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Could Veganuary 2021 be our Stepping Stone to a Vegan Future?
By Tyler, Global Vegans
For many Vegans and plant-based eaters, January has now become synonymous with Veganuary - the month-long pledge that saw 400,000 people sign up to adopt a Vegan diet during the first month of 2020. Veganuary, which encourages people to give up meat, fish (including shellfish), dairy, milk and insect-derived ingredients (such as honey) for a month, first launched in 2014 and has since become a global campaign spanning almost 200 countries.
This year, Veganuary has the public support of many well-known plant-based eaters and campaigners who have backed an open letter highlighting the environmental benefits of adopting a Vegan diet and the need to do so following the Covid-19 pandemic. The letter, which has been signed by Paul McCartney, Jane Goodall and Johnny Marr (amongst many other public figures), hopes to encourage thousands of people to ditch animal products for at least the first 31 days of the year.
Of course, there’s no doubt that Veganism is about more than just signing up to an online pledge and giving up meat for a month. It’s a lifestyle that requires dedication and passion to the cause - whether animal welfare concerns, environmental worries or health objectives are driving you to make the change. There’s also more to Veganism than making animal-friendly dietary choices, which is something the conversation around Veganuary often forgets.
Nevertheless, we cannot deny that Veganuary has played a crucial role in catapulting Veganism into the mainstream. What once appeared inaccessible to many people now seems as simple as inputting your details into a brightly-coloured website and checking out what Vegan products have hit the shelves in your local supermarket. The pledge plays on our desire to ‘do good’ in January by promoting a tangible call to action - with hugely encouraging results. Ahead of Veganuary 2020, the charity predicted that the month-long pledge could save over one million animals, which is something every animal lover can celebrate.
Clearly, Veganuary does encourage people to make an active change to their diet and lifestyle. It offers an incentive for people to dip their toes into the plant-based pool for just 31 days; a period short enough to seem doable to even the most stubborn of meat-eaters, yet long enough to prove that cutting out meat, eggs and dairy offers a significant number of benefits. Following Veganuary 2018, 62% of participants planned to remain Vegan after the month-long trial, and while we don’t know how many stuck to their intentions, it’s positive to see such a shift in public opinion.
We can also credit Veganuary for inspiring the recent surge in plant-based products. According to Veganuary’s website, 1200 new products and menus were released to entice plant-based eaters and meat reducers ahead of 2020, and this is not likely to slow down in January. It’s already been reported that Co-op, Domino’s, Krispy Kreme, Chicago Town, Subway and Hellmann’s will be releasing new products in early 2021, in addition to well-known vegetarian brands such as Quorn. The Vegan lifestyle has certainly piqued public interest over the last few years, and with the rise in consumer demand comes a steady flow of food manufacturers and restaurants who want to see what all the fuss is about. Finally, Vegans might be able to order more than just salads and bean burgers when dining out!
Understandably, many people have mixed feelings about the rise of non-Vegan companies taking advantage of Vegan consumers. As much as Veganuary inspires kinder food choices, it’s also a prime marketing opportunity for brands and manufacturers - even those that have historically ignored Vegan consumers. And, whenever companies jump on what they perceive to be nothing more than a gap in the market without educating themselves on the importance of the movement, there’s a fallout.
Consider the case of Burger King’s Rebel Whopper. It was released to coincide with Veganuary, described as a ‘plant-based patty’ and advertised using the Vegetarian Butcher’s logo - but was found to be unsuitable for both Vegans and vegetarians. Unsurprisingly, Burger King’s greenwashed marketing couldn’t disguise how little the brand - one that has consistently been criticised for its “very poor” animal welfare standards - cares about Vegans and their cause.
Nonetheless, we must look at the positives. We may be feeling increasingly resentful towards the corporations profiting from Veganism while doing the bare minimum to reduce animal suffering within their supply chains, but maybe it’s time to recognise this period for what it is: a stepping stone towards a kinder and more compassionate future. Let’s hope Veganuary can help us speed up the process.