Since 2014, Veganuary has inspired and supported more than one million people in 192 countries to try vegan for January – and beyond. They have worked with businesses to drive up vegan food provision in shops and restaurants, and have made veganism more visible and accessible through their work with national and international media.
They say their vision is simple; they want a vegan world. A world without animal farms and slaughterhouses. A world where food production does not decimate forests, pollute rivers and oceans, exacerbate climate change and drive wild animal populations to extinction.
Their mission is to inspire and support people to try vegan, drive corporate change, and create a global mass movement championing compassionate food choices with the aim of ending animal farming, protecting the planet, and improving human health.
Today we speak with Toni Vernelli, from the Veganuary team, International Head of Communications
More than one million people have already completed Veganuary’s one-month challenge since it began in 2014. That is impressive! We found statistics compiled by Dr Helen Harwatt from Harvard University’s Animal Law and Policy program showing that your collective impact has been huge. What is your ultimate goal for 2021?
|103,840 tons of CO2eq saved, equivalent to driving around the world almost 15,000 times|
|405 tons of PO43-eq (eutrophication) saved, the same as 1,645 tons of sewage|
|6.2 million liters of water saved, the same as flushing the toilet almost half a million times|
|Additionally, more than 3.4 million animals were saved according to the Vegan Society’s Veganalyser calculations|
Toni: Our goal is to keep reaching, inspiring and supporting more people to try vegan! Veganuary has grown every year since we launched in 2014, and we have reached our 2021 target of 500,000 people, but there is no upper limit on our ambitions. The optimal number of animals being factory farmed and slaughtered is zero. The optimal global temperature rise above pre-industrial levels is zero. And so we want to take our message to every person in every part of the world, and encourage them to be part of a movement for a more compassionate, healthy and safe future for all Earth’s inhabitants.
How many people have applied in January 2021 for the Veganuary challenge? Do you have a data that shows how many of them were not on a vegan diet before? What is the most dominant reason for people to join your challenge?
Toni: At this moment, we have had 537,000 people sign up, but we won’t know the final tally until the end of January. At that point, we’ll crunch the numbers and find out our participants’ previous diets and their motivations for taking part. We can say that in January 2020, when 400,350 people took part, 38 percent cited health reasons as their main motivating factor, while 37 percent cited animals. For 18 percent, helping to protect the environment was the main reason they signed up.
Corona Pandemic has clearly shown us that harming the planet by our habits does any good to none of us. How we could most simply explain to people how going vegan can support improving our world and sustainable life?
Toni: Three-quarters of emerging infectious diseases in people come from animals, and this is driven entirely by our interaction with them, which in almost all cases is actually our exploitation of them. When we cut down their habitats, hunt, capture, trade and eat wild animals, we come into close contact with the pathogens they host. This appears to be how Covid-19 spread to people. But this is also true of farmed animals – when we breed, incarcerate, slaughter and eat them, any viruses or bacteria they host can jump into people. At one end of the spectrum, there is food poisoning, which affects just the person eating the infected product. At the other end of the spectrum, we get a transmissible virus that has the ability to infect people in every country in the world – like Covid-19.
So, although it was a wet market in China this time, it could just as easily be a chicken farm in the US next time. And one thing we do know is that there will be the next time, and it will be much sooner if we don’t change our behavior.
There is another element to worry about with factory farms. They are such perfect breeding grounds for a disease that antibiotics are used routinely to try and prevent the animals from succumbing. This over-use of vital drugs helps drive antibiotic resistance, which creates another level of threat for humanity. If we lose antibiotics, simple infections will become deadly.
A vegan world would not end all disease, of course, nor end all pandemics, but it would significantly reduce the risk of them.
Plus, switching to a vegan diet requires less land, energy and water to produce the food. Animal farming is a leading driver of deforestation and biodiversity loss. It is also a leading polluter, with the gargantuan amounts of slurry produced poisoning rivers and oceans, creating algal blooms and ocean dead zones, where wildlife cannot survive. If we truly want a sustainable world, and one that is kinder, fairer and greener, we must look to our diet and move towards plant-based
You have a program for partnering with corporates and your country is now officially the world leader for vegan food launches. You cooperate with the large multinational corporations but also with the smaller high-street retailers – by offering support and promoting their production of animal-free items. What are the other countries that you are supporting and how you see the role of the corporate world in the mission of creating a more human and compassionate world?
