Charlotte’s assistant pre-school teacher last year was vegan. What a surprise, and a relief. As the year progressed, I found out that one of Charlotte’s classmates, Ahsha was transitioning to a vegan diet. I was starting to feel like her transition was a symbolic sign of the world’s transition. Fast forward to this year. Just before school started, we found out that another girl in Charlotte’s Kindergarten class, Mila was vegetarian, and she lived only a few blocks away (they’ve since become besties!). Then, a few weeks into school, my daughter came home one day and said that one of her classmates, Eva, told her she was vegan. She barely finished her sentence and I was already on the computer emailing Eva’s mom…. “Is this true?” She replied back, “YES, Eva’s vegan!” This was the tipping point. It now felt like our previously separate vegan and non-vegan worlds were merging. They physically came together recently at our Halloween veg meetup when Mila and Eva attended, and joined Charlotte and her other vegan friends. My heart was bursting that day. This was a big deal for me, for Charlotte, and most importantly, the future.
-- Charlotte’s Kindergarten teacher asked me to come into the classroom to talk about why we are vegan.
-- At our class potluck, when one parent found out we were vegan, she sent an email saying she would “leave off the cheese” on the salad she was making. This doesn’t sound like a huge deal on its own, but I really feel like it represents what I’ve noticed more and more lately. It’s a positive shift in the way people interact with me as a vegan. Overall, people seem less threatened, confrontational and more accommodating and open, like it's no big deal.
-- We signed up for a few classes at Freshmade NYC cooking studio. Most of the recipes they do are vegetarian, and can be “veganized.” I was hesitant to join because I anticipated my daughter sitting there with a set of ingredients separate from the rest of the class, but when I told them we were vegan, they decided to use vegan ingredients for the whole class. So in the first class, all of the kids made vegan pot pies, and in the next class they made veggie sushi and dessert sushi. After the class, I talked to the teacher who told me she was vegan! Everywhere I turn, a vegan pops up!
-- I attended an event at the iconic ABC Carpet and Home to celebrate with Tracey and Jon Stewart (who just left the Daily Show). They will be opening a sanctuary for rescued farm animals.
-- The World Health Organization (WHO) just came out with a report stating that processed meats cause cancer. This puts it in the same category as tobacco smoking and asbestos.
-- Mark Bittman, renowned New York Times op-ed columnist and food writer just left his “dream” job to join The Purple Carrot, a company that sells vegan food kits.
-- Don Thompson, ex-CEO of McDonald’s (with McD’s for nearly 25yrs) just joined the board of plant-based meat company, Beyond Meat.
-- Major food chains all around the world are adding vegan options to their menus including the most recent: vegan ice-cream from Ben & Jerry’s, vegan burger at White Castle, and Taco Bell has over 26 vegan ingredients in their newly certified vegetarian menu. Guinness also just announced plans to make their beer vegan!
I see so many signs of hope that I couldn’t possibly list them all here, but they all point to a vegan world; a paradigm shift in the way we view and treat animals. The suffering of animals is now being recognized and considered in people’s food choices. When I became vegan even just 10yrs ago, and would mention it to a waiter/waitress or to other people, most of the time I’d get a blank stare in return, and have to explain what it meant. Nowadays it’s rare that I have to explain to anyone what a vegan is, especially in a restaurant. Everybody is familiar with the word vegan, and that’s the biggest sign of hope of all.
This is all part of the groundwork that needed to be laid in order for a vegan world to take hold.
Thanks to the many organizations and individuals who have worked tirelessly to lay this groundwork, the world now seems ready for a vegan shift. All of the pieces are falling into place for the next phase…which I feel is the adoption of plant-based meats (and even lab-grown meat). Companies such as Hampton Creek and Beyond Meat are leading the way. Even Bill Gates recognizes this as the future. In his own words from his blog...
“Like most people, I don’t think I can be easily fooled. But that’s just what happened when I was asked to taste a chicken taco and tell whether the meat inside was real or fake. The meat certainly had the look and the smell of chicken. I took a bite and it had the taste and texture of real chicken, too. But I was surprised to learn that there wasn’t an ounce of real chicken it. The “meat” was made entirely of plants. And yet, I couldn’t tell the difference. What I was experiencing was more than a clever meat substitute. It was a taste of the future of food.” - Bill Gates
Yes, the “future of food.” Food that doesn't come from lonely, scared, stressed-out animals who’ve been confined in tiny cages and dark, filthy sheds their entire lives. Food that doesn't come from mothers who’ve had their babies taken away from them. Food that doesn't come from animals who've lived and died in the most atrocious conditions imaginable. Food that doesn't wreak havoc on the environment. Food that is healthier, more sustainable, and that doesn't cause animals to suffer.
Soon we’ll be able to relegate eating animals to the history books. I truly feel like that time will be sooner, rather than later.