We all know that technology is affecting every facet of our lives, from the way we shop, communicate and learn to how we fuel our cars, but what impact does it have on the vegan world specifically?
Technology has an incredible ability to divide opinion, despite often being developed to make communication more effective. The intrinsic conflict aside, it is generally considered that technological advances can only be a positive thing and they do seem to be making the plant-based world somewhat more connected.
As long as Skynet doesn’t become self-aware, technology seems to be on a path to permanently benefit the vegan sphere, especially in the following ways:
Connecting us as a community
Having vegan friends is great but having lots of vegan contacts around the world is even better! Technology has made it easier than ever to find, message and interact with people who share your outlook, beliefs and sense of humour.
Whether it’s a social platform that gives you a safe space for initial contact, phones that let you message in real-time and on the go, or even computers with better webcams for video calls, being part of a global community is so simple now.
As someone who doesn’t use Facebook, I can’t really comment on that as a way to meet other vegans. Though a good friend did tell me a story about how her mum found out she was going plant-based because of a status update and proceeded to flood her page with articles from the Daily Mail about how dangerous veganism is. Maybe “don’t accept your folks’ friend requests” is the lesson to take away from this.
New product creation
Before the world was geared up for instant consumer feedback and products that strayed from the norm, new releases were few and far between and usually a variation on a popular existing theme. Same product, new flavour. That’s how things tended to move.
Now, because veganism is gaining popularity and there seems to be more of a try-it-and-see culture brewing. Companies are asking what we want, in what flavour combinations and getting to work. Independent brands start small, find a niche and focus on producing something unique and covetable and then, through interaction online with their demographic of customers, tweaks are made and new releases can be floated.
Essentially, technology is allowing for hype and demand to be created for a product in theory, before the process of manufacturing it even needs to be costed. Now’s the time to be a food entrepreneur.
Helping find businesses
You might not remember the days of trawling through the Yellow Pages to find potential businesses, only to have to call on the phone to ask about production methodologies and who they cater for. If not, lucky you. Some of us (ahem) still have PTSD from entire days (no exaggeration) spent trying to find car insurance as teenagers.
Today, technology has made locating a business that operates within a vegan and ethical framework effortless. And not only that, it helps connect likeminded companies too. With collectives like the Vegan Traders Union in place, consumers and collaborators can easily find a range of people to work with, safe in the knowledge that everyone on the screen in front of them is a potentially suitable partner.
Making ethical shopping faster
Talking of consumers, when it comes to shopping, being able to filter, scan and check products quickly for vegan alignment is key. Life is getting faster and mobile apps are helping us keep on top of our attempts to have it all.
So as we are doing the big shop, with our kids in tow and while completing a big work project, we can now rely on databases of products to tell us if something we fancy is vegan and, in some cases, if the company that makes it is fully vegan too.
Online shopping has suddenly become a lot easier too, or are we imagining it? Gone are the days that a cute jumper’s composition had to be triple-checked, as now, most shops have added a vegan filter, letting you only see the items you know you can buy. It’s such an elegant solution and one that brings an element of inclusivity to everyday life. That’s right, ASOS et al. I see you with the non-leather shoe search tool.
Spreading the message
The vegan message is being heard in the farthest corners of the world and all because the information is so much easier to come by. A few cursory minutes on the internet, anywhere on the planet and you’ll be able to find information, research papers, impassioned opinion pieces and even the location of your nearest vegan-friendly restaurant/cycling club/bookstore.
As a group, we are more open and accessible than ever before and as a movement, our message is being broadcast across all platforms and at full volume. If for no other reason than this, technology is a beautiful thing and thank goodness it is part of our lives now.
I know that some people prefer to be a little more off-grid and old school and to you, I say hurrah. There’s a place for all of us in the world, so just because you don’t have Facebook, still carry around a copy of the Animal-Free Shopper or only buy your groceries in your local health food shop, you’re no less part of the vegan community.
You can still appreciate how much easier technology is making things for younger generations of vegans, even if you don’t want to partake in them yourself. I should know, I feel exactly the same way.