This article looks into Veganuary and asks – can this annual event lead to real change?
For those of you not familiar with Veganuary, I have copied the following extract from their website:
“Veganuary is a non-profit organisation that encourages people worldwide to try vegan for January and beyond.”
Two things prompted me to write this article. One was the time I spent in India in early December. This is truly a country where vegetarianism is completely mainstream and where meat eaters are ostracised, the same way vegans and vegetarians are in Western societies.
The other was the first walk down my local high street after returning from holiday earlier today. I was amazed by how many food outlets were signalling that they had a new range of vegan products, which I can only presume is tied to the public’s interest in Veganuary.
Every issue needs its breakthrough moment and perhaps Veganuary can be the catalyst for highlighting the health and climatic benefits of plant-based diets.
For single use plastics, this was undeniably Blue Planet 2, which shocked the world into action on this issue.
For climate change, this has been trickier, but the increase in volume and severity of extreme weather events has certainly raised the profile of this issue, with climate emergency being Oxford Dictionary’s word of 2019.
But in terms of veganism and plant-based diets, there has been nothing thus far that has created a momentous breakthrough for this issue.
Even globally renowned sports stars such as Lewis Hamilton, the Williams sisters and Nate Diaz amongst others being vegan does not seem to have had the impact that you would have expected it to.
Help in promoting a transition to plant-based diets is needed now more than ever.
In 2019 I published a few articles on this subject.
In my series looking into the top 20 solutions from Drawdown, plant-rich diets came in at number 4, in terms of its ability to reverse global warming. This shows just how much of a powerful solution this is.
In my series looking into the excellent book Meat the Truth, we looked into the massive moral, health and environmental consequences of excessive meat consumption in high income countries.
It is clear that action is required on a number of fronts, but the wastefulness and calorific inefficiency of meat production makes emissions from this sector particularly insidious.
I have borrowed the excellent graphic below from Dr Jonathan Foley.
This shows that methane emission from animals account for 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is a huge percentage when you compare it to other segments. This makes urgent action on this issue a prerequisite for an adequate response to climate change.
I am minded to quote the iconic Dogs Trust slogan of “A dog is for life, not just for Christmas.” This is exactly what needs to emanate from Veganuary if it is to lead to real and meaningful change.
It is great if people reduce their meat consumption to zero for one month a year. But if those same people relapse and continue with the all too common excessive meat consumption for the other 11 months of the year, then the change will only have been illusory.
Every issue needs its breakthrough moment. With the quite frankly incredible hype surrounding the Greggs Vegan Steak Bake launch, pictured at the top, as well as other UK food retailers getting involved and increasing their vegan options; hopefully Veganuary 2020 can be this issue’s breakthrough moment. The time that plant-based diets become totally mainstream.
What you need to know
This article looked into Veganuary and asked – can this annual event lead to real change?
We looked at other issues such as single use plastics and climate change, which have successfully used the media to leverage themselves into the mainstream.
We looked into the sluggish progress of promoting vegan lifestyles, despite high profile endorsements from major sports stars.
We looked into the undeniably massive impact that meat production and consumption has on the environment and society. This stretches beyond just the climatic impacts, but involves moral and health impacts too.
In closing, I am cautiously optimistic that Veganuary can lead to real and meaningful change. But we need a better communication of the fact that when it comes to climate change, we very much are what we eat.
Thank you for reading,
By Barnaby Nash
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to make vegan lifestyles mainstream?