paradigm shift. It’s true concern about climate change, animal welfare, ethical food production…. young people know they are going to inherit all the sh*t we’re going to give them.” Toni Petersson, CEO, Oatly, Swedish alternative milk brand.

That’s not to say they’re all switching to oat milk and roasting tofuckens. But in Britain alone one in three consumers are consciously cutting back on meat and dairy – a 22 million-strong mass market of ‘flexitarians’ that everyone from the fashion and beauty world to the food and drink industry is tapping into. Over a quarter of a million people from 139 countries gave up animal products for Veganuary during the first month of this year. In February, the world’s first Vegan Fashion Week in LA saw models tripping down the catwalk in creations constructed from mushroom roots and apple industry waste. And now Beyonce and Jay-Z are offering a lifetime free pass to their concerts for the best vegan convert story of 2019.

In America, home of the hamburger, one in four 25-34 year-olds identify as vegetarian or vegan. Even in carnivore Spain – which devours more meat than any European country except Luxemburg – times are changing. Barcelona just became an official ‘friend of vegan and vegetarian culture’ and the city’s first veggie restaurant guide comes out this summer. As market analysts declare 2019 The Year of the Vegan, BELINDA BECKETT discovers why you should join the revolution.

VI Reasons to join the #VGang

I It’s Good for Animals

Concern for animal welfare is the biggest reason people turn off meat and dairy. And every vegan saves nearly 200 animals a year from torture and death, according to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). Check out these horror stats compiled by the British Vegan Society.

Sharks kill 12 people a year. People kill 11,414 sharks per hour.

In Britain 90,000 male calves of no use to the dairy and meat industry are shot soon after birth.

Up to 2.8 trillion fish are taken out of the oceans annually – 400 times greater than the planet’s human population.

Almost half of all antibiotics sold in the UK are used on farmed animals. Dairy cows have been modified to give up to 10 times more milk than they would naturally produce. Some 40 million day-old male chicks are gassed or thrown into a macerator every year.

II It’s good for the planet

A vegan diet is ‘probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth – far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car’, says the most comprehensive agricultural impact survey to date. A global switch to plants would cut greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds and save US$570 billion in climate change damage over the next 30 years, the 2018 Oxford University study concluded.

Did you know that … America’s big three meat companies jointly produced more greenhouse gases than the whole of France in 2016.  Livestock farming takes up 83% of global farmland to provide just 18% of our calories. Without meat and dairy consumption, the environmental hoofprint of animal husbandry could be reduced by more than 75% – an area equivalent to the EU, US, China and Australia combined.

III It’s the Almost-perfect Diet

If the world turned vegan tomorrow, 8.1 million premature deaths could be prevented by 2050, according to the latest science. Half those lives would be saved from the reduction in meat, the rest by a combination of more fruit and veg and less calories. Vegan diets have been linked to lower risk for prostate cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke… the list is long.

But plants can’t give us everything we need. They short-change us on iron, Vitamin D, calcium, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids and contain not one iota of Vitamin B12, essential for blood and nerve health. Eating fortified foods or taking supplements is the only option for vegans unless they want to become the incarnation of their ‘anaemic’ stereotype.

A vegan world would save $1,000 billion a year in healthcare. Processed meat is a Group One carcinogen – the same category as cigarettes, alcohol and asbestos, Body mass index and cholesterol levels are lower in vegans

IV Supermarkets Sell Vegan

Vegan products have emerged from the dark recesses of health food shops into the fluorescent limelight of supermarket aisles, no longer hippy but hip. Pumpkin shrimp, beet Wellington, plant-based carpaccio and wheels of cashew nut brie are among the rising stars of 2019s fastest-growing food trend.

Britain rolled out more vegan products than any other nation last year and all the big supermarkets have own-brand ranges. Sales of Tesco’s vegan haggis threatened to outsell Scotch whisky last Burn’s Night and their Wicked Kitchen line of ready meals, wraps and sandwiches is notching up wicked sales.

Meanwhile cows’ milk is being squeezed out of the chill cabinet by a herd of non-dairy alternatives that go way beyond soya – a trend knocking down dairy farms like ninepins. Sainsbury’s stocks 70 different options. Try hazelnut, peanut, tiger nut, walnut, almond, cashew – that’s just the nut milks. There’s also coconut, hemp, spelt, quinoa, pea and this year’s star product, oat milk, the latest addition to the lengthening latte list at Starbucks.

Only you can’t call it milk. The European Court of Justice ruled in 2017 that soya milks and butters should be described as ‘drinks’ and ‘spreads’ because they don’t contain dairy. Meat is expected to follow suit. Vegans could soon be tucking into veggie ‘tubes’ and ‘discs’ instead of sausages and burgers!

Over 1,000 dairy farms closed in the UK between 2013 and 2016. Spain may be the home of jamón ibérico and ‘carne-val’ but Carrefour stocks 169 vegan lines and Lidl 284.

V You can Wear Vegan

Who knew that one day clothes could be made of fruit & veg industry waste? Cowhide is so dead, now that science can bioengineer fabrics that look uncannily like leather from the stuff we normally bin. It’s on the way. The world’s first Vegan Fashion Week showcased Piñatex biker jackets made from pineapple leaf fibre, gowns fashioned from apple peel and handbags and shoes constructed in cork and corn. Only in LA, a city so in the vanguard of veganism they’ve made foie gras an illegal substance!

Meanwhile lifelong vegetarian Stella McCartney is way ahead of the game. The undisputed fashion queen of V who gave us faux fur and peace silk (non-lethal to silkworms) is working up designs in bioengineered spider silk, lab-grown mushroom leather and a sporty range of upcycled ocean plastic trainers. “The fashion industry has a significant impact on the health of the planet and its life support system – the oceans,” she says. “What makes our work really sexy is not just providing an alternative but creating a great product.”

Plant-based cosmetics are blooming with new brands like Inika, Lush, Kat Von D and B. launched by Superdrug. The wallet-friendly high street chemist chain has also opened London’s first vegan pop-up shop. But too many beauty products still contain animal derivatives like keratin (a hair conditioner made from hooves and horns), collagen (a filler taken from connective tissue) and squalene (used in moisturisers, extracted from shark livers).

Although the EU banned the sale of animal-tested cosmetics in 2013, 80% of the world’s countries still allow it.

Household products like air fresheners and paints are tested on one-to-five animals every day in the UK.

VI It can Save You Money

Kilo for kilo, fruit, veg, beans and pulses are much more economical. As for the reduced cost to animals and the planet, it’s priceless. Meat eaters spend a whopping £645 more a year on food than vegans according to one British survey.

Mr Vegan

Vegan wasn’t even a word until 1944. Yorkshireman Donald Watson coined the term when he co-founded the British Vegan Society charity 75 years ago.

Watson’s epiphany came at 14 after the slaughter of a favourite pig changed his view of his uncle’s farm where he spent weekends “from idyllic to a death row for animals”. Going beyond vegetarianism, he renounced dairy for ethical reasons and was also TT, living to the ripe old age of 95 – the perfect advertisement for his cause. With over 7,500 members today, the BVS campaigns on health, environmental and animal rights platforms, promotes World Vegan Month in November and has licensed over 30,000 products in 53 countries with its trademark which ensures products are plant-based and cruelty-free.


Try out the Veganalyser on their website to discover how many animals you could save if you turned vegan today. www.vegansociety.com