THE COLUM­NIST

Dan Rookwood is (slowly) com­ing round to ve­gan­ism.

GQ (Australia) - - CONTENTS -

How do you know if some­one is ve­gan? Don’t worry – they’ll tell you soon enough. Those who prac­tise ve­gan­ism typ­i­cally do so with a quasi-re­li­gious zeal that even the av­er­age Scien­tol­o­gist would find a bit much. Ve­gan­ge­lists com­mune around the of­fice kitch­enette com­pet­i­tively swap­ping anec­dotes about how amaz­ing they feel as they chow down un­con­vinc­ingly on some plant-based mulch. This cir­cle can be a bit in­tim­i­dat­ing to breach as you re­heat last night’s lasagne in the mi­crowave. ‘Don’t mind me and my tasty plate of in­de­ter­mi­nate minced cow/pig parts!’ What the ve­gan diet may lack in things like vi­ta­min B12, cal­cium, iron and flavour, it more than makes up for in smug­ness. Just kid­ding. Some of my best friends are ve­gans. Where I work, Whole30 – the para­mil­i­tary wing of ve­gan-extremism – has been sweep­ing the of­fice like a wast­ing plague. Pop­ping out to grab a quick cof­fee with a ve­gan of­ten turns into a dis­cus­sion with the barista about the var­i­ous non-dairy milks on of­fer. It’s lit­er­ally nuts. Or­der­ing food at restau­rants with strict ve­gans can sap you of the will to live – or to let them live. When I was grow­ing up, veg­e­tar­i­ans (as they were then col­lec­tively known) were eyed with sus­pi­cion and treated with dis­dain. The veg­gie op­tion on the menu was in­vari­ably a soli­tary box-ticker called a nut roast that looked like the bot­tom of a budgie cage and prob­a­bly tasted worse. (Can’t say I’ve ever tried either.) Th­ese days it’s a to­tally dif­fer­ent story. Ve­gan­ism has gone fully main­stream. There are ve­gan restau­rants and cafes sprout­ing up ev­ery­where. Su­per­mar­kets have en­tire aisles ded­i­cated to ve­gan pro­duce. This isn’t a fad diet; it’s a cul­tural move­ment. Aus­tralia is the third-fastest grow­ing ve­gan mar­ket in the world, ac­cord­ing to mar­ket re­searcher Euromon­i­tor In­ter­na­tional. In Au­gust 2016 a sur­vey by Roy Mor­gan Re­search found that 2.1 mil­lion peo­ple liv­ing in Aus­tralia say they ate a com­plete or mainly veg­e­tar­ian diet, with the high­est pro­por­tion in Syd­ney (14.4 per cent). It’s a fair bet this fig­ure will have shot up since. The num­ber of ve­gans in the UK, mean­while, has mush­roomed by 700 per cent in the past two years, up from 540,000 to 3.5 mil­lion. Throw an­other tofu ke­bab on the bar­bie. You used to be able to spot a ve­gan a mile off – if not smell them. But the musty-crusty By­ron Bay stereo­type is chang­ing. Ac­cord­ing to the Ve­gan So­ci­ety in the UK, 42 per cent of ve­gans are mil­len­ni­als aged be­tween 15 and 34. This gen­er­a­tional shift is largely in­flu­enced by pop­u­lar cul­ture. A-list stars of sport and en­ter­tain­ment from Tom Brady to Brad Pitt are spread­ing the green gospel. There are cook­books and pretty blog­gers and 60m #ve­gan posts on In­sta­gram. And we have all binged on an un­bal­anced diet of Net­flix shock­u­men­taries in the past cou­ple of years. Food, Inc. is a pow­er­ful and per­sua­sive polemic that has con­verted me to or­ganic pro­duce for life. Cowspiracy and par­tic­u­larly What The Health ram ve­gan­ism so far down the viewer’s throat, how­ever, they are much more dif­fi­cult to swal­low. All tongue-in-cheek cyn­i­cism aside, I to­tally get it. Peo­ple are in­creas­ingly em­brac­ing a plant-based diet for en­tirely valid rea­sons. Many of us, my­self in­cluded, live with the cog­ni­tive dis­so­nance caused by eat­ing meat and yet be­ing op­posed to an­i­mal cru­elty. Then there’s the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact: on av­er­age it takes 5kg of grain to pro­duce 1kg of meat, and one study by the United Na­tions Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion at­trib­uted 18 per cent of all green­house gas emis­sions to the live­stock in­dus­try. Plus, of course, there are se­ri­ous health con­sid­er­a­tions to weigh up. In 2015 when the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion re­leased its land­mark re­port de­nounc­ing ba­con, hot dogs, sausages, ham and other types of pro­cessed meat as car­cino­gens, peo­ple took no­tice. With the ex­cep­tions of Morris danc­ing and in­cest, it’s hard to dis­miss some­thing un­less you’ve tried it. I gave a pa­leo diet a go for a while but full-on ve­gan­ism just isn’t for me. A true Pom, I need cow’s milk in my tea and there’s no facon way I’m giv­ing up my full English. I have a Pavlo­vian re­sponse to the smell of ba­con. That re­sponse be­ing: I eat it. I am gen­uinely try­ing to pork out less though. So I’m giv­ing se­ri­ous thought to be­com­ing a ‘flex­i­tar­ian’, a per­son who eats meat only on spe­cial oc­ca­sions. It’s just that there are still quite a lot of spe­cial oc­ca­sions. Like hang­overs. And week­days.

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