Like Glee and vampires, vegetarianism and veganism appear to be a growing trend for Canadians. Approximately four per cent of Canadians describe themselves as vegetarians. Many restaurants also offer a number of vegan options now, with some having an entire menu dedicated to the vegan crowd.
But why now? Veganism has been around since the 1940s but it has never been quite as prevalent as it has been recently.
Bridget Burns, who has been a vegan since 2009, says “veganism is an issue now because it’s seen as a possible solution for certain environmental strains on the planet.” An increasing number of prominent figures are also being recognized as vegetarians and vegans such as Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, and Mike Tyson.
Burns said she became a vegan for several reasons, including her love of animals and for her health. “There are so many healthy, flavourful options available that won’t damage your health and put you at risk for diabetes, heart disease and obesity,” said Burns. “To my knowledge, no harm has come from reducing one’s meat and dairy consumption.”
Burns, Jessica Grajczyk and Jennifer Hanover, founders of the Vegan Project, made an educated decision to become vegetarians and then vegans after an in-depth exploration of their diet, where they intensively researched where their meat and dairy products came from.
“We decided we didn’t like the practices in the mainstream dairy industry, so we challenged each other to be vegan for 30 days,” Burns explained. Burns describes herself as feeling much healthier and stronger after changing her diet: “I feel amazing and look a lot healthier … some call it ‘the vegan glow’.”
But aside from the many benefits of being vegan, Burns also admits there are some hardships that vegans and vegetarians occasionally encounter.
Burns is often asked where she gets her protein. “Unfortunately, many people are unaware of what foods have protein,” she said. (Many believe protein can only be found in animal and dairy products. However, proteins can be found in abundance in vegetables and fruits, which is where most animals receive their protein.)
“Holiday dinners can (also) be a little stressful,” said Burns, and there is often the general prejudice that vegans are judgmental towards non-vegans. “People are often apologetic for eating meat in front of (us).”
Although they are a minority in Vancouver, the city has quickly adapted to the growing needs of the vegetarian population. “I would give Vancouver a seven out of 10 for being vegan-friendly,” said Burns. There is usually a “vegan option or two at even the most carnivorous establishments … and vegan products are popping up more and more in the grocery stores.”
Burns, Grajczyk and Hanover began the Vegan Project in 2009. Initially, the three began a vegan blog in which they described their vegan experiences. But soon, with the attention and interest which their experiment garnered, the trio decided to launch the Vegan Project, in which they compiled vegan meal plans, the experiences of other vegans as well as vegan recipes and restaurant reviews. Today, it has evolved into a vegan lifestyle website for Vancouverites. “It appeals to vegans and non-vegans alike” said Burns, “I’m pretty sure most of our readers are not vegans — they’re just looking for delicious, healthy and fun recipes.”
For those interested in trying out veganism, Burns suggests beginning with “incorporating one vegan meal a week, then try being vegan one whole day per week.”
It can seem a little pricey at first when you are replacing all your non-vegan items. One great tip from the Vegan Project is to replace the items as you run out so you won’t be spending too much all at once.