Opinion: Vegan Dawn

Luke Haines

Luke Haines

09 December 2015

Science has always been something of a fickle mistress to the food and drinks industry. No sooner do we invent something tasty than we find out that it's bad for us.

On the one hand, sure, the first (and arguably most important) of man's achievements was the taming of fire, which allows us to cook things at all. It also allowed us to boil and ferment, and as human knowledge expanded, so did the culinary rewards.

Then karma kicked in.

In the last few years, we as a species have uncovered a raft of worrying data that says, in layman's terms, that everything is going to kill everybody and we should all exist on moss.

First, they came for the booze. It's not just that drinking too much is bad for you; we now know exactly the havoc alcohol can wreak on your liver, kidneys, stomach, intestines and brain.

a nail-biting chariot race between our ingenuity and our inherent stupidity

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, our tinkering with the food chain has led to such nightmare-inducing headline grabbers as BSE/CJD (caused by recycled proteins in animal feed clumping and becoming tangled in the wiring of the brain), as well as less bombastic but equally worrying data about trans fats, and the chemicals used to prepare foods, and the questionable sterility of food processing areas, and the news that any meat you buy from Aldi probably liked sugar lumps before it broke a leg in a bad jump in the 3:15 at Aintree.

Recently, it's turned out that even if you manage to dodge every bullet in that volley of bad news, bacon, ham, pepperoni, salami, and probably red meat in general are about as likely to give you cancer as smoking. The same red meat, incidentally, that is making global warming a lot worse.

Even dairy products offer no solace, as cheese is giving everyone heart attacks and, according to some, shouldn't be eaten by humans in the first place.

Eggs, meanwhile, are bad for your cholesterol. Fish are full of mercury and, even if they weren't, there are only six of them left anyway. Four, by the time you read this.

Deep down, the average person probably has the same sense of resignation about all of this as we do about global warming; we always suspected that taking our kids to school with a 39-second Humvee commute was probably going to come back and bite us, and now the planet has gone all Roland Emmerich. In the same way, we all knew that bacon double cheeseburgers were not really a food and that there was probably something to this whole 'fruit and veg' thing.

It was fun whilst it lasted, but the party is over and now we're going to have to face up to our responsibilities.

Fortunately, as is often the case with the human condition - a nail-biting chariot race between our ingenuity and our inherent stupidity - as we near the point of no return, a number of alternatives are beginning to present themselves.

Vegan bodybuilding
Like most people, I laughed the first time I heard the phrase 'vegan bodybuilding.' Then, a while later, I saw a clip of vegan ubermensch Frank Medrano and realised that a) I should shut up and b) large doses of vegetables can apparently make you immune to gravity.

Whilst Medrano may be an extreme case, he proves a larger point; that veganism is becoming increasingly mainstream and in our ever-more-health-conscious society it is no longer being seen as unusual. You can be vegan these days and nobody will mock you. Nobody's mocking Frank Medrano, at any rate.

Huel
Huel bills itself as 'the future of food', and whilst this is a bold statement, it isn't necessarily inaccurate.

It was fun whilst it lasted, but the party is over and now we're going to have to face up to our responsibilities.

Made entirely from plant proteins (specifically brown rice casein and pea protein, amongst others) Huel is effectively a much more rounded version of the ubiquitous protein shake. A full day of taking nothing but Huel will, the inventors claim, give you at least 100% of your RDA of every vitamin and mineral. It's as close as we've yet come to the sci-fi idea of food in pill form, and once again, it's sustainable and vegan friendly.

Tests are currently being carried out on volunteers to see if a human really can survive on nothing but powdered fruit and veg.

Chefs
It's just possible that a future in which all nutrition is derived from a powder could be viewed as unromantic - it's hard to imagine proposing over candlelit Huel shakes, or going out for a birthday meal that you can chug in fifteen seconds.

My personal choice of birthday 'meal' is not on trial, here!

Fortunately, with a groundswell of support for healthier living in general, restaurants across the land are beginning to embrace fruits and vegetables, as well as quinoa (one of the few grains to contain all the amino acids normally found in animal proteins) and other meat-and-dairy free ingredients.

It's often tempting, with a quick scan of the news, to think that we're all doomed and the world is getting worse, but the truth is that in the space of a generation, recycling has become the norm, everyone has a gym membership and everyone cares, at least to some degree, about the state of the environment.

With the modern attitude of trying our best to look after the planet and ourselves, it's not hard to envisage a new era fast approaching. One where the steaks will be very different.

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