It’s no secret that veganism has steadily been on the rise in the UK. It has become a frequent topic of conversation, a regular feature in the news, and still wins the award for initiating the most awkward dinner conversations, causing an instant divide. However, nobody could predict the absolute chaos that has been cast upon the UK so far in 2019.
For years, veganism has seemed a kind of cool, ‘on-trend’ lifestyle to partake in, but could 2019 be the year it finally goes mainstream? Apparently not without a fight, as the debate has taken over our TV’s, newspapers, radios and general conversations. Here are 10 of the most memorable (and some downright bizarre) moments that proved to us that 2019 really is shaping up to be the Year of the Vegan (coincidentally – 2019 is also the Year of the Pig according to Chinese zodiac).
- Obviously, it has to be Greggs
The largest bakery chain in Britain, but previously unfamiliar to the rest of the world, Greggs really was the provoker which started the explosion of veganism this year. Their arrival of vegan sausage rolls was a response to a petition set up by animal rights organisation PETA, signed by 20,000 people. Before 2019, Gregg’s slotted in nicely with all things traditional to Great Britain, and one of the reasons it has been so popular over the years is that people knew what to expect. No surprises.
In 2018, their traditional belgian buns were discovered as ‘accidentally vegan’, which means they offered a completely vegan product without even knowing it. With the vegan sausage rolls, however, Greggs were hugely involved in ‘veganizing’ the product, and their social media team made sure that everyone knew about it, too. One Twitter response to British journalist Piers Morgan turned into an even bigger debate, and resulted in Piers’ peculiar obsession with the vegan sausage rolls phemonen. He would rant about the product every morning on ‘Good Morning Britain’, and finally tried one live on air, then soon after, dramatically spat it out (to partially quote one of Gregg’s earlier Tweets, it’s a vegan sausage roll, Piers…).
Starting out at only select bakeries, people were going so crazy for the vegan sausage rolls, some were even sold on eBay for up to £12 (they cost £1 in Greggs stores). At the start of February, Greggs announced that due to the insane demand, they would now be available in ALL Greggs stores across the UK.
This just goes to show what happens when you mix a traditional British bakery with a savvy PR team – although it has been said that Greggs PR company are the same as Piers Morgan’s. Irregardless, you can’t beat the amazing promotion this created for veganism in general (it seems Greggs are pretty happy too, with a sales rise of 11% so far this year due to the arrival of the controversial product).
2. The Dispatches Debate
Also right at the start of the new year came ‘Dispatches’ – a current affairs UK documentary series which prides itself in giving both sides of the story to ensure a fair debate. So when it aired the 30 minute show entitled ‘The Truth About Vegans’, many people were disappointed in what felt like quite an anti-veganism show that talked more about activism, rather than just focusing on the vegan lifestyle. To clarify – choosing to adopt a vegan lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to become an activist, however, this is something that many vegans do partake in, having informed themselves of knowledge that they feel is important to share, and to raise awareness of the atrocities that take place in industries that make profit from animals.
The show also focused on animal rights organisation ‘Viva!’ and their campaign ‘Hogwood Horror Farm’. The farmer who runs this farm talked a lot about how his business has suffered as a result of the campaign. Viva! were unable to give their side of the story, but you can view the Founder of Viva!’s response here.
Later in January, Viva! also organised an action outside Red Tractor’s Head Office. For those who unaware of Red Tractor, they are a farm and food assurance scheme, and their label can be found on many meat and animal products. The aim of these labels is to help people feel better about the welfare of the animals when buying a particular product, but the reality is that Red Tractor standards don’t mean very much at all as they are basically the same as the minimum legal standards in the UK. Viva! Wanted to raise awareness about this fact, and how it had been overlooked on Dispatches. They even had an actual Red Tractor driving around London too. Kudos to Viva! for conjuring up an inventive way to make sure their side of the story was heard.
3. Gordon Ramsey….stranger things have happened, I guess?
The self-professed anti-vegan Gordon Ramsey who even once announced he was allergic to vegetarians, saying that they ‘make (his) face go puffy’ actually launched a vegan menu for Veganuary at his restaurant in London ‘Bread Street Kitchen’. This was definitely a turn up for the books, given that he seemed to enjoy mocking vegetarians and vegans at any opportunity, but this began to turn around last year when he began serving ‘Bottomless Vegan Pizza’ at the aforementioned restaurant, and also took part in ‘Vegan Masterchef’. So there was kind of a build up to this vegan menu, but still a shock that the chef who once referred to PETA as ‘People Eating Tasty Animals’ as a response to a photo of a vegan lasagne on Twitter, was now promoting an animal-friendly lifestyle.
4. Best. Veganuary. EVER!
This year saw a record breaking number of people who took part in Veganuary, with a whopping 250,000 sign ups, many of whom have said they will stay vegan after January. This was aided by countless restaurants and eateries offering vegan menus for Veganuary, just to make it even easier!
5. ‘All vegans should be punched in the face.’ Oh, Natwest…
No publicity is bad publicity…except if its publicity about an employee saying that all vegans should punched in the face to a customer for requesting a loan to pay for a nutrition course. That definitely has to be an exception.
It seems that veganism taking over the news wasn’t just a fluke of January, as this incident which took place at a Natwest bank in Bristol was reported just earlier this week. The employee said he felt this way due to seeing chalked images of animals with phrases such as ‘Friends, Not Food’ near to where he lived.
And not forgetting…
6. Vegan film wins a BAFTA.
’73 Cows’ is about a farmer who gave his cows to an animal sanctuary instead of sending them to a slaughterhouse. Find out more here.
7. Vegan creme eggs are a thing!
Available online at mummymeagz.com just in time for Easter! (Launched in the UK but available worldwide).
8. Vegan cheesemonger opens in London!
…and a dairy farmer slams the business for calling their products ‘cheese’ (come on, can’t we just all agree to share the word?).
9. You had one job, McDonald’s!
McDonald’s tried to get with the vegan scene….then shamefully served chicken nuggets in veggie wraps in restaurants across the UK.
10. I immediately regret this decision…
Boohoo ban wool! Then go back on it immediately after. So, they still sell wool. No news here, then…just, pretty strange?
So there we have it, it’s only February and already 2019 has been taken over by a series of shocking, celebratory, influential, and sometimes just downright odd news stories that confirm that we are at the beginning of ‘The Year of Vegan’.
There’s no going back now, so how about we just sit back, enjoy the ride, and see what else this year has in store?
(To be continued…)