UK-based non-profit Veganuary was founded in 2014 by Matthew Glover and Jane Land, to show people that adopting a plant-based lifestyle may be easier than they think. Millions of participants have taken part in the movement that "encourages people worldwide to try vegan for January and beyond”.
By going vegan, you’ll prevent animal suffering, skyrocket your health, and protect our environment. Following a vegan diet is one of the most effective actions you can take to decrease your carbon footprint and fight climate change.
My latest article for alive Magazine (to be published in early 2023) is all about Veganuary: what you need to know, how to take part, and how to succeed. For this article I interviewed my coach colleague Zoe Peled, but due to word count restrictions, I could only include a few bits of her excellent insight! So, I'm sharing it here in full.
Zoe is a fitness coach and Marketing and Community Engagement Professional based in Vancouver, B.C. She facilitates events and community relations for numerous local vegan businesses, co-founded Ban Fur Farms BC, and founded the Vancouver Vegan Resource Centre (VVRC) in Fall 2018. The VVRC is a resource centre and project to welcome folks at all stages of the vegan journey, through pop-up markets, events, panel discussions, workshops, and community collaborations. Zoe has been vegan for 13 years, and an animal rights activist for (almost) the same duration of time.
Take it away, Zoe!
Veganuary had 620,000 participants worldwide in 2022. What are some benefits of approaching veganism from this standpoint?
Despite the fact that's been a longstanding ethical position, there is still an element of veganism that positions it as "the fringe". One of the strongest elements of Veganuary is that it has grown; it has become very popular, and to me, that automatically helps move veganism away from the fringe mentality, and more into the mainstream.
Veganuary as a resource has done a great job in setting up the campaign every year, and takes time to ensure that ample networks and resources are in place before the campaign begins. People usually like to participate in something when there is a sense of community in some capacity, and that has been heightened by the impact COVID had on our social environments. For those who may live in areas of the world where they are the only person interested in veganism, Veganuary is a way those folks may find support.
Last but not least, from a purely industry and marketing point of view, deciding to do Veganuary in January was not a coincidence. January is the New Year. It's the time where we set intentions, goals, and every industry reminds us that we need to be constantly bettering ourselves. Veganuary has positioned itself right in the middle of that, and it's a time of the year when a greater proportion of the population is open to new ideas, especially when they involve health and wellness in any capacity.
Do you see any drawbacks to the “Veganuary” approach, i.e. marketing this as a “challenge” for 31 days?
You know me very well, so you probably had some ideas around what my answer here may be! Here's the thing. The history of veganism, and the core of the movement, is rooted in an ethical stance. It's rooted in a powerful shift, and a set of changes that you commit to, once you realize the truths that veganism provides.
People come to veganism for a wide range of reasons, however, that history and that stance is irrefutable. Since Veganuary is framed as something that lasts for 31 days, there are some concerns from an ethical stance, as something that has a temporary [very short!] timeline, or something we can dip our toes into, and then dip out.
As a second point, naming it as a "challenge" infers automatically that it is just that: challenging! While it's important to acknowledge that folks have different levels of access and privilege, veganism overall is, in fact, not challenging. Perhaps there is a transition period, but it can be fun, full of exploration, new foods, and lots of support. Perhaps when we call it a "challenge" we are unfairly reiterating the naysayers who keep stating that veganism is hard, inaccessible, and/or expensive.
What are some things participants should know before starting Veganuary?
1] There is not one way to do veganism, nor is there a perfect timeline. Some folks may switch immediately, and some may need a more gradual approach.
2] This is not about exclusion, it's about expansion. Think about the animal products that you consume, and figure out what you will need an alternative for. Chances are you, you'll find at least three different options for each one!
3] Ask questions, and use the community for support. There are no dumb questions. Vegans like to help new vegans!
4] Try and have an open mind, and don't lean into some of the negative things you've heard about veganism. Veganuary is a great opportunity to assess the lifestyle for yourself, and perhaps find some new conclusions to the questions you've had.
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