More than 3.5 million (seven percent) of UK residents currently identify as vegan, according to new research.
A survey by comparethemarket.com – supported by Gresham College professor Carolyn Roberts – suggests that there has been a spike in the number of vegans in the last two years.
Polling by The Vegan Society and Vegan Life magazine in 2016 showed that around 540,000 Great British residents over the age of 15 identified as vegan – around one percent of the population.
However, this Vegan Society statistic covers Great Britain only, not the whole UK.
The new research suggests many people are ditching animal products in a bid to help the environment.
According to Professor Roberts, the first Frank Jackson Professor of the Environment at Gresham College, dietary changes could be the best way to achieve this.
She said: “Environmental issues continue to rise up the national agenda.
“However, and quite naturally, the desire for change does not always translate into genuine action, as other priorities can overwhelm many of us, particularly those in with demanding jobs and families.
“The good news is that more practical changes, such as a shift in diet, could be a superior solution to having a positive impact on the environment.”
She added: “From farm to fork and beyond, food accounts for about 20 percent of all of our greenhouse gas emissions.
“Estimates suggest that if all of our meat eaters switched to a vegan diet, it would roughly halve total greenhouse gas emissions associated with food.
“On balance, if greenhouse gases were the only consideration, then switching to a low- or no-meat diet could be of a greater benefit to the environment, and specifically the battle against climate change.”
The Vegan Society
Some people have questioned the numbers – and looked further at how the information was ascertained.
A spokesperson for The Vegan Society told Plant Based News: “While The Vegan Society’s 2016 study carried out by Ipsos Mori found there were 542,000 vegans in Great Britain based on a sample of 10,000 respondents, the survey by comparethemarket.com released this month estimated that there are 3.5 million vegans in the UK based on a 2,000 sample.
“We are pleased to see such an interest in veganism and would be delighted if this increase was the case but realistically, we have no reason to think numbers have increased to that extent.
“It is important to note that respondents in comparethemarket.com‘s study were asked about their environmentally-friendly habits rather than whether they’re vegan. It was not conducted to count the number of vegans in the UK.
“There were no cross check questions asked to confirm the self-declared vegan statement and it was easy to misunderstand the question as asking about environmentally-friendly habits rather than lifestyle choices.”