Toni: It’s not enough to show people why trying vegan is so important; we have to show them how to do that and there is no doubt that it is easier when there is a choice of delicious, easily accessible options available to people. Not everyone has the time or the ability to cook from scratch. Not everyone wants to be the odd-one-out, eating a wholefood lentil bake while their friends are tucking into pizza. Veganism is not about denial! It is about celebrating abundance.
And so we support and help companies of all sizes as they bring to market delicious food options that will appeal to everyone – from long-term vegans to people just looking for something tasty for their dinner.
We have extensive relationships with large and small companies in the UK and work with them all year round to increase and improve their vegan offerings. In the last two years, we have also begun working with companies in the US, Germany and Latin America.
What do you think is the best way to promote veganism as a method for developing a nonviolent and healthy way of life style? What kind of testimonials resonates best with people who never thought of going vegan?
Toni: The human mind is a very particular kind of beast! If it thinks it can never have its favorite food again, it will flat-out refuse to try vegan, even if it knows that this would be the best thing for animals, people and the planet. And so while our focus is very much on creating a fully vegan world, we encourage individuals to just try veganism for one month. No more. No less. One month gives people enough time to adjust to new foods, find new recipes, ingredients and products, and realize that they don’t have to miss out on anything at all. In fact, so many people report that trying vegan for a month opened up a world of new food options and that they have never enjoyed their food so much.
Importantly, during those 31 days, they also learn a lot about the impact our food choices have on the planet, and they come to understand what a piece of meat or a litre of milk means to the animal whose body it was or came from. We share tips, recipes and ideas, introduce them to the other participants in a supportive online community group, and we shower them with support and encouragement. We make sure that they feel included and listened to, and we take care to guide them and answer their concerns.
The combination of coming to understand why being vegan is so important alongside the development of new food habits is sufficient for many people to stay vegan at the end of the month, while almost everyone who takes part decides to reduce their consumption of animal products.
For those who have never thought about going vegan before, testimonials from athletes can be incredibly motivating. Many people who have watched The Game Changers documentary take part to see if it will boost their sporting performance, too. Health testimonials can also be very compelling, and they often incentivise people to try a fully plant-based diet for a month. For so many, a few weeks without animal products can bring a world of difference to their lives – we commonly hear that people sleep better, experience more energy, have better skin, hair and digestion. But we also hear that arthritis symptoms disappear, that depression symptoms lift, that chronic pain and long-term conditions ease or sometimes just disappear altogether. For some people, the results of eating a vegan diet for 31 days is nothing short of miraculous.
Read more about Veganuary: veganuary.com
150g muesli mix
50g light brown soft sugar
160g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
250ml sweetened soy milk
1 apple, peeled and grated
2 tbsp grapeseed oil
3 tbsp nut butter (we used almond)
4 tbsp demerara sugar
50g pecans roughly chilled
Article Source: BBC Good Food
On the brighter side of the lock down, now you have more time on try out new recipes and get your hands set into vegan cooking.
Vegan food doesn’t mean lame, bland, tastelessness food. On the contrary, vegan food is full of live, taste, zest and nutrition!
Vegan food can also be fun and yummy, check out this awesome “The New York Times’ Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies, Made Vegan” recipe we found on wellvegan.com!
Article Source: wellvegan.com
While travelling with my Guru Mohanji in South Africa in 2012, he had mentioned that he would have liked to see more easy and quick options available for people who prefer vegan food, vegan fast food in other words, a response to the many junk and meat oriented fast food outlets which are so ubiquitous all over the world.
He reached out to disciples of his who had already been in the industry for some time, having started a Saatvik restaurant a few years prior, and encouraged them to open a vegan cafe of their own. He suggested the name Ahimsa to reflect the philosophy of non-violence.
He encouraged me to participate in this project and perhaps even start an Ahimsa of my own, he told me that Ahimsa is to be a statement and I found it to be an inspired idea, something I could really get behind. The only problem was that I wasn’t vegan. I had stopped eating meat years before this, spontaneously but couldn’t resist a good pizza or slab of chocolate when it came my way and it came my way every day since in our culture, you see food that contains milk or some sort of milk derivative everywhere you look, but I felt strongly that I had to make the change, especially if I was to participate in a non-violent enterprise. The primary requisite, I felt was that my integrity be intact, that I myself not entertain a violent lifestyle or habits, but I found it difficult to give up dairy altogether. So, in order to inspire myself to make the change, to really make it my own, I started doing research and quickly found that not consuming animal products is one of the most powerful things I, as an individual, could to affect a positive change in myself and in the world around me. It’s a win win win: I get healthier, no one gets hurt to satisfy my appetite and my negative ecological impact is significantly reduced. I was sold.
