We make fun of vegans so we don't have to feel guilty.
We make fun of vegans so we don't have to feel guilty. Alison Paterson

We don’t like vegans because they have a point

I am not a vegan.

If I was, as the joke goes, I would obviously tell you within two minutes of meeting. Actually, maybe I wouldn't because vegans have replaced the Irish as the butt of (woeful) jokes. Among the worst: "If two vegans are arguing, is it still called beef?" and "Why does vegan cheese taste so bad?" Answer: "Because it hasn't been tested on mice."

Hahaha. Except they're not very funny are they? Neither is the one about why the tofu crossed the road (he's not chicken).

What was amusing, however, was the furore that ensued when a food magazine editor in the UK recently turned down a writer's pitch for a series of plant-based recipes. "How about a series on killing vegans, one by one," replied Waitrose Food editor William Sitwell. "Ways to trap them? How to interrogate them properly? Expose their hypocrisy? Force feed them meat?"

Sitwell, predictably, was egged - or more likely broccolied - by the vegans and forced to quit his job. While his comments hardly warranted a sacking, Sitwell missed a trick. Because had he set aside his Neolithic views and embraced a series of, say, cashew nut roast and quinoa burger recipes he'd have sent sales of the supermarket's new vegan line soaring. Who knows, he could've parlayed his success into a promotion to a luxury travel title, swapping "five ways with corn" to road-testing the "10 best beaches in the world".

The fact is we don't like vegans because they have a point. As other trends fall by the wayside - fidget spinners, roller skating - embracing a more plant-based diet is quietly growing from an annoying and self-indulgent fad to a scientifically proven path to a healthier and longer life. That 99 per cent of Australian children and 96 per cent of adults don't eat the recommended five serves of vegetables a day is just daft.

And yet Sitwell's style of do-gooder derogation abounds. We slag off vegans and teetotallers and those preferring an early night not because we loathe them but because their choices are informed and evolved and therefore slightly scary.

There's less fear and greater security in championing what we know and the routines and patterns we've always followed. "Do you think humans would have got to the top of the food chain and masters of the universe by eating wilted lettuce?" questions a friend, who argues that vegans have ridden on the coat tails of meat eaters to be in the exalted position of being able to reject meat.

Both are defensive arguments and both look backwards. Meanwhile, the plant-eaters look forward. They see the cruelty of live sheep exports and choose to eat low cost, sustainably grown legumes instead. They read last week's study revealing a plant-based diet could reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and significantly improve mental health. They're doubtless aware of how the stress hormone cortisol is damaging our brains and memories and that studies show eating vegetables, fruits, grains and nuts helps protect our hippocampi.

A decade ago anything wellness oriented seemed a bit bonkers. Back then the patchouli-scented, green tea-sipping, deodorant-eschewing, yoga-embracing vegan belonged to a niche group clustered in hippy outposts like Byron Bay. But just as the NSW town has become middle-class, mainstream and desirable, so too have the lifestyles it harboured.

Yoga is the new running, meditation is more popular than merlot and turmeric lattes have made a pint and a fag look stale and unevolved. Just as we are moving away from thoughtless consumption of plastic, so we are considering how often we eat meat.

Plenty of us won't become vegans but in 20 years we may only eat two meat meals a week. Witness the growth of the health food section in supermarkets. The food giants are stocking their shelves with chia seeds and freekeh because the stuff sells.

In any case, have you seen a vegan lately? They look bloody amazing. Natalie Portman, is breathtaking in the Dior advertisements while Woody Harrelson is 57 but looks 15 years younger thanks to being a vegan for more than 30 years. Meanwhile, Jessica Chastain credits her vegan diet for giving her more energy and clearer skin.

Recently I interviewed Today Extra host David Campbell who is both vegan and teetotal or, as his wife Lisa, points out, "the most punchable man on the planet". I'd heard he was vegan and having recently been sent Deliciously Ella's The Plant-Based Cookbook I took it to the interview as a gift.

I've known Campbell for years and seen his weight seesaw. Right now, he not only looks incredible, he exudes calm. What's more there wasn't a hint of the righteousness that emanates from some wellness advocates and doubtless provokes some of the scorn. So, did I give him the book?

No, having seen Campbell in full glow I decided to keep it and am currently cooking my way through the recipes. The whole baked cauliflower and lentil balls are a hit. Give it a few more weeks and I'll be pitching a vegan series to Woolies' Fresh magazine.

Butter bean falafels anyone?