The very title of this book sums up what many people have pondered over the years. Sure, they think, it’d be great to go vegan. I can see the benefits for the planet, the animals and maybe even me, but how on earth do I do it? Sometimes it seems as though there’s some sort of mysterious power that vegans have to be able to do what they do. Other times outsiders assume that vegans simply enjoy living in misery eating lentils out of a clog. Whatever people assume (and I have firsthand evidence of this) they certainly assume that they could never do it.
The book begins by detailing why people might go vegan, starting with the main one – the animals. This section covers the facts about animal farming. Perhaps it’s because I’m a bit of a hardened activist, but I felt the information was delivered in a measured way. They thank the reader at the end as it’s a tough read, but I suppose when you’ve read the animal section in Skinny Bitch, nothing that follows seems like a tough read. Basically it paints the awful reality without totally traumatising the reader.
For someone like me, it’s all about the animals and any other benefits can be seen as a bonus. That is the opinion of abolitionist movements such as Go Vegan World too and I can see how they may get frustrated with Veganuary’s approach. There’s a casual ‘hey, don’t be too hard on yourself’ theme that runs through this book that I know would shock some vegans. For myself though, I see this non-threatening approach as quite useful. Once you have someone taking part, whether it’s for the animals, environment or whatever, they tend to find out that they can survive and thrive without animal products, and as Edgar’s Mission says ‘If we could live happy, healthy lives without harming others, why wouldn’t we?’
After a section about environmental benefits, such as reduced water usage and pollution, it’s on to health. It’s true that, especially in January, people can turn to Veganuary as part of a health kick. This book not only covers personal health, but also global health, mentioning diseases we get from farmed animals and the threat of antibiotic resistance. Then the book suggests doing Veganuary ‘for the adventure.’ I think this will appeal to a very small group of people, but you never know, once they’re onboard they may stick with it for the animals.
So, onto the how: They suggest different approaches, from giving up one animal product at a time, to going all out the first day. They are sensible to suggest easy swaps, such as soy mince for beef, plant milk for cow’s and veggie stock in soup instead of chicken: Basically, things that won’t upset your life too much. They also mention the array of foods people will have in their cupboards that are ‘accidentally vegan.’ Folk are always delighted to find out they can still consume Skittles for example!
There’s useful information on how to read labels and nutrition. It’s not too complicated, so people will be encouraged rather than put off I think. There are tips on how to get around family issues and how to travel with confidence. A list of myths follows, which will be useful for the fledgling vegan who wants to answer the most common questions they’ll be asked. There’s even a small vegan bingo board on one page, which I enjoyed! Meal plans and recipes are in here too, although of course much more can be found on the website.
As I said before, I know many vegans will find this book’s approach far too casual. However, it’s not aimed at them. It’s aimed at people who know in their hearts they should be changing the way they live and for some, this non-threatening approach will work wonders. The pull to be conventional is strong and if participants can allay their own fears by telling themselves ‘It’s just for a month…’ then that may actually help them to keep going. The social justice of veganism creeps up on some and is an overnight realisation for others. I’m somewhere between an abolitionist and a pragmatist. I don’t believe in reductarianism and think that veganism is the moral way to live, but I feel that different people get there in different ways. The softly, softly approach of this book will suit many people. After all, more than 65% of last year’s participants stayed vegan. And with over one hundred and fifty thousand sign-ups this year, far more than ever before, those are some pretty good projected numbers. This book will definitely help veganism into the mainstream, which is in all our interests.