It’s the start of the new year and you probably set yourself a list of goals to meet through the next 12 months, from doing more exercise to learning a new language. Veganuary, a global NGO, is encouraging people to take on a specific goal – adopting a plant-based lifestyle throughout the entire month of January.
The organizers have been running the campaign since 2014, and the number of people that take on the challenge has kept on growing. So far, more than 440,000 from around the world have registered this year, breaking last year’s record of 400,000. Still, they predict even more people will join, likely reaching 500,000.
The Vegan Society, a UK charity promoting a plant-based lifestyle, defines veganism as a “way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose”. This is mean it’s not just about diet, it’s a much broader concept that ties into different lifestyle choices.
Animal products and products tested on animals are found in more places than you might expect, from accessories and clothing to makeup and bathroom items. Even beers and wines aren’t (usually) vegetarian. But nowadays there are affordable and easily-sourced alternatives to just about everything, as supermarkets and shops are expanding their offering year by year.
Carrying out a vegan diet can also have significant health benefits if you do it carefully. Researchers reviewed eleven studies that looked at the effects of a plant-based diet on adults with type 2 diabetes. They found an overall reduction in risk factors associated with diabetes in almost all of them. At the same time, studies have shown greenhouse gas emissions would significantly drop if more people went vegan.
“Veganuary offers people a way to take positive action to protect our health and our planet, as well as help prevent future pandemics. The huge response we’ve had this year shows it’s exactly what many people need right now,” Toni Vernelli, international head of communications at Veganuary, said in a statement.
More than one million people have already completed Veganuary’s one-month pledge since it began in 2014. This has saved 103,840 tons of CO2 equivalent, equivalent to driving around the world 15,000 times, and 6.2 million liters of water, the same as flushing the toilet half a million times, Veganuary estimates.
The NGO published an open letter last week, urging consumers to consider changing their diets for a month to protect the planet. The Beatles’ Paul McCartney, primatologist Jade Goodall, naturalist Chris Packham, Greenpeace, and plant-based companies Quorn and Meatless have already joined the campaign.
“Catastrophic climate breakdown and global pandemics could not be more serious, but they are not inevitable,” the letter states. “If we act now, the future can be better. So, let’s go 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.”
Hundreds of reports have warned over the years of the environmental and health consequences of an excessive intake of meat and dairy. These are actually the two main reasons listed by the individuals who are joining the Veganuary campaign. The third one is to stop animal suffering, the NGO explained.
Food producers and retailers are replying to the changes in consumers’ demand. Just to name a few, pizza giant Domino’s announced a plan to expand its vegan offering, including alternative-meat pizzas, while Mcdonald’s is reportedly developing a vegan burger. Unilever also set targets to increase their plant-based products.
If you are interested in joining the campaign, Veganuary’s site has all the information you might need, including a free online book with vegan recipes and nutritional advice. But if you feel this is too much, there are other alternatives out there, such as the Meatless Monday campaign, to cut your meat consumption once a week.