Veganism – Definition: An Instagram Trend?

Vegans have always seemed to find themselves in the firing line of criticism, ridicule and controversy. Many people don’t understand how a person would willingly take up a plant based diet, and therefore tend to make jokes about those who do. With social media sites such as Tumblr and Instagram, veganism often found itself branded ‘a fashion trend for teens trying to be edgy.’

When New Year came around, many people were ready to start getting back into healthy lifestyles to rid the few extra pounds picked up over the Christmas period. With regards to previous years, I expected my Instagram feed to be full of ‘fitspo’ posts showing a plate full of healthy foods, however this time I noticed there were a lot more vegan meals being shared. I couldn’t help but wonder whether the criticisms previously being made about veganism becoming a fashion trend were true. However, upon research, I noticed that thousands of meat eaters and vegetarians took on veganism for ‘Veganuary’, a campaign originally launched in 2014 that encourages people to try veganism for January, with the pledge, ‘try vegan, stay vegan’ to give people the opportunity to discover the benefits of a vegan diet.

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Following the success of Veganuary 2017, with 59,500 participants worldwide –more than double of 2016 which saw 23,000 worldwide participants -, 39,328 of which were in the UK, big named brands such as Ben & Jerry’s are now releasing vegan varieties of their range, and more and more vegetarian and or vegan cafes, shops and restaurants are opening up around the UK, with over 105 as of 2016 in London alone.

Credit: Veganuary

Many vegans said they owe the rise in availability in animal-free products in supermarkets, more vegan menus in big name restaurant chains, and the opening of more vegan-only restaurants to social media. Originally, when I spoke to a number of people who have adopted the vegan lifestyle, I expected them to hold some hostility towards Instagram, as it may have aided the doubters thoughts that people only become ‘part-time’ vegans in order to have a trendy Instagram feed.

Nikki Chetwynd, who runs the recently opened Vegan shop situated in Fargo Village, The Green Unicorn Vegan Store, said that “ultimately, it doesn’t matter how or why people stop using animals for their own gain, the important thing is that they stop.” She continued, “Whilst my preference would be to see a world where animals are never used and abused, that isn’t going to happen overnight, so if people cut meat, dairy and or eggs and so on from their diet bit by bit it’s a start.”

Credit: The Green Unicorn Vegan Store Facebook

I spoke to a number of vegans from a social group in Coventry named Coventry Vegans. I was informed by Dan O’Toole that “veganism is a social justice movement, [and if] it’s being done for fashion, or because it’s trendy, then it’s not strictly Veganism.” However, he did acknowledge the fact that “social media has done a lot for the movement and switched a lot of people on to the benefits of a plant based diet.”

Research found that an increasing number of teenagers are becoming vegans, not only because of social media, but also because of celebrities. More and more celebrities are joining the likes of Miley Cyrus, Ellen DeGeneres, Russell Brand and Beyoncé and becoming vegan, which therefore displays the lifestyle as ‘trendy’, and their fans decided to copy their role models to have the same ‘trendy’ lifestyle. Many places deemed to be ‘trendy and fashionable’, have all seen a rise in the number of vegan restaurants and cafes being opened, with a new vegan fried chicken shop, Temple of Hackney/Seitan in Hackney, a vegan bakery, Cookies and Scream in Camden, as well as a new part-vegan delivery service, Bel-Air in Shoreditch.

Credit: Emily Stephens via Instagram: @veganuaryandme

Lailah Curtis, also from Coventry Vegans said, “I think for now, this sort of ‘trend’ is needed for veganism to become mainstream. I can’t imagine how slow veganism would evolve if it was purely advertised as an ethics campaign!

Making veganism trendy, cool and fashionable has exponentiated its growth and it means that veganism appeals to everyone, not just animal rights activists.”

Lailah also believes that “we have to make this a trend for the big companies to stand up and release vegan lines: if it weren’t trendy and cool, we wouldn’t see the vegan menus in large chains or have companies like Ben & Jerry’s release a whole vegan line of ice creams!”

 

Veganism seems to be becoming ever popular amongst society, and 2017 is the year of the vegan according to PETA (The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) Foundation, which is a UK based charity dedicated to establishing and protecting the rights of all animals.

It’s safe to assume that a new era in food is upon us, as research shows that more and more people are avoiding animal based ingredients, with an increase of 360% in 10 years resulting in over half a million vegans in the UK alone.

 

Emily Stephens

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