As 2019 begins, so do millions of new year’s resolutions: go to the gym more, get up earlier, or try Veganuary. For those who are not aware, Veganuary is a charity encouraging people to pledge to go vegan for one month. It is a great time to try veganism, with the charity website providing recipes, information and eating out advice to help get participants through the month. It is a fun and constructive way to start your year, but we should take the lessons learned from it – that no, it actually is not that hard to cut down, or cut out, our meat and dairy intake – forward, into the rest of our lives.
Completing Veganuary just to jump straight back into eating meat regularly in February seems pointless. The point of veganism is not to complete a challenge. To commit to it should be to commit to consistently making choices, where possible, which minimise the harm done to animals and the environment. While Veganuary is a perfect place to start, it is contradictory to assign it to just one month.
That being said, the way veganism and vegetarianism is portrayed can make it intimidating to even begin. Vegans are repeatedly condemned as militant and judgemental, traits which I more often encounter in the inexplicably angry meat eaters doing the name calling. Ideally, for the planet and for animals, those of us who can would all become permanently and unwaveringly vegan now. Even the proudest meat eaters secretly know this, and it makes them uncomfortable. Comedian David Mitchell recently wrote a piece in the Guardian confessing to this and admitting that, “the thing that’s annoying about there suddenly being lots of them is the nagging suspicion that they might be right.” Mitchell’s article is funny and refreshingly honest, but it was disappointing to read on and discover he has no plans to stop eating meat, or to start eating less of it. If we recognise that changes need to happen, we must make them ourselves.
However, thinking of making those changes as signing a binding contract can be counterproductive. You do not have be fully vegan, start tutting at your meat-eating friends, or start calling yourself anything, to begin altering your diet to help animals and the environment. You can start by making tiny changes. Occasionally buy Soya milk instead. Do meat free Mondays. Move through the supermarket or restaurant menu thinking: “how can I minimise the harm I do here?” and make that work for you. Making these small choices consistently for a lifetime is probably more productive than going cold turkey for one month then giving up completely.
The unavoidable fact is that we are reaching a crisis point environmentally, and multiple studies suggest that eating less animal produce is the best thing we can do to help in the struggle to tackle it. It might seem like your choices as one individual will do nothing; the statistics showing how only 100 companies create 71 per cent of global emissions are terrifying and enough to make you feel completely helpless. But we all vote with our money. A choice as simple as choosing Quorn over real meat a few more times a month sends a message which begins to chip away at the companies causing the damage, eventually forcing them to be more sustainable and less cruel.
So, if you are participating, good luck with your Veganuary! But do not let the reasons behind it escape you. Go into February with the aim of trying a whole year of making small changes when you can.
Besides, with Gregg’s announcing their new vegan sausage roll there has never been a better time to start. Never before have you been able to sit on your lunch break, minding your own business and enjoying a simple piece of pastry, content in the knowledge that, actually, you are staging a crucial act of resistance: really, really annoying Piers Morgan.
Image: Mittmac via pixabay.com