Experts agree that more people are adopting a vegan and plant-based lifestyle as their awareness of healthier dietary options and their cognisance of valuing life in general increases. Celebrity chef Videhi Sivurusan said another reason was the historical Indian link to veganism.
“There are many different reasons why people choose a vegan diet. Some for health concerns. A well-planned vegan diet can fuel the highest fitness level and an overall reduced risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. It is also great for weight loss and maintaining a good healthy weight,” said Sivurusan.
“Others change for ethical reasons. A vegan lifestyle prevents a tremendous amount of animal slaughter and suffering. Semen is extracted from bulls (and other mammals) using a procedure called electro-ejaculation and cows are artificially inseminated and forcefully impregnated to produce milk - the calves then taken away from their mothers.
“The males are sold as veal and the female calves are raised to follow the same fate as their moms,” she added.
There were also environmental concerns, she said, where meat-based diets use more resources; including land, water and energy while vegan diets require less crop land.
“Therefore, observing a vegan lifestyle offers a powerful way to reduce our environmental footprint, especially with regard to climate change,” she said.
Joanne Fairbrother from the SA Vegan Society explained that veganism was a philosophy and way of living which sought to exclude - as far as is possible and practical - all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.
“A person could be a dietary-only vegan and still wear leather or fur, but then that definition can become diluted and confusing.
“It’s for this reason some have a preference to rather refer to dietary-only vegans as ‘plant-based’. Veganism is a social justice movement, so the vegan lifestyle extends far beyond just what we eat as we try to live in accordance with the principle of ‘do the least harm’,” said Fairbrother.
Krsangi Radhe Dasi, communications and public relations manager for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon) in Durban, said the vegan lifestyle was certainly becoming more prevalent within the Indian community.
“As Hare Krishna devotees we prescribe to a vegetarian lifestyle which is pro-dairy, however, we also believe in anti-cruelty and anti-slaughter. This concept is called ahimsa, which loosely translated means: respect to all living things, without violence.
“Therefore, ahimsa also refers to the way we take care of the cow. We are aware of the RBST hormone that is injected to the calf to enhance milk production, we do not prescribe to this, as in Vedic culture, the cow is worshipped.
“Nowadays, we may not be able to acquire ahimsa milk products (locally in South Africa) and therefore people are opting for a vegan lifestyle - a stance where we will not use the cow and abuse the cow merely to churn out litres of milk, before the cow is then slaughtered.
“We do not believe that our cows should be ‘industrialised’ for the purpose of industry - the cows should not be exploited in the name of cheap milk production.
“We have a few centres around the world, our farming communities that follow the principles of ahimsa. I recently visited a very successful farming community of Iskcon - the Bhaktivedanta Manor in London which houses healthy, happy cows, bulls and calves.
“It is their mission to have slaughter-free dairies within London. Iskcon Durban is also looking at taking on this project locally - to producing ahimsa milk.”
In a statement earlier this month the director of ProVeg South Africa, Donovan Will, said signs of veganism growing in South Africa were all around us.
“From new vegan restaurants, and a rapid increase in vegan options at non-vegan restaurants to international meat-replacement brands like Linda McCartney and the Beyond Burger becoming available here.
“Once seen as extreme, veganism is now starting to be accepted as the South African public more and more, we’re seeing the benefits of a vegan lifestyle being covered by mainstream media; from the link between global warming and animal agriculture, the health benefits of eating a plant-based diet to news around the mistreatment of animals.
“As this news spreads, and as more vegan options become available it makes sense that an increasing number of people will reduce their consumption of animal products, and even adopt a vegan lifestyle,” he said.