It feels like we were ringing in the new year just a few months ago but 2019 is already over. And what a year it’s been.
The Top Vegan and Plant-Based News Stories of 2019
From global climate strikes to major wins for animal rights, we’ve taken major strides toward creating a better world. Let’s close out the decade with the biggest wins for veganism. Here are the top 14 vegan news stories you loved from 2019.
1. Beyoncé and Jay-Z Offer Concert Tickets for Going Vegan
2019 kicked off with a bang, thanks to Beyonce and Jay-Z offering fans free concert tickets for life for going vegan. The giveaway was a partnership with the Marco Borges-led 22-Days Nutrition Greenprint program. Fans who pledge to eat vegan could enter to win a lifetime’s worth of Jay and Bey concert tickets.
The pair have worked with Borges for several years, first on his 22 Days system to help people shift their mindset, improve health, lose weight, and impact the planet for the better through a vegan diet. They backed the 22 Days vegan meal delivery program and subsequent product launches.
“They got to a point where they realized that the overwhelming information about the benefits of a plant-based diet were too hard to ignore,” said Borges. He added, “so they decided they wanted to challenge themselves and others to move towards a plant-based diet.”
2. Doctors Call for Warning Labels on Cheese
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) petitioned the FDA to place breast cancer warning labels on cheese.
According to PCRM, the organization “combines the clout and expertise of more than 12,000 physicians with the dedicated actions of more than 175,00 members.”
At the start of breast cancer awareness month, the organization pushed for cheese products to have warning labels similar to those on cigarette packs. It sent a petition on the subject to the FDA, signed by its president Neal Barnard, MD.
PCRM gives an example of a warning in the petition. It suggests, “dairy cheese contains reproductive hormones that may increase breast cancer mortality risk.” Breast cancer is among the most common causes of death in women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Instead of cheese manufacturers like Kraft slapping a pink ribbon on products like Philadelphia Cream Cheese and Macaroni & Cheese, as they have done during previous Breast Cancer Awareness Months, they should be adding warning labels,” said Barnard in a statement. “We want women to be aware that dairy cheese could put them at risk of dying from breast cancer.”
3. A Powerful Vegan Short Film
Animal rights organization Last Chance for Animals released a two-minute-long film set in fictional fancy restaurant Casa De Carne. Eric innocently goes out to eat with friends, he orders the ribs, and all is well until the twist is revealed. He is shut in a room with a pig and handed a knife. If he wants to eat the pig, he has to kill it.
Unsurprisingly, he can’t bring himself to do it, instead opting to pet the animal. But the chefs at Casa De Carne don’t mess about and Eric is forced to watch while a butcher slits the throat of his dinner for him. The uncomfortable reality is that meat ends up in restaurants and grocery stores only because somebody was hired to do what every fiber in Eric’s body was telling him not to do.
LCA’s thought-provoking film was awarded the first place Tarshis Short Film Award at the Animal Film Festival.
4. Leonardo DiCaprio and the Environment
In the wake of the devastating Amazon rainforest fires, Academy Award-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio continued to be a powerful advocate for the environment.
Earth Alliance, a nonprofit organization launched by DiCaprio in July, started the emergency Amazon Forest Fund, which supports local partners and Indigenous communities in their efforts to protect and restore the forest.
When news of the Amazon fires hit major news outlets, DiCaprio shared a post from the Rainforest Alliance calling for people to stop eating beef.
“Be a conscious consumer, taking care to support companies committed to responsible supply chains,” the post said. “Eliminate or reduce consumption of beef; cattle ranching is one of the primary drivers of Amazon deforestation.”
DiCaprio also teamed up with actor Will Smith to launch a limited-edition shoe for charity. All proceeds went to DiCaprio’s Amazon Forest Fund. The shoes were a collaboration between Just, a boxed water brand that Smith co-founded with his son Jaden, and environmentally-friendly footwear brand Allbirds, of which DiCaprio is an investor.
“There is only one Mother Earth and it’s on us to protect her,” Smith said in a statement about the collaboration. “The Brazillian Amazon, our largest carbon sink, has now been burning for a month.”
