The term vegan was initially coined by Donald Watson, a British man who was one of the founders of the original Vegan Society in 1944. Veganism is the ethical practice of avoiding as much as possible any cruelty towards non-human animals.
This includes abstaining from eating or drinking any products such as meat, dairy, eggs and honey. While also not using products like leather, wool, horn or silk in your clothing, or using any cosmetics that are tested on animals or include animal derivatives.
Over the past few years the West, particularly countries like the United Kingdom and Germany, have seen a dramatic rise in those who identify as vegans.
It is predicted that vegans will make up a quarter of the U.K. population by 2025. Meat substitute sales grew by 451% in the European market in the four years to February 2018.
The fundamental reason for this is the growing awareness behind the inhumane practices in factory farming and the scientific consensus that non-human animals are sentient, feel pain and suffer just like humans.
If we recognise their feelings are very similar to those of humans, it is unconscionable that they continue to be treated and murdered in such a way.
Up to 72 billion land animals and 1.2 trillion aquatic animals are killed each year for food. According to the Vegan Society, if the UK population was killed at the rate farm animals are killed around the world, it would end in just 11 hours, and the world, just 17 days.
Scientists predict if fishing continues at the current rate, the oceans will be completely free of fish by 2048.
Activists around the world have exposed the reality of factory farming for meat, eggs, and dairy.
Vegans are taking a stand against it. Not only is the animal agriculture industry inhumane and a horrific abuse of animal rights, it is also a major world contributor to global greenhouse emissions, producing over 40% of the world’s methane emissions alone.
A report commissioned by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) discovered that agriculture, particularly animal agriculture, is a leading cause of climate change.
The report suggested that a switch to plant based diets would be a successful way of adapting to and preventing further climate change.
As the leading cause of deforestation, animal agriculture is putting our rainforests at risk, which is a catastrophe for global emissions.
The Amazons greatest threat is cattle grazing and if destroyed would result in a further 50 billion tonnes of carbon being released into the atmosphere.
Scientists have acknowledged that the meat industry needs to be controlled if the Paris Climate Goals are going to be met, as the water and land needed to sustain an industry that only supports the richest few is completely impossible to continue.
This is an extreme food security risk. Furthermore, the World Health Organisation lists meat as a cancer causing product, with processed meat listed as a level 1 carcinogenic (same as smoking cigarettes).
Eating a diet with high meat and dairy content has been directly linked with an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, high cholesterol, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
A plant based diet reduces the risk of these health conditions dramatically.
The vegan movement as an ethical movement is currently very small in Rwanda, and across Africa. But we are actually the most plant based eating continent on the planet.
Contributing the least in carbon emissions due to animal agriculture and yet suffering the most from climate change fuelled by the West's addiction to meat and fossil fuels.
While factory farming remains a small industry in Rwanda compared to many economically developed countries, Rwanda's economy is growing fast. And with this the consumption of meat will sky rocket. According to organisations like the United Nations, the World Health Organisation and others, plant based diets are vital in order to combat global emissions, food insecurity and global health.
So should we be raising the issues before it is too late or should we follow the West’s devastating industrialisation of animal agriculture? The world cannot sustain any more meat eaters.
If we combine a plant based diet, with Rwanda's current conservation success, Rwanda can lead the way in sustainability and prevent further harm.
As the veganism movement grows worldwide, the country can also be prepared for an increase in demand for sustainable vegan tourism options and take advantage of the economic benefits ecotourism can produce.
Companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are leading the way in providing meat substitutes for economically developed countries.
Rwanda should consider early investment in these industries and become an African innovator. As Bill Gates has said, the future of meat is plants.
The writer is Guinean national, currently living and working in Rwanda. He is a vegan animal activist.