Veganuary: Does it make any difference?
The Veganuary campaign, encouraging people to try a vegan diet for the month, is under-way, with a record 385,000 people spanning 178 countries signed up
The TV adverts are out, restaurants are shouting about their new meat and dairy-free dishes, and campaigners are out in full force in social media; but can forgoing meat, fish, dairy, eggs and honey for 31 days do any good?
Veganuary, a global organisation encouraging people to try vegan in January and beyond, has released new statistics compiled by environmental researcher Joseph Poore that conclude that one person eating a vegan diet for a month will save 124,900 litres of water, 84 square metres of forest and 273 kilogrammes of carbon dioxide emissions. Additionally, according to the Vegan Society’s Veganalyser calculations, it will save more than one million animals, which equates to around 8 animals per person. If 350,000 people worldwide go vegan for January 2020 – which was the charities initial target – it will save:
- 41,200 tonnes of CO2eq from the atmosphere, the same as 450,000 flights from London to Berlin
- 160 tonnes of PO43-eq (eutrophication) from waterways, the same impact as preventing 650 tonnes of sewage from entering our waterways
Toni Vernelli, Veganuary’s Head of Communications, says: “Veganuary 2020 is shaping up to be the biggest year yet with one person signing up every 15 seconds! More and more people are choosing to fight climate chaos with their fork, and these new statistics show just how big an impact we can all have by choosing plant-based foods.”
Moreover, findings from a new Kantar study show that people who cut out animal products for January 2019 maintained reduced meat consumption levels until at least July 2019. The study was based on data from their shopper panel that continuously tracks purchases from 30,000 British households. It was commissioned by Veganuary to get a better understanding of the campaign’s impact in 2019. The results show that the impact the campaign has is much greater than the number of people who officially sign-up online and lasts much longer than just 31 days. Key findings from the study include:
- 3 million people in Britain chose to forego animal products during January 2019 – which is 10 times more than officially signed-up to Veganuary in 2019 from the UK
- 832,000 of these people gave up animal products for the first time in January 2019 and 366,000 said they did it as part of Veganuary (over three times more than officially signed-up from the UK)
- Those who gave up animal products for the first time but did not stay vegan after January consumed a reduced volume of animal products until at least July 2019 when compared to the same period in 2018 (based on scanned shopping receipts from the same households)
Veganuary’s own surveys concluded that around 50% of those signed up in January 2019 chose to stay vegan as it was ‘much easier and enjoyable than they expected’. The survey also highlighted that more than 75% of people who tried going vegan for the month reported an improvement in their health stating they slept better and they lost an average of 6lbs as a result of their changed diet, as people tended to “plan their meals in advance, prepare and cook from scratch”.
However, nutrition therapist Vanessa Kahler urges caution with the health benefits, stating that there is a “bias in play after years of being told meat, eggs and animal fats are bad for us… There is a world of difference between hamburgers and hot dogs, fried eggs and pasteurised milk, versus wholefood animal produce such as organic meats, fish and shellfish and eggs which among the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat.”
She explains that whilst a plant-based diet can be highly-nutritious, vegans can run low on minerals and vitamins like B12, iron, zinc, D and calcium – and points out that even the Veganuary website points towards supplementing B12 to ensure its covered.
However, one of the UK’s longest-standing organisations that represents dietetics and nutrition, the British Dietetic Association, has affirmed that a well-planned vegan diet can “support healthy living in people of all ages”, and states that any diet that isn’t well-planned can cause deficiencies. Therefore, vegan or not, it is clear that a properly planned diet is key to obtain health benefits from your diet.
What are your thoughts on veganism and Veganuary? Are you challenging yourself to go Vegan this month, or are you opposed to it?