Veganism in the last three years has probably seen a higher increase in its followers than many of our political leaders' twitter accounts have- from an estimated half a million people in 2016 to more than 3.5 million- 5% of our population today. From Instagram feeds to Twitter hashtags, and influential documentaries such as 'Cowspiracy', veganism has put the spotlight onto the intensive meat and dairy industry, exposing the ill-treatment of animals and disclosing the effects on the wider environment.
The extent? Tyson, the world's biggest purchaser of beef is watching the plant-based meat market at a time when the UK market for meat-free foods has grown up from £539m only two years earlier to reportedly being valued at £572m today according to Mintel.
But what are the different aspects to veganism and how has it infiltrated consumer consciousness when buying food, fashion, wine and even condoms?
I was disgusted at commercial production of dairy
Two and a half years ago, Eana Vagjiani turned vegan after she and her husband had gone hiking with a couple of their friends and whilst on her vacation, she met a vegan couple- Mahersh and Nishma- who explained their reasons for going vegan. This conversation, followed by lots of research, over-turned her vegetarian dietary habits that she had followed right from her childhood.
“I was horrified and felt disgusted when I saw how the cows were treated and how they were separated from their calves. That is when I decided that I will not consume commercial dairy produce!” Eana explained. She spoke about how earlier she had had no issues of consuming any of these dairy products owing to the unawareness of the ill-treatment of these animals and researched online about veganism.
To date, over 250,000 people from 193 countries have taken the month-long pledge to try veganism, according to The Vegan Society, which expects a further 300,000 people to join them in their journey towards adopting a plant-based diet by the end of January. But while Eana has been one of the recent followers of the trend, Nishma Shah and her husband have been vegan for about 20 years now.
Ahimsa: No animal should become my food
Nishma runs a vegan catering, education & training centre, Shambhu's. It caters for all sorts of events from weddings to small office/business lunches providing a vegan selection of dishes and creating rich Indian Mughlai foods using cashew nuts, vegan creams and sometimes often adding lentils to pastas.
“For me, the whole concept of veganism is following Ahimsa – no animal should be killed to become my food. I didn't want to be part of the animal cruelty.”
Shambhu's also caters for the London Vegans monthly guest-speaker evenings. And apart from catering for such events, Nishma even runs a Gujarati vegan masterclass for an organisation called 'Made in Hackney'.
She tells me that the "vegan versions of certain dairy-rich foods can be pleasantly light, and nutritious. Vegan food tends to be rich in fibre, which is one of the its health benefits. However, vegan food need not at all be like "rabbit food" as some people seem to think." And joining Nishma on this veganuary run is Gordon Ramsay.
Gordon Ramsay goes Veganuary
Ramsay has recently announced that his restaurants will take part in Veganuary.
Even Nestle under its Garden Gourmet brand, is all set to release a plant-based patty called the 'Incredible Burger' which will be made from soy and wheat protein. Apart from that Nestlé’s agenda also includes dairy-free beverages, specifically, purple milk made with walnuts and blueberries, as well as a blue latte containing spirulina algae.
Meanwhile, Pizza Hut as part of its embrace of the vegan trend has introduced the Vegan ‘Jack ‘n’ Cheese’ Pizza from 1st January of this year which is priced from £11.20 and features Violife’s award-winning non-diary cheese alternative. This pizza will be available for one month only, but the company plans to make the Jackfruit pizza a permanent item on the menu if sales exceed 10,000 units during Veganuary 2019.
Sanctua: No leather sofas
Whereas, Bindu Patel is slated to start a complete vegan restaurant “Sanctua” in Leicester with the menu centred around plant-based dishes.
“Here at sanctua we want people to have a surreal environmental experience and everything from food to the ambiance is vegan. So there are no leather sofas, and even the music playing in the background will be birds humming or water trickling”
But while food is the easier option to adapt to what people like Param Singh often find it difficult to compromise with is leather.
“I don't buy leather jackets anymore but I have limited my purchase of leather shoes to once in a year,” Param said explaining how three years ago he went Vegan after watching a video where a Canadian Professor showed the atrocities that the animals have to go through in the canning industry.
“It is not about religion and it is not about culture. Cows are treated as machines and I love animals. But, I am not a staunch vegan. I do go out sometimes and have Daal Makhani and that has butter in it which is okay. But I try to follow as much as is feasible for me” said Param.
Condoms, drugs, and wine: Vegans are fine
While most condoms are made of naturally occurring latex, not all of them are vegan. Sustain's condoms are free from Nitrosamine, which is a carcinogen formed when the latex in condoms is heated and moulded. They also use fair trade rubber, are cruelty-free, and vegan. This also means that your condom is free of casein, which is an animal byproduct.
The National Crime Agency has even issued a warning about some dealers labelling drugs as “vegan or ethically friendly” to appeal to the middle-class drug substances. And among other trends, cosmetics and wines have also caught up to the growing Vegan trend.
But it’s not just members of the public who we are challenging to take part in Veganuary. This year, the Veganuary campaign included a call on Parliament to ditch meat and dairy in January.