Veganism: A Decade in Review

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Veganism: A Decade in Review


By Asha Swann


 It goes without saying that veganism has been a huge topic recently. But this definitely didn’t happen overnight. What was once thought to be an extreme diet for animal lovers has now become mainstream.  Award-winning documentaries were made, internationally bestselling books were written, and more celebrities became outspoken about veganism than ever before. More people became vegan in the 2010s as veganism became more accessible. We even saw a huge number of athletes and bodybuilders look to plant-based proteins. In this article, we take a look at some of the truly defining moments that the meat-free movement has had over the decade.


The growing movement really started in 2009

There is no better way to start out our decade in review that with the eye-opening piece, ‘The Growing Case Against Red Meat.’ Time Magazine published this incredible article in March 2009. To start off, the article discussed a study that analyzed more than half a million Americans between the ages of 50 and 71. The highly detailed investigation showed that people who actively consume red meat are at approximately 20 percent chance of dying from cancer. This piece, combined with the Lancet article published later that year (which also documented the health and environmental consequences of red meat), propelled the conversation around vegan/vegetarianism. In 2009, Jonathan Safran Foer’s ‘Eating Animals’ book became a quick best-seller. Another book that went flying off the shelves this year? ‘Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows’ by American social psychologist Melanie Joy. The year ended with a survey showing 3 percent of American adults identified as vegetarian, with about one-third of those 3 percent of vegetarians being vegan.


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2010 – United Nations praises planet-based diets

People began to think critically about what they ate after the Time Magazine article was published. In 2010, a report from the United Nations showed a direct correlation between the consumption of animal products and the increase in climate change. It explained that the growth of plants, fruits, and veggies had a lower carbon footprint. Because of the increase in conversation around veganism/plant-based foods, The European Parliament defined the meaning of vegan food labelling this year. As discussions about health continue, Robert Cheeke releases ‘Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness – The Complete Guide to Building Your Body on a Plant-Based Diet.’ The popularity of this book would start a movement of vegan bodybuilders later this decade.


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2011 – Documentaries and health concerns shake the globe

In Canada, Vancouver’s first-ever Veg Fest, promoting veganism, vegetarianism, and natural living happened. In the meantime, a new survey about meat-free Americans had been published. Approximately 5 percent of the US population now claims vegetarians, with around half of that (2.5 percent) being vegan. People this year also showed a huge interest in documentaries. ‘Fork Over Knivescreated a national movement: the whole-food, plant-based shift was born. Not to mention ‘Vegucated,’ the hilarious documentary that follows three meat and cheese-loving Ne Yorkers as they test out a six-week vegan diet, also drew huge viewership. Meanwhile, the trend of veganism in Italy would be the fastest on the planet in 2011. Health was a huge concern this year. Because of this, Venus Williams announced she had gone vegan to help her autoimmune disorder.


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2012 – Year of the vegan athlete

VegNews declared 2012 as ‘The Year of the Vegan Athlete.’ Vegan strongman and bodybuilder Patrik Baboumian made headlines numerous times. Baboumian won the European powerlifting title in the open category, while also breaking world records in the 125-140kg category. As a result of his incredible strength, he also set a record for front hold and keg lift. If that wasn’t enough, he won the German log lift championships that year. Similarly, Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s book, ‘Super Immunity: The Essential Nutrition Guide to Boosting Your Body’s Defenses to Live Longer, Stronger, and Disease Free,’ is published. To put it briefly, the book is an instant success. However, a 2012 study claims that 3.2 percent of Americans are vegetarian, meaning there has been a drop from 2011. 


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2013 – Climate change concerns grow

People started to focus on climate change in 2013 more than ever before. Or at least that’s how it seemed when Al Gore, one of the most outspoken climate activists, announced he was vegan that year. A study published this year mirrors the results from the United Nations study from 2010: the greenhouse gas emissions of a person following a vegan diet was 41.7 percent lower than non-vegetarians, on average. This new study provided readers with strong evidence that those on a non-vegetarian diet created the largest environmental footprint. This opened up a huge dialogue about food, and restaurants started to take notice. Meanwhile, Austin, Texas was declared the ‘vegan food-truck capital of the world.’ One of America’s most popular fast-food chains Chipotle introduced a new ‘sofritas’ option for diners. The spicy tofu was an instant hit and was the first vegan meal offered in a national chain.


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2014 – Vegan celebrities become mainstream

In January, 3,300 people signed up for Veganuary: a month-long pledge to vegan eating. 2014 was a huge year for veganism, above all. Conversations about climate change ad animal agriculture continued this year, partially because the documentary ‘Cowspiracy,’ was released. The movie follows one man’s journey to live in the most sustainable, environmentally friendly way possible. This brings him to a plant-based, vegan lifestyle. Celebrities also opened up about veganism this year: Beyoncé and Jay Z highly-praised their 22-day vegan diet. Barny Du Plessis won the prestigious title of Mr. Universe in 2014. He had actually retired from bodybuilding the year before due to an ever-increasing list of health problems. But after he went fully vegan, so many of his problems disappeared and he came out of retirement. What a better welcome-back gift than becoming Mr. Universe? By the end of the year, about 5 percent of Americans are vegetarians.


