It’s an odd experience for me. I was shopping in my local supermarket (needed some vegetarian suet for dumplings) and was piling in the vegan goodies, along with a few treats (Ma Baker’s flapjacks are yummy imo) and I did happen to notice a couple of trolleys with a mixture of vegan/non-vegan stuff. It made me feel quite awkward. Here’s why.
I’m all for a move to try something new – Veganuary is a rapidly ascending movement to help counter excessive meat and dairy consumption, and people who commit to it should be commended for trying. If they only do the month, well, it’s a little disappointing to me personally, but hopefully it’s enough of a positive experience that they should revisit it at some point and push it further than just a month at the start of the year.
There’s two primary concerns I have with Veganuary – one is aimed at the focus of the event itself, the other is more a personal reflection.
1: Veganism is not just about food.
Sure, being vegan is a lot about food, but it’s not the be all and end all aspect of being vegan. From the Vegan Society’s website:
“A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”
https://www.vegansociety.com/go-vegan/definition-veganism (bold emphasis mine)
There seems to be a big push towards vegan fast foods in veganuary, which isn’t entirely surprising. The vegan diet isn’t really given to fast foods as such – although there are bad foods that can be consumed to excess. But look at the companies/products coming out. KFC with their “chicken” burger, already causing concern with a number of reports of vegans being given actual chicken burgers instead. Gregg’s introducing another savoury, along with their vegan doughnut. Chicago Town’s vegan pizza. McDonald’s veggie bites. Pizza Hut’s Pepperphoni pizza. Ben & Jerry’s vegan ice cream. Supermarkets producing their own brand vegan ranges. All good as options or treats, but not necessarily healthy. Part of our dietary problem is the mass of over-processed/junk foods that make food preparation quick and thoughtless.
But wait a minute, I hear you think. Weren’t you complaining about veganuary being just about food? Why yes. Have I mentioned all those new vegan non-food products? No. As of writing this article, I have found nothing announced. No personal hygiene products. No clothing lines. No shoes. No household items.
As I quoted above, veganism aims to remove animal exploitation for food, clothing or any other purpose. I’m looking for new walking shoes now my old non-vegan ones have finally worn out. Has any major shoe manufacturer jumped on the veganuary bandwagon? No.
This leads me towards my second point:
2: Being a vegan in veganuary is weird.
So there I was, at the start of this article, shopping away. Getting my usual vegan foods. Seeing people putting some vegan foods in their trolleys was great, but it highlighted a personal thought. I wonder if people see me putting foods in the trolley as being a participant of veganuary, despite being vegan for well over a year now? Am I just seen as a ‘trendy’ who is probably going to be another person who stops at the end of January and returns to an omni lifestyle? (My personal answer is no, obviously). Come February I wonder how many vegan products carry on being eaten/purchased, how many people continue on with the lifestyle?
It made me curious. How do vegans see themselves during veganuary? Do you see yourselves as being part of it, silently observed as a fad follower, or are you able to distance yourself from it, being committed to the lifestyle in all it’s forms as much as possible?