2016 was a rollercoaster ride for many, but a great leap forward for veganism and The Vegan Society as a whole.
We look back at the fifteen most exciting Vegan Society events of 2016.
1) We found out how many vegans are in Britain
Over the years, The Vegan Society has received hundreds of requests from people all wanting the answer to the same question. From journalists to entrepreneurs to activists – everyone wanted to know the number of vegans in Britain. Ten years ago, we estimated this number to be around 150,000. Due to the amazing successes of the vegan movement, we all knew that this number would now be much higher. However, it was important for us to conduct this research professionally, in order to ensure that the data was as reliable and representative as possible. Thanks to a very generous donation from Vegan Society member Roger Roberts, from Vegan Life magazine, and from people who donated to our crowdfunding campaign, we reached our fundraising target. After receiving advice from our Research Officers and Research Advisory Committee, we approached leading researchers Ipsos MORI, who took on the project, sampling 10,000 people over the age of 14 in England, Scotland and Wales.
They revealed that there are over 542,000 people of ages 15+ in Britain who follow a vegan diet: that's over 1% of the population. This research is vital for our future outreach and campaigns. We now know which groups are predisposed to a vegan diet, and the reasons others have for not going vegan. By tailoring our messages with this information in mind, we are more effective going forwards.
2) You can now find out how many animals you’ve saved or would save by going vegan
For November’s World Vegan Month we launched our Veganalyser – a web app which shows how many animals a person has saved since going vegan, and how many animals a person could save if they went vegan today.
Our most popular page during the month, over 60,000 people interacted with it. Thousands of you posted it on social media, many of you overjoyed to share your results with your friends and family.
While 55% of those who interacted with the Veganalyser were already vegan, 45% were not. It is clear that non-vegans (27,000 people in November alone) have already started to question their lifestyle. This is made more apparent by the number who then went on to view our ‘How to go vegan’ and ‘Vegan Pledge’ pages: 15,000 of you. Thanks to the Veganalyser, 25% of all of those who took part have gone away more educated and better informed than they were before!
But it doesn’t just end at World Vegan Month. The Veganalyser is a long-running campaign that demonstrates the numerical reality of the meat, dairy and egg industries. While no reliable figures have been found yet, future launches hope to include the wider impact of living a vegan lifestyle, such as how many animals are saved by not wearing leather or wool, and avoiding toiletries that have been tested on animals. For now, it remains a great way to persuade non-vegans to question their diet and ethics. Try it today.
3) We were voices for the environment
On 29 November, The Vegan Society launched a Thunderclap campaign called ‘Be a voice for the environment’. Everyone who signed up to support the campaign shared an automatic message on their Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr profile at the same time that raised awareness of the tenth anniversary of the publication of Livestock’s Long Shadow. The seminal 2006 report cited the hugely negative effects of animal agriculture on the environment but no action has been taken by the UK government. Hence the need for our Thunderclap message, which reached nearly three quarters of a million people via social media. Over 350 people participated in spreading the message far and wide, while thousands more visited our website that day to find out more about the Grow Green campaign. This year also saw our Grow Green campaign introduced to parliament to coincide with the International Year of Pulses, with more politicians than ever engaging with it – campaigner Tom has been very busy over at Westminster!
4) We formed the first All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on vegetarianism and veganism
On 6 December we held our first APPG at the Houses of Parliament with MPs, Vegetarian for Life and The Vegetarian Society, as well as a selection of experts. The latter provided expertise on topics including vegan labelling on foods and medicine as well as protection of our vegan rights in light of Brexit. Future APPGs will look at vegan provision in institutions among other important topics, and is an excellent opportunity to get veganism on the political agenda. We look forward to continue to foster a good relationship with parliamentarians and working together to influence positive change. To listen to how the APPG went and hear an interview with Dr Kinesh Patel about how animal ingredients in medicines may change post-Brexit, head to episode three of our podcast now.
5) We created the first Vegan Society podcast
On World Vegan Day we launched the first ever Vegan Society podcast – a radio-style show hosted by staff members which is available to download straight to your mobile.
The first episode discussed the revelation that vegan cheese should be renamed ‘Gary’, following an online rant from a non-vegan which went viral. Supporter Services Officer Andy also interviewed the public at the Big Animal Rights March on their thoughts towards veganism, and whether the march was influencing them to think twice about their lifestyles.
Following on from this, our second episode investigated new vegan outreach methods as well as providing a lighter side with tips on how best to cook potato waffles. Since the launch, the podcast has gone from strength to strength, attracting over 2000 listeners each time. Subscribe now - it really helps others find the show.
6) Veganism smashed Google Trends
According to Google Search Trends, this time last year in the UK the word ‘vegan’ was only half as popular as it is today. It’s now the most popular it has ever been, with a significant proportion of people searching vegan in December as well as during this month’s expected Veganuary rush. That signifies that more animal-free Christmases were had than ever before! Worldwide shows a similar story, meaning veganism has never been more sought after.
