VEGANISM - it’s a word that most people probably couldn’t even pronounce twenty years ago.
Abstaining from animal products was such a foreign concept that it was rarely discussed, and even more rarely practised.
Reserved for a select group of tree-hugging misfits on the outskirts of civilisation, it was easy to dismiss as nothing more than a quirky, alternative lifestyle.
Fast-forward to 2020 and things have changed a lot.
Veganism has emerged from the shadows and nestled itself comfortably into mainstream society.
No longer is there a need to carry a carton of soya milk to coffee shops or to line your stomach with potatoes before dinner parties.
Thanks to a surge of Netflix documentaries and celebrity endorsements, veganism has finally been thrust into the limelight.
And despite the voices of opposition that are out there - it’s not going anywhere.
In January 2019, 250,000 people from all over the world publicly pledged to try a vegan diet. This statistic reveals not only the increasing interest in veganism, but also the growing acceptance of its position in society.
The rejection of animal products is, at last, something to applaud, rather than to ridicule.
Of course, we all know how breaking New Year’s resolutions is almost as traditional as making them.
Every year, thousands of people dive head-first into a vegan lifestyle, without the tools to navigate its choppy waters.
And every year, thousands of people get caught in its current.
It’s estimated over 80 per cent of those who ‘go vegan’ relapse.
This staggering statistic is concerning, but not surprising.
When the term is knotted into a string of other New Year’s resolutions, its true meaning is choked.
The act of ‘going vegan’ is aligned with other sacrifices such as quitting alcohol or gluten.
It’s a fun experiment for a couple months - a novel challenge to be ticked off your bucket list.
But veganism is a lifestyle, not a fad diet.
There are no ‘cheat meals’, because this isn’t a game. It calls not just for a change in what we eat, but a total overhaul of how we view other sentient creatures.
So this New Year, don’t ‘go vegan’ to shed the Christmas pounds or to cleanse your skin. This is your chance to save up to 100 animals a year. To soften the marks of your carbon footprint. To feel at peace every time you cross your knife and fork.
And now that we’ve covered Vegan Theory 101, let’s advance to the fun stuff - how to thrive on a vegan lifestyle.
There’s a myth that’s floated around for a long time that vegans live off leaves and trail mix. Trust me, if that were true - I probably wouldn’t be alive to write this.
While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a rainbow salad and spoonfuls of cashew dressing, there is so much more to the vegan diet than greens and nuts.
Contrary to popular belief, the removal of animal products from your plate is not a life sentence to hunger pangs and wilted bones.
It is in fact an opportunity to dig into a treasure chest of new foods and revamp old-fashioned dishes.
Chickpeas (the peas-ful alternative to chicken, of course) should be bought in bulk and allocated VIP cabinet space in your kitchen. These humble legumes are so cheap and versatile you’ll wonder how you ever survived without them. Stir them into a coconut curry, sprinkle them into a salad, smash them into burger patties - the possibilities are endless.
If pulses don’t send your heart racing, then there are plenty of meat substitutes available on the market. From tofu to seitain, the aisles are bulging with cruelty-free replacements. Cauldron Foods produces a range of delicious seasoned tofu pieces that’ll spare you the struggle of wrestling with a soggy white slab.
Fry’s is another foolproof brand for newbies to veganism, offering a variety of meat-free burgers, sausages and mince.
For those of you with a sweet tooth, there’s no need to worry about sugar withdrawals. VEGO and Moo-Free, which can both be found in most health stores, offer all the flavour of milk chocolate without the bitter aftertaste of cruelty.
There’s also ‘accidentally’ vegan treats, such as bourbons, rich tea biscuits and Hobnobs. And before you panic at the thought of sneaking dry rice cakes into the cinema, remember - most popcorn, ready-salted crisps and crackers are already animal-free.
If you find yourself lost for ideas, check out the Youtube channels of The Happy Pear, Hot for Food and Cheap Lazy Vegan for a goldmine of simple recipes.
Unless it’s your cat napping under tousled laundry, animals don’t want to be in your clothes.
The biggest culprits of animal exploitation in fashion today are leather, fur and wool.
These materials are used to make beautiful garments - at the cost of even more beautiful animals. Over 100 million animals are brutally killed each year to be crafted into everything from coats to bags.
Luckily, it’s completely unnecessary to sacrifice animals’ lives to dress well.
Vegan leather, once almost impossible to find, is now cropping up all over the high street. Marks & Spencer has drastically upped their ‘woke’ status and launched a wide line of vegan footwear, stocking everything from platform heels to ankle boots.
There’s also a bounty of options to be found online, including Will’s, Tom’s and Nae Vegan.
Stay warm without contributing to the wool industry by opting for equally cosy fabrics. Acrylic, polyester fleece and cotton are all great insulators for the winter, softening your skin - and your conscience.
If you love a good fluffy layer, embrace the fake and choose faux fur.
The high street is thick with pieces that’ll bring out your inner animal, without actually hurting any.
Once you’ve revamped your fridge and wardrobe, it’s time to clean up your wash cabinet.
Unfortunately, many of the personal hygiene and cosmetic products we use every day are suffused with all sorts of animal-derived ingredients. And even if they are animal-free, that doesn’t mean they weren’t tested on them.
But don’t worry - it’s not necessary to learn off a dictionary’s worth of scientific terms the next time you browse for a new mascara.
An excellent place to verify the status of a product is the website CrueltyFreeKitty.
It provides a regularly updated list of all the vegan brands on the market, saving you the hassle of scouring the internet yourself. You can also keep your eyes peeled for the vegan trademark, which will give you the thumbs up that the product is completely free of animals.
Going vegan can feel overwhelming. It commands an unravelling of our tightly woven beliefs and a re-evaluation of all corners of our lives.
So don’t be afraid to ask for help. Utilize as many resources as possible.
And while not everyone will understand your decision, always rest assured that you are making a huge difference in the fight against animal suffering.