How do vegans survive in Dublin?

What costs and challenges do Trinity’s vegan students face?

“In some social circles, the word vegan or vegetarian is met with an eye roll and a preconceived notion of hippies and infrequent bathing.”

“How can you tell if someone is vegan? They’ll tell you.” So goes the popular joke. Unfortunately, in some social circles, the word vegan or vegetarian is met with an eye roll and a preconceived notion of hippie liberals. The belief that it is immoral for humans to use animals products is certainly a radical departure from the moralities of traditional western society, but now more than ever, the number of vegans and vegetarians is growing rapidly.

Although there are a large number of people identifying as vegetarians and vegans around the world, finding vegetarian options in restaurants, takeaways and fast food chains is still a struggle. In supermarkets, prices for vegan products are much higher than regular food, often advertised as “organic”. It is possible to find trendy outlets in Dublin that offer vegan food, if you are willing to drop at least €15 – well above a student meal budget.

Speaking to vegan and vegetarian students in Trinity about their diets, the options are limited but they get by. Breakfast can include normal cereals, except with soya milk. Tea and coffee also requires soya or almond milk, for which several cafes charge an extra 20c. For lunch, how about a burrito? That pulled barbacoa beef is off limits, instead opting for the falafel. If staying on-campus for lunch, the Buttery has a decent salad bar.

For vegans in Trinity, fruits are a popular snack option. They contain more vitamins, minerals, and water than any other food source and are easy to digest. They are a source of pure glucose, which is the sole food for the brain. The SU shops, the Perch and the Buttery have recently introduced soya yoghurts, which can be a handy snack in between lectures. Most supermarkets these days do offers on fruit and veg for less than a euro so you can bulk buy at the weekend and throw the odd apple in your bag. Some international students explain that they incorporate food popular in their home countries in order to survive as vegetarians. Students opt for lentils, hummus, chickpeas, and other forms of plant-based protein to maintain a balanced diet.  

If you are already vegan or vegetarian, or considering making even small changes, Trinity’s first ever Vegan Society is now up and running, and accepting members from September. Speaking to this year’s President, Will Stapleton, who explained that this new society is “open to all” and that new members should keep an eye out for exciting and diverse events that will be happening throughout the coming academic year. He is optimistic in planning events for next year such as, “speakers, a reading group, lunches (pig outs), nutrition and fitness speaker panel, day trips and wine and cheese evenings.”

Stapleton also has plans for “discussions, film viewings, nights out [and] collaborations with local cruelty free businesses”. Talking about the main barriers to veganism, he attributed such factors as “a lack of inquiry and dissemination of knowledge and facts, still present stereotypes and biases, and lobbying from non-vegan industries. Nonetheless, it’s an incredibly quickly growing movement, which is bolstered by its strong relationship to the environmental, cruelty-free, and vegetarian movements. Just spend a day in Dublin and you’ll see how widespread and influential veganism has become.”

“Veganism arises in conjunction with other movements out of a desire to be sustainable, ethical and healthy in the long term.”     

“The trend arises in conjunction with these other movements out of a desire to be sustainable, ethical, and healthy in the long term,” Stapleton said, “With enough research, the health and environmental benefits have become ostensibly clear, while the heightened awareness of industrialised animal cruelty has necessitated the vegan movement further.”

Stapleton explains the growing number of vegans by combining political and sustainability concerns: “The reasons people have for going vegan are manifold and often overlapping. In my case it was a combination of deep ethical discomfort and environmental concern, while for others the reasons tend to range from health to the environmental to the ethical. It follows few of the patterns of ‘pop movements’, with the movement gaining traction for many years, never ‘yo-yoing’ and being deeply connected with already strong and powerful movements. It’s clear in the changes across industries, governments, and even campuses that the movement is here to stay and will only grow with the support of the already millions of committed vegans out there.” Ultimately, he envisions the Vegan Soc as a “healthy, environmentally conscious, and cruelty free” place where all are welcome.

Members of the vegan and vegetarian community are continuously growing. Events such as Dublin Veg Fest, which is taking place on September 22 and 23, attracts hundreds of visitors, and is growing each year. Businesses such as The Happy Pear are showing that plant-based food can be delicious and is often more affordable than meat when homemade. While such events and restaurants do add a great sense of community to a plant-based lifestyle, one should question the level of commercialisation involved. Are such establishments intended to grow the vegan and vegetarian community. or do they take advantage of people with plant-based diets as they are limited in places they can eat?

“Eating a plant-based diet is costly when eating out, especially for a student in Dublin city centre.”

Eating a plant-based diet is costly when eating out, especially for a student in the centre of Dublin. Even a salad in Chopped could set you back almost a tenner if you include a drink. Granted, the sizes of their salads would cover almost two servings, but salad bars and healthier options are much more expensive than a Tesco Meal Deal or a swift trip to McDonalds. It is disappointing to see that big food chains have not made significant changes to welcome and accommodate vegans and vegetarians.

Although plant-based diets constitute a portion of the population, the demand has increased to a massive extent in recent decades. The demands of vegans and vegetarians are such that Irish food retailers will have to meet them with creativity. As the market for plant-based foods broadens, they will also have to adjust prices from the currently high margin, to a mark down that is more financially accessible. The plant-based diet is currently changing the conversation around food in this country, but the overall movement may be on the trajectory to transform the Irish food environment in its entirety.