You may have heard the news this November, that the world is going meat free. Well, maybe not entirely, but this month celebrates World Vegan Month, a time around the world publicised by The Vegan Society to recognise how far the vegan movement has come, to highlight how accessible and beneficial a vegan lifestyle can be and to encourage the vegan-curious to adopt veganism by sharing advice, recipes and ideas.
It's no secret that the vegan movement and both moral and ecological standpoints are becoming widely adopted as mainstream on our high street. In the same week that Waitrose showed its food magazine editor William Sitwell the door for mocking vegans, the supermarket published a report suggesting that one in eight Britons are now vegetarianor vegan. The report is based on millions of the supermarket's transactions in shops and online, backed up with by a poll of 2,000 adults that shop across a range of retailers. Quoted in The Guardian, Waitrose's Head of Brand Development Natalie Mitchell said: "This year, we've seen vegan food go mainstream. Whether cooking at home, buying prepared food or trying the newly vegan-friendly restaurants, people are discovering that it tastes amazing."
In a bold and public campaign, commuters this month will also have noticed Clapham Common tube station has been 'taken over' by vegan posters. The posters, by animal rights charity PETA, have been timed to coincide with World Vegan Month, and each advert shows a sea animal next to the words: "I'm ME, Not MEAT. See the Individual. Go Vegan" or "Sea Life, Not Sea Food."
Naturally, this is not an easy dish to swallow for those who enjoy eating meat, nor can it not be concerning for the future of our British farmers? A well argued article on Farmer’s Weekly describes their current predicament well, and stresses that there is a strong line between animal activists and those living a vegan lifestyle, and it simply does not need to become a battle. For farmers, the action is suggested to be education. Education of consumers, the public and retailer on animal welfare, standards and processes. ‘The next step for farmers is to find new ways to get our positive message to the fore, and educating the consumers of the future at a young age is one way to achieve this.’
However, for Jay the vegetarian ‘beef’ farmer, the move towards a more ethical and environmentally beneficial future by turning his cow farm into stock-free was already his plan of action. The Vegan Society suggests that ‘this transition signals the beginning of a new future of farming. Currently the industry is in crisis. Farms are closing weekly due to financial pressure, mental health among the farming community is suffering, and consumers are turning away from animal products. We need something to change, to support the UK’s new and changing dietary habits, to help protect the environment, and to secure a stable future for the British farmers.’
Just last week, scientists at the University of Oxford suggested that governments should consider imposing price hikes on red meat - such as beef, lamb and pork - to reduce consumption. Not for moral or ethical purposes, but instead they say it would save lives and more than £700m in UK healthcare costs, according to new research. This combination of lower demand, potential hike in taxes and higher scrutinisation of standards is potentially a rather ominous cloud over the British farming industry.
However, where the future of farming may be up for question, the future of the British food industry is clear - the move towards plant based is rapid. As demand from consumers increases, UK restaurants are 'running out of vegan chefs', according to a report byThe Guardian. A study found that seven in ten (73 percent) of customers have avoided a restaurant or would avoid a restaurant due to its lack of non-meat options - which highlights that our local high streets need to accommodate a new kind of consumer, one that will spend their money ethically.
Whether a business is a butcher, grocer or café, one thing is clear - the public are hungry for clear and transparent information. Many of us (vegan or not), want to know how and where our food was produced, the standards to which it is scrutinised and whether its production was considered ‘fair’ for all involved. We are passionate about protecting our environment as well as our heritage and livelihood, and here in the lush green Hills, champion our rural businesses supporting this ethos. Change is coming, and we sense that the future is going greener!
I would value your thoughts.