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2015 – Consumers care about clean eating and ethics

Because veganism was so discussed in 2014, it comes as no surprise that more people gave up meat this year than ever before. 2015 kicked off with 12,800 people signed up for Veganary. Food Navigator online reported that veganism was (finally) going mainstream. Their analysis report showed consumers were associating vegan eating with environmentalism, ethics, and natural ingredients. The World Health Organisation released a report at the end of the year ranking processed meat as a group 1 carcinogen—the same category as cigarettes and asbestos. The data also classified red meat as a group 2A carcinogen—the same as many chemical insecticides and malaria. Meanwhile, food companies are starting to take notice of the consumer’s changing trends. ‘Follow You Heart’ creates the first-ever vegan mixture for scrambled eggs and omelettes. Even IKEA has taken notice: the furniture retailer announced vegan Swedish meatballs (but sadly won’t hit the markets until 2020).


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2016 – Grocery stores stock meat-free items

This year, Europe had the largest demand for meat substitutes and vegan products. The continent had 39 percent of all global sales. As a result, consumers saw a 50 percent boost in clean/natural person and beauty care products in the UK. North America eventually took note of these trends. Century-old company Elmhurst Dairy build its brand supplying dairy milk to Starbucks and thousands of public schools across the US, but in 2016 they rebranded themselves as a plant-milk startup. Gourmet nut cheeses made waves by being introduced to average grocery stores. The trend of documentaries continued this year as well. Award-winning filmmaker Michael Siewierski released ‘Food Choices,’ a documentary about his three-year exploration of diet, health, and sustainability in 2016.


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2017 – Food guide prefers plant-based options over meat

The demand for meat-free choices in the UK was larger than life: demand increased by 987 percent in 2017. According to a report by Nielsen, sales for plant-based foods in America were over $3.1 billion. JUST released their scrambled egg mixture, which would quickly sell out all across North America. The product sold over two million units just three months after it’s launch. While most consumers were delighted to have an increase in options, that wasn’t the case everywhere. As veganism began to be more mainstream, so did the hate. Germany’s agricultural minister Christian Schmidt wanted a ban on any vegan product labelled as meat. However, the market showed what buyers wanted. And with six percent of Americans now claiming veganism, it was clear that people were looking for more plant-based options in their daily lives. The Canadian government also updated its national food guide in 2017. Shockingly, this update was the first since 1982. The new guide showed a preference for plant-based options for the first time ever.


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2018 – More options across the globe

Canadian news broadcasting network CTV reported in 2018 that about 10 percent of Canada’s population was either vegan or vegetarian. Vegan YouTuber and television personality Lauren Toyota released her book, ‘Vegan Comfort Classics.’ This book became a quick best-seller. It crushed any rumours that vegan food couldn’t be hearty, filling, and above all, comforting. There were incredible options like mac and cheese and cinnamon rolls. Ben and Jerry’s created two brand new vegan ice cream flavours. The popularity of the products launched even more vegan ice cream options. We would see some of these new choices in 2019. New vegan restaurants started popping up all over the world. Even if a restaurant wasn’t completely vegan, many began to have the Beyond Burger. Possibly the best part of 2018 was seeing how accessible veganism was becoming. Now, you didn’t have to search through obscure health food stores for options. We saw low-cost options in familiar stores like Walmart, Target, and Tesco. Climate change protests began to have conversations about veganism. Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg began to make headlines, encouraging veganism. By the end of the year, Forbes predicted that 2019 would be the year of the vegan.


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2019 – Veganism becomes more accessible

This year, we saw some incredible moments in veganism. For one, The Veganary launched worldwide! We began the first-ever Veganary Mini Tours, where vegans all over the globe can connect with local vegans during their travels. 2019 brought fast food chains adding more vegan options (although how healthy they are is up for debate). But it wasn’t all perfect. Many popular YouTubers that had gained millions of followers for their vegan lifestyle starting eating meat again. Of course, this raised a very important discussion on the value of eating balanced. So how will the new decade begin? It’s impossible to say for sure. But it’s safe to assume that trends for plant-based eating will continue. Studies have shown that consumers (especially millennials and the younger generations) are concerned about the environment and ethics.  For January 2020, over 100,000 people and counting have made the Veganuary pledge. Studies revealed that while more people are going vegan, the majority of vegan products on the market right now are being consumed by ‘flexitarians.’ In short, people who want a little bit of everything are open to vegan options. The highly anticipated movie ‘Game Changers‘ was released. The documentary explored the lifestyles and habits of vegan athletes.

A year-end poll has reported that two percent of Americans are now identifying as vegan.



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Looking for a spot to stay on your next vacation? Check out the best vegan-friendly hotels in every continent. If you’re looking to take the plant-based plunge, consider visiting some vegan restaurants that are breaking world records for an unforgettable experience. The best way to travel? With a Veganary Mini Tour, of course!

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