Veganism: Why Is It Not For Everyone?

Ever wondered why some of the influencers on Instagram are using almond milk rather than the dairy milk normally used by everyone ? There might be two possibilities – Either because of lactose intolerance or maybe because of a vegan lifestyle.

The word ‘vegan’ comes from Veganism. It was formulated in the year 1944 by Donald Watson who was the co-founder of the Vegan Society. At first, it was used to describe ‘non-dairy vegetarians’ but the definition was later updated by the Vegan Society in 1951.

Veganism means a lifestyle that is based on the philosophy to exclude any forms of exploitation of and cruelty to animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.In dietary terms, it refers to a practice – a way of living, that avoids products derived wholly or partly from animals. Hence, promoting the use of animal free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment.

Analyzing the relationship between Veganism and,

  • Agriculture

Veganism is believed to be the most environmentally friendly among all diets. According to the data, the total number of vegetarians in India in 2020 were 500 million out of which, only one per cent are strict vegans. So, the total number of vegans in India is around five million.

This lifestyle came into limelight after the realisation that the production of meat and dairy produces a large percentage of greenhouse gases, which is responsible for the global climate change crisis. 

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, about 20.5 million people are dependent on livestock for their livelihood. It contributed 16% to the income of small farm households as against an average of 14% for all rural households and thus, acts as one of the most important sources of income during emergencies through the sale of milk of cows and buffaloes.

It also provides employment to about 8.8 % of the population in India, especially during the lean season of agriculture when income becomes scarce. 

Hence, it acts as both social and economical security for the small and marginal farmers. Shifting to veganism would adversely affect the farmers as it would limit the intake of the animal produced foods, leaving a large number of resources unutilized, thus making it not the most effective solution.

  • Human Capital 

One of the most important factors  that contributes to achieving sustained economic growth is a strengthened human capital by ensuring proper health via a proper diet. Unfortunately, India shares the largest share of the extreme global poor where 15.2% of the population are estimated to be undernourished.

Shifting to a plant – based diet claims to be more nutritious than an animal based diet.

Even if the fact that India is the largest producer of milk and the key source of protein for several people in India is still milk and meat is not taken into consideration, the question is whether the vegan lifestyle is feasible in the long run.

The food plate during the growing years plays an important role in determining the nutritional position of children, depriving them of essential nutrients from milk products and meat may be risky for the development of their foundational base. On the other hand, it is essential for the elderly to intake sufficient calories and it is hard to keep a count on calories in a plant based diet, as it contains more fibre.

A poorly planned vegan diet can reverse its purpose of creating a healthy workforce and labour participation in the country for the worse. Thus, it cannot be considered as the absolute diet for the children who would form the future human capital of a nation, running the economy and the elderly who are either the current workforce or soon to be retired.

  • Income

There exists a direct relationship between the income level of an individual and the type and quality of food consumed by that individual. Low incomes and higher food prices increase the barrier of accessibility and affordability. And, continues to force people to depend on stale and degraded quality food which adversely affects their health.

In India, the concept of Veganism is slowly coming to mainstream and is being accepted by many people, especially the Bollywood celebrities and Instagram influencers. It is one of the most important sources from where people actually are getting aware about this lifestyle. But, what do these people have in common ? The answer is higher income and hence higher purchasing power which makes the vegan products, not only food but all other items as normal goods for them.

One can’t ignore the fact that the necessary vegan items already exist in India at affordable prices i.e the regular homemade dal and rice or any other Indian food. This is because of the already existing vegetarianism and hence, one has to only substitute dairy items.

However, even with the affordable necessary items available, it would be crucial to decide upon a proper and planned quantity to make up for the switch. Because, a vegan diet is higher in fibre and lower in protein, fatty acids, zinc, calcium, iron, B-12 and vitamin D, which again makes it non-budget friendly.

Another cost of the shift to veganism would be that some goods that were earlier a normal consumption for the people would now be turned into luxury goods. For example, almond milk ice-cream, soy cheese, olive oil butter, these food items are quite expensive than the regular ones.

But, why do these vegan products come across as not affordable for the common population? Below are the reasons 

  • There is not a sufficient demand for vegan products like Almond Milk, Soya Milk, Vegan Cheese, etc.
  • It’s only recently that these products have started gaining popularity and hence the scale of production has not been expanded vastly.
  • Some of the vegan stores are located in elite areas to be accessible to the rich class. As a result, these stores incur additional costs.
  • Thus, charging higher prices is economically practical to recover the additional costs and maintain reasonable profits.

In Spite of the above mentioned costs, veganism does hold a potential in the Indian Market. For this to happen, there should be an increase in the efficiency of the agricultural practices, increase in the quality of supply chain linkages and by making the vegan products affordable, accessible and attractive. So that it is pocket friendly for not only the rich but also the middle class and the poor.

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