Veganuary: damaging to the vegan movement or just what it needs?

By Sophie Clark

The word ‘vegan’ seems to strike fear into the hearts of all who hear it. Vegans have been branded with the reputation of being preachy and superior for quite some time now. Veganism on the whole seemed unpopular and peculiar to the general public up until ‘veganuary’ became the latest craze. Quite simply, veganuary is when you become vegan for the entire month of January. Is this just another unrealistic New Year’s resolution we won’t be able to keep, or is it just what the vegan movement needs?

Admittedly, after gorging like Henry VIII over Christmas on mince pies and cheese, the health benefits of becoming vegan seemed very appealing. Supermarkets like Sainsbury’s and Aldi jumped on the bandwagon as they released more vegan-friendly food products after the high demand following the New Year. Even celebrities are getting behind it; big names like Ellen DeGeneres and Ariana Grande are well-known for supporting veganism as a movement. It seems that the craze is gaining momentum as a whopping 52,000 attempted veganuary in 2017 compared to just 1,500 in 2014.

Although the vegan movement’s success can largely be put down to well-known celebrities promoting the cause and the health benefits, some argue that it can be seen as detracting from what is truly at the heart of the movement; stopping animal cruelty. Committed veganism requires passion and discipline, which is why some vegans have argued that veganuary is damaging as it trivialises the severity of the cause. Veganuary can be seen as associating superficial values with veganism, like losing weight after Christmas. Individuals who are drawn in by this are less likely to continue with veganism when it becomes challenging or inconvenient, putting others off as it seems unobtainable.

Despite the arguments against veganuary, it cannot be dismissed that veganism has become more successful due to how it has been marketed in the media. Presenting veganism as a must-try diet makes it more familiar. The fear that the ethical and environmental reasons may be lost in the fad become feeble when we consider that people who are vegan for alternative reasons are still achieving the same desired result. Becoming a vegan for health or dietary reasons is generally a more accepted and less targeted form of veganism, as some feel that they are being criticised when it is suggested that having a ‘normal’ diet is immoral. If you’re nervous to come out as vegan, veganuary can provide a handy disguise to ease you into the transition of making it known (trust me, it can be tough!).

Veganuary also makes becoming vegan seem less intimidating as it is only for a month. It doesn’t require a huge amount of commitment and it makes the drastic change in diet more like dipping your toes in the water, rather than diving in head first. Once the month is completed, veganism itself appears more achievable. More people will be inclined to continue as it becomes less and less daunting and the vegan movement will be stronger because of it. No matter what the motivation to become vegan is, the change in diet is still benefiting animals and the environment. Veganuary has made being vegan more mainstream and less taboo, which vegans should be nothing but supportive and thankful for.

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