Since launching in 2014, more than one million people have signed up to give Veganuary a go, and in 2021 the campaign is set to enjoy its biggest success – with an estimated 500,000 people set to ditch animal products.
Veganuary is focused on changing behaviours and attitudes, and encourages consumers to ditch the meat and dairy in favour of a plant-based diet. The campaign serves as an online friend for participants – with tips and support and a website bursting with helpful resources to help make the ‘journey’ easier; recipes, a starter kit and meal plans are shared to take the hassle out of trying vegan.
Today, vegan food is not all soya milk, nut roasts and pulses found hidden in the corner of your local health food store, although there is nothing wrong with that, of course.
Things are changing. Whether making the choice to eat plant-based because of concerns for animal welfare or because of a desire to feed the body brilliant stuff, people are stepping away from meat. And the truth is that meat-free alternatives are flooding the market.
“Veganuary is more than a pledge,” says the brand, “We also support brands, manufacturers and retailers to expand their plant-based options.”
These days juicy burgers, dirty fries and lip-licking cheesecakes are all on the menu – and even hardened meat eaters can’t tell the difference between many brands.
Remember the rush to pick up one of Gregg’s vegan sausage rolls when they launched? The meat-free savoury has proved such a success that the brand has since introduced a vegan steak bake, and those with a sweet tooth can delight in a vegan doughnut too.
It’s a growing market, and other High Street chains chasing the meat-free pound include Pizza Hut which now serves up a Pepperphoni Pizza, and Subway which offers a Meatless Meatball Marinara.
TV presenter Chris Packham is a Veganuary ambassador.
“Trashing the planet does none of us any good, as the coronavirus pandemic shows all too clearly,” he said, “But we can emerge from this stronger and wiser, with a renewed commitment to protecting the environment, its inhabitants and our own futures. Being vegan is a great way to support the natural world and to live sustainably,” he added.
Hollywood actor and animal rights advocate Joaquin Phoenix said: “If you look at the climate crisis or the violence of our food system and feel helpless, thinking ‘I wish there was something I could do’ – you can. Right now. Sign up to try vegan this January.”
Roy Marriott runs the Animals in Need charity at Little Irchester and ditched meat and dairy three decades ago. Back then, vegan only menus weren’t even thought of. And there was no popping to the supermarket for a chicken-less pie, or vegan mince.
“It was very hard,” he remembered, “It was a case of having a jacket potato with beans, and not a lot else!
“I had been vegetarian for a little while, and the more I learned about the dairy industry, the more it turned me against it,” he admits.
Activist Roy is certain that a change is coming for the betterment of animals and our planet: “Basically, I have an attitude that we will win,” he says, confidently, “Things like live animal exports are completely immoral. Human beings are the worst vermin on the planet, and our treatment of animals abhorrent. But it is brilliant that more people are going vegan. Things are changing.”
But there are many people that say they support the principle, but love a bacon sarnie too much to ditch the flesh.
“I would say, ‘would you kill the pig to eat it?’ You are just paying someone else to do your dirty work for you. Meat alternatives are so freely available now, and so good that I can’t understand why anyone would choose to inflict pain just to put something on their dinner plate.”
And when Roy fancies a tasty fry-up, or a ‘beefy’ burger and fries, he doesn’t have to look far these days; Animals In Need runs its own vegan café for visitors.
It’s a busy café, but quiet; people are always too busy consuming their belly busting meals to natter much!
Cheryl Smith organises the Northamptonshire Chicken Vigils. She made the change to dairy free almost three years ago.
‘I went vegan for the animals after seeing how male chicks were killed in the egg industry. I feel like a more compassionate person and try to shop more ethically now that I look at things from a new perspective,” she told Pulse.
“You think about others more, and our impact on the environment. It wasn’t long before I also noticed some health benefits too. I’d always had really spotty skin since a teenager and it has pretty much cleared up since going vegan, and it has had a positive impact on some other health symptoms too.”
Veganuary 2021 follows the most extraordinary and difficult year in living memory for many people; and the coronavirus pandemic still casts a huge dark shadow over us all.
But it doesn’t have to be that way in the future, say those behind January’s event: “Catastrophic climate breakdown and global pandemics could not be more serious, but they are not inevitable,” says those behind Veganuary, “If we all act now, the future can be better. So, we’re going into 2021 with positivity and a determination to do all we can to protect our planet, its wild spaces and the health and wellbeing of all its inhabitants. To do that, we must change our diets.
“Veganuary exists to help make this change as easy as possible.”
Visit veganuary.com/try-vegan to sign up.
For more on Animals in Need visit animals-in-need.org
Learn more about the Northamptonshire Chicken Vigil on