Veganism: Why it’s more than just a passing fad

06 Mar 2018

Australia is the third fastest growing market globally for vegan foods and over the coming months, there will be more than 400 vegan and animal rights events staged across Australia. Jessica Zoiti looks at why veganism is on the rise, and why it is well and truly here to stay.

North Fremantle resident, Valosh Dear, was never a big meat eater. In fact, for the past 25 years she’s lived a pescatarian lifestyle, only eating fish alongside vegetables and dairy products.

Then in 2014, Valosh’s world was turned on its head. An aggressive breast cancer diagnosis lead to 18 months of chemotherapy, during which time she also sought the advice of two naturopaths. They offered the same advice: give all animal products the boot.

“Both (naturopaths) recommended going vegan as it was the healthiest lifestyle, and it would give my cancer the best chance of not returning,” Valosh explains, adding that her lifestyle didn’t change overnight. “It took me two years to make the switch as I also had to give up so many other things, so it was a slow and steady journey.”

In an attempt to ward off her illness, Valosh first gave up coffee, then refined sugar and alcohol. By June last year, she had finally eliminated all animal products from her diet too meaning she was officially a full vegan.

And Valosh is not alone. Australia is the third fastest growing market in the world for vegan foods (behind The USA, Germany and England), with the Australian value of vegan-labelled food increasing from $135.9m in 2015 to $153m in 2016.

And while not specific to vegans, research conducted by Roy Morgan reveals that between 2012 and 2016, the number of Australian adults whose diet was all or almost all vegetarian rose from 1.7 million people (or 9.7 percent of the population) to almost 2.1 million (11.2 percent).

So why the boom? According to Greg McFarlane, Director at Vegan Australia, there’s a number of reasons, starting with people’s opposition to animal agriculture.

“People are learning about the horrors of the animal agriculture industry. When they realise that they can live happy and healthy lives without consuming any animal products, many people can no longer justify the suffering of the animals they once consumed,” he begins.

The principle behind veganism is to avoid causing suffering to animals as much as possible. So the primary benefit of veganism is (helping) the billions of animals who currently suffer in the animal agriculture industry.”

The environmental benefits of veganism also motivate many to change their lifestyle. According to a United Nations report, cattle-rearing generates more global warming greenhouse gases than the transportation industry.

“The UN has identified the animal industries as one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems, including global warming, loss of fresh water, rainforest destruction, spreading deserts, air and water pollution, acid rain, soil erosion and loss of habitat,” explains Greg.

“Vast areas of forest are cleared to grow crops to feed farmed animals. The methane produced by these animals is the largest single cause of global warming, larger than all transport worldwide. Large quantities of excrement produced by animal industries leak into rivers and oceans as pollution.”

For proof of veganism’s popularity, simply look to your local supermarket isles. Here you’ll find vegan alternatives to milk and dairy products, and biscuits, cereals, spreads, sauces, dressings and confectionary, all free from animal products.

“A recent post on our Facebook page about new vegan products in a major supermarket was one of our most popular posts. It showed that an increase in the number of vegans means more vegan food in shops, which means it’s easier for others to become vegan,” says Greg.

Thanks to this growing product diversity, changing your lifestyle isn’t as challenging as you may think. According to Greg: “Once people become vegan, they often comment on how easy it is, and how living a life consistent with their beliefs makes their lives so much better. The first step to becoming vegan is to know why you are becoming vegan.”

For Valosh, the key was eliminating one thing at a time and cutting herself some slack.

“I found cheese the hardest thing to give up,” she admits. “The very addictive casein had me hooked on daily servings of the yummiest French cheeses. Looking back however, I am so glad that I gave all that up – I simply don’t miss them.

“Also, don’t be hard on yourself – little baby steps are ok and once you start to discover the amazing vegan offerings out there, you get hooked on this new way of eating. There are more and more coffee shops offering vegan options now (like Vans in Cottesloe, and The Black Truffle), and joining a Facebook support group is great for recipe sharing too.”

Today, not only does Valosh feel like a better human being (her abhorration of animal cruelty means she no longer buys wool or leather products either), she’s fitter and healthier than ever.

“I’m a very healthy vegan. I’m really enjoying my food, like beautiful salads from The Black Truffle for lunch and amazing dinners consisting of lots and lots of veggies, plant-based proteins and good healthy fats.

“I haven’t been sick at all, not even a simple cold since the end of chemo and the start of my healthier lifestyle, and my dexa scan (conducted just before her full transition to veganism) showed that I was really healthy with excellent bone health and no visceral fat.

Best of all, Valosh is currently cancer-free.

“I saw my oncologist on Monday… and she gave me a big thumbs up – 10/10 for doing everything right. Being given the seal of approval from a conventional doctor is the best, and it definitely confirmed that I’m on the right path.”

 

Want to try vegan food that’s both nutritious and delicious? To cater to the increasing demand for vegan food, The Black Truffle is constantly exploring animal product-free options including their new lentil sweet potato patties; chickpea and turmeric patties and a wide range of salads.