The Veganism Movement

As Berkeley students, we have all come face-to-face with a vegan activist or with animal protection posters while walking through Sproul. In the past couple years, the vegan movement has been on the rise in the U.S. Although it is hard to determine how many people are actually vegan in the United States, as different websites claim different statistics, it is an overarching theme that more and more people are choosing to limit their animal product intake. As veganism is starting to go mainstream, it has become easier and more convenient to access vegan options.

In Berkeley, there is an increasing number of restaurants that specialize in vegan meals, such as the Butcher’s Son in Downtown Berkeley, Sanctuary Bistro in West Berkeley, and Animal Place’s Vegan Republic on University Avenue. UC Berkeley has also tried to make vegan options more available to students with Café 3. According to the Cal Dining website, “Café 3 features a newly designed menu that intentionally increases the ratio of plant-centric foods to animal products, without compromising flavor. The menu focuses on food that is at the intersection of delicious, nutritious, and sustainable, and does not include pork and shellfish. Whether you’re looking for vegetarian, vegan, or kosher food options, this ‘dining hall for all’ aims to provide more options for our diverse student community.” The vegetarian options still include eggs and other animal products but no meat or fish, vegan options do not include any animal products including dairy or honey, and kosher food options are prepared in accordance with Jewish dietary laws.

At first, veganism was closely bound to the animal-rights movement. Most of the student groups on campus that push for veganism are animal advocacy groups such as the Berkeley Organization for Animal Advocacy as well as environmental groups that are concerned that meat production is contributing to global climate change and water shortages.

Veganism, however, has now shifted more and more towards a “lifestyle movement.” Many people are now choosing to go vegan due to the claimed health benefits of limiting animal products. According to Juliet Gellatley, director of the vegan and vegetarian group Viva, “People might be prone to heart disease or want to get their cholesterol down,” and this leads them to turn to new diets such as veganism. A plant-based diet has been shown to protect bones, strengthen the heart, and lower the risk of some cancers. Many health benefits are still claims, and there is still much research to be done regarding veganism as a diet choice. While some health benefits have been confirmed by nutritionists and food scientists, such as reduced cardiovascular risk when avoiding meat, other nutritionists are worried that going vegan may not be for everyone and that people may find themselves lacking sufficient nutrition if they are not careful when taking on a vegan diet.

Going vegan requires a lot of planning to make sure a healthy diet is maintained. Some information about supplements such as different types of vitamins can be found online. For example, several health-related websites such as Medical News Today mention the importance of supplements — including vitamin B-12, calcium, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and zinc — when going vegan to avoid the development of chronic diseases. Most of these compounds can usually be found in animal products, but vitamin pills and alternatives are becoming more available. A healthy vegan diet would include a variety of foods, whole grains, new plant-based proteins, iron, and the vitamin supplements mentioned above. Many vegans eat a large amount of tofu as a protein source. Tofu is cultivated by coagulating soy milk and pressing the curds into white blocks. Tofu has been shown to be a rich source of protein, iron, calcium, and antioxidants, which make it a common replacement for meats and cheeses in the vegan diet.

It is also important to find a supportive community of people who share similar diet patterns when making radical diet changes. In Berkeley, there are several meeting spots where vegans gather to discuss their experience with veganism and share advice about certain good vegan restaurants and good diet replacements they have found.

The website Meetup has dozens of different events available for vegans or people considering veganism to meet and discuss. You can find the meetups here. For the Berkeley college community, the Daily Californian published an article in 2014 including a list of restaurants around campus that offered vegan options as well as quick reviews about what is available at each restaurant.

Veganism is an increasingly popular lifestyle choice and movement. Regardless of anyone’s opinion on the practice of going vegan, it is important to be supportive of the people who choose to make the decision and to make the transition as seamless as possible.