Not just a passing trend
Living without animal products – around 8 million Germans are no longer eating meat. Last year in Germany alone, consumers spent 993 million euros on plant-based alternative products such as oat milk and soy cheese.
Two years previously, the figure was just 523 million euros, and this trend is being mirrored in the rest of Europe. In the UK, the market has grown by 700 percent. According to Business Insider, more than 20% of new products launched on the British market in 2020 were vegan. In Germany it was 18%, in Poland 16%, and in the Netherlands 15% – in comparison, just 11% of new foods launched in the USA were vegan.
Proponents of a vegan diet believe that there’s no reason not to go vegan anymore.
70 percent have expressed interest in a vegan diet
Around 70% of 18-35 year olds in Germany have expressed interest in a vegan diet. But plant-based products are popular among all age groups: an estimated 75 million Europeans are already completely plant-based or vegetarian. Switzerland recorded the highest proportion of vegetarians in 2020.
India is the global leader – 38% of the total population is vegetarian. Israel follows closely behind, with 13% vegetarian and 5% vegan, which makes Israel the country with the most vegans in the world.
Cutting out animal products of all kinds is more than just a passing fad, and for a lot of people it’s also an ideology. Vegans consider their diet to be forward-thinking, as this survey shows. When asked for their reasoning, 82.6 percent said they are vegan for reasons of animal rights and animal welfare;animals shouldn’t suffer or be killed. 41.5 percent said that environmental protection and sustainability were the most important factors. Almost 40 percent are vegan for their health, which they want to improve and maintain.
Animal welfare organisation PETA offers the following arguments: “The more animal products we consume, the fewer people we can feed globally. Instead of using cultivated soy and grains directly for human consumption, a large amount of crops are fed to animals kept for meat, milk or eggs. This isn’t just inefficient, it contributes directly to people going hungry.” 70% of cultivated grain is fed to animals in order to “produce” meat instead of just being used to feed people directly.
A strong argument
Plus, a vegan diet protects the environment. If the entire world population switched to veganism, the land currently used for agriculture could be reduced by 75%. That corresponds to an area as big as the USA, China, Australia, and the EU combined.
Manufacturers of meat replacement products are also making considerable profits from the vegan trend. The Rügenwalder Mühle Group started a meat-free range of products in 2014, and since then the food manufacturer has been garnering one record after the other. By 2030, around 28% of meat products will be replaced by plant-based alternatives. According to forecasts, this value will increase to 60% by 2040.
For and against vegan diets
Is veganism the future? This question often causes controversy. Opponents frequently condemn purely plant-based diets as unbalanced and unhealthy. One repeatedly cited argument is that veganism leads to deficiencies caused by an inadequate supply of proteins, calcium, iron, and vitamin D, which is apparently typical of vegan diets. Reduced intake of protein, vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B12, iron, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids can lead to serious damage.
Proponents of veganism, however, argue that deficiencies aren’t typical, and have no need to occur with a varied vegan diet. Vitamin B12 and vitamin D are the exceptions, and vegans should supplement their intake of these two substances. Scientific studies have also shown that vegans with a balanced, varied diet get an optimal supply of healthy vegetable proteins with a higher content of basic amino acids.
In contrast, animal products contain a higher amount of acidic amino acids which cause a variety of lifestyle diseases such as cardiovascular illnesses, obesity, osteoporosis, diabetes, and even cancer. According to the German Nutrition Associations (DGE), vegans are at lower risk of diseases caused by poor nutrition. A completely plant-based diet may also lower cholesterol.
Is a vegan diet healthier than a vegetarian diet?
According to author Dr. Claudio Christof and molecular biologist Bernd Kerschner (University of Vienna), there is currently not enough evidence to prove that a vegan diet is healthier than a vegetarian one. According to experts, both vegetarian and vegan diets seem to lower the risk of cancer slightly compared to a mixed diet, but it doesn’t appear that vegetarians or vegans live longer. Observational studies show no indications that vegans live longer than people who eat meat. The same also applies to people who follow a vegetarian diet, claim the authors at Medizin-Transparent.at.
“For adults it is possible – with good planning – to follow a vegan diet without any health consequences. But it is necessary to take vitamin B12 supplements. However, no positive effects beyond those of a vegetarian diet have been proven. So far there has been minimal research on the issue –large-scale studies in the future may shed more light on this.” The authors explicitly state that a vegan diet is not recommended for children.
Children need a particularly high amount of nutrients to grow properly. This increased need cannot be met by a vegan diet. The German Nutrition Association says the following: “The DGE does not recommend a vegan diet for people who are pregnant or nursing, infants, children, or teenagers.”
However, Australian-American molecular biologist and Nobel Prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn claims in a study that people following a plant-based diet live longer. More than 500 genes are positively changed due to a vegan diet, and that’s after just three months. In 2006, the researcher was awarded the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research and the Gruber Prize in Genetics. Deciphering the ageing process: in her book “The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer”, Blackburn wrote approximately 500 pages in collaboration with stress researcher Elissa Epel from the University of California in San Francisco. “Whether we feel young and fit or old all depends on our telomeres,” the author explains in the book. But it also has a lot to do with diet.
Adults who eat vegetables, fruit, pasta, potatoes, bread, lentils, beans, nuts, and seeds more often obviously have a healthier lifestyle than those who tuck into meat every day.
A nu3 study came to the following conclusion: being conscious of what you eat is good for you. 80 percent of all people who stuck to a specific diet over the long term felt better than they ever had before. Respondents noticed the biggest improvements with paleo (83 percent) and vegan (82 percent) diets, the Frankfurter Rundschau reported.
Vegan food is big in restaurants too
A constant stream of vegan supermarkets, vegan restaurants, vegan ice cream parlours and vegan burger joints are now opening. According to statistics, the number of completely vegan restaurants in Germany has increased considerably in the last few years. In 2013 there were just 75 completely vegan restaurants, but by 2021 this number had jumped to around 300.
Berlin alone boasts of more than 75 vegan restaurants and cafes. Munich is in second place with 13 plant-based gastro offerings, followed by Leipzig and Cologne. Kassel, Leipzig and Jena have the most vegan restaurants per head of population. The prize for the city with the most vegan-friendly restaurants in the world goes to Dublin.
One question remains: who are these vegans?
In 2018, the opinion research institute Skorpos determined in a random sample that vegans in Germany are mostly female (81%), aged between 20 and 39 years old (60%) and highly educated (70%). Exceptions prove the rule here as well.
However, you shouldn’t turn what you eat into a moral battleground. It’s up to each individual to decide which type of diet suits them best.
Stay healthy and enjoy!