Veganuary – fad or for life?

By Amberley Steenhagen

When it gets to January, after a month of Christmas overindulgence of food and booze, everyone starts making their New Year’s Resolutions. We begin to hear phrases chucked about like ‘Dry January’ (or this years Janu-hairy) where people chose to opt out of something for the first month of the year. This could be not drinking alcohol, not shaving or, something that has particularly gained in popularity this year, giving up meat, dairy and any other animal products to take up a vegan lifestyle. The word Veganuary has been all over social media in the first few weeks of 2019, but is it just another fad? And why is there so much media attention this year?

Generally veganism is something that has majorly increased in popularity in recent years, a report from the Telegraph in 2016 stated that the number of vegans had risen by 360% in the previous 10 years. The figure has only raised further: it is estimated around 3.5 million UK citizens identified as vegan in mid 2018 (Metro 2018). There are a few main reasons that people are choosing this diet: for their health, for the environment and for the protection of animals. The ethical reasoning for veganism has always been a big factor, with many people disagreeing with the ways that animals are treated in the production of food and clothing, and believing that animals should have the same rights as humans as they can feel and experience pain in the same way. But, something that has gained most attention this year is the environmental impacts. As we know, climate change is a very real and important issue and non-profit organisation Veganuary.com suggests that you can halve your carbon emissions simply by opting into a vegan diet, they call it the “single best way” to reduce your personal environmental impact. The popularity of Veganuary this year definitely comes from the awareness of the effect of the livestock industry on our climate.

Although people’s awareness has fuelled this great increase in participants, particularly this year the amount of restaurants and fast-food places that have announced their new vegan options have gained a mass amount of attention in the media. Obviously the infamous Piers Morgan vs Greggs vegan sausage roll showdown on twitter is one that generated a lot of buzz. While he launched into a typical Piers Morgan rant on live TV, his actions brought a mass amount of free advertising to the bakery chain and the whole concept of Veganuary. For a few days the feud continued on twitter with other fast food chains announcing their own vegan options: McDonalds, Pizza Hut and Frankie and Bennies just to name a few. There was such a large reaction this year I think because vegans are beginning to move away from the social justice warrior, “meat is murder” stereotype and people from all backgrounds are taking up the vegan diet for a variety of reasons. Individuals are now able to express their views on social media without fear of being attacked, so an influx of people responded to Morgan’s vegan-bashing tweets, more than who supported him.

So why are people not taking the plunge and ditching animal products and bi-products for life, why just for a month? As someone who has dabbled with veganism in the past and is currently attempting Veganuary, the prospect of changing my way of eating for life (especially giving up cheese) is daunting. Yet a month offers some sort of challenge, an experiment to see how well you can do. I’m hoping that I will be able to continue the challenge when the month is over but it is much easier to set a smaller goal. Ultimately I don’t think this is just another fad, I think that people are becoming much more aware of where things come from and how things are made, with climate change at the forefront of a lot of people’s minds.

Even though January is almost over if you are interested in challenging yourself to a month of veganism, or feel ready to take the plunge for life, visit Veganuary.com for information on recipes, nutrition and why it is a good idea.