World Vegan Day is celebrated on November 1, with the entire month being dedicated to all things cruelty-free.
What’s interesting, however, is that with the increasing number of vegans across the globe, the phenomenon of celebrating that lifestyle is no longer restricted to one month of the year — it’s slowly turning into an informed choice for many.
The number of vegans in India has considerably shot up over the last decade, with a huge percentage in our dairy-loving nation turning to not only a plant-based diet but also plant-based beauty and clothing options. We find out why the trend is getting relevant more than ever especially among the strong vegetarian population in India.
While there could be many reasons for this mood shift, the current COVID-19 pandemic is believed to have further pushed the agenda among people who don’t wish to see another disease outbreak from live-animal markets or crowded farms and slaughterhouses. As animal and dairy production is also a major contributor to climate change and increased carbon footprint, youngsters fear for the worst environmental consequences if things don’t change.
Sachin Bangera of PETA India points out how all vegetarian dishes can be categorised as vegan if you leave out from it ingredients such as paneer, cream and ghee. “So it is quite affordable because key foods in India include vegetables, fruits, pulses, rice and grains. Milk items can be replaced with delicious plant-based milk such as soya milk, oat milk, almond milk, coconut milk, or any other plant milk, which can even be easily made at home. Butter and ghee can be replaced with olive oil or vegan margarine, and tofu is a healthy substitute for paneer,” says Sachin, offering options for substitution, as he emphasises on the ease of the switch.
Further defending the lifestyle, Sachin points out at the cost advantage as regards vegan clothing. “The good news is that vegan shoes and garments are far better on the wallet than animal-product-based garments such as wool and silk,” he adds.
Despite the thought of letting go of many choicest foods, many youngsters today don’t find it challenging to be vegan as it aligns with their life choices, which support animal rights, human rights and the environment.
According to Nadya Agrawal, a Brooklyn-based vegan, who is a writer, these youngsters’ eating and purchasing outlooks complement those concerns. “If I was just trying to eat vegan without regard to the values, it might be challenging,” she states while explaining. “I’m sure the reason many millennials move towards veganism is because we’ve grown up in a much more aware world and we care about our impact on it.”
Nadya further counters the popular belief that turning vegan could burn a hole in your pocket. “It’s not more expensive to be vegan — I try not to buy synthetic materials, so I usually buy second-hand and vintage items. For beauty and food, I do my research and look for cruelty-free items,” mentions Nadya.
A plant-based diet helps millennials cope on three levels — first, it improves metabolism and keeps the gut feeling healthy. Second, a well-balanced plant-based diet helps improve overall well-being including mental health. Third, most of the plant-based options lower our carbon footprint in production and consumption which in turn ensures our future well-being is secure too.
Rhea Shukla, CEO of The Switch Fix, who follows a plant-based diet, even believes that the vegan lifestyle has been falsely considered low on options or taste.
“Veganism has been wrongly called limiting — from Amritsari Chhole to Mangalore Buns, we can hardly call vegan options bland,” she states to prove her points. “And surprisingly, one can find budget-friendly to more indulgent options as long as you’re willing to start. Be it hemp clothing or hemp-seed-oil-infused shampoo bar, there are many ways to start your vegan journey.”
Activist and educator Chhavi Goyal goes on to share with us that several studies have confirmed that veganism results in a stronger metabolism and a better cognitive health while reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Then countering the claim that veganism is a mere trend, she adds, “My mother and I have been vegan for three years, and it has helped us lead a life of compassion towards animals, environment and our health. Veganism is not a fad and is only going to thrive in the future, as it gives you the power to reduce your impact on the earth. And the best part is that it is so easy to go vegan especially in India as most meals are vegan by default and those that are not can be made vegan with the many plant-based substitutes we already have.”
Moreover, clothes made of vegan leather, cotton tencel, cotton flannel and polyester fleece are good alternatives to animal derivatives.
Guilt-free and beautiful
Today, the choice of product offerings that align with environment-friendly views and values is wider than ever before. Moreover, the digital revolution makes it easier for one to switch to a vegan lifestyle in the current scenario.
Choosing to not use animal-derived products while opting for cruelty-free vegan products is a growing movement, which people are taking to. And interestingly, many an enthusiast is even ready to spend that extra dollar if it ensures a safe future.
Shankar Prasad, founder of Pureplay Skin Sciences, explains that even in the case of beauty products we pick up, every time we make an informed choice, we decide to be kinder not only to our planet but also to ourselves.
“For instance, as the largest organ on the human body, our skin not only provides an outer protective layer but also interfaces with the environment, protecting us from the harsh elements in our surroundings. And nearly 60% of the products that we apply to our skin seep through to deeper layers. So also, it is important that we educate ourselves about the ingredients that go into making our preferred skincare products and be cautious of making safe and gentle choices for our skin,” says Shankar, adding that vegan beauty products come with a promise to offer safe and effective formulations that are gentle on the skin and good to nature.
As regards to vegan clothing, vegan fashion designer Aditi Swain believes that with the growing annual demand for the product, it’s an excellent opportunity for Indians to ditch the fast-fashion trends. “Redesigning our lifestyle for a peaceful future is essential and worthy of green living,”