According to Google Trends, Australia ranks ahead of New Zealand and then Canada. It turns out that in all those “vegan” searches in Australia, it’s Tasmanian residents leading the charge with Hobart topping the list (Newcastle, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast and Canberra round out the top five locations).
Why all the love for not eating or using animal based products on the Apple Isle? Karen Bevis, an active member of the Tasmanian vegan community and also a coordinator for Vegetarian Tasmania, has watched the community grow from strength to strength. “When I first moved back to Tasmania in 2004 there were only a handful of vegans that I met and I’ve been active in the movement and running information stalls and education events over many years,” she says. “In Tasmania, we’re a small community, a closer degree of separation, so it’s easier to get the message out to people. The Vegan Tasmania Facebook community has grown really quickly too, with over 800 members in a short space of time.”
It’s all about visibility and accessibility for Bevis, with restaurants and businesses finally catering for vegans. “There’s a [non-vegan] café in Hobart that can’t even keep up with the day to day demand for their vegan cakes and there's also a pizza shop that has at least six vegan choices catering for the market directly. Not to mention Otis Beanery, a vegan cooking school, that has been established and successfully run in a smaller city like Hobart… it just shows there is a demand and an interest for the lifestyle.”
So where is Australia’s newfound interest in veganism coming from? Or has it always been there? Suzy Spoon is the owner of Newtown's ethical butcher, Suzy Spoon's Vegan Butcher, and she’s not surprised by Australia’s position in Google’s data. “I think there has been a massive surge in the interest of veganism and I believe it’s because of the internet. I’m 45 so the internet has not always been around, but for young people now they don’t need to wonder why about anything because they can search it instantly. People are interested in where their food comes from. They google it and then realise that factory farming is not a pretty picture. I think this has been a massive push for veganism and has really changed the landscape for veganism and vegetarianism."
In South Australia, the interest in veganism appears to be growing too. Cherry Darlings Bakehouse, a cruelty-free bakery, opened in June 2014 and owner Tim Salmon sees a range of people coming through the doors. “It’s a total mix. We get tradies who don’t even know it’s vegan [and] families and business people. Literally the most eclectic mix of people.” He reasons, “[Veganism] has become more mainstream, losing that ‘hippie edge’. There’s more famous people doing it, more documentaries on the effects of animal agriculture and people are now starting to connect the dots so they’re trying to make changes in their life.”
But he also feels the vegan movement itself has added to the mainstream success the lifestyle is seeing. “I think it’s that one, the products and food have gone up a level in terms of taste and quality; people want good food so the game has been stepped up by ethical businesses. And two, people are seeing the health benefits and environment effects of veganism and have realised they can have tasty food and enjoy it while feeling like they’re doing something good.”
PETA Australia says Google's data is a victory for four-legged friends everywhere. “It’s great to see Aussies ahead of the curve when it comes to vegan living,” says PETA Australia campaign coordinator Claire Fryer. “Whether it’s to protect animals, our own health or the health of our planet, going vegan is the single most positive and impactful choice we can make.”
Who knows - maybe Aussies are a curious bunch that just love searching for things, maybe we're embracing Meat Free Mondays, or perhaps veganism is on the rise.
If you’re interested in vegan recipes, we’ve got over 200 mouth-watering vegan eats at SBS Food.
There is so much goodness in this burger – sweet potatoes, mushrooms and millet form the base. Dates and maple syrup add a hint of sweetness, which is a nice contrast to the smoky chipotle, while lime, coriander and cumin add punchy flavour and bring these burgers to whole ’nother level.