5. Greta Thunberg Leads a Youth Movement
Sixteen-year-old activist Greta Thunberg had a busy year. The 16-year-old traveled to the United States on a zero-emissions yacht over the summer for a series of high-profile speaking events. Not only that, she was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, had her speeches published in a book (“No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference“), was the subject of several art installations, and she became the youngest person ever to be named TIME’s Person of the Year. Thunberg, who is also vegan, has shown no signs of being intimidated when chastising world leaders for the lack of real action against climate change.
6. Lush Shuts Down for the Climate Strike
Thunberg sparked the Fridays for Future movement by cutting school to protest climate change. In September, she led the largest-ever climate strike, with protests happening in major cities across the globe. UK-based sustainable beauty brand Lush shut down all operations in solidarity with Thunberg. All 250 Lush stores in the U.S. and Canada closed down, including headquarters, manufacturing facilities, and e-commerce operations.
“As a business with deep roots in environmental activism, giving our thousands of staff the time to get out there and demand bold action is a no brainer,” Mark Wolverton, president and CEO of Lush North America, said in a statement. “We all share this planet, so we need to band together to sound the alarm and show our politicians that ‘business as usual’ is no longer an option. The climate crisis won’t wait, and neither will we.”
7. Jaden Smith Launches a Free Vegan Food Truck
In addition to performing a concert at the climate strike in New York City, Jaden Smith lent a helping hand to those who can’t afford healthy food. The entrepreneur launched I Love You Restaurant, a free vegan food truck, in Skid Row, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Los Angeles. He even brought the food truck to New York City while he was in town for the climate strike. Along with rapper A$AP Rocky, Smith’s food truck handed out more than 500 vegan meals in Harlem’s Drew Hamilton Houses.
8. Beyond Meat Goes Public
Beyond Meat made history as the first vegan meat company to IPO in May. The California-based brand made an impact on its first day: initially priced at $25 per share, Beyond Meat closed out the day at $65 — a 240 percent jump in value. The brand plans to use funds raised by the IPO to invest in existing facilities, expansions, and on R&D.
9. The Game Changers
Filmmaker James Cameron’s documentary “The Game Changers” made its worldwide premiere in September. The film follows retired English mixed martial artist James Wilks as he explores the myth that athletes need meat in order to be strong. He meets with experts and athletes alike, including six-time Formula 1 racing champion Lewis Hamilton and former award-winning bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger. Both also served as producers. “The Game Changers” became available to stream in October, quickly topping iTunes top documentary download spot.
10. Meat Companies Capitalize on Plants
Meat producers are getting on board with vegan protein. This year’s most high-profile example is Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer that has faced a lawsuit for polluting nearby towns. Smithfield announced its vegan range, Pure Farmland, earlier this year.
A recent report shows that eight of the top ten meat producers in the U.S. have launched or are investing in vegan ranges, including Hormel, JBS, Cargill, Tyson (the former Beyond Meat investor launched plant protein blended with real meat), Sysco, Perdue Farms, and ConAgra. The ABP Group, one of Europe’s top meat processors, announced its own range last March. Nestlé, the world’s largest food and drink company, is pivoting its focus to non-meat brands. This year, it launched new vegan burgers in Europe under the Garden Gourmet brand. In the U.S., it launched similar products under the Sweet Earth label.
11. Vegan Fast Food Takes Over
It was an amazing year for vegan fast food.
Burger King launched the Impossible Whopper nationwide. The launch followed a successful trial run in St. Louis. While Burger King initially intended to add the meat-free Whopper to all menus at the end of the year, it was such a hit that the company launched it months ahead of time.
According to Burger King, the Impossible Whopper saw a 28 percent increase in sales following the launch.
Restaurants aren’t just serving vegan meat for lunch. Dunkin’ introduced a meatless breakfast sandwich featuring a breakfast sausage made by Beyond Meat. The coffee and donut chain trialed the plant-based breakfast sausage, which comes served on an English muffin with egg and cheese, in all locations across Manhattan over the summer. Like Burger King, Dunkin’ moved up the nationwide launch because of strong sales.
