The vast majority (84 per cent) of people who signed up to Veganuary in 2019 were female.
That’s acccording to Toni Vernelli, head of communication and marketing at the Veganuary campaign, who was speaking at the Food Matters Live conference last November. She said that just 14 per cent of the 186,000 participants were male, a four per cent increase on the previous year.
So where are all the meat-free men? Is veganism and vegetarianism a female lifestyle? Vernelli went on to explain that she believes this dramatic skew is down to the fact that eating meat is still associated with masculinity.
The Veganuary charity’s survey also found that the number one reason people don’t stick to a vegan diet after the month-long challenge is due to social pressure. Could this be particularly relevant to men? Do men worry about being judged for giving up animal products? Are they embarrassed to show such strong compassion?
Or perhaps it’s to do with strength and the ever prevalent ‘P’ word – protein, which the world only seems to be getting more obsessed with. But protein isn’t just in meat and animal products, and the new Game Changers documentary on Netflix has done its best to challenge the idea that humans need meat to be strong, by showcasing world-class athletes who follow a plant-based diet.
One of those featured is Arnold Schwarzenegger, arguably one of the most iconic people in the world of fitness and strength training. Schwarzenegger explains how his personal health has never been better than when following a plant-based diet, and that we need to move away from our meat indulgent diets.
I would take any Netflix health and lifestyle documentary with a pinch of salt and acknowledgment of the production company having a particular bias or agenda, but regardless of the potentially questionable science, perhaps showing these incredibly strong men and women who are ahead of the competition in their chosen sport is exactly what we need to influence more men to reduce their meat intake.
Perhaps a good time to mention that while it’s true that sustainably-produced livestock has a lower impact, eating less, albeit better quality meat, is still a valid part of the debate.
During her presentation, Vernelli said there has been a 469 per cent increase in the interest of veganism and plant-based foods, according to Google search data. So, while only a very small percentage of people classify themselves as vegan, more and more people are conscious of the need to reduce their consumption of animal products, with around 22 million people in the UK adapting a flexitarian approach.
Perhaps it’s within this 22 million where more men feel comfortable. Environmental concern is now the number one reason that people turn to a meat and dairy free diet, up 10 per cent in the last year, according to Veganuary’s research.
To meet current climate warming predictions, it’s clear that the way we produce and consumer animal products needs to change, and whether it’s following a vegan lifestyle, a plant-based or vegetarian diet, or flexitarian approach, it seems we are moving in the right direction.