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We explore the concept of veganism to help you prepare for World Vegan Day
- What is veganism?
- How is World Vegan Day celebrated?
- History of veganism
- What can vegans eat?
- Why do people go vegan?
- Can you get vegan chocolate?
The wave of veganism has recently taken restaurants and supermarkets by storm. Gone is the concept that vegans can only enjoy boiled potatoes and raw carrots – colourful and tasty vegan alternatives now line the shelves, attracting even meat-eaters to sample a plant-based diet.
It’s even possible to have your favourite sweet treats in vegan form: we take a look at how to make your very own vegan chocolate cake here. Want to know more about veganism? We explore what it means to be vegan, and break down what can vegans eat – just in time for World Vegan Day.
What is veganism?
Vegans follow a diet which is plant-based only. This means that they can’t consume anything with animal products in, including eggs and dairy. Vegans don’t just watch what they put in their mouth – many also try to avoid wearing clothes made from animals, or buying from companies that test on animals, as a stand against animal exploitation in all its forms.
Although the vegan diet was once a bit of a mystery to shops and stores, it’s now taken the high street with force. Between 2014 and 2019 the number of vegans in the UK quadrupled, and now most supermarkets stock meat alternatives, with restaurants and bakeries selling goodies such as vegan sausage rolls or vegan chicken burgers.
How is World Vegan Day celebrated?
World Vegan Day was set up in an effort to raise awareness around the vegan lifestyle, and to encourage others to give it a go, and is held on the first of November every year. The Vegan Society established the event in 1994, with Louise Wallis, the chair of the Vegan Society, saying November was the date of choice as it coincided with both Halloween and the Day of Dead, traditional times for feasting.
Whilst the Vegan Society aims to encourage people to make the switch to veganism all year round, World Vegan Day is an extra special day in the calendar for the society. Not only is it a day to raise awareness around the diet, but also to celebrate how far the movement has come.
The Vegan Society encourages people to sign up to a 30-day pledge, where those who sign up receive advice on all aspects of a healthy vegan diet and even get some vegan recipes included. The VeGuide app is also available for those who want to pursue a vegan diet, providing you with daily videos and tips to help you make the plant-based switch permanent.
World Vegan Day aims to increase awareness about the benefits of living a vegan lifestyle, and the Vegan Society has even created a registered vegan trademark for over 30,000 products and services, making it easy to identify what is vegan-friendly.
History of veganism
The phrase vegan was coined early on by The Vegan Society as early as 1944, although it wasn’t until 1949 that a definition was produced : “the principle of emancipation of animals from exploitation by man”.
Although this was the first time a definition for the diet had been clarified, veganism has been practised, perhaps somewhat inadvertently, throughout history. Vegetarianism was promoted by the mathematician Pythagoras of Samos around 500 BCE, who promoted benevolence among all species. During the 18th century utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham believed that animal suffering was as abhorrent as human suffering, and is regarded as one of the first advocates within our society for animal rights.
Religions have also preached that it’s wrong to kill animals – followers of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism believe that humans should not inflict pain on other animals, and in 1732 a religious sect in Pennsylvania called the Ephrata Cloister promoted vegetarianism amongst its followers.
The Vegan Society was founded out of a belief that humans shouldn’t consume any animal products, going even further than the vegetarian diet, which cuts out meat and fish but allows eggs and dairy. When the founders first established the society, there were only 25 subscribers to the newsletter in Britain. Nowadays, there are over one million vegans in the UK alone.
What can vegans eat?
Although it is labelled as a plant-based diet, this isn’t to say vegans spend their days munching on vegetables only. Although meat is off the menu, there are plenty of meat alternatives, meaning you can still enjoy a burger or chicken nuggets guilt-free.
Dairy products – such as cheese, cream, milk – are also a no-no in the eyes of a vegan. However, there are a growing number of milk alternatives which have a similar taste and consistency to the real deal: take your pick from almond, oat, soy, coconut, hemp and more. We use hazelnut in our own milk chocolate vegan range, and rice in our free-from collection, so that everyone can enjoy a little bit of chocolatey goodness.
Vegan cheese and cream is also available to buy in most supermarkets for when you have a creamy craving.
Eggs are possibly one of the hardest foods to recreate in vegan form. However, food suppliers are constantly finding new ways to give green makeovers to even the trickiest foods – recreate an omelette with this soy-based alternative. However, if you simply want an egg alternative for baking, a cheaper option is to use soaked chia seeds in your baked goods.
