Veganuary is a global charity that supports people trying to go vegan for the month of January. Launched in January 2014, the charity have grown massively having gained worldwide media coverage on the work they do. As well as changing the public attitude towards veganism they provide support for those looking to make the transition to veganism. We caught up with Jane Land, Co-Founder of Veganuary in the lead up to Veganuary 2017.
How did Veganuary come into existence?
“My husband and I founded it, he was vegan longer than I was, he converted me which is unusual because it’s usually it’s the women who convert the men. I was a ‘second rate veggie’ as he described me. He’s an entrepreneur, so we were always talking around ideas about ‘what can we do for animals?’ ‘what would be the best use of our time?’ We’ve both done things like demonstrations, leafleting and different forms of activism but we really wanted to make it our work, if you like, our full-time job.”
“We had heard about Movember, Matthew had actually taken part in Movember and he really liked the concept and it had grown massively from starting out in Australia. So we thought, ‘well, what can we do that’s similar to that but for animals?’ We thought, ‘will you go vegan for the month?’ The best month for that has got to be January because of new year’s resolutions, lifestyle changes. So vegan January became as we know it Veganuary and nobody had to grow a moustache.”
“We had a little bet with ourselves, I’m the pessimist in the relationship I said, ‘if we get a hundred taking part, that would be great.’ And he said ‘no we need at least a thousand for us to make the effort to create a website.’ That first year, we actually got 3,300 people taking part and all it was, was us in our bedroom, created a basic website, a few Facebook ads and that was it.”
Veganuary has grown massively since then, have there been any standout moments along the way?
“It seems to have really spiralled, some of the coverage in that first year we hit some of the national papers and then last year several times for The Guardian and The Telegraph and even the likes of The Daily Mail, who you’d think wouldn’t even touch it, we had about three articles in The Daily Mail. The highlight for us was the front page of The Guardian Online, which sent our site soaring, we got around 2,000 sign ups just off the back of that article. You know, the power of media and celebrities as well, because it was a celebrity based article we had said, these celebrities are vegan and these ones are supporting Veganuary.”
You survey those who take part in Veganuary, what was the general feedback from last year?
“We survey people in the first week in February and then off the back of that we ask them ‘What did you struggle with?’ ‘What can we help you with more?’ This year eating out came number one, followed by cheese and dairy products, so things we could probably have predicted. Also, social contacts and feeling isolated and having that lack of community were big problems, so we acted on those things in that we’ve developed our eating out guides and we’ve built on our relationships with chain restaurants. We’ve also done more video recipes because they seem to be really popular at the moment. Lot’s of cheesy things, cheesy broccoli, cheesy this and that, everything is covered in cheese and it’s helping people with their vegan journey.”
For you personally, was that sense of community and mutual support something that would have helped you when going vegan?
“It helped me, I remember when I used to work in a very non-vegan work place and it can just be the barrage of questions you get all the time and people coming and having a look at your packed lunch like, ‘what are you eating today?’ ‘what’s that?’ and you go, ‘it’s an apple!’ I did have a nakd bar one day and let them try and that was a mistake because they were like ‘uuugh, what is this? It’s not banana bread!’ So it can be quite lonely and a bit isolating and you feel you sometimes have to defend yourself in company that don’t understand where you’re coming from which can be quite frustrating.”
Have you had any instances of negativity being shown to people trying Veganuary?
“Not as much as I thought, it’s quite a mainstream thing it’s become a thing people can do and can try. The way Clea [Veganuary Marketing Manager] explained it, she said to her husband, ‘I’m doing this thing for a month’ whereas if she said to him ‘I’m going vegan’ it would be like ‘Wow! What’s that?! That’s crazy!’ It’s seen as a challenge that people can rally behind, it then becomes more acceptable for others to try it.”
Do you see veganism continuing to grow?
“I do see it increasing, the issue that we’re faced with is recidivism, the research shows that 4 out of 5 vegans and vegetarians actually go back to meat eating. So yes, while I think veganism is growing in popularity because more companies getting products out there and chain restaurants have more options and are becoming more accessible. I think that we have to tackle those issues that make people slide back to meat eating.”
Have you any big plans for Veganuary 2017?
“Ideally for the next campaign it would be good to have at least a couple of high profile people putting their name to it or taking part. We have a couple of meetings this month [November 2016] sort of waiting for people to give us the green light to say ‘yes ok you can say my name.’”
What are the plans for the future?
“We’re a global campaign at the moment but we would like to reach more people who are non-English speakers, so this year we’re translating the site into Spanish. Next year it would be great to go into Portuguese and German would be our next priorities. If we ever have the funding it would be to get the marketing and pr out there and reach more people that way. This year we’re aiming for 50,000 participants, statistically we’ve always doubled so we are on track for 50,000.”
Why not try Veganuary this year by signing up at veganuary.com