We are in mid Veganuary and there is a growing trend of people moving towards more plant based diets. This is perhaps reflected in the increasing range of vegan options on the highstreet – Gregg’s being just one example of a company increasing its vegan offerings.
A vegan diet is one based entirely on plant foods: vegetables, fruits, pulses, beans and grains. No animal products of any kind are eaten or drunk including meat, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy (milk and cheese) and honey.
There are many reasons why people living in the UK may want to start a vegan diet, or at least think about reducing the amount of animal products they eat. These range from health and spiritual reasons, to animal rights and environmental reasons. A vegan diet can have a much lower environmental impact than an animal based diet; using natural resources more efficiently. For more information about the reasons for going vegan see veganuary.com and perhaps read Mike Berners-Lee’s book ‘There’s No Planet B’.
However, who you buy from is arguably as important as what you buy. The animal rights and environmental credentials of vegan brands and the companies who own them should be questioned. In addition, processed vegan substitutes are less ideal health wise than whole food options.
In response to the rise of veganism, supermarkets and high street takeaways have increased their vegan offerings – capitalising on this emerging market. Although great in terms of offering more widely available vegan options, many of these businesses have terrible environmental policies and practices, have poor workers’ rights records and still profit from the commodification of animals.
For example the vegan ice cream Swedish Glace is owned by Unilever who also sells Ben and Jerry’s, Knorr and Hellman’s. For more examples of vegan brands owned by non-vegan companies with questionable ethics see Ethical Consumer’s website: www.ethicalconsumer.org
Fortunately for us Lancaster has a number of great local food businesses, cafes and community initiatives that make a vegan lifestyle in Lancaster relatively easy whilst also taking a holistic approach to their ethics and sustainability. For example Single Step offers a wide selection of vegan foods, as does the Herbarium, Filbert’s Bakery, The Radish and The Whale Tail Café. We recommend keeping it local, organic and opt for wholefoods where feasible.
Lancaster also has a ‘Vegan Feast’ event on the last Friday of each month at the Friends Meeting House where people bring a vegan dish to share. This is a great space to meet local residents interested in a vegan lifestyle, and to taste a variety of tasty vegan dishes.