Israel is stepping up for vegans unlike any other country. I mean, the country’s growing demand for vegan products made Domino’s have a change a heart and gave Israelis the option of soy cheese (which is great news considering the horror stories we’ve already heard from the dairy farm where the original cheese came from). But Israel’s widespread vegan accommodations go beyond pizza toppings.
4 Percent of Israelis Are Vegan
As the organizer of VegFest, Omri Paz, told BizNews, “Four percent of Israelis define themselves as vegans, it’s the most vegan country in the world.” Comparatively, in the United States, we get excited when the vegan population doubled in two years with 2.5 percent of Americans identifying as vegan, says Occupy for Animals. But there still might be hope for us. If the trend continues in the States, then 80 percent of Americans could be vegan by 2050.
Veganism Has a Platform in Israel
In the States, some vegetarians and vegans shy away from sharing their dietary preferences. It’s not about feeling ashamed; it’s to avoid repetitive questions, crude jokes or hearing how someone can’t live without [insert animal product] when no one asked (or a combination of all of the above).
Vegan culture in Israel is quite different and more readily accepted. The government supports veganism by giving Israeli soldiers, both male and female, the option of leather-free boots. Vegan soldiers also have an extra allowance to buy alternatives. A vegan activist named Tal Gilboa even won the popular Big Brother reality TV show.
Vegan culture in Israel is also a lot more militant. A radical vegan activist group that goes by 269 Life continues to make headlines. They branded their own bodies with 269 in public in honor of the calf they set free with 269 branded on his ear. They’ve also left bloody sheep heads in public fountains and set herds of cows free. Meanwhile, two guys in the United States set animals free from a fur farm, wrote “Love is Liberation,” damaged some farm property, and our authorities labeled them terrorists.
Why Do Israelis Embrace Veganism?
Unlike the typical American diet, many Israelis don’t need convincing that fruits and veggies are important. It helps that many staple foods are already vegan, or easy to veganize, like hummus and falafel. Existing dietary practices (e.g. forbidding the mixing of meat and dairy products) have made leaning into veganism easier. The most controversial reason why many Israelis embrace the vegan lifestyle is the parallels that some see between the Jewish Holocaust and modern animal slaughter practices.
“Crowding, Cattle Cars, Brutality and the Routine and Efficiency of Mass Extermination”
Alex Hershaft is a Holocaust survivor himself who only survived because he passed as Aryan, says The Jewish Journal. Alex is also the founder of Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM). While he doesn’t equate the Holocaust to animal slaughter, he sees the parallels. As a survivor, he feels “honor-bound” to highlight tragedy like the current cruel way that animals are slaughtered. From his perspective, slaughter mirrors the Jewish tragedy via “the crowding, cattle cars, brutality and the routine and efficiency of mass extermination.”
Many vegans in Israel, especially the younger generations, agree that the Holocaust never ended — it just changed species. It’s not a competition to see who suffered more. Both are monstrous tragedies that deserve to be acknowledged because the language of suffering isn’t species specific. Props to Israel for showing how easy veganism can be, and making animals and the environment suffer less along the way.