Over the last couple of years veganism has gained a lot of traction, with an increasing number of people switching to a plant based diet. 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. 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 response to the rise of veganism, supermarkets and high street takeaways have increased their vegan offerings – capitalising on this emerging market. Gregg’s infamous vegan sausage roll is the latest in this trend. 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 spread Vitalite is owned by the dairy giant Dairy Crest. And 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
If you are embracing a vegan diet for animal rights reasons, you may want to avoid buying from companies that also sell animal products? If you are reducing your consumption of animal products for environmental reasons, you may want to support companies that are localising their supply chains whilst ingraining sound environmental practices throughout their business model? I would argue that a diet made up of seasonal, locally sourced, home grown, organic and fairly traded goods is perhaps the sustainable diet to work towards?
In Lancaster there are a range of local food businesses, cafes and community initiatives that offer options for a more sustainable vegan diet. For example Growing With Grace offer ‘stock free’ and locally grown organic veg boxes. Single Step on Penny Street offers a wide selection of vegan foods, as does The Herbarium, Filbert’s Bakery and The Whale Tail Café. Claver Hill also offers the opportunity to grow your own produce organically – even if you have no garden or land.
Lancaster also has a ‘Vegan Feast’ event once a month at the Friends Meeting House which offers a great space for meeting local vegans and learning more about a holistic vegan lifestyle. Attendees bring a vegan dish to share, resulting in a wide variety of tasty dishes to taste and get inspired by.