Why 2.5% of Israelis have gone vegan

israel goes vegan

There’s a huge new movement in Israel. Not politics. Food. Specifically, veganism. Of a country totalling eight million people, an estimated 200,000 are now declared vegans (see Karin’s post about the growing movement here). That’s roughly 2.5 percent of the population.

Influential  American animal-rights activist Gary Yourofsky’s recent visits to Israel,  and his videos, tipped the balance towards veganism for many. Another factor is cruelty to animals in slaughterhouses and poultry farms, exposed on the consumer-awareness Kolbotek program in 2012 (link to the animal abuse video in Israel here).

An undercover reporter posing as a slaughterhouse worker filmed animal abuse at a Beit Shean slaughterhouse.  Kolbotek also exposed the frozen fish scandal, which we reported on here – covering the problems of fish from China.

Following widespread public protests and threatened boycotts, the slaughterhouse manager and workers involved were fired, and cameras installed at the location for ongoing inspection.But for many Israelis, the damage was done. Stimulated by Yourofsky’s fiery brand of activism, thousands of vegan-curious and hesitant Israelis have committed to a totally animal-product-free diet in the past two years.

Vegan groups like Vegan Friendly have levered the new vegan popularity into menu choices at restaurants. The Greg chain of cafes now proudly features a vegan-friendly menu, and the Domino’s pizza chain has a pizza with soy cheese. Here’s the Israeli Vegan Dining Guide from the website of Ori Shavit. Vegan Friendly also certifies vegan-friendly eateries with a sticker to place on their windows as a signal to passing hungry vegans. The demand for vegan products is even manifesting in supermarkets, where soy and grain-based milks are on the shelves and tofu cheese sits comfortably next to milk cheeses.

Israel’s cuisine already shines with delicious dishes that contain no animal products, although no one has thought of them as “vegan” until the trend appeared in the country. Muhamarra red pepper spread, ful and humous, baba ganoush and spicy sambusak turnovers are just a hint of  traditional Middle-Eastern foods that would make any vegan feel comfortable in Israel. How about a sweet potato and lentil salad?

More on veganism in Israel:

Image of  woman with fresh vegetables via Shutterstock.

About Miriam Kresh

Miriam Kresh is an American ex-pat living in Israel. Her love of Middle Eastern food evolved from close friendships with enthusiastic Moroccan, Tunisian and Turkish home cooks. She owns too many cookbooks and is always planning the next meal. Miriam can be reached at miriam (at) greenprophet (dot) com.

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