The month of October is the celebration of everything vegetarian, starting with World Vegetarian Day on October 1 and ending with World Vegan Day on November 1. Going vegetarian involves a well-planned diet that avoids meat consumption to meet nutritional needs. Although 94% of New Zealanders are meat-eaters, who regularly consume animal products, Better Futures reports that vegetarianism and veganism are on the rise. With one in ten New Zealanders going almost meat-free, up from 7% last year, consumers are also embracing an eco-friendly lifestyle with 34% considering switching to electric vehicles. One of the top ten concerns for New Zealanders is the build-up of plastic waste in the environment, hence, the recent phase-out of plastic bags and the launch of the soft plastic recycling scheme.

According to Health Navigator New Zealand, for practically all diseases, vegetarians tend to be better off than the general population. This has less to do with the fact that they don’t eat meat and more to do with the fact that they have healthier lifestyles, for example, they tend to smoke less and exercise more. There are many reasons why people are turning to vegetarian lifestyles. “According to the latest NZ census, one-in-ten people in New Zealand were born in one of the Asian nations, which have a higher tendency towards vegetarian, vegan, and lower-meat diets,” said Nicola Voice, director, retail analytics. “What Kiwis spend in the fresh fruit and vegetable department has remained stable over the last three years according to Nielsen’s Homescan data. Meanwhile, meat products (poultry, seafood and red meat) have declined by 3% compared to two years ago. Red meat sales were responsible for this decline (down by 6% in sales), while seafood and poultry have both seen dollar growth of 4% and 1% respectively.”

Research shows that the rise in vegetarianism and veganism is most common among young women, 2% of young women aged between 15 and 24 consider themselves as vegans while 5% are semi-vegetarian. Concern for animal welfare, human welfare and the environment are prime reasons for changing to a vegetarian diet. The belief that no person has the right to exploit animals and that wasteful land use involves producing meat is important as lowering animal consumption is ultimately beneficial for people and the environment.

Businesses are also taking part in the lifestyle of being environmentally friendly, for example, KitKat Japan is ditching their plastic packaging and replacing it with paper which can be used to make origami after consuming. Fast food restaurants have also seen an increase in plant-based products, Burger King has released the Impossible Burger, a plant-based alternative to the Whopper and McDonald's has recently announced a plant-based P.L.T (plant, lettuce, tomato) burger which would be tested in North America.

The benefits for vegetarianism and implementing a plant-based lifestyle is evident, as more people and businesses get involved, the overall impact on the general population and the environment will be a positive one.