The evidence is piling up for just how popular vegan and vegetarian food is becoming in the UK.
A 2019 survey from the British Takeaway Campaign revealed that vegan options, like black bean burgers or vegan fried chicken, were the fastest growing favourites for Brits ordering in. And in 2018, market research found that over a quarter, 29%, of everyday meals being eaten in the UK contained no meat or fish.
Now as we kick off 2021, the Veganuary campaign — a global campaign run by the Vegan Society which encourages people to cut out meat and dairy for the month of January — has reported a record 500,000 people signing up, over a quarter of whom (125,000) are British.
The numbers are double what was seen last year, the Vegan Society says.
This year, to mark the occasion, British supermarkets are going all-in on advertising and promoting vegan ranges, many for the first time, the Guardian reports.
Tesco has run TV and radio adverts promoting Veganuary for the first time, it says, while Aldi, Asda, and Iceland have produced dedicated pages including information and recipes.
Meanwhile, celebrities have also been encouraging more people to get involved this year. In December, a host of big names including Paul McCartney, Ricky Gervais, model Lily Cole, and actor Alan Cumming added their names to a jointly-signed letter in support of Veganuary.
Toni Vernelli, who runs the campaign for the Vegan Society, said she was really pleased by the response.
“The way British supermarkets have embraced Veganuary this year is truly game-changing,” she told the Guardian. “They are not simply using it as a marketing opportunity, but are promoting the many benefits of plant-based eating. As bastions of our food supply, they know that the only sustainable way forward is plant-focused.”
It’s a positive sign, because cutting down meat in our diet is one of the best ways individuals can lower their carbon footprint and help save the planet, according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Since it’s a new year, I have a new recipe for you, Vegan Spag Bol. If you’re doing #veganuary, it is certainly for you, but even if you’re not, it is delicious! https://t.co/eR1nlOXFqjpic.twitter.com/9JoInST9P2— Nigella Lawson (@Nigella_Lawson) January 1, 2021
That’s because of the out-size impact the use of land to support livestock has on both driving carbon emissions and the destruction of biodiversity. Cattle farming drives deforestation in places like the Amazon rainforest, for example, and the methane produced by beef herds and other animals has a potent greenhouse effect contributing to up to 14% of all emissions.
A study of 40,000 farms in 119 countries published in the journal Science found that although livestock provide just 18% of the calories we eat globally, farming them uses 83% of all available farmland.
With people in the UK facing a new strict lockdown and feeling restricted, perhaps embracing Veganuary is one way people feel they can make a difference and affect change.
“It really feels to me that plant-based eating is no longer controversial,” Vernelli said. “Pretty much everyone has accepted we need to be reducing animal products in our diets for environmental reasons.”