Statistics show that more people across the world are choosing to follow a vegan diet. According to Google Trends data, search interest around veganism has increased significantly from 2004 to 2017, with the highest level of interest in Australia, Israel, Canada, New Zealand and Austria. In Canada specifically, B.C., Yukon, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Alberta lead the trend.
Millennials are a key driver of this increase. A recent poll conducted by Dr. Sylvain Charlebois for Dalhousie University reveals that 7.1% of Canadians consider themselves vegetarian and 2.3% vegan. People under the age of 35 were three times more likely to identify as vegetarian or vegan than those who are 49 or older. More than half of the respondents who claimed to be vegan or vegetarian were under 35.
Veganism and vegetarianism are also on the rise in Europe. The number of vegetarians in Portugal has increased from 30,000 in 2007 to 120,000 in 2017, according to a recent survey. This is a 400% increase in just 10 years and can be attributed to growing concerns over animal welfare and the environment. A new law passed in 2017 requires all public canteens, such as in hospitals and schools, to offer at least one strict vegan option, further enabling citizens to embrace a vegan lifestyle.
In the UK, the number of vegans has grown by 350% compared to 10 years’ ago and in Germany, 9.3 million people identify as vegans or vegetarians. According to research by Mintel, Germany launched the highest percentage of global vegan food and drink products between July 2017 and June 2018, accounting for 15% of vegan product launches globally.
A ‘quit meat’ helpline was recently launched in Denmark. Led by Jakob Jønck, Co-Founder and CEO of vegan and vegetarian meal delivery service Simple Feast, the helpline and the accompanying ‘Time to Quit’ campaign aim to help callers reduce or eliminate their meat consumption.
The campaign highlights the environmental impact of meat production, along with the health benefits of a vegan lifestyle. According to the Simple Feast website, the average Dane consumes around 90-100 kg of meat each year.
The helpline is staffed by doctors and nutritionists, as well as Jønck himself. Their goal is to help callers choose healthy and interesting alternatives to meat to help prevent a ‘climate disaster’ caused by meat mining.
Australia is the third-fastest growing vegan market in the world, behind China and the United Arab Emirates. Between 2014 and 2016, the number of Australian vegan food products available to consumers increased by 92%.
In 2016, the Chinese health ministry released dietary guidelines that encourage citizens to lower their meat intake by 50% by 2030 – the average Chinese consumer currently eats 63 kg per year. This level of change would have significant impact on the world’s climate, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from China’s livestock industry by 1 billion tonnes by 2030. Globally, animal agriculture emissions are higher than all transportation emissions combined.
Research shows that a global shift to a more plant-based diet may be a key factor in halting climate change. A 2016 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, highlights how reducing our global meat consumption could have significant benefits to both our health and our environment. The study states that, “Transitioning toward more plant-based diets that are in line with standard dietary guidelines could reduce global mortality by 6-10% and food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 29-70%….”
The livestock industry has a major impact on our environment: it accounts for 70% of all agricultural land use, takes up 30% of the planet’s land surface and produces 18% of greenhouse gases.
A recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report warns we have only 12 years to prevent global warming from exceeding a maximum of 1.5C. Even a slight increase beyond this limit will significantly raise the threat of catastrophic weather events like drought, floods and extreme heat leading to displacement of populations, widespread poverty and the deaths of millions of people.
A study published in Nature, International Journal of Science in October 2018, promotes moving towards a more plant-based diet as one way we can support meeting climate goals. According to Dr. Marco Springmann, lead author of the study, “Adopting healthy and more plant-based diets globally could reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of the food system by more than half, and also reduce other environmental impacts, such as those from fertiliser application and the use of cropland and freshwater, by a tenth to a quarter.”