7) We ran stalls at 32 events
Every year we run events all over Britain at various festivals including VegFest, Food Matters Live and Mind Body Spirit. At all vegan festivals such as VegFest we help new vegans find their feet with free advice and cheap recipe books, while at trade shows like Food Matters Live our Trademark team encourage businesses to branch out to better cater for vegans. At non-vegan shows like Mind Body Spirit, we really get to shine, signing up a hundred event-goers to our Vegan Pledge.
8) We signed up over 15,000 people to the Vegan Pledge
Wow! That’s a lot of new vegans. Coupled with the fact that 96% of people who complete the Vegan Pledge stay vegan after, it really was a great year for veganism. If you’re not vegan, be sure to sign up to receive free tips, advice and recipes for 30 days.
9) We hosted health professionals at a private presentation with physician Dr Michael Greger
On 30 April The Vegan Society hosted Dr Michael Greger – bestselling author and physician – for a free invite-only event targeted at health professionals. Endorsed by our partners at the British Dietetic Association, the event was created to spread awareness about the benefits of plant-based diets in preventing and treating disease.
The night was a great success, with over 40 attendees including students, dietitians, GPs and fitness coaches. Dr Greger was coming to the end of a long four month tour but still delivered his talk and Q&A session with enthusiasm and his trademark charisma. We hope to host more events like this in 2017 to educate those working in the health service about the vegan diet. To help fund these events, join us now.
10) We made more media appearances than ever before
This year The Vegan Society has been on the radio 23 times, from BBC Radio 5 Live to talk about the disappointment that is tallow in the £5 note to LBC to discuss the horrific idea to ban vegan diets for children in Italy. We’ve also appeared on TV, from Channel 5’s the Wright Stuff, where we argued the case for veganism and childhood nutrition, to a Sky News appearance broadcasting our ‘How many vegans?’ results. And not to forget our regular articles in the Independent, Huffington Post and London Economic. All these appearances have been accompanied by peaks in our how to go vegan resources, including our Vegan Pledge, so you know they’re just vital for spreading the message.
11) We’ve provided more and more free resources for activists and newbies to access
Here at The Vegan Society, we are keen to do all we can to support vegan activists. With this in mind, we have been reviewing and updating our educational materials and have now added two new leaflets to our stock: ‘Vegan for the animals’ and booklet ‘Vegan for the environment’. You can order them from us for free or download them online with our other leaflets today.
This year we’ve also been keen to update our website resources for new vegans, now offering informative articles on supermarket lists, vegan shoes, a vegan meal plan as well as more recipes than ever before. We’ve also improved our longstanding articles such as our clothing and travel sections, for the vegan shopper and adventurer in you.
12) We hired a vegan registered dietitian
This year we employed Heather Russell, The Vegan Society’s first full time dietitian on staff. Her job involves talking to the media about the benefits of vegan diets, updating our nutrition advice while providing helpful blogs as well as attending events run by the BDA to talk about vegan food service provision in hospitals.
Dietitian Heather Russell has hit the ground running in her first few months at The Vegan Society. Heather is updating our nutrition resources, which will be available later this year.
13) We’ve given more workshops and presentations than ever before
Our new dietitian Heather cut her teeth by delivering a series of presentations at vegan festivals around the country, from how to feed your vegan children to tips for mature vegans, as well as general nutrition advice. Meanwhile, Communication Officers Ali and Elena presented ‘Vegan 101’, a presentation that runs through all the basics of vegan living and sees many sign ups to our Vegan Pledge. Ali also gave a presentation about pro-intersectional activism, where she explained the importance of inclusion and the need for awareness on how issues such as race, ability and class affect people’s ability to access veganism.
14) We’ve helped improve hospital catering
Last year, our Campaigns team began work on Catering For All – The Vegan Society’s campaign to improve hospital food for vegans. It was agreed that the most effective way to make improvements in this sector was to host a series of workshops for health-care workers involved in every aspect of meal provision. The first one was successfully held in London this year, with more to come in 2017. You can help fund our workshops, which help the health services take care of vegans in need, by joining as a member today.
15) We launched the Vegan Passport app and new edition
Our new and improved 5th edition of the Vegan Passport was out in time for summer, and we’ve received some great feedback. For those who don’t know, the Vegan Passport was created to make life easier for globetrotting vegans who are looking for vegan food in different countries, including countries in which they may not speak the language.
And, for the very first time, you can now download it as an app! Both the book and the app include a page of information about veganism, and what vegans can and can’t eat, all in a very accessible and engaging way, translated into 78 languages – the highest number ever. In fact, the book includes languages which cover 96% of the world’s population. We’ve added several new languages including Hausa, Igbo, Xhosa and Zulu. What are you waiting for? Buy it today and support The Vegan Society at the same time!
By Ali Ryland