Veganism – It’s a Thin Green Line
I’m writing this at the end of the biggest Veganuary, the worldwide movement that encourages people to try going vegan during January, to date. There have been more plant based product launches than ever before, and ‘Ethical Veganism’ has won a landmark case as a ‘protected belief’, under the 2010 Human Rights Act.
A Ipsos Mori survey in 2016 suggested the number of vegans in the UK had increased more than 360% in the preceding decade. As our numbers grow, so too do the trolls and commenters, all finding different arguments and debates to try to undermine. One prominent (and misleading) anti-vegan campaign is run by a pressure group that also works closely with the tobacco industry.
But as much as opinions are often divided, supermarkets, restaurants and fast-food chains are definitely on board. A Sainsbury’s ‘Future of Food’ report predicts that, ‘by 2025, Vegans and vegetarians will make up a quarter of the British population and flexitarians just under half of all UK consumers’.
There are similar findings from Waitrose, who say that 1 in 3 of us have reduced or stopped eating meat.
Many of the UK’s food producers are keen to profit from n the vegan bandwagon, and will be hoping for a smash hit product like the famous Greggs vegan sausage roll. This, according to Greggs, helped boost sales to above 1 billion pounds for the first time. It seems our vegan pennies are having an impact.
I’ve been vegan for a few years now, and I have to say, it has become a lot easier recently. There are new options everywhere. In some ways it’s also more difficult, in that the ethics behind some products are, to some, questionable. I regularly have to ask myself, just because something is vegan, do I really want to support it? Or should I support it, because then more companies will invest in developing vegan products? And that’s before you even ask yourself, ‘is this healthy for me?’ Or ‘is this environmentally friendly?’ Many foods labeled vegan contain palm oil, for example.
So far this year, two plant based burgers have been making headlines. One, made by KFC, is completely vegan, using quorn chicken and KFC’s herb and spice coating. But, wait for it, you can’t have chips with it, they are fried in the same baskets as chicken. The other, launched by Burger King, is apparently not even for vegans… I don’t know about you, but I find this a bit odd. BK’s offering is cooked on the same grill as meat, and aimed at those cutting down on meat – not those who don’t eat meat. Part of me thinks, ‘if you are going to do something vegan, do it properly.’ The other half… well, do I really want to be putting my money into one of these companies anyway? Then again, we all shop at the big supermarkets, do we boycott these because of their support for the meat industry?
We are no longer living in a world where the only vegan options come directly from the ground or from small completely vegan companies. What we buy has consequences. Yes, the UN states that going plant-based can fight climate change. But is it that simple? Should we be eating chocolate, or drinking coffee? These are of course derived from cacao beans and coffee beans, which are plant-based. However, according to data from Poore & Nemecek’s 2018 research published in Science magazine, chocolate from a deforested rainforest will have more of an impact than low impact locally sourced beef.
That’s not going to get me eating beef, but it does make me think about the daily choices I make. Maybe it’s a question of balance. Eating plant-based meals will reduce your CO2 impact and potentially improve your health. But we are all individuals, and whether we choose to act on this information is pretty much our own business. Generally, I’m happy that there are more options around for everyone. I like that we are still questioning our food sources, not just assuming that because something is labelled vegan, that it’s automatically a positive option. I won’t judge anyone’s decisions, because I’m definitely not perfect. What I will do is continue to be conscious of my own choices.