A delicious vegan chicken burger and curly fries. Photo: Jessica Chahoud
For centuries people have been making the choice to leave animal products off their plates. Vegetarianism has been around for thousands of years but veganism is a fairly newer concept.
The first people to publicly suggest a more ethical approach to food by not consuming eggs and dairy were Dr William Lambe and Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1806 CE.
However, in 1944, the term ‘vegan’ was official coined by Donald Watson and much like nowadays people fought against the idea. Hardly anyone wanted to abandon all animal products however, now in today’s day and age the number of people choosing to become vegan is gradually increasing and is expected to continue to increase in the coming years.
Research conducted by Roy Morgan Research showed that the number of vegetarians and vegans in Australia has risen from 9.7% of the population in 2012 to 11.2% of the population in 2016.
It’s clear that veganism is becoming a more popular diet choice for many Australians which may leave you asking, “Why now?”. Well, there are a plethora of reasons why, one of the main ones being social media.
Social media is a big part of our everyday lives. It’s rare that you will come across someone who doesn’t have at least one type of social media, practically everyone has it making us all interconnected.
Through social media we are being exposed to so much on a daily basis and this is where a lot of people are learning about the suffering of animals.
Isabelle Zeidan, an 18 year old vegan believes that social media played a role when deciding whether or not to start a vegan diet.
“Social media definitely made an impact on my decision to go vegan. That was my first exposure to real vegans. I’d met vegetarians in person but I’d never met an actual vegan in person.
“Information is so readily at our fingertips on social media and because of the internet we have the world exposed to us and it’s easy to do your own research. I think that having a community on the internet is what inspired a lot of people to become vegan.”
Internet personalities on websites such as YouTube and Instagram are gaining more and more power through their growing number of followers. Many of them are using this platform to spread the message of animal rights and are encouraging their followers to become more conscious about what they are eating.
“Social media is where my education came from. A lot of people who are Instagram famous or are big YouTubers went to vegan diets and this is what exposed me to it. And they also provided a lot of education.
“A lot of people on Instagram worked to make vegan documentaries, including, Cowspiracy, Forks Over Knives and What the Health.” Isabelle said.
Social media isn’t only used for people like Isabelle to help make their decision about becoming a vegan, it’s also used by organisations such as Vegan Australia to help spread the message of animal rights and veganism.
Greg McFarlane, Director at Vegan Australia believes that social media is helping to educate people about the suffering of animals.
“The idea of veganism is in the media a lot more at the moment. Particularly with the suffering of animals in the farming industry. People are realising that there is a lot of suffering going on in the animal and agriculture industry and they’re better off not having any animal products.”
Through sharing of posts and videos on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram people are becoming more aware of how poorly animals are treated and it’s encouraging more people to become vegans.
“I think social media has been a great boom to the animal rights movement. It allows information to get to people directly without going through the mass media.
“Before social media, with newspapers and television it was very hard to get any information through those channels. Whereas now, particularly young people are getting most of their information through social media and so they get to hear about what’s happening in factory farms and to find out that they can do something about it.” Greg McFarlane said.
But there is the still the question, why is social media such a big influence on people when choosing whether to follow a vegan diet? This brings up the question of demographics. What age group has the highest number of vegans?
“We’ve looked at the social media channels that Vegan Australia have and the age range is mainly between 15-35 and 75% of our followers are in that age group and 75% are women. So, it’s younger women that are the highest demographic.” Greg McFarlane said.
Based on Vegan Australia’s statistics we can see that young women are mostly the ones who are being influenced to follow vegan diets.
Young people spend hours a day on social media so it makes sense that the majority of people who are becoming vegan are young because they are the most exposed to information about animal rights and veganism through social media.
For more information about veganism visit www.veganaustralia.org.au