Veganism on the increase as more people question eating meat
By Lisa Krassuski Jan 5, 2011, 3:06 GMT
Berlin - Vegans seek to exclude the use of animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose - and their numbers are growing.
The life of a vegan means living without any animal products. The most common reasons for following a vegan lifestyle are moral convictions about animal rights or welfare, as well as health, environmental, spiritual and religious concerns.
The old-fashioned view of a vegan involves a person who drinks soya juice, wears leather-free shoes and clothing, and feeds their dog potato pulp.
However, the image of veganism has changed markedly in recent years with its advocates becoming outspoken champions for the environment, health and animal welfare.
Vegans make up approximately 1 per cent of the population in the United States, and veganism and vegetarianism are increasing in popularity across the globe. 'Veganism is the hype issue at the moment,' says Sebastian Zoesch, CEO of the German vegetarian society (VEBU).
The membership of VEBU, which represents the interests of all of Germany's vegetarians, including ovo-lacto ones, has increased from 2,700 to 3,500 in the last year alone.
'Veganism has undergone a major image makeover,' says Zoesch. 'It's probably a bit cooler because it is more consistent.'
The La Mano Verde restaurant in Berlin offers gourmet vegan food with meals like courgette rolls, walnut bolognese or tomato, turnip and cashew ravioli on the menu.
Even though all the ingredients used in the restaurant are vegan, the word itself is avoided. 'A lot of non-vegetarians don't like the word vegan,' explains restaurant chef Christiane Radin.
The word still conjures up images of radical views towards nutrition and as the restaurant doesn't want to drive away any meat eaters or vegetarians the term 'plant-based' food is used instead.
The increase in popularity of veganism can be linked with the growth of the organic food movement in the last decade.
A vegan diet has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and obesity although, as with any diet, it is important to ensure that it is well balanced.
It is recommended that a minimum of five portions of fruit and vegetables should be eaten each day while the use of refined grains should be limited since much of the nutrient content is lost.
Hydrogenated fats should be avoided while vegans need to ensure that they provide sources of vitamins B12 and D2 as well as Omega 3. Diet is of particular importance for pregnant women and children.
Although there are no exact figures for the number of vegans and vegetarians in the world, experts agree that the number of people doing without meat in their diets is on the increase.
'The idea that you can help save the environment by refraining from eating meat is relatively new,' says Zoesch.
But, as before, ethical and health concerns also play a role in the popularity of veganism. The best-selling book 'Eating Animals' by Jonathan Safran Foer has also led to an increase in the number of vegetarians in the past year.
Foer visited factory farms in the middle of the night, described in detail how animals are slaughtered and explored the many stories used to justify current eating habits.
The book had an immediate impact, with actress Natalie Portman among those who have since announced they are no longer eating meat.
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