Exeter, Devon UK • Feb 27, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home Comment Ten years of Veganuary: has it worked?

Ten years of Veganuary: has it worked?

On its anniversary, Rosie Peters-McDonald explores the successes of the Veganuary movement- and its drawbacks
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Image: Veganuary a Bologna

It has been ten years since the Veganuary campaign was first put into action, and meat alternatives have never been so widespread. Oat milk has become a stereotype of our generation; even high street chains which champion carnivory have extended their menus to include vegan versions of their meaty meals. But is Veganuary an instrument of change, or is it a trend with the end in sight? 

Despite supermarkets introducing rows of alternatives for vegan eaters, alternative meat sales have fallen in recent years. The Guardian cites that, ‘according to figured by … NIQ, UK sales of chilled meat alternatives fell 16.8% in January 2023,’, suggesting that the Veganuary movement is less successful than previously thought. 

Veganuary itself is intrinsically linked with environmental concerns. The website displays endorsements from figures such as Joaquin Phoenix, who speaks of the ‘climate crisis’. In essence, the campaign is undoubtedly looking to make a positive difference to the world, and that’s most likely why so many people take part. But the decline in industry begs the question – what’s stopping people?  

In essence, the campaign is undoubtedly looking to make a positive difference to the world, and that’s most likely why so many people take part.

One BBC article suggests that ‘squeezed household budgets’ have something to do it. Perhaps it’s true that there’s something elitist about Veganuary. According to another Guardian article, ‘on average, plant milks now [2023] cost twice as much as good, old-fashioned cow’s milk.’ Vegan alternatives don’t seem to adhere to low-budget living in the way that less restrictive diets might. 

There’s also the ethical question of whether Veganuary, as a temporary change, is healthy for the mind and body. There’s certainly evidence to suggest that veganism has its physical health benefits, but the Schoen Clinic Group cites that ‘35% of young people [they] treat stated they wanted to follow a vegan, vegetarian or pescetarian diet’. The idea of flash-dieting (something Veganuary might encourage) can be a damaging one for those who suffer from disordered eating habits, something I discovered when my friends and I decided to participate in Veganuary a few years ago. 

The idea of flash-dieting (something Veganuary might encourage) can be a damaging one for those who suffer from disordered eating habits

One Exeter student shared their experience: ‘I think doing Veganuary can be a moral choice,’ they said, ‘but I think people like me who have suffered from eating disorders might gravitate there because it’s restrictive.’ This isn’t to say Veganuary, or even veganism, is the sole cause of unhealthy habits. Rather, they suggested that in people with a positive relationship with food, Veganuary ‘could help them learn how to cook more vegan meals’ and therefore encourage a more permanent change in their outlooks. 

That, after all, is the aim of Veganuary. The website asserts that 98% of its partakers would recommend it to a friend. There are also encouraging links to food guides and recipes. The campaigners make it clear that Veganuary aims to kickstart a healthy plant-based mindset which might – but doesn’t have to – impact future eating habits. With vegan options and public endorsement expanding, there is little evidence to suggest that, after ten years, Veganuary has failed. The real problem lies with whether Veganuary is inducive of healthy habits, and, if so, whether its temporality can have the impact its endorsers want it to. 

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