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Veganism   |   Animal welfare

What's the point of Veganuary?

Since the Veganuary campaign launched in 2014, more than 250,000 people worldwide have taken the pledge to try veganism for the month of January. 2019 has already broken records, with 14,000 people signing up on 30 December alone.

But what is the point of going vegan just for one month? Does the campaign work, do people actually stick to it and commit to a plant-based life?

As an omnivore, I gave it a shot last year, and genuinely enjoyed the challenge of being forced to try new ingredients and adjust to a new way of cooking. I was happy eating copious amounts of chickpeas, coconut milk and oats, but missed a creamy cuppa and milk chocolate. What surprised me most was that I didn’t miss meat at all.

I successfully finished the month feeling healthy, energised, weighing a little less (probably all that chocolate I wasn’t eating!), and with a new perspective on veganism and eating meat.

To help inspire me along the way, I followed many new pages on Instagram, including several vegan influencers. I soon noticed that along with the inspiring, picture-perfect plant-based food and useful tips, came aggressive and often misleading content about the meat and dairy industry, including horrifying videos of animal abuse in the US. Then there are those who become extremely self-righteous after watching Netflix’s What the Health and Cowspiracy documentaries, both of which are extremely biased, misrepresent science and exaggerate weak data selected specifically to enhance their argument.  

Instead of feeling inspired, I felt frustrated by the influence that people with a huge following, but no authority, have on social media. Working at Riverford, which only buys from farmers with the highest standards of animal welfare, and growing up on a smallholding with up to 100 sheep and laying hens, I know it’s possible for animals to be reared with respect by people who care. It’s all well and good if you are exposing the intensive farming industry, but it is not okay to suggest that it’s a representation of all farming.  

Come the end of the month, I decided I wasn’t going to commit to veganism full-time, largely due to social situations. With a family and group of friends who are all meat-eaters, the eye rolls and grunts when you explain you’ll bring your own food or ask to make sure we pick a restaurant with vegan options gets a tad wearing.

What I did gain from Veganuary is a reduction in my meat consumption. When cooking for myself I now go for a vegetarian or vegan option and will often adapt a meal for myself omitting the meat that others are having. I also learnt that anything you can eat as a meat-eater or vegetarian, you can eat as a vegan. There is quite literally a vegan alternative of everything (though stay away from the cheese – they’ve not nailed this market yet!).

So am I an anomaly or do most people go back to their old ways come February 1st? In 2018, the Veganuary campaign sent out a survey six months later to find out. The results revealed that 62 per cent of all respondents remained vegan, however 33 per cent were already vegetarian and 11 per cent already vegan. Still a great result no doubt, and a huge 82 per cent said that being vegan was easier than they expected (which I found too).

There is no doubt that we drastically need to reduce our meat consumption in the interest of the environment and global warming. It is also impossible to sustain our current consumption without compromising on welfare and increasing intensive farming. The Veganuary campaign might not turn everyone into plant-based beings, but if even half of the 250,000 pledgers so far reduce their intake of meat and dairy, we’re on the right track.

Comments

Redveg

1 Year 2 Months

Today is 1st February, so I have decided to make the comments I have been intending to make for some time, as January, and with it, "Veganuary" are now over.

Although it is doubtless a good thing that Emily Muddeman has reduced her meat consumption I'm afraid that as a vegan I just do not buy the idea that animals destined for slaughter can be "...reared with respect by people who care". Just what does that 'respect' and 'care' consist of when these creatures have no future but to be killed in conditions of agony and terror at the behest of treacherous humans who all along saw them as nothing but meat.

Inevitably, if it were possible to ask these animals if they would rather die bloody, premature deaths or live out their natural lifespans, they would choose the latter, just as we would. I really detest claims that animal exploitation and killing can be humane, or informed by "...the highest standards of animal welfare". Such talk debases language and insults the listener's intelligence.

Ms. Muddeman further claims that "....anything you can eat as a meat-eater or vegetarian, you can eat as a vegan, there is quite literally a vegan alternative of everything". This is literally true. It therefore makes no sense being a meat-eater as this option sanctions cruelty on an industrial scale (literally!), is responsible for wholesale environmental degradation- think of rivers clogged with cow poo - and is bad for human health (e.g. cancer, heart disease, etc.).

