Veganism has become more popular in the last few years and is becoming a mainstream lifestyle choice for many people of and is growing as a social movement that has drastically changed the fabric of the food industry. The term vegan is well-known in popular culture and familiar to all age groups and in particular younger generations. There has been a tremendous increase in online interest in veganism since 2004  and there has been a 600% increase in vegans in the U.S. alone over the last three years. There is no doubt that social media campaigns such as Charity Veganuary with hashtags #veganuary which encourages people try a vegan diet throughout the month of January has stated that an estimated 300,000 people are set to take part. This is promising news for many animal-lovers and environmentalists who are turning to veganism as a way to align their actions with their morals.
What is veganism?
Veganism is a lifestyle that seeks to minimize the suffering of animals as far as is possible and practicable. People who adhere to veganism refrain from consuming, using, or purchasing animal by-products, be it for food, clothing, or cosmetics. Three common reasons that people become vegan are in order to help prevent animal suffering, to reap the health benefits, and to protect the environment.
Preventing animal suffering
Many people adopt a vegan lifestyle in order to take a stance against the exploitation and suffering of animals. Animals are slaughtered for food at staggering rates. In Canada alone, reports show that over 800 million land animals were killed for food in 2017. In the United States, approximately 11 billion farmed animals are raised and slaughtered for food each year. These animals have the ability to think, feel, and suffer, just like our beloved pets at home.
If we look beyond the romanticized advertisements of happy cows and chickens running through lush green fields, we see a much darker reality to the lives of farmed animals. Shocking investigations into slaughterhouses and farms have shown animals with wounds and infections, being violently beaten and slaughtered. Pregnant pigs are confined in gestation crates, unable to turn around or lie down. Hens are crammed inside tiny battery cages on egg farms. Mother cows in the dairy industry are often ripped away from their calves within hours or birth, and the calves are then usually slaughtered for veal. Unfortunately, animal cruelty is widespread in these industries that profit from this animal suffering.
In some countries, like Canada, animal welfare laws are shockingly lax. Outside of general animal cruelty laws used only in the most egregious cases, Canada has no regulations governing the welfare of the animals while they are being raised on farms. This means that the conditions in which animals are raised are almost completely up to the discretion of the very farmers using these animals for profit. Animal transportation regulations allow animals to be transported in harsh weather conditions and for very long periods of time, resulting in so many animals arriving at slaughterhouses sick, injured, or dead. Many European countries may have stricter animal welfare laws, but undercover slaughterhouse footage still shows horrific cases of animals fighting for their lives while workers struggle to hold them down. Vegans take a stand against these cruel practices by refusing to fund an industry that causes this animal suffering.
People may also become vegan for the health benefits that come with adopting a plant-based lifestyle. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vegan diets can be higher in dietary fiber and various vitamins, phytonutrients, and vegans often have lower cholesterol and blood pressure. According to Dietitians of Canada, vegan diets are not only safe, but can provide health benefits such as lower rates of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even prevent some types of cancers. Even Canada’s new food guide promotes a diet predominantly comprised of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and plant-based proteins.
Protecting the environment
Finally, many people are becoming vegan because of the negative impacts that the meat and dairy industries have on the environment. Research studies point to dangerous environmental effects by those living around factory farms. For instance, there are high levels of particulate matter and ozone emanating from farms and slaughterhouses, which have been linked to neurological development of children. They are also damaging to the lungs, and have been shown to lead to asthma and other respiratory tract diseases.
Animal farming also causes environmental destruction on a wider global scale. A United Nations report released by the Food and Agriculture Organization states that this sector is one of the most significant contributors to global environmental issues, including air and water pollution, land degradation, loss of biodiversity, and climate change. Animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than exhaust from the entire transportation sector combined. It is also estimated that livestock and livestock feed occupies 1/3 of the earth’s ice-free land, and is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, and habitat destruction. It is becoming increasingly clear that animal agriculture is an unsustainable way to feed our growing population, and this is leading many to a vegan lifestyle.
On top of the benefits discussed, much of the appeal of
veganism is that it is now easier than ever to cut animal products out of our
diets. From companies like Beyond Meat making headlines for their realistic
meat alternatives, to major brands like Reebok creating shoes made from plants,
veganism is becoming more readily accessible for people looking to live more
animal-friendly, environmentally conscious lifestyles. There has never been a better time
to save animals, improve your health, and minimize your impact on the planet.
Even switching to a plant-based diet a few times per week is a positive
initiative, and you are helping reduce the suffering of animals, gaining health
benefits by increasing your nutrition, and you can help reduce the
environmental damage of factory farming on our beautiful planet earth.
 Google Trends, “Veganism” (2019) online: <https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=all&q=%2Fm%2F07_hy>.
 Food Revolution Network, “Why the Global Rise in Vegan and Plant-Based Eating Isn’t A Fad” (2018), online: < https://foodrevolution.org/blog/vegan-statistics-global/>.
 Animal Justice, “Canada Killed More Than 800 Million Land Animals for Food in 2017” (2018), online: <https://www.animaljustice.ca/blog/canada-killed-more-than-800-million-land-animals-for-food-in-2017>.
 The Humane Society of the United States, “An HSUS Report: The Welfare of Animals in the Meat, Egg and Dairy Industries” (20019).
 Joe Loria, “5 Undercover Investigations That Blew the Lid Off Canada’s Factory Farming Industry” (2017) Mercy for Animals, online: <https://mercyforanimals.org/5-undercover-investigations-that-blew-the>.
 Humane Society International, “Fast Facts on Veal Crates in Canada” (2014) online: <https://www.hsi.org/news-media/veal-crates-canada-facts/>.
 Humane Canada, “Realities of Farming in Canada” online: <https://www.humanecanada.ca/realities_of_farming_in_canada>.
 Mercy for Animals, “New poll finds 97 percent of Canadians support stronger Federal transport protections for farmed animals” (2016) Cision,online: <https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/new-poll-finds-97-percent-of-canadians-support-stronger-federal-transport-protections-for-farmed-animals-572368961.html>.
 Joe Loria, “Sorry, Europeans, but your slaughterhouses are just as horrific” (2017) Mercy for Animals, online: < https://mercyforanimals.org/sorry-europeans-but-your-slaughterhouses?_ga=2.197354662.808504849.1557868840-448849010.1557336501>.
 Winston J Craig, “Health effects of vegan diets” (2009) 89(5) The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
 Dieticians of Canada, “Healthy Eating Guidelines for Vegans” (2014) online (pdf): <https://www.dietitians.ca/Downloads/Factsheets/Guidlines-for-Vegans.aspx>.
 Sarah Brockmeyer and Amedeo D’Angiulli, “How air pollution alters brain development: the role of neuroinflammation (2016) 7(1) Transl Neurosci.
 Sara May et al, “Respiratory Health Effects of Large Animal Farming Environments” (2012) 15(8) J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev.
 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “Livestock’s Long Shadow” (2006) online (pdf): <http://www.fao.org/3/a0701e/a0701e00.htm>.
 Cowspiracy, “The Facts” (2014) online: <http://www.cowspiracy.com/facts>.