Plant-based lifestyles are thriving increasingly around the world. What’s interesting about it is the diversity of motivations behind this surge, which points to a higher collective awareness about our relationship to food and where it comes from.
In China, for instance, people are embracing plant-based foods because they want (1) to be healthy, including maintaining a healthy weight; (2) to protect wildlife, since animal agriculture requires a lot of land that could otherwise be forested; (3) to reverse the cognitive dissonance they’ve experienced due to animals they love as pets versus those they eat; and (4) to follow the teachings of Buddhism. Young people in China who care about protecting wildlife skipped the ritual of eating fish and chicken for the Lunar New Year, indicating how their values are changing.
The interest in plant-based foods points to a higher collective awareness about our relationship to food and where it comes from.
Taiwan is showing a similar trend. Dr. Will Tuttle, on his recent lecture tour of Taiwan, learned that 93% of Taiwanese schools serve meat-free lunches one to two days a week. Much of the motivation centers around Buddhism; Buddhist organizations run vegan/vegetarian hospitals, and operate organic health food stores, promoting plant-based lifestyles. While in Taiwan, Dr. Tuttle had active discussions with politicians about the benefits of plant-based diets, and they were open to a meat tax. The Taiwanese press also plays a strong role in sensitizing the public about such issues through extensive coverage of Dr. Tuttle’s lectures and other efforts to promote plant-based diets.
In Israel, an analogous shift is underway, and it’s happening because of rising awareness about the reality of animal cruelty, health, and the environment compared to culturally influenced assumptions long-held. For example, Israelis typically eat three servings of dairy per day, but learning about the cruelty that goes on in the dairy industry has led to a rapid rise in plant-based diets. Ori Sahvit, author, photographer and chef, is leading the charge through her own transition to veganism three years ago, and her strong media presence. Interestingly, Israelis want to remain mainstream and that is exactly what is happening: an entire cultural shift to plant-based diets, creating a new norm when it comes to food. While Israel is not experienced with plant-based meats (e.g. seitan and textured soy-protein), the nation has something even better: staples in the national diet that are already wholesome, healthy, and vegan, such as hummus, falafel, majadara (a rice, lentil and onion dish), and tahini.
Given this overall trend toward a plant-based diet in different cultures for similar reasons, it’s evident that something fundamental is happening here: a paradigm shift in how we relate to food and life. May the transformation to compassionate, healthy, and sustainable eating continue around the world as we clearly discern the connections between food, animals, the environment, and spirituality.