I made the conscious decision to stop eating meat out of care, compassion, and the desire to make a positive difference to my life and the world around me. I try my best to live in accordance with my views and beliefs hoping that if I lead by example, one day I might inspire a few other people to do the same.
However, I know from personal experience that sometimes it can be all too easy to get caught up in the change that isn't happening around us -- instead of the change that is.
Yes, it's true that those of us who choose to pursue a plant-based lifestyle are still just a small minority of the population, but our message -- and perhaps more importantly our actions -- are making a much bigger impact than you might think.
The plant-based lifestyle is going mainstream. Fast.
A quick search on Google Trends reveals just how big the global shift towards meat-free diets really is. Interest in the search term 'veganism' has skyrocketed in the last few years, with Australians, Canadians and Swedes the most curious about the benefits the lifestyle has to offer.
Searches for veganism have skyrocketed over the past few years. Source: Google Trends
With plant-based diets gaining so much popularity, it’s no surprise that Yahoo ranked plant-based restaurants as one of the up-and-coming top 16 food trends for 2016.
One industry benefiting greatly from this new shift in dietary preference is the meat substitute industry. The global meat substitute market is growing at an exponential rate: 6.4% annually to be exact. Fuelled by increasing awareness about health and wellness, hormone and antibiotic concerns and environmental issues, meat substitute products will be worth a staggering $5.7 billion by 2020.
The hottest meat substitute on the market right now would have to be the Beyond Burger. Marketed as the 'world's first plant-based burger that looks, cooks and tastes like ground beef’, it’s made from pea protein, yeast extract and coconut oil and even bleeds beetroot 'blood'. Yeah science!
Let’s look at just a few of the positive changes happening around the world right now.
Evidence of the growing popularity of plant-based diets in Australia can be found on the menus of cafes, restaurant and food courts everywhere. You don't have to go far to find irresistible vegan or vegetarian versions of your favourite dishes in any major city (check out the best vegetarian restaurants in Australia).
According to research conducted by Roy Morgan, about 9.1% of the population identify as vegetarians, and almost half (43%) of all Aussies say they’ve actively reduced their meat consumption compared with a couple of years ago. Not bad for a country that gives the U.S. a run for its money when it comes to their appetite for meat.
The United Kingdom
Here's a stat that I find incredibly exciting: a quarter of all Brits will be vegetarian by 2025, according to a recent report. The number of vegans are also on the rise, with the number of people switching to a vegan diet in the nation up 350% over the past 10 years, making veganism one of the fastest growing lifestyle movements in the UK.
The British Government is also helping push the plant-based movement in the country with its new dietary guidelines recommending that its citizens replace a few servings of meat with plant-based alternatives from foods like lentils, peas and beans, while also reducing dairy by 7%.
UK's new dietary guidelines recommends eating less red meat and more beans and pulses. Click to enlarge.
The Dutch are no strangers when it comes to meat and dairy. I mean, we're talking about a country where you can get hamburgers, deep-fried cheese and hot dogs straight out of the wall.
However, in a sign of changing times, the Dutch government recently urged its residents to cut down their meat consumption, recommending no more than two servings (or about 500 grams) of meat per week. The recommendations -- based on the findings from a five year long study by the Netherlands Nutrition Centre -- are the first time the government has placed a limit on how much meat people should eat.
Recognising the detrimental environmental impacts of meat and dairy consumption, the Swedish Government has started to explore the possibility of introducing a 'meat tax'. If successful, it would mark the first time a country has used tax as a method to tackle the issues. A recent study which investigated the possible environmental outcomes of taxing meat and dairy products, found that the move could slash emissions of greenhouse gases, nitrogen and phosphorus by up to 12%.
The United States
Typically infamous for its greasy fast foods, processed meats and super-sized sodas, the stereotypical American diet is undergoing some serious change. According to statistics released by the Humane Society of America, meat consumption in the U.S. has been steadily declining in the U.S. by 10% per capita since 2007 as more Americans turn to plant-based diets. The result? 400 million fewer animals were killed for food this year compared to just nine years ago.
Plant-based diets -- particularly of the vegetarian variety -- are really taking off in Germany. According to the European Vegetarian Union, Germany may have the highest rate of vegetarians of any European country with 10% of the population ditching meat. The number of vegans are also growing exponentially in Germany, with 1 million people cutting all animal products out of their diet completely.
Pretty exciting stuff right?
Whenever you feel frustrated by the seemingly snail-like pace towards a more sustainable, kinder and healthier world, take a deep breath, step-back and look at the bigger picture. Positive change is happening every single day, on a global scale. And remember -- "Life's a marathon, not a sprint."
SeaWorld US has announced that it will stop breeding orcas as of right now, saying that "times have changed"!
It's a great day for animals and for people power! Thanks to the tireless campaigning of animal protection groups around the world, continued public pressure and dropping attendance rates, SeaWorld US has announced that this generation of captive orcas will be its last.
"The company will end all orca breeding as of today." -- SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment Inc.
Since the Blackfish documentary showed the world the sad story of Tilikum, a male orca at SeaWorld US, there has been a noticeable change in the public's perception of orcas in captivity. Orcas like Tilikum are highly intelligent and have needs that simply cannot be met in captivity. In the wild they form strong familial bonds and can travel hundreds of kilometres in a single day. A life in a tank, performing for visitors is no life at all -- and thankfully no more orcas will be born into this at SeaWorld US!
