Over the course of my lifetime, I have witnessed many societal changes here in the U.S. From civil rights, to women’s liberation, to the peace movement, to Earth Day, to smoking bans, to gay rights — all are historically significant. Today we are on the verge of another enormous social change. The trend is clear and the momentum is building as educated and caring people, particularly Millennials, are beginning to see non-human animals as feeling individuals with their own desires and rights. They are shifting away from seeing them as property and resources for food, clothing, experimentation or entertainment.
As Baby Boomers learned early on, we don’t need a majority of Americans behind a cause to effect change; it occurs at a tipping point well below 50 percent. It actually requires almost single digit percentage numbers to make change possible throughout the entire country. As cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead famously wrote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Animal agriculture is wreaking havoc on Earth. It’s at or near the top of worldwide water use, water pollution, topsoil loss, air pollution, climate change, habitat destruction, rainforest loss, desertification and species extinction.
With seven billion plus humans inhabiting the planet, we are running out of land and resources to produce animal foods for the masses. As Michael Pollan, author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” says in the documentary Cowspiracy, our survival as a species depends on drastically reducing animal food consumption – “ to about 2 ounces a week!”
Other reasons people are embracing veganism are: to feed the world’s hungry; preserve peace; conserve natural resources; improve health; achieve sustained weight-loss; and to demonstrate love and compassion for all animals. To illustrate the changes that are occurring, I have compiled a short list of interesting way-markers:
• The latest president of the American College of Cardiology, Kim Williams MD, is vegan.
• Mr. Universe 2014, Barny du Plessis, goes vegan for muscle building benefits.
• Vegan Patrik Baboumian, strongest man in the world, beats his own world record yoke walk with 1,234 pounds.
• Vegan ultra-marathoner, Scott Jurak, smashes record for supported traverse of Appalachian Trail.
• Vegan couple in their mid-60s run a marathon every day for a year.
• White Castle offers vegan Veggie Slider nationwide.
• Subway has vegan sandwiches available at 1,000 locations (more to come) nationwide.
• Taco Bell has 26 vegan-certified menu items.
• Wendy’s is offering a black bean burger.
• Cargill launches dairy-free cheese.
• All 7/11 store sandwiches are made with vegan mayo.
• Annie’s rolls out vegan Mac And Cheese.
• Sophie’s Kitchen Vegan Seafood in Safeway stores across the country.
• IKEA introduces vegan meatless-meatballs at all stores.
• Vegetarian menus in restaurants grow over 66 percent in three years.
• GQ names vegan burger “Best of the Year”.
• Guinness Stout to go all vegan.
• USA’s largest ice cream manufacturer, Blue Bunny, introduces vegan line.
• Ben and Jerry’s making vegan ice cream line.
• TCBY rolls out second vegan frozen yogurt flavor nationwide.
• So Delicious cashew milk ice cream available at 2,000-plus Walmarts nationwide.
• Vegan supermarket chain coming to United States in 2016.
• California school is first in the country to go entirely vegan.
• Mark Bittman, best-selling author and New York Times op-ed columnist, joins vegan meal delivery start-up.
• Jon Stewart and wife Tracey open a farm animal sanctuary.
• Life-altering documentaries like Cowspiracy, Forks Over Knives and Earthlings are streaming.
• U.S. meat consumption is down 10 percent in last decade.
• Billionaires invest heavily in vegan start-ups Beyond Meat and Hampton Creek.
• Ex-McDonald’s CEO joins board of vegan company Beyond Meat.
• Stevie Wonder, Kalel Cullen, Bono, Liam Hemsworth and Miley Cyrus go vegan and join dozens of other celebrities.
Social justice movements are tenacious, brazen and most importantly – successful. The number of vegans in the U.S., by one poll, is over 22 million. Relatively small in numbers, but growing exponentially.
Many of us Baby Boomers remember the enormous resistance we got from the “establishment” in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Today we are the establishment, and considering the far-reaching implications of our lifestyle choices, we now have to ask ourselves — what side of history do we want to be on?