We love dogs and eat cows not because dogs and cows are fundamentally different
--cows, like dogs, have feelings, preferences, and consciousness—
but because our perception of them is different
My friend Adri and I are meeting today for lunch. I wait for him at Albertplatz because he is coming with the bike and I want to enjoy the last bits of sunshine before the darker, colder months come to Dresden. Last weekend of September and the city has already an unmistakable fall vibe: brown leaves lying everywhere, pink sunsets, the smell of hot chocolate and people wearing cosy clothes. Adri is already a bit late, so I have some time to lazily check our options for today´s lunch on my phone. Some time ago I would have had checked everything at home, maybe even some days in advance. Eating vegan and eating out used to be quite the challenge.
I did not decide to spend a year volunteering in Germany because of the recent rise of veganism in the country, but the prospect of having lots of food options available seemed sort of tempting. The list of headers about Germany hitting historic numbers when it comes to the develop of veganism would not fit into one page, although some are worth being mentioned. A CNN article labels Germany the vegan capital of the world and the the number of vegans and vegetarians in the country reaches 9.3 million in a 2017 survey. These figures are already astonishing, but what is even more surprising is how fast this new phenomenon has developed.
But first things first. When we talk about veganism, we refer not only to a green label on food packaging or a way of eating, but to a whole lifestyle with a solid ethical and ideological foundation. There are different reasons for people to go vegan, but it is possible to summarize them in three main trends. Some people make this decision because they think vegan diet to be a good option for their health, whereas some are worried about the environment and the consequences of intensive farming for the future of Earth. Finally, there are many vegans who put animal rights first and want to end cruelty towards all beings capable of feeling.
Avoiding meat, fish, dairy, honey and eggs. Choosing not to buy products tested on animals. Finding alternatives to traditional leather and wool clothing. Being aware of the mistreatment that animals undergo in the food industry. Thinking about sustainability, climate change and engaging on an on-going discussion about responsibility and accountability. These are all actions that have something to do with the decision of going vegan.
Let´s come back to Dresden, to this fall morning, to my friend Adri coming to pick me up. He locks his bike and we walk down one of the main streets of the Neustadt, a neighbourhood full of colorful places and young people that is said to be one of the alternative areas of Dresden. We decide on a tiny cafe and I order a lentil bowl and some coffee, because coming from Spain coffee should always be mandatory. The place we have chosen has a small library about vegan and environmental issues and I go over the titles for a brief moment. Some I already know; some I have not read yet.
Adri and I talk about my time in Leipzig, another city in Sachsen where I lived before coming to Dresden to volunteer. We talk about streets filled only with vegan bistros, vegan fests and food options being affordable. We share opinions that sound quite alike, but have also different main points. And we ask questions, as questions are always important. Is this vegan revolution in Germany the ultimate trend, soon to vanish because of the volatile nature of advertising and business interests? Is this the beginning of a conscious and compassionate way of relating to animals and the environment? Has veganism the power to deeply transform our society or is it a mere diet choice at the end of the day?
I do not know the answers to these questions, but it is interesting to observe the developing of veganism in Germany. It actually feels possible to live vegan here, to project these choices onto different situations in life, from my trip to the drug store to my meal plan. Even though it would be naïve to give such as power to personal decisions, there is also a shift in markets and social trends that should not go unnoticed.