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Opinion

Veganuary: What difference can a month make?

Going vegan, even if it’s only for a month, can make a difference to the environment and your health, writes Elena Orde. And it doesn’t have to be Veganuary.

I think everyone will agree that we could all benefit from a bit of positive news. And I might have just the ticket – this year, the Veganuary campaign has surpassed all previous records. Over 500,000 people have signed up. Over half a million people have joined together to try a vegan diet for a month, helped along by a community striving for the same thing.

But why is this such positive news? I went vegan myself in 2014. My main reason was animal rights, a cause still very close to my heart. It didn’t make sense to me to treat farmed animals differently from those we share our home with.

Anyone who has spent time with a dog or a cat knows that these animals are individuals with their own unique personalities and preferences. Pigs, cows, chickens – and every other animal we farm – are all the same. A fact which anyone who spent a significant amount of time on TikTok can attest to, with animal content – regardless of species – getting many of us through the lockdowns of 2020.

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But as time has gone on, other reasons have become more pressing to me. Going vegan is one of the very best things you can do for the planet. It makes sense really.

Farmed animals require huge amounts of food, water and land and at the same time they create an enormous amount of waste. It’s far more efficient to grow food for human consumption. By switching to a plant-based diet, you can halve your food-related greenhouse gas emissions, so even if you try a vegan diet for a month, that’s still a really sizeable difference.

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The good news is that it’s never been easier to be vegan. Six years ago vegan cheese was pretty dire. I managed to track some down in a health food shop, but the first time I tried it I took one bite of my sandwich and resigned myself to an entirely cheese-less existence. These days it’s a completely different story. Every supermarket now carries more vegan options than you’ll be able to try. You can find plant-based milk, cheese, yoghurt, chocolate, baked goods, burgers, sausages, ready meals, ice cream… the list goes on.

Going vegan might seem like a sacrifice. But there’s another way of looking at it. Instead of saying no to things you used to love, you’re saying yes to a whole lot more. Yes to trying new things, and to getting creative in the kitchen. Yes to eating more of the fruit, vegetables and pulses which make you feel great, and yes to finding new treats too. But, perhaps most importantly, you’re saying yes to the feeling of wellbeing that comes from knowing that you’re doing something wonderful for the world around you, and the other animals we share it with.

As a reader of The Big Issue, you’re clearly someone who cares about others, and wants to do the right thing. In the face of such enormous crises as the climate emergency and corovanirus pandemic, it’s easy for us to feel powerless. But by trying a plant-based diet, you can have a positive impact on the world every time you sit down for a meal. Or every time you stand at the sink for a quick snack in between homeschooling and Zoom calls.

Maybe you’ve seen Veganuary ads and wondered what it’s all about, or maybe you’ve gone further and thought that you wish you could make such a commitment. Well this could be the nudge you’ve been looking for. You can sign up to try a vegan diet for a month at any time of year, even partway through January or even later on.

Sign up to try Veganuaryhere. This time next year, you may look back on it as one of the  best things you decided to do in 2021.

Elena Orde is the senior communications and campaigns officer at The Vegan Society, and editor of the Vegan magazine.

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