Veganuary 'helps boost vegan numbers in the UK'

By Nesta McGregor
Newsbeat reporter

Image source, Getty Images

Veganuary (going vegan for January) has been credited with boosting the number of people in the UK choosing to follow the lifestyle full-time.

From 2006 to 2016, it's estimated the number of vegans in the UK jumped from 150,000 to 542,000.

The Vegan Society says the campaign - now in its fifth year - is part of the reason for the increase.

"Vegan is the new vegetarian. It's becoming more accessible," claims Dominika Piasecka from the society.

The ethos of being a vegan centres around animal welfare.

The belief is that no animal should be harmed, exploited or killed for human benefit.

Pro-vegan groups often share videos online featuring industrial farming methods or cases of what they claim to be animal mistreatment.

"The animal welfare argument for becoming vegan makes a lot of logical sense, because actually, most of us are against animal cruelty," says Dominika.

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She says the charity's membership is at an all-time high and it's not just people living in major cities where vegan options tend to be more accessible.

"I mean even McDonalds has a vegan burger," she added.

The fast food chain launched the meat-free option in Finland but if successful may roll it out across Europe.

Vegan for life! 💚

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Celebrities including Sia, Lewis Hamilton, Ariana Grande and Miley Cyrus have all chosen to go meat-free.

While Twitter has reported an 85% increase in the number of posts containing #veganlife since 2016.

"Veganism is not a trend. It's not a fad. It's here to stay," says Fat Gay Vegan.

The Australian-born blogger, whose real name is Sean O'Callaghan, is one of the people at the forefront of what he describes as a "social shift".

Image caption,
Sean O'Callaghan, aka the Fat Gay Vegan, at a book signing in Coventry

"You can walk down the high street and businesses are shouting 'Hey, vegan customers come in here'.

"I think that shows we've reached that tipping point. It's a point of no return. It's not going to fall back," he said.

The co-founder of Veganuary, Matthew Glover, also believes we're moved beyond it just being a fad.

This year, he says 78,000 people in the UK signed up to go without meat, fish, dairy and eggs for a month.

Back in 2014, it was 1,500.

"What is so very exciting is that 67% of people who responded to our 2017 survey told us they were still vegan six months later," says Matthew.

'Veganism isn't the future'

People often cite the "health benefits" of a vegan diet.

Research has suggested that too much meat can be a contributing factor to cases of heart disease, diabetes and levels of high blood pressure.

However Dr Laura Wyness, who specialises in diet and early years nutrition, says meat can play an important part in a balanced lifestyle.

Image source, Getty Images

"If you're on a strict vegan diet it is very difficult to get some minerals and vitamins that your body needs. The key ones would be vitamin B12, which you only really get from animal sources.

"The Vegan Society themselves recommend a vitamin B12 supplement for all vegans. And omega-3 fatty acids is another one that's really difficult to get. You get that from oily fish," Dr Wyness said.


Meanwhile at a farm in Suffolk, Fiona Provan claims she uses a method which challenges the animal welfare argument.

She says unlike in some industrial farming, her calves are never taken away from milk-producing mothers.

All cows on the site, whether they are farmed for milk or meat, are also 100% grass fed.

Image caption,
Fiona Provan uses a method where cows are milked less frequently than in some industrial farming practices

"I don't think a plant-based diet is the answer at all.

"We've got to think of the planet as a whole, it just wouldn't sustain it. Most people cannot live for a lifetime on a vegan diet," Fiona says.

"It's okay if you live in London but try telling a tribe in Mongolia or another remote part of the world to go vegan," she added.

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