Meet the Meat-free trendsetters

Last week marked the UKs first ‘meet free week’. But some people are taking it even a step further.

All over London, vegan cafés are springing up left, right and centre. Since the UK has such a strong heritage involving meat-heavy dishes, how did this meat-free trend come about?

Veganism has often been seen as the reserve of the slightly eccentric, in the UK at least. Meat eaters tend to think that people whom eschew animal-based products do so for one of two reasons: Either they are a few bacon sandwiches short of a picnic, or they are self-obsessed twenty-something’s crying out for some attention. Carnivores also seem to feel that if you’re of sane mind, then a porky sausage is something to be gobbled with relish (and with relish, possibly) and not something to run away from like a pig with a freshly-slapped backside.

But all signs point to a stark change in attitudes towards veganism, and the rise in the number of vegan restaurants in the capital is evidence of this. You won’t see a pork chop, egg or even a pot of honey in these establishments. You won’t even see a hot oven, as vegan meals are usually cooked at low temperatures to retain vital enzymes and vitamins.

Pasta is in fact spiralled courgette, and cheese is somehow made from an alien-looking bulb called kohlrabi, along with mushrooms and spinach.

So, what has turned London vegan-crazy? After the ‘burger-isation’ and the championing of carnivores across the nation’s capital, why now are millennials querying whether an eatery has quinoa, or boasting that they love a bit of butternut squash?

As often happens, pop culture stars have helped pave the path to a new way of living, or eating in this case, and the main catalyst of this abhorrence of animal-based products is Beyoncé and her hubby Jay-Z. This celeb couple ‘went vegan’ for three weeks in 2013 and haven’t looked back, or at a rack of ribs, since. She even now has a meal delivery service so her fans can go meat, dairy, soy and gluten free along with her.

The Vegan Society was of the opinion that there were 150,000 vegans in the UK in 2006, and that number has since more than doubled. The market for non-dairy substitutes has also almost tripled in the same period.

The higher number of vegans there are of course, the higher the number of vegan hang-outs that are required, and the capital is answering the demand in spades. In addition, Londoners will soon see the opening of a Veganz store – a German supermarket chain that provides over 6,000 vegan products. The new store should be open by the end of 2015.

So, is veganism a passing fad that will soon be joining the Adkins diet into stomach-sucking history, or a trend that’s very much here to stay? The Nobel Prize winning economist Alvin Roth predicts that one day the very idea of eating meat will become as ‘repugnant’ to the human race as perhaps cannibalism is today, and we will all eventually live purely on plant produce.

If being vegan does not sound like much of a thrill-ride to you, you’d probably be best enjoying your bacon sandwiches while you still have chance.

Note: No animals or animal products were used or harmed during the writing of this article.