Since 1994, the 1st of November has been marked as World Vegan Day, a day to both celebrate and promote veganism.
The term ‘veganism’ was coined in 1944 by British woodworker Donald Watson. But the concept of abstaining from eating any animal-derived products has existed for centuries, originating in ancient Indian and east-Mediterranean cultures, with many Buddhists, Hindus and Jains following strict vegetarian or vegan diets. In recent years, the number of people adhering to a vegan diet and lifestyle has increased rapidly across the globe. When Watson established The Vegan Society in the 1940s, there were 25 subscribers to his newsletter. When he died, in 2005 at the age of 95, there were around 250,000 people who identified as vegan in Britain. Between 2006 and 2018, the number of vegans in the UK increased by 400% and since the charity Veganuary began encouraging people to go vegan for the month of January, the number of participants from across the globe has grown from 3,300 in 2014, to around 630,000 in 2022. The number of self-identified vegans in the UK currently sits at around 1.4 million.
But why the huge increase in this diet and lifestyle? According to a global survey carried out in 2019 by Vomad Life, 68% of vegans chose for reasons of animal welfare, whilst 17.4% claimed that health benefits were the primary reason. Another 9.7% stated that benefiting the environment was their main reason for making the change. Staying with statistics, around 35% of people surveyed by Vomad Life also claimed that they became vegan after watching some kind of film. Over the past decade, documentaries such as Cowspirary (2014), What The Health (2017), Blackfish (2013) and Eating Animals (2017) have exposed the horrors of the farming industry, awoken us to the environmental impact of meat consumption, and helped us understand the health benefits of veganism.
The Vomad Life survey also found that 17% of new vegans were influenced into a plant-based diet by somebody they knew and 13% said that social media played a factor. If we also consider the growing number of influential celebrities, such as Woody Harrelson, Natalie Portman, Joaquin Phoenix, and Beyonce, who have championed veganism over the past few years, we begin to understand how this “trendy” lifestyle has so rapidly increased in popularity.
The availability of vegan products, which have made it easier for vegans to shop, cook and eat out, has also been a big factor in the dramatic rise in popularity. Since establishing their Vegan Trademark in 1990, The Vegan Society has registered over 65,000 products as certified vegan. This includes cosmetics, household cleaning products and toiletries, as well as food and beverages. 82% of products that carry the Vegan Trademark today will have been certified since 2018, and in 2020 alone, 16,000 new products were registered. It’s also become easier to enjoy plant-based food whilst eating out.
The number of vegan options at restaurants, along with dedicated vegan restaurants is increasing year upon year. In 2019, London was home to 156 vegan restaurants; by 2022 this number had risen quite drastically to 214. It’s never been easier to be vegan, then. And if you want to learn more about veganism and its history, try visiting visit The Vegan Society website. Further, you can read the full results of the 2019 Vomad Life Global Vegan Survey here: Why People Go Vegan: 2019 Global Survey Results.