You used to be able to spot a vegan a mile off. Sandals? Check. Smelling slightly of marinated hemp? Check. Living in a free lovin' commune? Check.
But if the results of a new survey from Vegan Life Magazine and the Vegan Society are anything to go by, we may need to reevaluate our idea of the animal-free eater. Veganism just got trendy.
Surveying almost 10,000 people across England, Scotland, and Wales, the findings showed that at least 542,000 people in Britain are following a veganism, which is an increase of over 350 percent in the last decade. The fuddy-duddy image of the animal-free diet also seems to be over, with 42 percent of all vegans found to be aged between 15 and 34, compared to just 14 percent who are over 65.
The survey also probed where these plant-based eaters are residing, finding that the majority of vegans in the UK (88 percent) live in urban or suburban areas, and 22 percent call London—that bastion of seitan stir fries and soy milk lattes—home.
But what's making all these Millennials turn to veganism? It could have something to do with findings published by the World Health Organisation last year, which linked processed meats like bacon and ham to cancer. Unsurprisingly, just a few months later, it was revealed that nearly a third of Brits had cut back on their meat consumption in light of this. Some are also linking the rise in young vegans to the diet's growing popularity among celebrities.
"Looking at some of the prolific names in the vegan movement (Ellie Goulding, Novak Djokovic, and David Hayes, to name a few), there is a real move away from the negative image it has suffered from in the past," says Maria Chiorando, editor of Vegan Life Magazine. "I think social media is a huge driver of veganism and this may tie into why it is more prevalent among younger people. The vegan hashtag and Instagram accounts promoting healthy lifestyles are hugely popular. In addition to this, it's becoming increasingly accessible to be vegan, with more vegan options in supermarkets and on restaurant menus."
In addition to veganism's new #social kudos, the ethical and environmental benefits of the diet may also be a driving factor. Felicity Cloake, food writer and author of The A to Z of Eating—and enthusiastic omnivore—recently tried out veganism for a week in her column for The Guardian. While not a convert to the meat-, fish-, dairy-, and egg-free way of eating, she tells MUNCHIES: "It's certainly prompted me to think about the choices I make and reminded me of the value of buying products that from animals that have been as raised as ethically as possible."
Only time will tell if veganism's current boost in popularity cements itself as a permanent lifestyle choice among young Brits. In the meantime, if you're championing the green V, try not to succumb to the fate of drunk vegetarians.