Fast forward to 2014 and I began a 2 year apprenticeship in the above mentioned Saatvik restaurant in India and in August if 2016 we opened up shop in Shirdi, where I have been ever since, learning the ins and outs of the industry and doing my best to deliver with purity and to express and embody the principle of non-violence in my own person.
The philosophy and be expressed in a single sentence: Non who live should be killed, tortured, captured or exploited in any form for our consumption.
However we choose to interact with the world, in whichever way we choose to express ourselv
es, we start with the famous medical stricture: “First do no Harm.” Research is pointing more and more to the conclusion that not only do we not need animal products to be in good health, but that a plant based diet is in fact the optimal diet for the human species.
This effectively eliminates any argument for the consumption of meat or dairy as a necessity. Which means that we eat it because we like it.
This awareness creates a spontaneous shift in our attitude to food.
I consider non-violence as the fundamental ethical practice upon which a good conscience is built, upon which empathy and compassion are built. It grows organically into greater sensitivity, subtlety and stability. It lends even the meanest of our activities an aspect of elegance and refinement and suffuses our mind and body with peace. Adopting a non-violent diet, a vegan diet also just so happens to be the best place to start if you are looking to get healthy, loose weight and eat for longevity. It should be understood however, that going vegan doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll be healthy. One can eat vegan and still be eating junk.
The sheer amount of natural resources consumed in the process of animal husbandry is astonishing. Huge tracts of land and millions upon millions of tons of grain and liters of water and man hours go into the farming and processing of meat and dairy and yield consumable product far out proportion to what we put in, it is not a sustainable economy. If we sustained ourselves entirely on plants, the ratio of what we put into what we get out would be much higher and this kind of economy would stand the test of time.
No endeavor or enterprise or species which exists in the natural world can expect to enjoy longevity if it does not take sustainability as its core precept and an essential aspect of sustainability is the avoidance of unnecessary destruction or abuse of life. Nature is self-correcting and the principles on which it operates: Balance, moderation, replenishment, recycling and cycling are non-negotiable. If we don’t work according to these principles, we are done for.
A man’s character will explicitly exhibit the qualities of the things which he consumes, both physically and conceptually. We are what we eat after all. Consistent consumption of things which can only be attained through violence and exploitation will create violent and exploitative men. A society filled with violent men will naturally be a violent society and is therefore doomed to suffer violence. Conversely a mass shift into peaceful temperament brought about by peaceful habits and primarily by consumption of products from non-violent industry will create a global atmosphere of peace. Civilization starts and ends on your dinner plate.
We should never forget who we are or the glorious capacities with which we have been born. We are creatures of intelligence, imagination, refinement, sensitivity. We have the potential to make of this world a garden paradise, to manifest such ingenuity and art as would make even the gods themselves envious. We have the potential to explore the subtle realms and to attain the highest that can be attained, to go to that beyond which there is nothing; to realize ourselves as universal and eternal. Non-violence is the firm foundation, the platform from which mankind will launch its exploration of the cosmos and of its own consciousness.
It has given me a vision to follow. It has given me the opportunity to have my conscience and highest ideals be in alignment with my profession. Since Ahimsa was initiated and inspired by my Guru, it also gave me an appreciation of the fact that the ancient truths which he embodies can find a place in contemporary society in which they may be expressed. The teachings of the enlightened masters of all ages are as relevant today as they have ever been and are relevant everywhere. I need be nowhere other than where I am and still remain on my chosen path.
EAT WITH AWARENESS!!! Feel yourself while eating, be aware of the effect that the food you are eating is having on your body and your temperament and your energy levels. Listen to your own body before you listen to anybody else. Love your body. Love yourself. Be informed. Know your food and know where it comes from. Read and research and be aware of your options and be an educated consumer. Everything else will fall into place automatically.
