It wasn’t so long ago that trying to get a vegan option at a restaurant was more difficult than finding a needle in a haystack. But in recent years it has soared in popularity. According to a survey conducted by The Vegan Society and Vegan Life Magazine, the number of vegans in the UK has risen from 360,000 in 2016 to 3.5 million this year. That is a massive jump, and in those years we have seen an overwhelming number of new vegan restaurants, cafes, as well as options and menus at already established eateries.
For a lot of people, going vegan is about contributing to the welfare of our environment. Social media has definitely played a part in the spike in vegan lifestyles, having fed so much of us our news and media influencers at an increasing rate, but what it has also done is highlight the downsides of veganism. It’s incredible that society is being more inclusive of veganism, but in the sudden burst of vegan eating, it has enabled some unfortunate sides of the lifestyle to spike too.
The Criminal Syndicate of the Avocado
In recent years the battle of the avocado farmers in Mexico reached unsettling heights. Having been a modest, mostly overlooked industry for many years in South America, avocado farming never posed any threats. Avocados became increasingly popular as veganism took a new foothold in the food industry. We wanted our avocado on toast, smashed/creamed/pureed avocado, guacamole, avocado replacement recipes, you name it; if it involved an avocado, people wanted to try it. And thus the avocado farming industry became an incredibly lucrative one.
So. Avocados are raking in more and more money with each year. And as nice as it would be to believe that farmers in Mexico could go about their business, increasing their profit and continuing to support their families and communities, that’s just not how it went. A criminal organisation in Mexico caught onto the fact that avocados were becoming an increasingly lucrative product and they decided they wanted to ‘invest’. And when I say ‘invest’, what I actually mean is that avocado farmers were threatened, beaten and murdered so that the gangs could continue to take a huge cut of whatever income they had.
This turmoil went on for years, years of people blissfully enjoying their avocado dishes, ignorant to the criminal syndicate that benefited from their enjoyment, mostly unreported by any major news or media outlets. Until finally, people were able to fight back. Farmers were able to take back control of their businesses and start pushing back the criminal organisations that infested the trade. The fight isn’t over yet, though. These struggles still exist for a lot of farmers in South America who trade those beautiful fruit we adore so much. But hopefully, not for much longer.
The Soy-spiracy (Yes, I made a pun)
Coffee, coffee, coffee. We all go mad for coffee shops and the wonderfully aesthetic Instagram possibilities that come with them. And with the (hooray) new vegan alternatives to the old dairy standard, we see more soya milk making its way into our chosen coffee hits. And since it’s coming up to autumn now, we’re all eagerly awaiting our Pumpkin Spice Soy Lattes (and don’t even try to deny it) because the release of autumn menus is easily one of the most exciting things to happen this time of the year.
But, alas, there is a major issue with the farming of soy. Soy farming has increased exponentially in the rise of vegan popularity, and with more people taking to soy instead of dairy, you can’t help but worry about the environmental impact it is having. For years, soy has been promoted as an alternative to dairy and oil products, while organisations in the industry continuing to destroy massive areas of forests for soybean production. The cultivation of soybeans destroys wildlife and habitats during deforestation.
The toxic chemicals used in soy farming causes so much destruction around the world, from Brazil to the US. The chemicals used in this process cause harm to environments, damage the soils of our earth and ecosystems. It is increasingly argued that soybean cultivation is the most harmful agricultural product in the world, even more than cattle farming which is renowned for its production of methane, which is 23 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. So, yeah, soy farming is pretty damn bad.
So the next time you get your dairy-free alternatives, consider almond milk, oat milk, or coconut milk!
So it’s vegan but it’s not vegan?
Oreos. That’s the first thing I’m going to say here. Oreos are vegan but they’re not. Do you know why? Oreos do not contain any animal products, but because the company’s production factories don’t have procedures in place to avoid cross contaminations, they can’t declare them as a vegan product. Which is incredibly sad.
There are so many food products that are ‘technically’ vegan but because of the production line, they cannot be guaranteed vegan-friendly. Veganism is still not being considered by larger corporations and it would be nice to see that change so that people can actually buy their vegan products without the worry of cross contamination with animal-based ingredients.
And, also, just to throw a curveball here… wine is very often not vegan-friendly. And sometimes, not even vegetarian. Fish, eggs, and other animal ingredients often find their way into these products through the production process. Yes, eggs. So check the ingredients the next time you buy a bottle of white, because there’s a number of ingredients that might be in there that you really didn’t want to consume.