BEIRUT: Recently, a wave of veganism has been irrevocably ascending and throbbing in the heart of Beirut.
There is a salient progress in dispersing veganism in Beirut; many vegan places are popping up all over the city with a wide variety of items on their menu. Also, many already existing restaurants are starting to integrate vegan options to accommodate for a wider range of customers.
“When we officially opened last year, we were the only 100% vegan spot in Beirut and now there are several others. Veganism is growing everywhere, and there is no excuse for Lebanon not to follow this path because it is the future,” Omar Ghandour, the owner of Luna’s Kitchen, noted for Annahar.
Vegans convert to their current sustainable lifestyle for a plethora of reasons that range between compassion against animal cruelty to environmental and health benefits. “I decided to go vegan last year because I found out the horrific actions happening behind the doors of slaughterhouses as well as the dairy/egg industries and realized that I did not want to contribute to any of what happens there,” Sophie Jamal noted.
Lea Kraydeih, a vegan activist, elaborated on the fact that animal agriculture plays a grave role in the destruction of nature, given the ongoing climate change crisis.
“Animal agriculture is the leading cause in the emission of GHGs, ocean dead zones, habitat loss, species extinction and climate change. Fishing, alone, is responsible for 46% of plastic in the water bodies. Animals are not ours to eat or exploit, the earth is ours to save, and veganism is the only direct solution,” she stated.
A significant limitation in accessing vegan food is its pricing. One would assume that meals containing no meat are cheaper because vegetables are relatively easier to acquire. However, a survey of a chain of the leading food brands in Lebanon makes it very evident that the opposite is often the case.
“I have been on a fully vegetarian diet for the past year and four months because I could not envision the idea of murdering a living creature only to consume it,” George Saba told Annahar. “My ultimate aim is to turn fully vegan. However, unfortunately, I am not at a point where this is possible, and this is mostly for financial reasons.”
Veganism and vegetarianism are often linked to fancy, rare, and essentially western ingredients. Quinoa, flax seeds, exotic fruits and vegetable etc. have swept the vegan market. Salads and vegan burgers are especially overpriced with their prices often being ten US dollars and above. This is due to the extremely westernized idea of veganism that the Lebanese engulf.
Leading brands have capitalized this, using these ingredients as bases for their already-limited vegan menus. This is incredibly striking in a country that has many available local options such as lentil dishes and greens.
“Vegan replacers have shown themselves to be on the more expensive end. This split in the market is encouraging vegans with passion to start flourishing businesses,” Leya Kraydeih also noted for Annahar. “The increase in demand is leading to a gradual shift in prices towards a cheaper rate, one that could be more inexpensive than a diet that integrates animal products.”
Thus, many online local vegan food suppliers were launched to provide meals for an affordable price range. “Every time I mention veganism, the first thing people sarcastically say is “Chou bteklo khass? – “Are you surviving on lettuce?” Ghinwa Kazan, the founder of Khasse stated.
“A while ago, I started Khasse – “Lettuce,” which is a small initiative in Zalka that caters and delivers homemade food. My meals have the same taste as non-vegan ones, but are cruelty free because animals shouldn’t be tortured under the name of greed.”
Veganism is not solely restricted to diet plans, for it transgresses that concrete line to reach out to effective activism against animal cruelty and environmental harm. For instance, there exists an international organization entitled by “Anonymous for the Voiceless” which consists of a group of vegan activists who initiate street activism around the world.
The Beirut chapter, which both Sophie Jamal and Lea Kraydeih are part of, has been constantly growing in number and spreading its message through cubes and other actions almost every week.
The Lebanese mentality is not used to accepting this “modern” lifestyle. However, Beirut is learning to adopt and embrace this rising spectrum to create a better environment for future vegans because the attitude towards these diets is an important element of change.
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