Blog #4. My Thoughts on Veganuary
"When it's all gone, something carries on and it's not morbid at all... just when natures had enough of you. When my blood stops, someone else's will not. When my head rolls off, someone else's will turn... and while I'm alive, I'll make tiny changes to earth" - Frightened Rabbit, Head Rolls Off.
The Earthlings Experience, Protests, The Save Movement, Vegan Festivals, Vevolution, Chalktivism, Vegan Bloggers, Vegan Instagram Accounts, Vegan Runners, Vegan Podcasts, Vegan YouTubers with What I Eat in a Day videos, Veganuary and many more. These are all forms of activism... maybe not in the typical sense but I believe there is a place for all of these as they reach or target different people. I'm certainly not saying there is a right or wrong way to talk about veganism and spread the message... just different ways.
The reason for this post comes from a place of confusion and frustration. Over the last couple of months I have noticed a weird thing happening throughout social media... vegans attacking other vegans and also attacking people who are trying to make a change. Maybe 'attacking' is a strong word but I have observed people questioning other people's motives, opinions and actions. I'm not saying that's wrong as I like to find out new information and challenge my opinions, but when it seems like there is a vegan leader board where some people are "more vegan" than others it doesn't make sense.
Now, lets get onto the point of this post which is Veganuary. I only heard about this a few months ago (and if you've read my 'about' page, you'll know I transitioned to veganism over 8 months) so I've never actually taken part in Veganuary prior to becoming vegan. When I saw their posters all over Instagram and the London Underground I thought it was absolutely fantastic. I also noticed people say that it was wrong to promote Veganism as a trial period and to be honest, that didn't even cross my mind.
Does Veganuary promote a diet and not a moral obligation? Does Veganuary imply that you can opt into Veganism for a month and then quit? A try before you buy? They certainly say "try vegan this January" but I think their aim to support people throughout the month of January and show them that it's not as difficult as they might think. Ultimately, their aim is for people to stay vegan. Is Veganuary a bad thing? I don't think so. Does it make me an 'unethical vegan' for supporting it? I don't think so either. Sharing graphic images works for some and not others. In my opinion you can't force people to make the connection (I talk about being an angry vegan here) as they will make this themselves when they are ready, but it requires all different types of activism/sharing knowledge to plant the seeds for people to notice and make the connection.
I agree that harming animals isn't something that we should "try" to stop for one month of the year and when I think about it like that it makes me sad and the angry vegan inside me rises to the surface. The thing is though, people choose to go vegan for all sorts of reasons. Some have transitioned for health reasons and have become aware of the ethical aspect afterwards. If you type #vegan into Instagram you currently get 37,210,224 posts and a quick browse through shows all sorts of things. Food pics, household products, beauty products, vegan memes and of course images of animals. The startling truth at how us humans treat these sentient beings which do not belong to us. So if people are looking for meal ideas, they're going to come across everything they need to know in order make the connection. Granted, they can scroll on past - but they're looking, so I see this as a positive thing.
Would I like everyone to go vegan? Of course! All vegans would. However, I'm not going to say that the team behind Veganuary are wrong for spreading the message! Some people might need that month to see that it's achievable and I don't think we can begrudge them for actually giving it a go. There's a possibility that they will continue to be vegan, or will transition at some point and I feel we should show some compassion and support them. There's so much crap (and that's a massive understatement) that's going on in the world without slating other vegans who are spreading the message.
Some people said that Veganuary is pushing the movement backwards but I don't agree - 59,500 people signed up for Veganuary. Numbers have increased by 1703% since they started their campaign in 2014. Surely raising awareness can only be a good thing?
When I cut out meat, my two vegan friends were incredibly supportive despite the fact I was consuming my body weight in cheese. Not once did either of them tell me I should be vegan. I think their support and compassion towards me has influenced the way I think about other people's journeys and for that I am grateful to them both. This encouraged me to support people through Veganuary so I followed loads of Instagram accounts, posted recipes and hashtagged the hell out of it so people would find my Instagram account. My aim was that I could inspire them to continue being vegan and I have connected with a lot of amazing people in the process... who are continuing to be vegan post January. Yes, I've noticed a few accounts who have decided to add animal products back into their lives but does that mean I'm going to unfollow them or stop supporting them? Hell no! Who am I to judge anyone? I ate, wore and used animal products for 26 years. People can and do change and I'll be here to help them when they're ready.
I'd love to hear your opinions on Veganuary (even if they differ) so please comment and share your thoughts. Keep your eyes peeled for some amazing guest posts and their experiences of Veganuary. First up and coming this Thursday is the beautiful Billie from CarrotsnCashews, so pop over to her account and say hi!