Shirdi is a spiritual powerhouse. Sai Baba who was a great Master, a true gem among men, lived here for many years and so the place is saturated with his energy and stands as a beacon of light, drawing and guiding many. It is like a pillar which supports the world. Baba recognized and heeded none of the things by which we usually identify ourselves like race or religion or nationality, he saw only himself in all and the potential for evolution into the supreme consciousness in all and so, people from all walks of life come to be refreshed by his undying and palpable presence in Shirdi. Baba also saw no difference between species and so, it is quite fitting that Shirdi now has its very own vegan cafe. 🙂
Okay, vegans. I know what you’re thinking. There have been many articles with similar titles circulating around the internet for years, and after you read the article you realize the person, although technically vegan, also had a serious eating disorder like anorexia or even the lesser-known “orthorexia,” or was on a restricted calorie cleanse consisting of lettuce water, or they were homicidal parents feeding their baby one carrot a day – or something like that. Somehow, people like this even manage to wind up on the Today show with book deals, as we saw earlier this week.
Well, this is not one of those stories. For me and my fiancé, our regular vegan diet actually almost killed us. If you’re thinking about veganism, you’ll want to read this – and vegans, please hear us out.
The Best of Intentions
I believe people are vegan for really, really good reasons. In a nutshell, they’ve learned that we make the choice every day to either pay people to breed and intentionally kill vulnerable animals for our pleasure – or to just not do that. After all, these animals value their lives as much as our pets do and are just as worthy of love.
Then they learn that dairy and eggs are as bad as animal meat, because newborn males are an unfortunate byproduct of egg and dairy production and are typically killed – while their sisters and mothers are forced into production before being butchered once “spent” a mere fraction into their lifetime. And they learn that this is part of the typical process even if the farms are “humane,” small, local, organic, pastured, cage-free, or free-range.
They learn about the many scientific and academic sources showing that vegan diets represent perhaps the most significant environmental effort one can make, requiring about half the water and emissions to produce compared to typical Western diets. This is starting to become more mainstream information, especially since Cowspiracy hit Netflix.
Oh – and this is not a small point – vegans learn that plant-based diets feed far more human beings. As a recent Chemical and Engineering News cover story explains, producing meat and animal products “requires a lot of animals raised on huge, unsustainable amounts of plant protein,” adding, “A switch to plant proteins by those who can afford meat would go a long way to feeding the growing global population while using fewer of the planet’s resources.”
So how could we just sit by and continue to opt in to this human-created nightmare called animal agriculture when we could just make a very simple, doable lifestyle change to create less harm?
With that background, hopefully you can understand why we chose to go vegan. Our hearts were in the right places. I’d been totally vegan for about 3 years after dabbling in varying degrees of vegetarianism throughout my life. My now-fiancé Craig made the shift after we’d been together for a few months, which you can read about here.
What We Ate
Unlike the typical negative stories of vegans eating very restrictive diets, we basically ate everything under the sun other than animal products, of course. Craig’s an amazing cook and I’m not so bad myself. Since there are 20,000+ edible plant species on planet Earth to choose from and tons of ways to enjoy fresh, frozen, and prepared fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, mushrooms, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds, it wasn’t hard. We made rich cheeses, sausages, ice creams, gravies and more, all without animals. It’s not like we were stranded on a desert island without a plentiful supply of food. And when we got lazy, there were plenty of yummy pre-made vegan meats and cheeses to choose from at the store, even after we moved from an urban to a rural area.
We stuffed our faces full of delicious, nutritious food basically every day with few exceptions – say, that time on a business trip I was stuck with omnivores who looked pityingly at my wilted salad and plain baked potato at the restrictive omni restaurant they took me to. (I snuck out after for a real meal at Native Foods.) But generally everywhere we went, we could get satisfying vegan meals, even from popular chains like Subway to Taco Bell to Chipotle.
Whenever I used an app to see if I was getting enough protein, I’d usually had more than enough even just by lunch! I’d always tried to take a daily multi-vitamin even when I was omni, and that didn’t change, but I now took a vegan-friendly version when I remembered to (and I admit I often forgot). Like my old supplement – and like those given to livestock themselves – it included vitamin B12. Salt is iodized, folic acid is added to many packaged goods, and vitamin D is added to cows’ milk, so we didn’t find it weird to be getting a nutrient obtained from bacteria in isolation rather than from the flesh and fluids of animals.
