Anyone who has grown up in Australia will remember the catchy old Holden advertisements with the jingle ‘Football, Meat pies, Kangaroos and Holden cars’.
Or more recently, who could forget Sam Kekovich’s provocative advertisements as a ‘Lambassador’ for Meat and Livestock Australia?
Yes, we have been led to believe red meat is at the centre of Australian culture and that anything less is, well, un-Australian.
But what if we have been fooled all along?
It might surprise you to learn that Australians Googled the term ‘vegan’ in 2018 more than in any other country.
According to Google Trends, Australia ranked ahead of the UK, New Zealand and Canada as the leading country globally where people searched for the term ‘vegan’.
Popular search terms included ‘vegan food nearby’ and ‘vegan sausage rolls’.
On top of that, Australian cities including Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth have all landed spots in Google’s list of the world’s top vegan cities. In fact, the most recent Morgan polling now shows that more than 2.1 million Australians are meat free — and that figure is rising.
Australia has now become one of the fastest growing markets in the world, with sales of packaged vegan food predicted to reach $215 billion by 2020, according to research from Euromonitor International.
While veganism was once considered a relatively ‘hippy’ fringe eating choice, in recent years it has gone mainstream — with outlets including Subway and Hungry Jacks now offering vegan options including Hungry Jacks’ Vegan Cheeseburger made with 100 percent Australian veggies.
None of this is a huge surprise to me. As someone who has been vegetarian since I was a teenager, I am now strongly considering going vegan.
My primary reasons for making the change include environmental (I don’t like how animals are treated in abattoirs and worry about climate change), health (I want to stay slim and healthy!) and simply because it seems easier today with so many vegan options available than at any other time in my lifetime.
The environmental argument for veganism is pretty clear-cut — farming animals requires vast tracts of land, food, energy and water that could otherwise be protected as carbon banks.
According to a Japanese study, producing just one kilogram of beef causes more greenhouse gas emissions than driving a car for three hours while leaving your house lights on. The United Nations also says a global shift towards veganism is one of the steps necessary to combat the worst effects of climate change.
In Australia, we now know that many young people are deeply concerned about climate change after the recent High School student strikes that saw more than 5,000 students crammed into Martin Place in Sydney and more than 40 similar strikes occurring all over the country.
So, aside from the environmental reasons (the way animals are treated in slaughterhouses would be enough to turn anyone off meat for life!), many Australians are going vegan for reasons of health and vitality.
We know that filling our plates with saturated fats and cholesterol contained in meat can be a recipe for obesity, heart disease and cancer. In fact, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has concluded that vegetarian or vegan diets “are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases”.
Recently we have seen the rise of vegan celebrities including Liam Hemsworth and Venus Williams whose good looks and sporting prowess seem to provide the best possible evidence that veganism can be a healthy choice if properly executed.
Most mainstream supermarkets now stock a whole range of vegan products beyond just brown rice and tofu — including the rise of fake meats made from soy products such as vegan sausage rolls and fakon.
And going out to restaurants is not the hassle it once was — almost any city cafes and eateries will now include vegan options to satisfy the growing customer demand for vegan meals.
Where I live in St Kilda the most successful new cafes such as Matcha plant-based milk bar specialise in vegan dishes like ‘green pancakes’ and vegan ‘mushroom and date lattes’ (I kid you not!).
So, when we consider these factors together — Australians are worried about climate change, they don’t want to support industries that result in animal suffering, and they want to look sexy and healthy — it is not so surprising that more of us than ever are educating themselves online about veganism.
As for me, the main thing separating me from my current vegetarianism to veganism can be summed up in one word — cheese. I am a cheese obsessive — in all its stinky and creamy varieties.
But as tastier vegan cheeses continue to enter the market, I may very soon be swayed.