More people than ever are moving from steak to seitan. Four recent converts tell us why they switched
The number of vegans has been rising in the UK up by 360% over the past decade. At the moment there are more than half a million in this country, and as ever more disturbing information proliferates regarding the costs of meat and dairy production to the environment, many more look set to switch from steak to seitan. With vegan foodstuffs now commonplace in supermarkets and chefs getting creative with animal-free offerings, whats stopping the remaining 99% of us? Well, it might just be the reputation. Who wants to be labelled a sanctimonious tofu tout or a clean-eating vanity case? Which is how vegans still tend to be perceived, despite the likes of Brad Pitt and Ellen Page flashing their credentials, Emma Watson going to the Met Ball in an animal-friendly dress and Beyonc investing in a vegan meal delivery service. Its time the lifestyles profile got a make-over.
42, London, Fat Gay Vegan blogger and PR. Founder of the Vegan Beer Festival
I was driving along a freeway on a hot summers day in Sydney and got stuck behind a truck taking chickens to be killed. I went to KFC all the time then and it made me realise what I was empowering with my money. A few days later, there was a cattle truck accident, some died and some were staggering around hurt, and I thought, OK, Im vegetarian. Later I moved to London and my sister, who teases me about everything, was living with me. She wasnt vegetarian, but would say: Youre going on about how you are ethical, but youre drinking milk and you know what happens to dairy cows, dont you? One day I was like, Actually, youre right, Ive been a hypocrite. I changed overnight. When I switched I realised I hadnt really done anything. And this was back in 2000 when it wasnt as easy as today. Now youve got almond milk, hemp, soya, even in places like Iceland. I was in Chelsea earlier and there are two vegan ice cream shops just on the Kings Road.
Before becoming a vegan I was a primary school teacher, then I started blogging and putting on events and it got so busy that I stepped away from teaching. It was hard, but I believed in what I was doing. I want non-vegans to see that they can do everything they do now as vegans, but also support and celebrate those who have made the choice. Weve just put on the fourth London Vegan Beer Festival and 1,000 people came. It was beautiful. Im going to hold it in Manchester and Glasgow soon, too.
44, London, Vegan Peasant Catering
There is the stereotype of the granola-eating hippie. Thats not me. I became vegan for environmental reasons which really resonated with me. The amount of grain that has to be produced to feed cattle and other livestock doesnt make much sense when, with all that arable land, you can feed people directly while using less water. You then also have less methane and other polluting waste ending up in the atmosphere and waterways.
Many vegans are not necessarily foodies, especially animal rights people. Their food choices can be made solely on whether something is vegan or not, whereas my chef partner and I are both very interested in food. Some of what we make can be healthy-ish, but it doesnt come under the health-blog banner, and not the vegan junk food banner either, as its a bit more formal. We cater for events like weddings, 60th birthday parties and fundraisers, like the one we just did for Greenpeace.
32, Preston, engineering buyer and trainee counsellor
People are always saying, I bet you miss steak dont you? But I dont. I miss Dairy Milk and Nike Air Max more than meat. When I was 28, a friend turned. He didnt push me, but a couple of things he said prompted me to think about it. One being that he didnt like the fact that a cow was being raped for its milk almost a feminist perspective. Cows are artificially inseminated to keep them lactating and then their babies are taken off them so theres a growing part of the vegan community who see it as rape because humans are aware of the concept of consent so we hold that responsibility. That started me thinking about the meat and dairy industry. But I was never sold on the meat is murder thing. It was the word livestock that struck me.
Back then I was working in stores and stock is something that you put on a shelf and sell. I felt so uncomfortable that an animals life was being used to make money for a human. I had a fridge full of meat at the time and couldnt bring myself to eat it. It was the classic eureka moment.
22, London, musician
I grew up in a Jamaican household, where the diet is heavy on animal protein and I was obsessed with pizza, but I started to get tonsillitis often and it always seemed to be after Id eaten lots of dairy. I celebrated a tour by eating loads of chocolate and immediately became ill so I stopped eating dairy for my voice; the rest followed out of curiosity. Its been a life changing experience as its made me question everything. I had no idea that meat and dairy consumption affected the environment before watching the film Cowspiracy and Earthlings literally destroyed me, its very blunt and took me several weeks to watch.
Its amazing having access to so much information online which is why I think so many teenagers are becoming vegan. Also, theyre being introduced to veganism without feeling judged. Seeing people blog and post pictures and youtubers living it shows how accessible and inexpensive it can be to be vegan. And you can still enjoy a lot of the foods you ate growing up, like Oreos. Creating vegan Jamaican food is what Im all about at the moment so I can do my own supper club. And theres loads of exciting vegan restaurants, too. Fed By Water in Dalston make amazing vegan pizzas with their own mozzarella thats a massive thing for me.