Will 2021 be the year of the vegan?

Will 2021 be the year of the vegan?

12/30/2020

The organisers of plant-based diet pledge Veganuary are gearing up for 2021 to be its biggest year yet since its launch seven years ago.

The UK-based campaign, which encourages people to follow a vegan diet in January, has set a target of 500,000 signatories worldwide and expects to reach 350,000 today. 400,000 people signed up to the campaign last year.

In a year when many of us have had more time to think and reflect, it’s no surprise that people have been more willing to confront their eating habits.

For some, a move towards veganism may be driven by personal health concerns during the pandemic. Many health experts have made links between a diet that includes plenty of vegetables, grains and beans and a healthier immune system.

While a vegan diet can’t make us any less likely to contract Covid-19, ‘it can treat the underlying conditions that can exacerbate its severity,’ claimed Susan Levin of Barnard Medical Center.

Meanwhile, many people are waking up to the global dangers of consuming animal products.

Earlier this year, Plant Based Health Professionals (PBHP) said the connection between major disease outbreaks and factory farming is being ‘swept under the carpet’ amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and urged people to go vegan.

It was for this reason that Adelaise, a vegan blogger, committed to a plant-based diet during the first lockdown. 

‘The fact that we had another disease that was spread via the selling of animals was the impetus I needed to make the change, and now I can’t imagine not being vegan,’ she says.

‘Because of the lack of delivery slots during lockdown, it was certainly more challenging sourcing vegan alternatives – but on the plus side, more time at home gave me the chance to experiment with different recipes.’

Despite the renewed interest in plant-based eating, however, most people in Britain still don’t intend to go vegan in 2021.

Research published today by the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) and YouGov reveals that 61% of British people say they’re unlikely to follow a plant-based diet in the New Year.

‘For me, cheese and other foods like that are some of the only joys left in lockdown life,’ says Cathal, a student. ‘I know that’s not a very good reason, though, and I probably should go vegan.

‘Maybe if all this wasn’t going on, I’d have more mental willpower to do something like that. At the moment, it’s taking all the mental willpower I have just to keep going.

‘There’s been so much change in the world recently already – adding a personal change is probably a step too far.’

Zara, a mum of two who runs a skincare brand, agrees. ‘I’m definitely so tempted, and would love to, but food is my main comfort right now,’ she says.

‘I run a small business, plus I have two little ones at home all the time now, so I look forward to my meals!’

Recognising both the growing appetite for vegan eats and the desire to cling to our old favourites in times of crisis, food brands and restaurants are unveiling new plant-based versions of comfort-food classics.

From Friday, frozen versions of Greggs’ popular vegan sausage rolls and steak bakes will be available to buy at Iceland. 

Meanwhile, pizza chain Domino’s is about to launch a vegan ‘chicken’ pizza called the Chick-Ain’t, as well as southern-fried vegan nuggets.

Over the last few years, we’ve been seeing more and more vegan products on supermarket shelves and restaurant menus – and it looks as though Covid-19 has accelerated the movement even further.

When harsh restrictions and lockdowns have passed – and we’re no longer relying on food as a source of comfort quite so often – maybe we’ll see this crisis as an opportunity to explore plant-based living.

As Adelaise says: ‘I’d been considering veganism for a while – but the pandemic was the push I needed.’

You can find out more about Veganuary and sign up here.

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