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Veganism and its journey into the mainstream

I switched to a plant-based diet seven years ago, following years of just not liking meat.  As the only veggie in my immediate family (which still contains two self-confessed ‘carnivores’), I found myself time and time again trawling my beloved veggie/vegan aisles in every supermarket nearby, looking for exciting new things to try – even if, in 2014, this was limited to an isolated section near the back by the deli counter. 

In the relatively short time I’ve followed a plant-based diet, veganism has exploded exponentially into the mainstream, and shows no signs of slowing down or stopping any time soon. According to Finder.com[1], 7.2 million Brits now follow a meat-free diet, with an additional 13 million intending to follow a pescatarian, vegetarian or vegan diet by the end of the year. Now you can go into any supermarket and find entire aisles dedicated to meat and animal product-free replacements: ready meals, desserts – the list is endless. Gone are the days of a hundred varieties of stuffed peppers, and one lonely brand of veggie sausages.

And with lockdowns across the country now preventing foodies from flocking to restaurants, many have turned to the internet to get their fix of Veganuary treats. The boom of veganism in the last decade must be attributed, at least in part, to social media, thanks to the marketing, brand expansion and advertisement it has enabled, firmly cementing veganism in our food culture. Accounts can easily reach mass audiences with their equally delicious, entertaining, and nutritious content, helping to remove stigmas of unconventionality, and combat the notion that vegan food is boring or bland. @uglyvegan on Instagram go one step further to obliterate the preconception that all vegan food is a random hodge-podge of greenery and raw vegetables, with their bio boldly claiming ‘there’s more to veganism than salad’ – one look at their page in all its beige glory is evidence enough. 

The ‘invasion’ of veganism and other meat-free diets into the mainstream has often been criticised and vilified in the media – a ‘woke’ diet for the ‘snowflake’ generation – but the arrival of veganism in our supermarkets and on our screens has paved the way for a decrease in meat and animal product consumption for a wider range of people, as well as generally bringing a greater awareness to issues of ethical farming, animal rights and climate change. @accidentallyveganuk boasts 354k followers on Instagram, featuring the selection of vegan products available in mainstream supermarkets, as well as sharing advice for those new to vegan or meat-free lifestyles. Thanks to platforms like this, it’s not too uncommon nowadays to hear people, who previously swore by meat, branching out, trying meat-free days, or muttering ‘actually, that’s not too bad’ upon their first tentative bite of tofu. 

And more established social media platforms are not the only ones reaching audiences with their recipes. @thekoreanvegan on Tik Tok is run by Joanne Molinaro, a lawyer from Chicago, who takes traditional Korean recipes and ‘veganises’ them, soundtracked by the most eloquent and lyrical story-telling you will ever hear. Joanne’s recipes, which can also be found on her blog, dispel the notion that traditional, culturally significant food cannot be part of a vegan lifestyle; instead, she marries the traditional with the new, in the most delicious harmony. 

So this Veganuary, whether you’re new to veganism, just testing the waters, or a vegan veteran,  why not turn your attention online – we all know it’s where we spend most of our days now – and get cooking at home or uni? It’s good for you (in both health and taste), and for the planet!

[1] www.finder.com/uk/uk-diet-trends

[2] www.instagram.com/uglyvegan/

[3]http://www.instagram.com/accidentallyveganuk/

Cover photo: S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash