Over 600,000 people took part in Veganuary 2022, so there's never been a better time to try going vegan. If you're ready to take the plunge, here is everything you need to know about Veganuary 2023...
What is Veganuary?
Veganuary is an annual campaign to encourage and support people from all over the world to go vegan for January.
When did Veganuary start?
Veganuary started in January 2014 and has grown steadily in popularity. Just over 3,000 people took part when it first began, and there were 629,000 participants in January 2022.
Since 2017, Veganuary has also been encouraging people to try vegan for 31 days at other times of the year, so you can actually take part during any month you like.
Although, January remains the flagship month for trying vegan and the month is increasingly recognised as ‘Veganuary’.
Why do Veganuary?
Veganuary isn’t the first vegan pledge of its kind, but what sets it apart is that people take part during the same month, all at the same time. Other similar pledges, such as The Vegan Society and Animal Aid’s campaigns, operate on a more ad hoc basis.
This means that Veganuary participants are immediately part of an active and vibrant community, who all support each other to go vegan for the month.
Across social media and via in-person meet ups, participants interact, share tips and Veganuary recipes, and encourage one another. This is probably the biggest reason why so many people choose Veganuary over other plant-based challenges.
Through Veganuary, you can ‘dip your toe’ into veganism, whether that’s as an individual, as a family, or with a group of friends.
In this sense, it’s especially good for the veggie-curious, or people who are worried about the reaction of their family and friends to them going vegan or making more plant-based choices.
They can say they’re taking part in Veganuary as a “challenge” or “resolution’ and it takes some of the pressure off. Many people sign up for Veganuary as a New Year’s resolution to start the year off in a healthier way.
Every year, more and more brands get behind the Veganuary campaign and release new vegan products to coincide with January.
Greggs' iconic vegan sausage rolls made their debut in Veganuary 2019. Image: Greggs
There’s never been an easier time to try veganism and there’s more choice than ever before. Every supermarket now has a plant-based range, so there’s something out there to suit every taste and budget.
And if you choose a diet that’s based around wholefoods rather than pre-made products, you may also find that a vegan lifestyle works out cheaper too.
Is it free to take part in Vegauary?
It’s free to take part in Veganuary, and you’re supported all the way through with information, nutrition advice, recipes, guidance and special offers.
Reasons to go vegan in Veganuary
Health is one of the main reasons people adopt a vegan lifestyle or reduce their intake of animals and animal products.
The other two major motivating factors are animals and the environment. Over 70 billion land animals are killed every single year, and the numbers of fish are even more staggering — 2 trillion, which is 2000 billion.
These statistics really are too huge to fully comprehend, but people are increasingly feeling that it’s unjust, indefensible and unnecessary. As Pam Ahern from Edgar’s Mission animal sanctuary in Australia puts it, “If we could live happy and healthy lives without harming others, why wouldn’t we?”
Plus, the killing of animals and fish is causing significant and lasting damage to our planet — so much so that environmentalists are finding it almost impossible to justify not being vegan. (More on this below under ‘environmental impact’.)
According to WWF, cattle ranching is responsible for a staggering 80% of current deforestation throughout the Amazon, so going vegan in Veganuary is a great way to reduce your impact on the planet. Image: Getty
What do vegans eat?
Vegans eat vegetables, fruit, nuts, grains, pulses, legumes and vegan substitutes for meat, fish, cheese, eggs and milk. The majority of fruit juices and soft drinks are vegan, as are a lot of wines, beers and spirits. So much of what anyone would typically eat is vegan — you just may not realise it yet.
Type ‘vegan’ into the search of your favourite supermarket website and you’ll be amazed at how many products appear!
What do vegans not eat?
Vegans do not eat any land animals, fish or sea creatures, or anything that comes from them. This includes dairy and eggs, and all by-products like whey, gelatine, isinglass and cod liver oil.
Additionally, vegans don’t eat honey, as it’s food for bees (it’s their winter food store). Similarly, vegans don’t drink cow’s milk as it’s meant for baby cows (just as breast milk is for human babies).
Vegans do not consume any animal products, including honey, eggs dairy, meat, and all by-products such as whey or gelatine. Image:
Doing Veganuary – where to start
If you’re thinking about taking part in Veganuary, then your best first step is to sign up at Veganuary.com. That way, you’ll get sent all sorts of info, support, advice and inspiration.
