Tofu burger, mate?

Thursday 3rd November 2016
Prawns off the pub menu as young Aussies go vegan

Tofu burger, mate?

Photography © Steve Christo

When it emerged that Australia's first-ever vegan pub was opening this autumn, the old clichés about the locals' love for 'prawns on the barbie' meant press coverage across the world. The Green Lion pub in West Sydney hit the headlines with a menu containing a Green Mac burger and other plant-food-based pub classics, vegan alcohol and even, in an inventive twist on an old Aussie pub favourite, a raffle for a 'meat tray' which doesn't contain any animal produce.
While anyone with a passing interest in food culture will know there's much more to cuisine down under than stereotypes about pies and prawns, what isn't as well known is the growth in popularity of veganism in the country. Research earlier this year by Euromonitor International suggested that veganism is growing faster in Australia than any other Western country – third in the world behind the United Arab Emirates and China – while another study showed that 11.2 per cent of the population are now vegetarian. The analysis by Roy Morgan Research showed that the percentage of non-meat-eaters was estimated to be as high as 30 per cent in the younger demographic of people living in cities, a group they categorise as 'confident, cosmopolitan, well-educated and quite possibly gay' who are highly educated and affluent.
Green Lion landlord Bhavani Baumann, who runs the pub with her business partner Sacha Joannou, told Vegetarian Living that the media interest in the decision to offer vegan food and drink was 'mind-blowing'. 'We put out a press release thinking a few people might pick up on this, but the phone hasn't stopped!' she laughed. 'We've had loads of hate mail as well on social media, which I find a bit bizarre. Like the decision not to eat animals is somehow a weird thing to do and can get people really worked up.'
Bhavani is a lifelong vegetarian who went vegan 18 months ago after she 'faced up' to her views on the dairy industry. She said she was unsurprised by the figures showing the growth in veganism in Australia and that their decision to launch a vegan pub was simply responding to a demand in the market.
'There has definitely been a shift away from meat-and-two-veg that I've noticed, but in lots of ways I think we did have a lot of catching up to do in Oz,' says Bhavani. 'What I think has happened is a lot of young people have been affected by the information that can be shared on social media and the reality of the meat industry. For us, opening the pub just made sense because in our neighbourhood we already have a vegan pizzeria, a vegan fish and chip shop and a vegan gelato place.'

Closer to home…
It should be noted that Australia is not the only country where vegan pubs are opening. Jimmy Pearson, spokesperson for the Vegan Society, said: 'We are noticing more and more pubs in the UK turn their menus completely vegan. Only in August this year The Peacock in Nottingham went 100 per cent vegan, there's also the Ship Inn in Newcastle, while The Globe in Glossop has been vegan for a decade or more. It's a growing trend, and one we warmly welcome because pubs have generally not been a great food destination for vegans, with menus still typically consisting of pub "classics". There are also a large number of bars which serve exclusively vegan food, like the 78 in Glasgow and The Hope and Ruin in Brighton.'

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