It really is a massive cop-out to say that veganism is impossible because family and friends are meat eaters as if this is more important than issues of ethical treatment of non-humans, responsible stewardship of our planet and our own health and that of those around us. Why not have the courage to stick to your guns and be a pathfinder in your community?

More people than ever signed up to Veganuary this year, and although there will be some who will drop out, at least for now, there are many who will make a permanent switch to veganism, and their numbers will exceed those for last year and previous years. Veganism seems unstoppable.

Oh, and as for the cheese - just ignore Emily's comments - there are many delicious vegan cheeses out there that taste as good, if not better than their dairy equivalents. I know, I eat and enjoy them on a regular basis, as do tens of thousands of other vegans. You just need to have the commitment to make the change, and stick with it, and the conviction that you, like others before you will find the vegan diet that is right for you

1 Reply

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dogsubs@me.com

1 Year 2 Months

Well said, RedVeg. As a vegan of 4 years now (and a Riverford customer for over a decade I think !), who made the change to veganism after doing one of these special months, I found it depressing that Riverford's first post on the topic just glosses over the very real issues about how animals are treated, and of course killed, on so called high welfare farms, but did find time to allege without details that much of the information provided by online vegan campaigners is false. And I also endorse what you say about cheese. There is really nice vegan cheese. It doesn't taste the same as animal cheese. That's a flavour most people have been conditioned too for years, and it takes time to fully enjoy something so different. But anyone can surely manage to make that effort to save animals from shortened diminished lives ending in premature death, generally death of the most demeaning, degrading and terrifying kind. Yesterday I accidentally ate some grated dairy (parmesan) cheese, and only realised when the strange slightly unpleasant sour taste spread around my mouth.

I'd also add that Riverford might want to rethink their focus on animal based products. It's a pretty feeble range of vegan offerings at present (apart from the fruit and veg, that is !), and their competitors have started to do much much more and while giving the impression of being reasonably happy to do so !

1 Reply

Nina Pullman

1 Year 1 Month

Hi DogSubs, thank you for your engagement with this article and the debate at hand. Wicked Leeks is a platform to share opinions, so we are pleased to hear all perspectives, where relevant. I will pick up on one of your points, which is to note that this piece is an opinion column written by the author and does not represent the views of Riverford as a company. As an ethical and organic veg box company, Riverford's position on meat is 'less but better', with top animal welfare as the highest priority, Thanks again for your time. NP.

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Wickedsally

1 Year 2 Months

I do not wish to judge others, but being on the side of the animals particularly (my main reason for turning vegan), I totally agree with Redveg. Side effects of veganism - much better health. With the quality of produce from Riverford, it’s even easier being vegan.

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wennawoman

1 Year 2 Months

‘Aggressive and misleading’ is exactly how the meat and dairy industry market their products. It is impossible to walk down a high street, or watch tele, without images of cheap meat cunningly marketed to give the impression that it comes from idyllic small holdings, and has been ‘humanely slaughtered’. Personally I opt out of videos of horrific animal abuse and slaughter, because it is not an industry I contribute to, however, I cannot opt out of seeing the lies that the industrial animal farming industry propagate. It is not misleading to see videos of industrial farming at all, as the majority of animal products consumed are produced in this way. Just ask Bernard Mathews. I’m not denying that standards of animal welfare are higher in small scale farms, however, castrating a pig without anaesthetic, de-braking chickens that are bred to grow at rates faster than their bones can support, cows being milked permanently and dead at 6 years instead of the 30 they could expect to live if they hadn’t been force bred to overproduce, is normal, legal practice. The cost of Riverford turkey escalopes £10 for 300g, compared to ASDA selling Bernard Mathew turkey escalopes for £1.30 for 260g really is testament to this. The majority of meat and dairy eaters buy for convenience and cost. There is a reason children are taken to fruit orchards and strawberry picking, and not to slaughterhouses. Most vegans feel passionately that if other people knew the barbarity of their food, they would not choose to contribute to it, which is probably why the images and videos pop up. However, to dismiss that as aggressive and misleading is wrong. The ideology perpetuated by the industrial meat and dairy industry are undoubtedly aggressive and misleading. Exposing that, is not.

