Let's talk about why you're not joining in...
I figured there's already a mountain of information out there regarding the health benefits, environmental benefits, animal welfare benefits - in short, all the reasons why someone might decide to try going vegan. In fact, if you've ever watched Cowspiricy, Losing Nemo, Before The Flood et al, or read up on any of the research used by these films, it's easy to lose sight of why anyone would choose to eat animal products in the first place - I'm thinking about the prolific, irresponsible use of antibiotics in the livestock industry linked to new superbugs, the disappearance of 90% of all large fish from our oceans since the 1950s, or animal agriculture being the leading cause of deforestation, species extinction, water pollution, and emitting more greenhouse gases than all global transport combined; But the reality is that there's a big gap between what we understand to be true on an intellectual level and the way we live our lives, the decisions we make on a day-to-day basis. Just like I fully understand the benefits of mindfulness and being present in the moment, yet still spend most of my day trying to do fifteen things at once whilst planning what I'm going to do tomorrow. It's a practice ;)
So back to the point in hand - with all the reasons for giving plant-based living a go ringing about our ears, let's have a look at some of the reasons why you might not be going vegan this January.
1) It won't make a difference anyway
That old chestnut. It's true that giving up animal products for a month probably isn't going to stop polar ice melt, Amazonian deforestation, or child malnutrition all by itself. But unlike most of the small things we do every day to try and 'do our bit' for the planet, the geniuses (genii?) behind Cowspiracy have crunched the data to show how a vegan diet has a quantifiable effect on our environment; namely that a person who follows a vegan diet produces the equivalent of 50% less carbon dioxide, uses 1/11th oil, 1/13th water, and 1/18th land compared to a meat-eater. That roughly equates to 4164 litres of water, 21 pounds of grain, 2.88 square metres of forested land, 9kgs CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life every single day. So it sort of does make a difference... perhaps even more than switching to energy-saver lightbulbs....
2) I might get ill because I don't have time to think about how to get enough (insert vitamin/protein etc)
That's where veganuary.com comes in! There are heaps of resources available on their website to make vegan living a doddle, and if you sign up (for free!) they'll even send them straight to your inbox. We'll also be posting our own ideas to help you through your meat-free month, one meal at a time - check out the first instalment here! There's an awful lot of scaremongering about vegan diets, and if I had a quid for every time I've been asked about where I get my protein... but please, please ask away if it will help you transition to a more plant-powered diet!
3) I can't afford to eat vegan
Ever compared the price of a pound of meat with a pound of lentils? Stick to the golden rules that everyone who's ever been a student knows: a) buy and cook in bulk - especially your dry staples such as grains, pulses, pasta etc, and b) buy your fruit and veg at the market - better value, local and (often) organic. You'll soon discover that your staples are much cheaper than meat and dairy. You may find you even have money to splash out on vegan ice cream...
4) I've got loads of meat/dairy/eggs in that will go to waste
Now this is a legitimate reason, to an extent. Though I'm sure there are plenty of neighbours, foodbanks, Real Junk Food Projects or Soup Kitchens that would be grateful for your generous donation, if you're currently looking at cupboards full animal products, replacing it all at once can be a daunting, and costly, prospect. So how about committing to not buying any more for the entirety of January, and starting your 31 days of plant-power as soon as you've finished off your last egg? Call me crazy but I think it still counts if you do it in Feb...
5) I like meat/cheese too much
Now we're getting to the crux of the matter, what is likely the most honest reason for not changing our diet: it's what we're used to. We're accustomed to it, we like it, and we don't like change. If completely cutting animal products from your diet seems like an unachievable goal right now, instead try adding a different vegan meal to your diet every week - eventually you'll have a whole host of vegan meals you're confident with. Just cutting down on your meat consumption, or even changing the type of meat you eat, can make a huge difference. To quote Gidon Ehsel in Before the Flood, "Maybe not everyone is ready to eat tofu 24/7. I get that. But even if you just have to have some flesh between your teeth, if you switch to chicken [from beef], you will have eliminated 80% of what you emit, depending on where you are coming from."
Maybe you're not convinced. There's a lot of conflicting information out there, and sometimes it's hard to know what sources to trust. Maybe you'd rather focus on reducing your waste, or your water usage, or stopping using plastic, or cutting out palm oil. Maybe you're going to stop using the car for short journeys, or stop buying disposable coffee cups. Whatever your resolutions for 2017, let's make one for the planet: to "do what you can, as well as you can do it, every day of your life" - Howard Lynman.