Recent animal cruelty and neglect scandals, farm footage of suffering animals, and misleading consumer adverts, have opened the eyes of many caring New Zealanders. Despite the multimillion dollar marketing budgets the animal farming industry spends annually, people are looking for the reality behind the label. They are learning how animals suffer in factory farms and in the field before being slaughtered at ages many years prior to their natural lifespan. And caring Kiwis are saying, ‘enough is enough’.
People who care about animals, the planet and their own health are increasingly looking for alternatives. Some are cutting down or eliminating all meat products; others, who have seen the severe deprivation of laying hens in cages, and the suffering of cows and calves, may be looking at transitioning to a vegan or plant-based diet or lifestyle.
Delicious dairy-free vegan desserts like this are proving evermore popular
In June, a survey carried out by Bean Supreme found that 53% of Kiwis said they are eating less meat, and 24% expected to be mostly meat-free by 2025. Of the 1,007 survey respondents, 4% indicated they are currently vegetarian or vegan. These people were most likely to live in Auckland or Canterbury, be female, and were aged 25-54. The growth in those going vegetarian or following a mainly meat-free diet was primarily in the millennials group, aged 16-24.
These figures echo similar surveys carried out around the world. For example, research commissioned by The Vegan Society found that the number of vegans in the UK had grown by 260% from an estimated 150,000 in 2006 to 542,000 in 2016, which is around 1% of the population. Nearly 10,000 people over the age of 15 had been surveyed by independent polling company Ipsos Mori, with London being a vegan ‘hotspot’. Nearly half of vegetarians who are not vegan also said they would like to reduce their consumption of dietary animal products. This equates to 521,000 people across Britain, which could lead to Britain becoming home to over one million vegans within years.
Elsewhere in Europe, veganism has boomed in Germany and Austria, where vegan population percentages exceed 1%, but also in Sweden, Poland, France, Italy and Spain. The number of vegans in the USA is estimated at around 0.5%.
Statistics on global Google searches for the word ‘vegan’ reveal that it overtook ‘vegetarian’ around the end of 2011. Google searches are ranked as a proportion of the highest number recorded on a particular day or week. The 100% mark was reached during the last week of December 2016. This was probably caused by the Veganuary effect; a global campaign to encourage people to go vegan for the month of January (and throughout the year). In recent months, ‘vegan’ searches have been rising steadily (graph 1).
Graph 1. On 16 August 2017, Google Trends demonstrated a global increase in searches for ‘vegan’. Following Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the UK and the USA show the greatest interest in ‘vegan’.
Within New Zealand, ‘vegan’ searches mirror global trends, with Otago demonstrating the largest interest, followed by Wellington, Nelson, Canterbury and Auckland. During the last week of July, a new vegan product, Chicken-free chicken by Sunfed Meats, hit the shelves in New Zealand. Made from pea protein in New Zealand by Shama Lee, this product aims to appeal to people who love the taste and texture of chicken. That week, spikes in NZ ‘vegan’ searches were the highest in months.
A few days later, SAFE CEO Jasmijn de Boo (former CEO of The Vegan Society in the UK), was interviewed by Jesse Mulligan on Radio New Zealand. That week, searches for ‘vegan’ further increased, demonstrating the growing interest in this compassionate lifestyle.
It is clear that this surge in a more compassionate, healthier and environmentally-friendly diet is gaining momentum in New Zealand. SAFE offers a 100% Vegetarian starter Guide and support through a 6-week Challenge that people can sign up for online at http://www.safe.org.nz/eat-with-care.
Jasmijn de Boo