How Far We’ve Come

A review of what the vegan movement has accomplished over the past decade.

I’ve never started work on something with such mixed feelings, but two-and-a-half years after I quit blogging I’ve decided, for reasons probably not worth getting into, to have another go at it. Maybe this will last for weeks or months, but I doubt it’ll last for years. Blogging makes me uncomfortable, but I feel like some good things could happen for animals if I start doing it again. So I’ve decided to start posting occasionally. We’ve also just started a Friday newsletter you can subscribe to, and these emails will also include whatever new Vegan.com content Michelle or I have created over the course of the week. One day, just like last time, I’ll probably wake up one morning and decide it’s time for me to stop blogging. But until then I’d be grateful if you come along for the ride.

Apart from a few side-projects, the focus of my life has been working to bring us closer to the day when animal products disappear as a widespread and socially acceptable food.  And if you look at what the vegan and animal advocacy movements have accomplished over the past decade, you can see we’ve gained a lot of ground. We’ve now got hundreds of vegan cookbooks covering every niche. Food science where it concerns replacements for meat, milk, and eggs has come further in the past ten years than it had in the previous century. Brands like Beyond Meat, Hampton Creek, Wayfare, Gardein, Tofurky, and Daiya Foods offer an unbelievably good assortment of products that can totally replace the animal products in your life.

Vegan quick serve chains like Veggie Grill, Native Foods Café, and Loving Hut now have dozens of restaurants apiece, and all three of these chains are rapidly expanding. What’s more, they serve food that can win the hearts and stomachs of any omnivore. Have you had Loving Hut’s eggplant tofu, Native Foods’ deli reuben, or Veggie Grills’ carrot cake? Dayum!

On the activist front, it’s likewise been a decade of astonishing gains, most of which were won by the Humane Society of the United States and its allies. California Proposition 2 was a landmark victory, which will result in California’s last battery egg facilities being shut down by January 1st 2015. The Humane Society’s 2008 undercover investigation of Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company resulted in by far the largest meat recall in history, and the closure of one of America’s largest cattle slaughterhouses. In 2013 the Los Angeles Unified School District’s school lunch program embraced Meatless Mondays—a monumental win considering the district serves 650,000 meals daily. And finally, the writing is on the wall regarding the end of veal crates for calves and gestation crates for breeder sows, with top pork producers like Smithfield having signed on to abolishing these barbaric confinement systems.

On the outreach front, volunteers and staffers have taken leafleting to an unprecedented level. We’re not even at the end of October, and already 568,000 Vegan Outreach booklets have been distributed this semester at 524 different college campuses. This is vital work that anyone can do, and you can get involved here.

Groups like Mercy For Animals, Compassion Over Killing, the Humane Society of the United States, and PETA have released dozens of undercover factory farm investigations in the past decade, which have awakened tens of millions of Americans to the cruelties of factory farming. Animal agribusiness views these investigations as such a threat that they’ve thrown their weight behind ag-gag bills, which are viewed even by some meat industry partisans as a disastrous strategy that plays right into the hands of the animal protection movement.

Thanks to the progress we’ve made on these and other fronts, the number of animals slaughtered in the United States has at long last started to drop.

The best part of this is that we’re only just getting started. At long last, the pieces are finally in place to dramatically speed up our dismantling of the meat industry. I’ll be back next time to begin my analysis of how we can start gaining far greater results.

-Erik Marcus