It was the second best-selling sandwich in Manhattan. Sales were more than double the original forecast. The new option may only be the beginning. “I think this is going to be a partnership for years to come,” Dunkin’ CEO David Hoffman said in an interview with CNBC. Dunkin’ and Beyond Meat got a little help from Snoop Dogg on the launch date. It wasn’t the first time the rapper worked with Beyond Meat. Last May, he drove a food truck around El Segundo, California — where Beyond Meat is headquartered — to promote the brand’s IPO.
Other big launches include Beyond Meat at Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, and Del Taco and the Impossible Burger at Red Robin. KFC conducted vegan chicken trials in both the U.S. and Canada.
12. Joaquin Phoenix on Animal Agriculture
This year, vegan actor Joaquin Phoenix starred as the titular character in director Todd Phillips’ Joker. Phoenix was more than happy to use his platform to promote a vegan message in the months leading up to the film’s release. In a video for Brut, the actor recalled what made him vegan.
“Me and my siblings witnessed fish being killed in a really violent and aggressive way. It was just absolutely obvious that it was something that we didn’t want to participate in and we didn’t want to support. To me, it just seems obvious. I don’t want to cause pain to another living empathetic creature,” he said.
Phoenix criticized the factory farming industry as well, explaining how the dairy industry impregnates mother cows, only to take their babies away so humans can use their milk. Referring to chickens fattened up for slaughter at alarmingly fast rates, Phoenix said: “I don’t want to force it to be indoors and fattened up just to be slaughtered. It is absurd and barbaric.”
The actor also led a public protest against animal cruelty in Toronto. At the Joker premiere, Phoenix wore a hoodie representing the Animal Liberation Front, a faceless direct action group funded through donations and the sale of merchandise such as Phoenix’s sweatshirt.
13. Fur Goes Out of Fashion
Fur is falling out of style, fast. On October 12, California became the first state to ban the sale of fur.
Assemblywoman Laura Friedman presented AB 44 last December. The bill also prohibits the sale, manufacturing, distribution, trade, or donation of new fur products in any way.
Those who breach the ruling could face civil penalties. Several California cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and West Hollywood had already banned fur prior to the bill’s passage. It goes into effect in 2023 and similar legislation is pending in New York.
Major retailers are also turning away from fur.
Two weeks after California’s landmark ban, Macys, Inc. announced that it will stop selling fur by the end of 2020. With more than 680 stores and more than 190 outlets in the U.S., it’s the biggest American retail chain to announce a fur ban.
The company, which also owns luxury department store Bloomingdale’s, said it will shut down its Fur Vaults and salons that offer fur storage and repairs.
The decision followed years of protests from animal rights groups including PETA and the Humane Society of the United States. Macy’s announced that the ban was in a partnership with HSUS.
Even the Queen went fur-free. Queen Elizabeth’s personal advisor and senior dresser Angela Kelly, who has worked for the Royal Household for 25 years, revealed the wardrobe update in her new memoir, “The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, the Dresser and the Wardrobe.”
According to the book, the Queen will wear faux fur for all future engagements. Kelly noted that the Queen’s use of fur has come under fire from activists.
Fur fashion has long been a status symbol of the Royal Family. The Queen wore a purple velvet robe trimmed with ermine to her coronation ceremony in 1953. She has had a floor-length coat on rotation for more than 60 years. But, the Queen’s wardrobe is changing with the times.
14. Canada Bans Dolphin & Whale Captivity
Canada banned dolphin, whale, and porpoise captivity in venues including aquariums and theme parks. Bill S-203, the Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act, received Royal Assent on August 21. A coalition of more than 20 marine scientists and organizations — including Humane Society International, World Animal Protection, the Whale Sanctuary Project, and Ontario Captive Animal Watch — endorsed the bill.
“Whales and dolphins don’t belong in tanks, and the inherent suffering these highly social and intelligent animals endure in intensive confinement can no longer be tolerated. We congratulate the sponsors of this bill and the Canadian government for showing strong leadership in responding to public will and sound science on this critical issue,” Rebecca Aldworth, Executive Director of Humane Society International Canada, said in a statement.
Exceptions for research will be provided under permit.