A reaction to veganism making national headlines - in particular in the Daily Maikl and Telegraph.
The very fact that a rise in the number of vegans is considered “news” by the national press is something of a breakthrough.
In the past, vegans have been met with derision by the very websites which now report the growth in a positive light. This is a huge step forward.
I was particularly heartened to see both the Telegraph and Mail Online carrying prominent stories about the fact that half a million people in the UK now follow a vegan diet. It’s a positive move forward because both of these websites represent a sector of the UK media considered “right-wing” and both have been highly critical of the animal rights movement. In fact, they both led highly aggressive campaigns against the RSPCA over recent months.
That said, both articles focus predominately on the health benefits of a plant-based diet. I don’t necessarily see this as a bad thing, when you choose a vegan diet for whatever the reason, the results are the same – you add to the number of people refusing animal products so the market for such products takes a direct hit.
The headline that draws readers into these articles is that the number of vegans has increased by 360 per cent over ten years. Huge figures like this are a sure-fire way of enticing readers to click on an article. Veganism is also one of those subjects that provokes debate on social media and any article on the subject is shared in a number of groups and pages on Facebook – ensuring a large number of “hits” on the website carrying the story. These “hits” are the number used by sales staff to make sites attractive to advertisers. So veganism is a very sellable subject to write about.
The celebrity aspect of the diet appears quite prominently in both of the mentioned stories. The Mail chooses to home in on vegan athletes, again underlining the health benefits of veganism, while the Telegraph mentions famous vegans. The implication being that young people are influenced by the publicity that famous people give to the lifestyle (the biggest rise in the number of vegans is within the 15 to 34 age bracket).
I subscribe to the “all publicity is good publicity” school of thought and any promotion of veganism has to be seen as positive. It’s a fact that it’s a healthier diet and the benefits to our bodies are laid bare in the Telegraph article. But neither piece ignores the cruelty aspect of animal agriculture either, with the growing concern over the treatment of animals getting sizeable coverage from the Mail and Telegraph.
Such admissions are a giant step forward. The fact veganism was one considered “extreme” is mentioned too and the that these articles even exist is a great leap forward and shows how such a lifestyle has been embraced by the mainstream. Supermarkets producing their own brand vegan ranges is one piece of evidence used to back up this fact.
The research was commissioned by a partnership of the Vegan Society and the quite brilliant Vegan Life magazine. It found there are 521,000 vegans in Britain. Seen in the context of a population of 64.1 million this might be a drop in the ocean, but the number is rising and when you add on vegetarians (of which there are 1.14 million), it’s a seizable number – one which more and more businesses are starting to recognise as an important market (the very fact that Vegan Life exists is evidence of this).