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Out with the lamb, in with the leek: A review of Veganuary

Shelves full of dairy free alternatives in the health food shop Bean Freaks

JANUARY was the month of the vegan sausage roll.

Piers Morgan has spent a month quaking in his boots as vegans and non-vegans across the world have been eating products which don’t contain meat as part of the Veganuary campaign.

But it’s not just the vegan sausage roll, which is now Gregg’s fastest selling new product in the past six years — 2,276 people in Wales this year have jumped on the plant-based band-wagon, a 24% increase on last year.

Veganism is a way of living which avoids using or eating any products that come from an animal or contribute to animal cruelty. This means no meat or fish, no dairy or using products or clothing which may cause harm to an animal.

So, has Veganuary been a roaring success or a dairy disaster?

Lauren Hutchinson, manager of the health food shop Bean Freaks, saw sales increase by 4.6% compared to last January.

“January is usually a slow month but that hasn’t been the case,” she said.

“Each weekend in January we would give samples of vegan products like One Planet Pizza and the Booja Booja ice creams, which were really successful.

“There’s a lot of variety now – we now sell cakes every Wednesday from a local vegan business in Cardiff called Naturally Kind Food which are so popular.”

Ms Hutchinson explained that 80% of their confectionery is vegan as well as 90% of the fridge products.

“Some people are stunned most of it is vegan, but then some people are angry that it’s not 100% vegan.” She continued.

Matthew Pritchard with The Grazing Shed’s new vegan burger, inspired by the ‘Dirty Vegan’

Even meat-based restaurants embraced the month of the veggie. The Grazing Shed, a burger joint in Cardiff, partnered with Wales’ most famous vegan, Matthew Pritchard – better known as the Dirty Vegan – to create ‘Pritchard’s Dirty Vegan Burger’.

Adam Walker, The Grazing Shed’s production and development manager, explained how the burger came about.

“A couple of our operations team know Pritch from his skateboarding days and knew of his amazing journey into veganism through his Ironman contests.

“We asked him if he would be interested and it fell directly in line with what he was doing in other projects – as you can see the Dirty Vegan Cookbook and TV shows.”

The Pritchard’s Dirty Vegan Burger has been popular and almost all of the profit from the sales of the burger go towards Pritchard’s SWYD charity.

The Grazing Shed now makes its own vegan mayo, cheese and 99% of its sauces are vegan.

Tom O’Sullivan, 31, is a waiter at the vegan restaurant Anna Loka in Cardiff and has also seen an increase in customers.

He said: “It’s been one of the best months. Usually it’s quiet this time of year but it’s been mad.

“People are often very reluctant at first but at the end they feel converted. They’ll have been dragged in with a face on but at the end they look really happy.”

Charlotte Harding, 32, from Llandaff North, writes the Welsh Mummy Blog. She decided to give Veganuary a go after having been pescatarian for a few years.

Despite hesitation, Mrs Harding has swapped her probiotic drinks for apple cider and milk for soya milk and has loved the effects.

“I am definitely not going back to eating any meat or fish now. I feel healthier and I have a lot more energy.

“I was reading about how life expectancy is worse for meat eaters and it is my job to now educate my children.”

However, she has faced difficulties: “The only thing was when I was researching, I realised my medication wasn’t vegan which made me think I’m not really a vegan if I’m taking these meds. But I am going to try and find alternatives.”

Vegan products ahead of Easter in Bean Freak’s health food shop

Rachel Mullis, 25, a student from Maindy, said she did have moments where she broke her veganism but is going to continue her plant-based journey: “I tried Veganuary this year because I’ve been veggie for a few years now and wanted to see if I could do it.

“I’ve just always been put off because it’s harder to find vegan products and I thought they’d be super expensive but actually I was really surprised at how easy it was to find cheap alternatives.”

Veganuary studies show that based on previous participants, for every 10 people who take part in the challenge, six will stay vegan.

Rich Hardy, head of campaigns at Veganuary, said: “With a quarter of a million participants this year, Veganuary is finishing on an all-time high.

“We’ve given Brexit a run for its money this month, with our headline-hitting campaign featuring almost daily across national and international media channels.

“Vegan living is growing, it’s here to stay, it’s part of the national conversation, and it has credibility. That’s great news for people, animals, and the planet.”

A full analysis and breakdown of Veganuary’s 2019 participants is now underway and the findings will be released in the spring.

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