Toni Vernelli, Veganuary’s Head of Communications, helps us to change the world, one step at a time.
Vegan activism for beginners can be daunting. Whatever your motivation for becoming vegan, this change in our lives usually starts – and often ends – with the food we buy, cook and eat. But, whether we quit animal products for our health, the planet or for animals, there is always more we can do to contribute to a kinder, healthier and more compassionate world.
What we wear is what we eat
Once we stop putting animals into our bodies, it’s natural to consider the animal parts we put onto our bodies. Most people abhor the cruelty of fur, but may feel less sure about the ethics of leather. But what is leather other than fur with the hairs scraped off ? It’s the same thing! And don’t forget wool. It’s not a harmless product either, and buying it helps prop up the meat trade that we boycott in our food shopping.
Some new vegans may choose to empty their wardrobes and donate their animal skins and fibres to charity shops, while others may phase them out as the items wear out. Either way is fine. There are now many excellent and readily available non-animal alternatives for coats, hats, sweaters, gloves and more.
Getting active: Check out PETA’s campaigns and find out how you can help educate others about the impacts of leather, wool, fur and silk.
The use of animals to test cosmetic products or their ingredients is banned in the UK and in all member states of the European Union. Since March 2013, it has also been illegal to sell cosmetics products within the EU that have been, or which contain ingredients, newly tested on animals. It’s good news! But brands that want to sell in other countries may still conduct animal testing – it just doesn’t take place inside Europe.
Another consideration is that many products contain bits of animals we absolutely would not want to be smearing on our faces or rubbing into our hair. Lanolin, collagen, shellac, squalene, keratin and many other animal-derived ingredients find their way into our daily routines. Thankfully, it’s easy to avoid contributing to animal suffering – simply look out for products that are certified as vegan.
Getting active: To join the campaign to end animal testing globally, check out Cruelty-Free International and Humane Society International’s websites for online and real-world actions you can take.
Animal advocates everywhere
When our eyes are opened to the suffering of farmed animals, we start to realise that animal suffering is all around us, in sports like dog and horse racing, in entertainment parks, zoos and aquariums, in the pet industry, and more. And much more is hidden from our daily lives, for example, in the shooting and ‘pest’ control industries.
Getting active: Campaign groups like Animal Aid, PETA and the League Against Cruel Sports campaign to end some of these cruel industries and practices. Visit their sites to find out how you can help support their work.
Vegans for the environment
Of course, not everyone is vegan primarily to help animals; the environment is a key motivator too, and finding out the scale of damage done to the planet by animal agriculture can drive people to want to find out – and do – more.
Ecosystems suffer when we douse the earth with pesticides, lay new roads and rail lines, and pollute them with plastic and other man-made detritus. As for climate change, it is clear we must all take meaningful action, and fast, to avert catastrophe. Being vegan is the single biggest thing we can do to help the planet, but it’s certainly not the only thing.
Getting active: We can take personal action by cutting air miles for our food and ourselves. We can support local vegetable box schemes and choose organic wherever we can afford to do so. We can walk more or use public transport and drive less.
We might investigate growing our own food at home, via a local community gardening scheme or by getting an allotment. We can plant wildflowers and put up bird boxes and bee hotels to help support local wildlife. You might encourage friends and family to watch documentaries like Cowspiracy.
We can also join campaign groups to help drive systemic change for our planet. Check out Extinction Rebellion, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd to see what they are doing to ease the burden on our planet.
A healthy vegan is a happy vegan
It’s surprisingly easy to forget that the food we eat is the fuel that powers, heals and protects our bodies, but the evidence is clear: vegans have a lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and some kinds of cancer. Switching to a plant-based diet can prevent, halt and even reverse some of these killers.
If you would like to help others discover how a change of diet could also change their lives, there is a lot you can do.
Getting active: Check out the campaigns by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). You may like to encourage friends and family to watch Forks Over Knives or The Game Changers, and you could buy everyone you know a copy of Dr Michael Greger’s book How Not to Die for their next birthday!
Help make more vegans
The world needs more vegans. A lot more vegans. Not only is it the single biggest thing we can do to help the planet, but it’s also kinder for our bodies and better for animals. It also reduces pressure on the world’s resources and supports a more equitable distribution of food.
Getting active: You could support groups like Veganuary, Viva! and Vegan Outreach Scotland, who specialise in vegan campaigns and helping people transition to a plant-based diet. You might get active yourself and take part in a ‘Cube of Truth’ or share relevant posts on your social media.
You might volunteer at a farmed animal sanctuary and take a non-vegan friend with you to introduce them to the animals.
You might give books, films and other gifts that promote a positive vegan message. And one way we can influence others to become vegan is to be a great example of a vegan ourselves.
Being vegan is the single biggest thing we can do to help the planet, but it’s certainly not the only thing.
Veganuary is a non-profit organisation that encourages people worldwide to try vegan for January and beyond. During the 2020 campaign, more than 350,000 people took our pledge to try a vegan diet. Find out more and join the movement at www.veganuary.com
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