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."
Live big. Tread lightly.
Originally published on strengthwithoutcruelty.com