So What Went Wrong?
We were getting all our nutrients like everyone else and were totally healthy. I hadn’t wasted away, my hair wasn’t falling out, etc. When I gave blood at a blood drive, the nurse commented on my high iron levels. At my annual physical checkups, my physician never mentioned anything was remotely amiss. And despite working in offices where colds and flus regularly made the rounds, neither of us had gotten the flu since going vegan, or even much of the sniffles.
Yes, sometimes it was hard socially, like when my uncle asked me why vegans don’t care more about people. I told him we don’t kill and eat people, either. That shut him up. (I could direct those with further objections here or give them the handy anti-vegan bullsh*t mix n’ match for fun.) And that time when the waiter accidentally put dairy milk in my oatmeal, instead of throwing a tantrum, I politely requested another bowl. The struggle is… real?
I should add that Craig is a molecular biologist and I have an MBA in environmental science, so we know better than to intentionally harm ourselves to avoid harming others – or so we thought. After all, despite lots of anecdotal confirmation bias-affirming claims to the contrary, the American Dietetic Association / Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (and all its international counterparts) declare a vegan diet is healthful and appropriate for all stages of life, with not one medical association claiming otherwise or that the flesh or fluid of any animal is somehow necessary to cure, treat, or prevent any deficiency, disease, or twinge of discomfort. Not only that, but a growing body of evidence shows that animal products don’t do a body good after all.
So how did our vegan diet almost kill us? Well, it was a couple of months ago when we ran out of cashew milk (one of many tasty non-animal milks) and bananas. I really, really like to make shakes every day around midafternoon – peanut butter, dates, vanilla, chocolate, berries, whatever – with a frozen banana for a creamy base. I swear it tastes like soft serve ice cream, but healthy. You can add hemp, chia, and/or flax seeds and a few Brazil nuts for an extra boost of sustenance too, if you’re into that sort of thing.
So we ended up going to the grocery store to get more milk and bananas, and as we were crossing the street to the store after parking… wait for it… a car totally came out of nowhere and almost hit us! It was seriously a really close call. We could have been killed. We almost died!
If we hadn’t been vegan, we wouldn’t have run out of cashew milk, and we probably wouldn’t have been drinking a midafternoon shake because we probably would have still been in a food coma from eating severed birds’ wings or someone’s ribcage with mammary secretion dip or whatever the hell it is omnis eat these days. Am I right?
Ever since that fateful day, even though our vegan diet almost killed us, we’re actually both… still vegan. You heard me right.
We decided that we’d still rather not pay people to do things like fire bolts into sweet animals’ brains and slit their throats, grind up newborn male chicks in macerators, place “spent” hens in gassing chamber units, force females to lactate by impregnating them and then removing and either killing their babies or forcing them into the same servitude based on their gender, turn “spent” mothers into hamburger meat, remove fishes from the rapidly depleting oceans to become “seafood” no one needs (or feed for filthy fish farms for more manufactured seafood no one needs), or heck, even to steal honey we also don’t need that bees produce for their own personal use and whom we have to sedate in order to take. That would be like, I don’t know, aliens breeding humans for our ear wax.
In fact, seeing as the global population is now seven billion humans and SEVENTY billion farmed animals, we’d rather not pay people to artificially inseminate animals at all! And if we want to talk about our diets almost killing us, perhaps the focus should be on the many pervasive lifestyle diseases either directly caused or greatly exacerbated by animal-derived foods, many of which actually kill people. In fact, heart disease, which vegans rarely get, is the number one thing that actually kills people!
So yes, even after our frightening ordeal, Craig and I are still eating delicious, nutritious food every day, even though we almost died from doing so. That’s how dedicated we are.
After all, we have somehow managed to peel back multiple, complicated layers of confusion and cognitive dissonance we’d picked up from a lifetime of sensationalist articles like the one you thought you were about to read. Like you, we had constant exposure to the same repeated myths and misinformation about where nutrients must come from, had been told the same fairy tales about farming animals for their flesh and fluids, and we also operated in a social context that reduced our natural wisdom and empathy for animals; animals whose individuality and cuteness we would have otherwise gone gaga over – or whom we would have at least respected enough to just leave the hell alone and eaten or worn something else.
We didn’t come this far to turn back now, careless drivers and annoying lifestyle bloggers be damned.
Article by Lorelei Plotczyk