The next thing is to do some research and preparation, but that’s nowhere near as daunting as it sounds. So much of what you need to know is simply about increasing your awareness — if you’ve never looked for vegan food before then you probably just haven’t noticed it.
Make it a new habit wherever you go to look for options: keep an eye out for vegan products as you walk round the supermarket, scan menus to see if your favourite pubs, cafes and restaurants offer plant-based dishes, and see if you can choose something other than dairy milk when you order a coffee.
Very quickly you’ll see that there are vegan options everywhere. And whatever you can’t see will likely be found online — if in doubt, Google it!
It’s a good idea to use up what you have in your fridge and cupboards before Veganury begins, and have plant-based options ready for your first days so you can start as you mean to go on.
It’s a great idea to find vegan versions of your favourite recipes, so that you can make familiar meals in the early part of the month — when you’ve found your stride a couple of weeks in, you may want to be more adventurous and experiment with cashew cheese or seitan, but adapting trusted go-tos will make your transition easier to begin with.
Being prepared doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, so think about what you enjoy eating the most and see if it’s possible to veganise it.
Finding vegan versions of your favourite recipes to make at home will help you stay on track with your new vegan diet. Image: Getty
Get to grips with reading food labels
One final thing that will really help you during Veganuary is to understand a little more about food labels, as they can suddenly seem totally alien when you’re intently scanning them for animal ingredients.
Allergens, which include but are not limited to animal products, are always marked in bold in the UK. So, scan over those first to see immediately whether something’s no go.
If you can’t see anything obvious marked in bold type, then you can quickly check the rest of the ingredients to see whether anything like gelatine or lactose are included.
One of the great things about taking part in Veganuary, is that you’ll end the month being so much more aware of what’s in the food you buy and consume.
But don’t beat yourself up if you find label reading a little daunting at first. That’s natural.
You’ll quickly learn to recognise what’s vegan and what’s not, and many brands have really upped their labelling game in the last few years. So if it’s clearly marked vegan then you don’t need to bother scanning the ingredients at all — unless you’re looking for a specific allergen.
You’ll often see ‘may contain’ information on food labels as well, so don’t be put off if you see an animal product listed there. It’s a legal requirement to declare that cross-contamination could be possible, but it doesn’t mean the product’s not vegan.
Getting to grips with reading food labels is essential to help you easily identify vegan products in the supermarket. However, don't be put off by items that say they 'may contain' allergens such as dairy as its a legal requirement to declare the possibility of cross contamination if the product is manufactured in a non-vegan facility. Image:
Do I have to be fully vegan for the whole month?
The goal for Veganuary is to be vegan for the whole month, but it’s actually the taking part that counts. Colleen Patrick-Goudreau describes veganism as a journey, rather than a destination, and the same principle definitely applies to Veganuary.
Don’t worry if you wobble or make a mistake here and there — it’s not a club you’re going to get chucked out of, and sometimes you can only learn by doing.
The important thing is to keep going and make as many vegan choices as you can. And who knows, you may enjoy it so much that you decide to continue into February!
It’s also important to stress that you’re encouraged to concentrate on eating vegan food throughout Veganuary rather than changing your whole lifestyle.
Confused about wool, leather and silk? Don’t worry. Take it one step at a time. Concentrate on the food in January, and then maybe start researching the other lifestyle elements in February.
While veganism is a lifestyle that also includes the materials you wear and the cosmetics you use, it's often easiest to concentrate on working towards eating a vegan diet in January as a first step. Image:
Veganuary’s environmental impact
Going vegan makes a bigger difference to the planet than giving up your car, so there’s possibly no better change you can make if you’re worried about the climate emergency.
Animal agriculture causes, or significantly contributes to, our most serious environmental problems, from greenhouse gas and nitrous oxide to deforestation and the killing of wildlife.
Veganuary 2022 – what were the highlights?
- The big fast-food chains came to the party for Veganuary 2022. KFC launched The Imposter Burger, McDonald’s introduced the McPlant, and Subway offered two limited-edition vegan subs.
- M&S added a VLT (vegan BLT) to its range of Plant Kitchen vegan sandwiches.
- Pizza Express responded to growing demand for plant-based options and offered vegan garlic butter with their famous dough balls.
How popular is Veganuary?
Veganuary gets more popular with each passing year, and this makes life easier, tastier and more accessible for herbivores right across the globe.
Will 2023 be the year participant numbers hit 1 million? There’s only one way to find out: sign up now and encourage your family, friends and colleagues to do the same!
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