Over the last decade, veganism has gained popularity and attention worldwide. Restaurants have adapted to cater for an array of dietary needs, whilst grocery stores have increased the variety of produce they sell. Nowadays, you can go to your local steakhouse and find a meat-free option! All in all, we are seeing major transitions from meat to plant-based diets globally.
As this month’s ‘Go Local’ Intern, I thought it would be interesting to research the impacts of COVID-19 on veganism in the UK. Predictably, I found that the pandemic has accelerated the vegan trend. Although the reasons why people have made these changes to their diet are personal, they ultimately fall into one of three categories: Availability, Health and Ethics.
In light of the pandemic, individuals are going local to the extent where they’re growing fruit and vegetables in their own backyard! For some, the reasons revolve around safety and easy access. Growing their own food means not having to worry about travelling or being exposed to the virus. For others, it’s simply just a fun activity when stuck in lockdown.
On the contrary, a recent survey showed that 41% of people in the UK who have made these diet changes, are picking vegan selections in the supermarket because they are unable to get the product they initially came for. In these cases, it is the unavailability of preferred meat and dairy options that push them to make this decision.
Overall, this category revolves around an increase in vegan food purchases due to it being either easily accessible or more readily available.
The same survey states that 43% of these people are reducing their meat and dairy intake due to either animal rights, their concern for the environment or their health and wellbeing.
In some cases, individuals want to use lockdown to get fit and healthy. They want to have a ‘glo up’ before restrictions ease and life gets back to semi-normality. Others during this pandemic, are more attracted to the vegan diet as they believe plants have medicinal benefits that can help support their immune system and keep them healthy.
Under ethical reasons comes: animal rights and concern for the environment. As a result of the pandemic and its tight restrictions, people have more time on their hands. Consequently, individuals are thinking more deeply into their food choices and the corresponding impacts their diet may have on themselves and the planet.
Cutting meat and dairy produce could reduce an individual’s carbon footprint by up to 73%. Additionally, it can conserve water, clean soil, purify the air and reduce energy consumption, thus providing several benefits for the environment.
Whilst helping the planet, a vegan diet can also help prevent animal cruelty and suffering by reducing the demand for animal products. This essentially ensures that fewer animals are bred to suffer and die in inhumane conditions.
What can you do?
For meat-lovers, making this change may seem close to impossible. However, with brands such as Oatly and Beyond Meat, it’s never been easier to take the first step. Research suggests that going meatless just once a week can help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer whilst contributing to saving valuable natural resources such as fresh clean water!
By making this small change, you’ll help the environment and animals, as well as yourself. I believe that, in itself, is extremely worthwhile.
By Bela Pitamber for Studenteer
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