By Sue Tiffin
It’s here, vegetarians and vegans, the day it is possible to order a vegan breakfast, pick up a cashew cheese ball, have more than one plant-based menu item to choose at the same restaurant, opt for almond milk in a coffee to go, full-on feast at the farmers’ market, and see the transformation of a building on Bobcaygeon Road into a space for a vegan kitchen in Minden.
A recent study conducted through Dalhousie University found 2.3 million Canadians identify as vegetarians and 850,000 as vegans, accounting for nine per cent of the Canadian population.
But it’s not just those following a variation of a plant-based diet who will take note of increased available options.
A greater number of 6.4 million Canadians restrict meat partially or completely in their diet, opting to eat less meat throughout the day, or to engage in at least one meat-free day a week.
Some who opt out of consuming meat or dairy products are concerned about animal welfare, often in particular the reported cruelty of mass meat production within factory farming, while others are concerned about their own well-being, given the implications of diet on human health and disease.
Some find it more affordable to eat meat-free, or find the taste or quality of food to be better if it doesn’t come from a box, while more and more, reasons of environmental concern to help alleviate the significant carbon footprint of the livestock industry are encouraging more sustainable eating.
According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), livestock is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems.” Animal agriculture “currently amounts to about 18 per cent of the global warming effect,” a contribution the FAO says is larger than that of the transportation sector worldwide.
So the times they are a-changin’. Canada’s Food Guide now recommends more fruits and vegetables on the plate, and choosing more plant-based proteins from food like beans, nuts and yes, the infamous tofu.
Anthony Bourdain called vegetarians, “the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit,” but contrary to popular misinformation, good vegan food isn’t dry or tasteless – it doesn’t even have to be particularly healthy if you’re looking for a junk food fix.
Introducing some vegetarian options can be as easy as picking up something new from a local farmer who can recommend how to prepare it, adding more vegetables to the barbecue, making use of creative recipes online or in cookbooks at the library, or serving a veggie meal to everyone at the table when a vegetarian family member visits (making one meal that everyone can eat is much simpler than making numerous meals). And now, it is as simple as choosing a meal from a menu while on a lunch date with friends or out for dinner with family,
A more veg-friendly Minden offers a positive environment, ensuring people living a vegetarian lifestyle are welcomed to eat in our town, but also promoting a potentially healthy choice for those looking for variation in their diet.