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The Rise of Veganism and Plant-Based Living in the COVID-19 Era

Stacy Karron is a freelance writer specializing in animal and environmental journalism, vegan and plant-based marketing, and health wellness


When COVID-19 became an all too familiar concern, many of us were scurrying through Google, searching for every bit of information about this dreaded virus—how to protect ourselves and loved ones and how to prevent, if possible, another such outbreak.

Much remains unknown about the virus—not where it originated, but how it originated and whether it was organic or man-made. According to WebMD, experts say SARS-CoV-2 originated in bats. This is also how the coronaviruses behind the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) got started. SARS-CoV-2 made the jump to humans at one of Wuhan’s open-air “wet markets” where wild or banned species like cobras, wild boars, raccoon dogs, and bats are killed on the spot. Crowded conditions allow zoonotic viruses from different animals to swap genes. Sometimes the virus mutates so much that it starts to infect and spread among humans.

How Would a Pandemic Make a Difference in Consumer Habits?

The world has collectively had to adapt to a “new normal” and we have had to make dramatic changes to our lifestyles and eating habits. Food fears, health concerns, meat shortages, panic buying, restaurant closures, and more cooking at home helped further accelerate the demand for plant-based food. According to the Plant-Based Foods Association (PBFA), San Francisco, COVID-19 has led to further exponential growth for all categories of plant-based food during the first 16 weeks of 2020, with an 11.4% increase in plant-based food sales and each plant-based food category started the year stronger than at the end of 2019, says Julie Emmett, senior director of retail partnerships for PBFA.

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Factory-farms are also breeding grounds for zoonotic diseases, not to mention devastating for the billions of mistreated, slaughtered animals. The rapid spread and calamitous impact on humans can be illustrated by its impact on the meat industry. Workers crowded together along assembly lines to quickly process meat are fertile ground for outbreaks. Thousands of factory-farm and meat industry workers have fallen ill, which has resulted in temporarily idling several processing plants. And, even though most plants were running at some capacity, producers still needed to euthanize animals that would have been slaughtered for food because there was no space for them on farms or in plants running at lower output rates.

While it will take more time to see the true impact of the pandemic on sales and consumer interest in plant-based meat as well as cruelty-free products, if anything could more quickly shift public opinion, it could be this kind of outbreak. What is clear is that it has rocked the global community, and if anything has the power to shift our consciousness toward plant-based living, it is this pandemic.

Collectively, we have demonstrated that we can and must make very drastic changes to our lifestyles to save human lives in response to COVID-19, but these changes should not be limited to the wellness and welfare of humankind alone, but to all living beings.

If you are not already vegan or plant-based, what are you waiting for?

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

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