Veganism in Ireland, to be or not to be?

The 1st of November marks World Vegan Day. As the vegan trend continues to grow, so has the demand for  vegan food items in Irish grocery stores and restaurants.

“We’ve come a long way in a short time” said Galway Chef Jess Murphy to the Irish Times describing what it’s like to be vegan in Ireland, “you no longer have to go into a health food shop smelling of patchouli oil to find oat and almond milk”.

The surge in vegetarianism and veganism in the Global North has resulted in what The Economist has coined as The Retreat from Meat. “One of the main things that has motivated many vegans and vegetarians to give up meat is a belief that killing and eating animals is wrong” writes The Economist.

But is there evidence of a Retreat from Meat in Ireland?


The Situation on the Emerald Isle:

Between 2001-2011, the Irish Central Statistic Office (CSO) calculated a decline in meat consumption across the nation. This decline has been argued by many as a consequence of the  economic crash. 77.5kg of meat was consumed on average per person in 2011.

In 2016, the CSO discovered that the people of Ireland were eating larger quantities of meat again. Meat consumption increased from 2011’s figure of 77.5kg on average per person to 90kg on average per person.

“We may not all be going  vegan but significant numbers are buying vegan” said journalist Catherine Cleary for the Irish Times.

The demand for vegan and vegetarian products has not gone unnoticed, Irish supermarkets such as Tesco, Supervalu and Dunnes Stores have introduced new veggie ranges to accommodate recent trends.

Marine biologist Lisa O’Sullivan (28), a vegan of four years, discussed her experience of shopping for vegan food products in Irish grocery stores with The Stand.

Four years ago, Lisa found it difficult to source meat-free and diary-free products “I would have to go to speciality health stores to buy certain products but in the last year or two, supermarkets have exploded with vegan products”.

Lisa, who also worked as an Assistant Manager in Cork restaurant Eco before emigrating to New Zealand, recalls how she was regularly asked to advise customers of the vegan items on the menu “This was never the case before, I used to be shocked to meet fellow vegans, but before I left it became a daily occurrence” she said.

When asked by The Stand if she could explain why the demand for vegan and vegetarian food items has increased, Lisa said she believed the demand for such products has a lot to do with health consciousness.

“I think people becoming more health aware creates more room for the vegan and vegetarian food industry” she said.

This is good news for health food companies such as The Happy Pear who have a new range of vegetarian and vegan ready meals which can be purchased at Happy Pear and Supervalu stores right across the country.

Supervalu, owned by the Musgrave Group, is one of Ireland’s leading supermarket chains with over 220 stores on the island. Supervalu has embraced the increase in health conscious shoppers and provides tips and a product list for Following a Vegetarian Diet on their website.


The Land of Meat and Two Veg:

 The Stand spoke to Maurice Allshire (20) a young Irish businessmen who is the creator of Rosscarbery Biltong. This high protein, dried beef snack is part of the Rosscarbery Recipes range. The Allshire family run Rosscarbery Recipes from their farm in Caherbeg, West Cork and supply Supervalu stores, independent shops and hotels with their artisan free-range pork products.

“I think the breakfast meat sector is diminishing, but our business is growing” said Maurice. For the Allshire family, “Rosscarbery Recipes are all about taste, quality and producing the best local produce”.

“One influential factor that comes up regularly when talking to new vegan converts is a series of polemical online documentaries, or “advocacy films” says Dan Hancox reporting for The Guardian.

Streaming services such as Netflix provide many educational films and documentaries on the damage that the meat industry is having on our health and on the environment.

The Stand also had the opportunity to speak with the General Manager of  Eco Restaurant,  Kieran Noel. Eco, which is popular for it’s great food and friendly staff has been serving an array of Irish and global dishes to the community for the last 22 years “We have always had vegetarian customers but with this new wave of veganism, we have been made aware of meats that might be unhealthy for consumption, and that sends shock-waves through most of us” said Kieran

Will this trend continue to grow from strength to strength in Ireland or is this just a phase? “People tend to forget how big the meat and dairy industries are in Ireland” concludes Mr. Noel “but hopefully this trend leads to healthier consumption of the foods we love”.

Supervalu embracing the healthy food phenomenon.

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