Stereotyped as pretentious hippies, vegans have been the target of much ridicule for decades. But as it turns out, those who choose a diet entirely free of animal products might get the last laugh.
Veganism is currently on the rise in many western countries, particularly for those under the age of 34, and the new converts are singing its praises.
Berlin is considered the vegan capital of Europe with around 80,000 vegans, 10% of the total number of vegans in the Germany, according to the news agency France24. Berlin is at the forefront of a vegan movement happening all over Europe, with Paris and London not far behind. The city has 60 vegan restaurants to choose from, with offers far exceeding the underwhelming salad that might come to mind when picturing a typical vegan meal. There are soy ice cream shops galore and even a 100% vegan pizzeria.
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In a blog post titled "How moving to Berlin helped me go vegan," food writer Inês David talks about attending Berlin's annual Veganes Sommerfest where vegan food vendors and animal rights activists come together to celebrate a lifestyle free of animal products.
"After watching a documentary promoted at the festival, I felt as if I had no other option," she writes. "If I wanted to be true to my values, I had to be vegan. For me, it's an ethical choice first and foremost."
She explains that going vegan in Berlin was easy because of how accessible vegan restaurants and grocery stores are. "Berlin is considered the vegan capital of Europe for a reason. Its vast variety of vegan restaurants and cafés perfectly marries the many Berliners bringing the movement to a whole different level of vegan living," David writes.
Germany is just one of several European countries to see a spike in veganism in recent years. According to the Guardian, there were 150,000 vegans in the U.K. in 2006. Now, there are over half a million -- a 350% increase.
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Seventeen-year-old Euan Reece of Northamptonshire told the Guardian he believes social media, as well as the open mindedness of young people, has played a huge role in the expansion of vegan diets.
"Veganism is definitely more common among young people now. I feel that social media has played a major part in this, but there's also the fact that younger people aren't bound as much by traditional values, so they are more likely to change to a more left field thing such as veganism," he said.
Abigail Wheeler, also age 17, told the Guardian "I went vegan for three reasons: animals, health and the environment. People worry about the lack of B vitamins when going vegan, especially B12, so I eat food supplemented with it, such as nutritional yeast. Being vegan is inherently quite healthy, however, because you eat so much fruit and veg."
Isabella Hood of New Zealand, age 15, also cited the environment as one of her main reasons for becoming vegan.
"There is so much I could say about why veganism is the only sustainable choice for people. I could spout so many shocking statistics and facts. For example, animal agriculture is the leading cause of CO2 emissions, deforestation and pollution of our waterways. It has been predicted that if the whole world went vegan, then world hunger could be solved five times over," she said.
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