The number of people adopting vegan and vegetarian diets has skyrocketed in recent years. In 2017, for example, demand for vegan food increased by a staggering 140%, according to retailer Neilson, and Live Kindly reported that almost half of Americans are in favor of animal slaughterhouses being outlawed completely.
As a result, retailers are vying to capitalize on this growing demographic, especially as 2019 has already been dubbed "the year of the vegan". So far, we have seen McDonald's launch it's first ever vegetarian Happy Meal earlier in January and UK-based chain Gregg introduce its first vegan sausage roll. So, regardless of your stance on the subject, whether you like it or not, there's going to be a lot more vegan and vegetarian options coming to a menu near you.
Case in point, McDonald's has now introduced its first ever vegan happy meal.
See what kids thought when they tasted the very first vegetarian Happy Meal:
Now, I know what you're thinking, but didn't they already do that? Well, no. The meal which was introduced earlier in January, a vegetarian Happy Meal wrap, isn't technically vegan because the wraps they are served in are cooked in the same toaster as buns which contain milk (although, obviously, this won't be of concern to all vegans).
Remarking on McDonald's decision to add more plant-based options to its menu, Lynne Elliot, chief executive of the Vegetarian Society said:
"We're really proud to have worked closely with McDonald's for over 10 years and it's great to see their veggie menu developing, especially as McDonald's tell us a third of their customers think it's important to eat more veggie meals.
"There's a growing demand for veggie food everywhere and it’s fantastic to see McDonald's meeting the needs of their customers.
"It is especially important for young veggies to be able to choose something to eat when they are out with their friends."
The vegan Happy Meal, unlike the vegetarian one, consists of falafel and therefore been dubbed the McFalafel (obviously). These tasty-looking bites of cruelty-free deliciousness are made of chickpeas, parsley, garlic, and cumin.
And because McDonald's knows that this meal will appeal to vegetarians too, this has been reflected in the dipping options available. For vegans, there is a red pepper tip, and for any hungry veggies, a yogurt sauce.
However, there's some bad news: unless you live in Sweeden, the McFalafel won't be available in a McDonald's near you anytime soon. This decision on the part of the chain is a result of the fact that almost one in 10 people there have a plant-based diet.
In fact, the McFalafel Happy Meal is not the only additional menu item which veggie-loving Swedes can enjoy. Since 2017, they've also been nomming on the McVegan Sandwich - made from a soy-based burger patty and an eggless McFeast sauce.
But despite the possibility that the McFalafel Happy Meal could be available everywhere in the not so distant future, it hasn't been met with enthusiasm with all veggies. Some have said that they'd rather see vegan versions of traditional McDonald's items.
"This is great and everything but why does it always have to be falafel?? Haha. Like I'd love vegan cheese bites or something you'd expect to see/want in McDonald's," wrote Facebook user Meg McHugh.
Others simply pointed out the fact that McDonald's hasn't done anything to further animal rights in the past and therefore rendering even its vegan products problematic.
"If I was vegan I'm not sure I'd want to put my money in the pockets of a corporation who rely on intensive farming and terrible animal welfare standards for their huge profits," remarked Kay Chown.
But, unfortunately, as has been the case with almost every vegan headline this year, the introduction of the McFalafel was slammed by meat-eaters, with Facebook user Billy Poore writing that he'd "rather die" than eat it.
In response to remarks like this, Helen Neary rightfully wrote, "Why does it bother people if they prefer to live a vegan lifestyle. Same vise versa. It makes good business sense why McDonald's would want to pick up on Vegan clientele."
However, it should be noted that while it's great to see McDonald's diversify its menu, its plant-based options aren't necessarily healthier. The vegetarian Happy Meal wrap contains 209 calories. This is a fair few more than Chicken Nuggets which have 173, the 181-calorie McChicken Wrap, and Fish Fingers which contain 194 calories.