Veganism is a practice of refraining from the use of animal products in a diet. It also includes a philosophy that rejects the idea of animals as a commodity and recognizes them as living things. Veganism is divided into several categories:
- Dietary vegan or strict vegetarian refrains from including any animal product in their diet.
- Ethical vegan does not only abstain from using animal products in their diet but also extends the philosophy to other areas of their lives including the use of animals for any other purpose, such as makeup or clothing.
- Industrial veganism is the avoidance of the use of animal products on the grounds of causing environmental damage by harvesting of animals.
The Origin Of Veganism
The first practice of vegetarianism can be traced back to the Indus Valley Civilization between 3300 and 1300 BC. Some of the earliest known vegetarians based their choices both on health reasons and the welfare of animals. Many argued that animals deserve fair treatment in the same way as human. Vegetarianism became a major movement in England and the US in the 19th century. In 1843, a society which promoted abstinence from animal based foods was formed in Britain. The first British Vegetarian Society was formed and held its first meeting in 1847 in Kent. The society, among other things, discussed the alternative to the leather shoes suggesting the presence of a vegan among them who rejected the use of animal products altogether.
Mahatma Gandhi was a strict vegetarian who advocated for a meat-free diet as a matter of ethics and not health. The term "vegan" was coined by Donald Watson in 1944 as a name to his quarterly magazine which promoted the non-use of animal products in the diet. The first vegan society in the US was founded in 1948 by Catherine and Rubin who distributed Watson’s newsletters.
The Growth Of The Vegan Movements
A wave of countercultural food movements emerged in the 1960s that were concerned about the environment, diet, and lack of trust in food producers. The movements led to an increased interest in organic gardening and vegetarianism. In the 1970s, groups of scientists and physicians including Michael Greger, Dean Ornish, and John McDougall argued that diets based on animal fats would lead to health complications. Books and newsletters promoted the idea through the decades. In the 2010s, a vegan diet became increasingly popular with several restaurants marking vegan items on their menus. Supermarkets also improved their selections of processed vegan food. Thousands of people went online to inquire more about veganism. Several mock-meat butcher shops were opened around Europe with the global mock-meats market increasing by 18% between 2005 and 2010. The consumption of plant milk also increased significantly with 49% of Americans drinking plant milk in 2016. In the UK, the market grew by over 155% between 2011 and 2013.
The Demographics Of Veganism
The number of vegans and strict vegetarians increased significantly in the 2010s. In 2013, 0.5% of Austrians were estimated to be practicing veganism while in 2014, 5% of the Israeli population said they were vegans. 0.6 to 3% of Italians were reported to be vegans as of 2015 while Sweden and Switzerland reported over one percent of vegans each. Vegans in the US vary from 0.5 to 5% with 70% of those who adopted the practice abandoning it. The Vegan Society estimated that over 500,000 people in the UK follow the vegan diet. In Germany, there were over 800,000 vegans as of 2013 while the vegan society of the Netherlands reported a membership of 45,000 people in 2014.
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