Veganuary Isn’t Helping the Vegan Movement
Veganuary is a growing trend in which people go vegan as a New Year’s resolution. The movement is supported by various animal rights organizations and is considered a way for people to begin to practice veganism. This effort is great, but Veganuary is also dangerous for the animal rights movement and for efforts to encourage veganism.
The trend for people to treat veganism as a New Year’s resolution ignores all of the crucial reasons behind becoming vegan. Instead of confronting people with the reality of horrific animal abuse in factory farming and the environmental benefits of a plant-based diet, Veganuary turns being vegan into a challenge. While the campaign mentions some of the ethical reasons to be vegan, it is clearly not the focus. Veganism is not a fad diet or some outrageous health trend for people to restrict their food as a challenge. For many, it is a movement of compassionate people who want to see real change in the way society thinks about food and in the treatment of animals. In addition, some people are vegan in conjunction with their religious beliefs that focus on not harming other living beings and acting compassionately in all aspects of daily life. Ignoring these important reasons behind what it means to be vegan is dangerous and ultimately counterproductive for the animal rights movement.
Instead, many people who try Veganuary are bound to fail because they see it as a difficult and restrictive diet that they have no intention of following indefinitely. Again, veganism is not just a diet; it is a lifestyle. And the people who commit to not eating animal products for a month do not have the moral convictions behind making this life change. Once they decide being vegan is too difficult or finish the month, they will most likely return to animal products because the month was never about helping animals or following a moral calling anyway. This means that the animal rights movement will be right back where it started at the beginning of the month.
The outlook of those who participate in Veganuary is also different from those who are vegan for moral reasons. Vegans see eating a plant-based diet and following a vegan lifestyle as aspirational in the sense that they do the best they can and are always trying to be better at helping animals and not participating in cruel industries. Veganuary encourages participants to see being vegan as a matter of succeeding or failing rather than doing the best they can to help animals and the environment. This outlook is not conducive to creating long-lasting change or for increasing the number of people who are committed to helping animals.
Veganuary has good intentions. The organizations who support it want people to focus on being vegan at a time when many people are taking deep looks at their lives and the changes that they hope to make in the new year. They also provide many helpful resources throughout the month with tips about being vegan and other materials to encourage people to continue eating a plant-based diet. However, the intentions are unfortunately misguided as this program does not advocate for animal rights in a way that will make a lasting impact on people and their views. At best, Veganuary creates temporary vegans who are not built to last.
Animal rights organizations and activists need to focus their time and energy on efforts that will really show people the cruelty behind the industries that produce animal products and exploit animals. People need to see the benefits of an entire lifestyle that incorporates a plant-based diet, not a challenge that makes veganism appear as a fad diet.