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Animal farmers have blasted what they refer to as the Veganuary ‘gimmick’ – urging people not to take part.

Veganuary, a global initiative which supports as they try a vegan diet in January and beyond, had its first outing in 2014 with around 3,000 people taking part. It was started by husband and wife Matthew Glover and Jane Land.

Since then it has exploded. This year is the most successful so far. More than 525,000 participants have signed-up so far, and more are expected by the end of the month. One of the reasons the charity says people should take part is to help the environment.

More than a million

In total, according to Veganuary, more than one million people have signed the pledge over the years. Market research company Kantar suggests 10 times that amount have taken part unofficially (i.e. without signing up). 

The charity says people from every country in the world have taken part – apart from just three. These are North Korea, Vatican City, and the Kingdom of Eswatini.

‘Veganuary gimmick’

Leicestershire-based beef and arable farmer Joe Stanley told Sky News that rather than go vegan, people should help the environment by ‘eating more sustainably-produced local meat and reducing their carbon footprint in other ways’.

“Veganuary, from my perspective, is just a gimmick which is distracting society from the bigger questions we need to be addressing around the sustainability of our diets – not just the meat in our diet but the sustainability of all the food we’re consuming and how it’s being produced across the world,” he said.

“There is a danger of casting a very sustainable British industry to the wall in the pursuit of well-meaning campaigns such as Veganuary and then we may find that we’re importing food from other parts of the world which have much worse environmental records and much higher carbon footprints.

“So I would say to any consumer out there who is concerned about the carbon footprint of their food, the first and biggest change you can make to ensure sure you have a sustainable diet is to always try to buy British. Because we really do have some of the most sustainable food production in the world in this country.”

Research from Oxford University

However, in a blog about the environmental impact of food, Veganuary said: “It’s a common misconception that eating locally is the best way to keep climate emissions from food down. It’s understandable why people think this. But, in fact, in-depth research from Oxford University shows just how wrong this notion is.

Overall, animal-based foods tend to have a higher footprint than plant-based. Lamb and cheese both emit more than 20 kilograms CO2-equivalents per kilogram. Poultry and pork have lower footprints but are still higher than most plant-based foods, at 6 and 7 kg CO2-equivalents, respectively.

“For most foods – and particularly the largest emitters – most GHG emissions result from land-use change, and from processes at the farm stage, including emissions from the animals themselves. Together, these account for more than 80 percent of the footprint for most foods. Transport is a small contributor to emissions.”

‘Veganuary: a message of hope’

Animal farmers are clearly keen for people to keep buying their products. But Veganuary believes it is more important than ever for people to take part in the initiative.

In a statement sent to Plant Based News, Toni Vernelli, Veganuary’s international head of communications, said: “2020 has brought much hardship and heartbreak. But it has also given us an opportunity to change and build a better future. 

“Our united message is one of hope – but we must all act now.”

You can find out more about Veganuary here

Maria Chiorando

Maria is a news and features writer for Plant Based News. As a former magazine editor, newspaper reporter, and features writer, her work has been published by The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and various regional newspapers, as well as Vegan Life magazine and Vegan Trade Journal. She has interviewed a huge range of people, from Prime Ministers to authors, activists, pop stars and actors, and enjoys the varied range of topics writing for PBN allows her to tackle. She was previously the editor of Plant Based News for over 3 years.