Getting to the meat of the matter as veganism reaches record highs
It has been a record breaking year for ‘Veganuary’, with 560,000 people signing up for the challenge, and 22% of those in the UK having tried vegan alternatives, according to the Vegan Society.
Veganism was once dubbed as an extremist and challenging diet, one which limited people to nothing but leaves and moss.
But in recent years the food industry has shown a remarkable adaptation to consumer demand for vegan products; KFC has launched a new ‘chickenless chicken’ burger that animal rights charity PETA has hailed as the ‘best vegan burger’, Burger King- once the meat eaters’ paradise, now serves up the meatless ‘impossible Whopper’.
Toria, a teacher, who is part of the Facebook group ‘Vegans in King’s Lynn’ started her journey back in 1976.
She said: “Back when I was in school in ‘76 I was the only vegetarian I knew for years and years, and I’m currently in my seventh year of being vegan.
“Now I’m delighted to see there are enough vegans in King’s Lynn to make a Facebook group.
“If people want the world to have a future this is the most positive move they can make.”
Vegans were previously cast to the fringes of society for food shopping, seeking out specialist stores that served meat and cheese alternatives, but in 2021 most major supermarket chains have a dedicated meat-free aisle.
As the public becomes more aware of the ‘damage’ the meat industry causes to both animals and the environment it has certainly become more popular to make the switch.
Documentaries such as Cowspiracy, aired in 2014 on the streaming site Netflix, demonstrated the iron like grip beef production has on society.
The documentary explains how beef producers contribute to a high percentage of water wastage, deforestation and greenhouse gas production.
Taneha Worboys,27, a production supervisor from Lynn, spoke to the Lynn News about why she chose to be vegan and the problems facing the movement today.
“I’ve been vegan for just under four years now and I initially decided to make the switch for health reasons - but after watching a couple of documentaries about the animal agriculture industry, I realised that I could no longer contribute to the suffering and slaughter of so many innocent sentient beings.
“Now I’m a vegan for the animals more than anything else.”
Many argue that the rise in veganism has contributed to deforestation more than the meat industry, with one Lynn resident saying: “The millennials and their avocados are doing more damage to the environment than cows are.”
Reports have suggested that avacado and almond production in particular are not always ethical, being linked to drug cartels, poor working conditions and destruction of habitats.
Taneha retorted: “The rise in veganism has added to this, although deforestation has been going on for many years.
“I personally avoid purchasing unethically-sourced products such as almonds, where possible as for me veganism means the reduction of harm to animals and our planet as much as possible within one’s personal means.”
One of the many cons of a vegan diet mentioned by those surveyed is the cost of the products themselves, with many poorer families simply unable to afford pricey wholefoods and specialist meat free products.
Earth Island’s vegan eggs are £6.11 for six, whereas chicken eggs in the same quantity can be purchased for as little as 70p.
“There is definitely a vegan tax,” says Taneha,”The cost of everyday items is always greater and it’s frustrating to have to pay more and receive less.
“It seems unfortunate that some companies seem to be pushing for profit over the planet.”
Many ‘green’ companies use clever marketing techniques to capitalise on the ethics of their consumers such as sustainable packaging, or claiming their product is organic and ethically sourced.
Vegans are willing to pay the premium for a cause they hold so dear.
Last week a Norfolk butchers Frank Spurgeon was brutally attacked, with the shop’s windows smashed in and the words ‘meat is murder’ scrawled across the front in red paint.
This left the staff devastated, and now facing a rebuild oftheir livelihood in the midst of a pandemic.
A Downham butcher, who wishes to remain anonymous, gave his opinion on the matter: “I don’t have a problem with vegans, and we try to provide what we can for our vegan customers, but there’s no need to attack someone’s shop.
“I don’t try and force people to eat meat, each to their own, so why try and force veganism on us?”
Norfolk is an agricultural area, with the meat industry raking in significant revenue for the area.
“If we didn’t have the meat industry in our area, then I dread to think what would happen.
“In the UK we are known for our top notch animal care and we make sure the livestock are treated ethically.
“More importantly, where would all of these animals go? They are only bred for meat and milk, we can’t just set them free it would disrupt the whole ecosystem, it’s not logical.
“Our countryside would be overrun and the production of methane would go up even more.”
Methane is one of the greenhouse gases produced by cows, which is said to contribute to global warming.
Retired Nurse Jane Sconce, who worked at the Howdale Surgery in Downham and specialised in diet and diabetes has said there are pros and cons of a vegan diet: “There are huge benefits of a vegan diet, as it can help with diet management and weight, as well as a positive impact on the environment and animal welfare.
“Adding vegan dishes to your weekly menu can be beneficial but a full vegan diet must take careful consideration as it can cause deficiencies.
“As long as the person practising veganism is aware they need to make up for the lack of certain minerals and certain proteins that they would usually get from meat, dairy and fish.
“As with all specialist diets you have to be aware of the pitfalls as our bodies are designed to process a range of foods.”
Taneha said: “Eating vegan makes me more feel energised than I did when I was when I was eating meat.”
This debate has caused a furore online with some people rubbishing the movement.
Kirsty Oakes said: “It’s not sustainable, a balanced diet is what is needed!”
One Facebook user commented: “I tried vegan naked glory tikka strips and they were horrible, I wouldn’t give them to my cat!”
Jackie Walton said there is “no chance” of her going vegan: “Why risk malnutrition? It’s laboratory produced fungus.”
Despite push-back Taneha and others are hopeful for the future as more and more people convert to a meat free diet or attempt veganuary, with some hailing their switch as the ‘best choice they ever made’.
“I feel more people are realising it’s the way to go,” said Taneha, “It gives me hope as I see them signing up for veganuary that we can help our planet prosper.”
These opposing views struggle to co-exist in world where both industries seek to maximise profit and unethical factories abroad, often with horrific working conditions and poor pay, end up slipping under the radar, whether producing animal products or almonds.