The rise of veganism

Why is this diet so popular?

Basilisa Hernandez '17, Lifestyles Staff

In a city as diverse as Chicago, it’s not hard to find places and people that accommodate one’s lifestyle. As more people discover the health and environmental benefits of being vegan, there has been a rise of vegan accommodations at many restaurants as well as establishments opening that are exclusively vegan.

According to Food Navigator, 26% of Americans ate less meat in 2016 than 2015, and 36% of U.S. consumers prefer a milk or dairy alternative. It is a diet largely associated with eating more cleanly as a way to improve one’s physical and emotional well being.

“Going vegan not only helps the animals, but it helps your body as well,” said Klaudia Poprawska ‘17. “The food you put into your body definitely reflects in your appearance and overall health. Since I’ve gone vegan, I have noticed that my skin appears to be more glowy and clear, I have a lot more energy than when I wasn’t vegan, and overall I feel happier.”

Veganism is a diet that excludes the consumption of all animals and animal products like eggs and milk. As a lifestyle, one also does not purchase products made with animal skin or furs or products that are tested on animals.

“I’d always been an animal lover but for some reason I’d never made the connection between the animals that I thought I wanted to protect and the ones I was eating.” said Katie Treskow ‘17. “Seeing the violence that takes place in factory farms was really illuminating and made me realize what a hypocrite I was.”

But why is veganism on the rise? Poprawska and Treskow attribute their transition to veganism because of  documentaries that expose the cruelties in the meat and dairy industries.

“I went vegan mostly because of documentaries I saw (Earthlings, Forks over Knives, etc.) that revealed the extent to which animals were exploited by humans for profit,” said Treskow. “I would cry while watching Blackfish and rooted for Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web and actively denounced hurting, but would still consume unethical meat.”

These documentaries have also influenced Poprawska to go vegan as well.  

“I stumbled upon the movie “Earthlings” on Netflix. This movie exposes the horrors that animals have to endure so that we can indulge in animal products,” said Poprawska. “After viewing the film I knew that I could never again take part in the suffering. From that day I stopped eating all animal products and only bought from companies that were cruelty free. It has been the best choice I have ever made.”

Veganism is definitely a trend and media influence is a huge part of it. In the UK alone the vegan population jumped 350% since 2006 according to The Guardian. A large influence is that vegan diets have become so mainstream on social media now which disproves the myth that a vegan diet isn’t as tasty as a carnivorous diet. Media platforms like Youtube and Instagram offer many recipes and tips to maintain the diet and still have a diverse set of meals everyday that is cost affordable. The amount of young people being exposed to this has made them more conscious of what they can do to help the animals and save the earth.

In research done by PewResearch, about 9% of the U.S. population identifies as mostly vegan or vegetarian with 48% of people ages 18-29 believe that GMOs cause more harm to the body than those aged 65 and higher. GMOs are a laboratory process where genes from DNA of one species are extracted and forced into that of an unrelated plant or animal.  

Because veganism is a diet based primarily on the consumption of more whole foods like fruits and vegetables and various grains, the lifestyle change has also influenced groceries bought at home as well.

“Now we have a tons more vegan foods in the house. I’ve convinced my mom to buy vegan butter instead of dairy butter, and we use significantly less milk since I converted to soy,” said Treskow. “My brother is still a hardcore meat eater, but we’re generally eating fewer animal products since all the meals my mom and I prepare are vegan.”

The rise of veganism is an interesting phenomenon as more than half of young people who do lead a primarily plant based lifestyle have no close family or friends that are vegan or vegetarian themselves.

“ I wouldn’t say that going vegan has affected the way my family eats, except for the fact that when we go grocery shopping we stock up on lots and lots of produce for the week,” said Poprawska. “I primarily cook for myself while the rest of my family eats what they choose to eat. Although this is true, I do strongly believe that me being vegan has opened them up to incorporating more fruits and veggies in their meals.”