This incredible news shows what can be achieved when people make a choice based on their values. Caring individuals demanded more for orcas, and SeaWorld US has responded. There is no doubt that orcas suffer in captivity but they aren't the only ones. Whilst we don't have any captive orcas here in Australia, a tank is not a natural environment for a dolphin, seal, shark or penguin either. Find out what you need to know about marine parks and aquariums before planning your next trip.
Here's to a day when all orcas get to be like this:
It's the 21st Century -- a time for Netflix, virtual reality, tablets and cat cafes. In this day and age, condemning wild animals like lions and monkeys to a 'life' of constant travel and confinement and forcing them to perform demeaning 'tricks' for 'entertainment' is not only outdated -- it's straight up cruel.
But in Australia, it's still legal to keep exotic animals in circuses :/ If you agree that a circus is no place for a wild animal, here’s what you can do if you hear that an exotic animal circus is planning to visit your area.
Tell your family and friends about the cruelty behind the big top, and how life in a travelling circus is no life at all for an exotic animal. Here are some points to mention.
A growing number of Australian councils are taking a kind stance for animals by banning exotic animal circuses on council land, and you can encourage your council to do the same! If you find out that an exotic animal circus is coming your way, write or phone your council, and encourage all of your friends and family to do the same.
If you want to have your voice heard when an animal circus is coming to your town, you can consider writing a letter to the editor of your local paper, and speaking on talk-back radio about the cruelty involved in animal circuses and why they should be banned. You could also try finding an animal rights community group in your area and ask them to help you in taking action for circus animals. (They might already have something planned). The more people who speak up, the better!
Our animal circuses flyer is a helpful tool to raise awareness. Print out as many copies as you can for letterbox drops, notice boards, in waiting rooms, etc.
By speaking out against circus cruelty, you're joining a worldwide movement away from animal circuses -- and toward a kinder world. The most entertaining circuses rely on the skills of their talented human performers, proving that you don't need cruelty to make a circus. Make a stand by pledging to never support exotic animal circuses -- why not check out a great animal-free act when they tour to a town near you!
When a colleague of mine flew with TigerAir recently she was blown away to see this on the menu:
Are you seeing what I'm seeing?
No more peanuts and pretzels for in-flight dinners. Now I'll be having a cheesy, tomatoey toastie to hit the spot before (safely) hitting the tarmac.
And knowing me, I'll be hanging for something sweet after smashing that toastie. You too? Well guess what ... Tiger gets us.
Yep, you read that right -- vegan rocky road. I don't even know where to get vegan rocky road on the ground but now I can get it in the sky! What an exciting time to be alive :)
And Tiger Air isn't the only airline to now offer vegan options on their in-flight menu. Jetstar have a pumpkin and cous cous salad from Sumo Salad available and Virgin sell a felafel wrap on board their flights.
What this shows is that demand for vegan food is growing. Recent stats show that Australia is home to 480,000 vegans (and 2 million vegetarians). Some quick maths tells me that that's a WHOLE LOT of animals saved every year.
Together we are powerful. Thanks to compassionate people choosing animal-free food (and asking for it) we're going to continue to see vegan-friendly food popping up here, there and everywhere. After all, the sky's the limit and we're already getting vegan options there!
Every day it gets easier to cut animal products out of your life. If you're keen to know more about how you can eat to save animals and the planet, we've got a great kit to get you started.
"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."
Gandhi said that and he was one smart bloke. As someone who believes in a kinder world for animals, I know what it feels like to be at every one of those stages, and I'm sure you do too. But today, my friend, we are winning! Here's why ...
You might remember when Unilever, parent company of Hellman's mayonnaise, filed a lawsuit against Hampton Creek for their egg-free mayonnaise 'Just Mayo'. Unilever said that the name 'Just Mayo' was misleading because traditional mayonnaise should include eggs.
What was nicknamed the 'Mayo Wars' attracted massive media attention, with over 112,000 people signing a petition siding with Hampton Creek. In November 2014, Unilever dropped the lawsuit. At around the same time Hampton Creek secured $90 million in funding. Amongst the investors was Eduardo Saverin, co-founder of Facebook. Bill Gates also supports Hampton Creek.
Soon after, the FDA said that 'Just Mayo' could keep their name -- a victory for Hampton Creek, and for chickens everywhere. Because even 'free range' and 'organic' eggs can be bad news for layer hens and male chicks.
Before you start celebrating, it gets even better ... Hellman's has just launched an egg-free mayonnaise. I guess they figured if you can't beat them, join them :)
When asked whether the new eggless mayonnaise was in response to the 'Just Mayo' debacle, spokesperson for Hellman's said they were simply catering to customers tastes.
This win for people and animals is a good reminder of the power of asking for stuff. If companies can see that there's a market for cruelty-free stuff, they'll want to get in on it. Why not ask your favourite local cafe to do some more meat-free options next time you're there?
Oh, along with trying to stop a cruelty-free mayo from getting on shelves, there's something else you should know about Unilever -- they conduct cruel tests on animals. Along with Hellman's, Unilever owns Dove, Rexona, Lynx and more. It was people power who got Unilever to venture into egg-free mayo and my bet is it will be people power that gets them to stop testing on animals. Click here to ask Unilever to stop testing on animals.
We’re supposed to let you know that the ideas expressed here are the views of the individual authors, and may not necessarily reflect the views of Animals Australia or Animals Australia Unleashed. So now you know.