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mcgohar@gmail.com

1 Year 1 Month

I too was less than impressed by this biased article. Images of animal cruelty that have been captured on film exist because they are real and to suggest that this is misleading and inaccurate seems to me to suggest flippancy and a deep lack of concern in the writer. Any form of animal exploitation involves some level of cruelty even if the standards maintained by Riverford are higher than those of other farmers. Only farmers with the highest ethical values will choose to forgo this part of the industry in favor of more ethical and environmentally plant based business. Riverford falls far short of this ethical standard, it's very clear to see that Riverford's background is built and maintained by meat eating folk. This attempt at showing interest in veganism is quite pathetic.to say the least.

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Comments Editor

1 Year 1 Month

Hi Mcgohar, thank you for your contribution to the debate. Wicked Leeks is a platform to share opinions, so we welcome all perspectives where relevant. I just wanted to note that this is an opinion column written by the author and does not represent the views of Riverford as a company. As an ethical and organic veg box company, Riverford's position on meat is 'less but better', with top animal welfare as the highest priority, Thanks again for your post.

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angela

1 Year 1 Month

Hi
if you go to Cowspiracy/facts page on the Cowspiracy web site, there are the sources for every fact mentioned in the film. And What the health has a similar facts page, I would say we are surrounded by misinformation and the facts of both Cowspiracy and What the health are plain to see and true.

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Katherine

1 Month 1 Week

I have to say that I am a bit disappointed with the comments here. Of course the article is based on one person's experience and surely the fact that a significant reduction in animal products is the most important thing? It is naive to think that everyone can or should become Vegan. Some people would like to but can't for health reasons and I know some people who will eat meat if they have hunted a wild animal themselves, so they really know where the food has come from. We should be promoting the benefits of becoming Vegan, not criticising people who are not Vegan 100% of the time. It gives Vegans a bad name and doesn't help the cause (hence the eye rolling of the family members). Surely we should be saying, good job for reducing your meat and dairy but for those who wish to continue to eat some meat, Riverford/Organic provide the highest standard of welfare for animals farmed in the UK. Promoting Organic should be just as important as promoting a plant based diet. Because "Vegan" just means no animal products or direct harm to animals, it does not mean that the food has been grown in a sustainable, regenerative, organic, pesticide free environment, which will cause more damage to nature (pollinators, earthworms and eventually marine life). No meat producer will ever be perfect, because Vegans wont be happy until they stop producing meat, but I know farmers and I know how much they care about their animals. But as someone here said, I dread to think how the cheap meat from ASDA has been farmed, but it shows there is a demand for meat, so I think Riverfords role within the meat industry is vital. I have never eaten red meat and have been Vegetarian since I was 9 (19 years ago). I am not Vegan, but I have never drank cow's milk, I very rarely will use some organic cheese (I have a nut allergy so struggle with some vegan alternatives). And use organic eggs from time to time. But I do cook meat for my husband and I would never force him to eat like I do. But when he does eat meat, I make sure the meat is the best quality. I also agree with the statement about the Instagram "Influencers", I think that can be quite damaging frankly. Some people may want to follow instagram pages to get new recipes or ideas and to be bombarded with videos and photos of cruelty to animals, is just going to put people off. There are many reasons for trying a Vegan diet, we all know the obvious one, if that didn't persuade people before, but the environmental impact does (now the 2nd biggest reason for trying Vegan), aggressive pictures can just get peoples backs up. If I follow a Vegan and they are constantly sharing these aggressive images, I stop following them, because I don't need to see that day in day out.

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Emily Muddeman

As social media manager at Riverford, Emily is at the forefront of sharing the company's story and ethical values. She believes traceability and transparency are so important in the food industry and loves being a part of that through telling the story of Riverford and helping people connect with their food and the issues around it.

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