Lots of foods are already surprisingly vegan – most breads and pastas are plant-based, and dips such as hummus, salsa and guacamole should be vegan-friendly.
Why do people go vegan?
Although many people make the switch to the plant-based diet because they don’t like the thought of killing animals for our own gain, there are other reasons why people turn their back on the world of meat and dairy.
Some people change their diets because of health reasons – animal products contain more fat and are higher in calories compared to plant-based foods, with studies showing that there are links between meat consumption and obesity. Considering that most vegans have to receive nutrients such as protein from plant-based foods, their diets tend to be leaner; tofu, beans and soy are high in protein, but low in fat.
Being vegan doesn’t just make those who follow a healthy vegan diet look healthier on the outside – it can also help inside. Vegan diets include more fruit and vegetables, which are packed with minerals and nutrients, helping you to fight off the risk of diseases such as bowel cancer.
Wholegrains, soy and nuts are also regularly consumed in the vegan diet, helping improve the health of your heart. As cheese and red meats are high in saturated fats, avoiding these foods can lower your cholesterol and blood pressure.
So, is the vegan diet the magic solution for those who want to get in better shape? Epidemiologist Dr. T. Colin Campbell of Cornell University certainly thinks so, stating that “In every respect, vegans appear to enjoy equal or better health in comparison to both vegetarians and non-vegetarians”.
However, although the British Nutrition Foundation has stated that a well-balanced vegan diet should provide you with all the nutrients you need to remain healthy, it must be remembered that you can be an unhealthy vegan too. If you find that you’re only eating chips and sweets then you’re probably going to be worse off than when you were previously eating meat.
Check the essential nutrients your body needs, and find out what foods are rich in them – meal prepping and planning is a great way for you to know exactly what foods to get when you go shopping, so that you can pursue a vegan lifestyle, in a healthy way.
The production of meat and dairy is more harmful to the environment than you may think – and no, it’s not because livestock is constantly farting. Although the vegan movement is growing, the number of people who consume meat is rapidly expanding – world chicken production has increased 13 times since 1961, with The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations predicting that world meat production will have almost doubled by 2050.
The meat and dairy industry is damaging to the environment in a number of ways – the more animals we want to consume, the more crops are needed to feed them. This means more land is needed to grow the crops on, resulting in mass deforestation around the planet, especially in the Amazon, endangering already rare species even further. The cattle industry has the highest carbon footprint, representing roughly 65% of the agriculture’s sector’s emissions. This is because cattle requires vast amounts of land to rear the livestock, and the processing of beef and dairy products requires a large quantity of energy and water.
Farming, transportation and processing livestock requires huge amounts of energy, meaning more fossil fuels are being burned, resulting in an increase in greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere. With the growing demand for meat, this amount can only increase.
Water pollution is also a problem: slurry from cattle and other livestock flows into groundwater sources, water and rivers. As slurry contains high levels of nitrogen and phosphor, this is poisonous to fish, affecting the food chain and risking the extinction of some aquatic animals.
However, whilst a vegan diet is greener, this isn’t to say that it is completely planet-friendly. Avocados are a popular vegan food, but they require vast amounts of water – a single Californian avocado tree needs up to 46 gallons of water a day, which is enough to fill a large bathtub with. Other meat alternatives – such as Quorn – also need to be heavily processed, and require vast amounts of water for production.
If you’re looking to make the switch to veganism because you want to live your life a little greener, try to look for seasonal produce which is grown as locally as possible. If possible, eat meat alternatives only a few times a week, and try to cook from scratch to ensure that you are using foods which aren’t heavily processed.
Can you get vegan chocolate?
We have to admit – we might struggle with the idea of turning vegan if chocolate was off the cards. Luckily, dark chocolate is already vegan – as its primary ingredients are simply cocoa butter, cocoa solids and sugar, it doesn’t contain any milk. If you want to know more about how chocolate is made, take a look at our previous blog.
Whilst our dark chocolate is vegan friendly, we do understand that not everybody enjoys the deep, rich flavours of a high-cocoa dark. That’s why our chocolatiers came up with a nutmilk recipe: we use hazelnut milk to add a wonderfully creamy touch to our chocolate, giving you all the lightness of a classic milk while remaining completely plant-based.
Still not sure about the vegan lifestyle? Why try it for a day or two on World Vegan Day – it might be easier than you think.