Do Vegans Hate Veganuary? Some, Yes — But You Don’t Have To
Born in 2014, the Veganuary challenge — aka vegan January — attracts people who want to try a different diet, lower their carbon footprint, or simply start the new year with a fun challenge. The movement has gained millions of followers, with almost 707,000 people participating in 2023 alone, including celebrities like Ellie Goulding and Joaquin Phoenix.
However, if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find not everyone in the vegan community approves of the challenge. Many believe Veganuary dismisses the uncomfortable truths about animal suffering in its campaign. Others despise the opposition movements created to boost animal farming and dairy consumption like Februdairy or Regenuary.
If you’re not sure what to think of it, read on to see if Veganuary makes a change, why vegans hate it, and what you can do to lower your carbon footprint. Hint: you don’t necessarily have to give up your meaty preferences!
Veganuary is a yearly challenge introduced by a UK non-profit charity in 2014. It’s aimed at raising awareness on the impact an animal diet has on the environment and human health. The challenge simply encourages people to take up a vegan diet for the first 31 days of the year. This means excluding animal-related products, like meat, dairy, eggs, and honey.
What started as a small project grew into a huge worldwide movement, with almost one person signing up every 2.4 seconds in 2023. This year also saw participants from almost every country in the world — the only exceptions were Vatican City and North Korea1. Because of this, many companies, like Pizza Hut, Burger King, McDonald’s, and Domino’s, created vegan alternatives to retain and even expand their customer base.
Veganuary isn’t just for us common folks, either. Many celebrities signed up over the years and changed their lifestyles for a planet-friendly approach. Just a quick scroll through Veganuary’s website reveals an impressive list of celebrity ambassadors, such as Evanna Lynch, Paul McCartney, and Joaquin Phoenix.
What Did Veganuary 2023 Bring to the Table?
Looking at the increasing interest in veganism all over the world, it’s not surprising Veganuary hit record signup numbers in its 10th year. The rising interest reflects a much bigger focus on providing a variety of vegan products — and even creating local plant-based policies.
The 2023 campaign brought a lot of exciting changes across the world, including:
- Edinburgh joined the pledge to promote a plant-based diet among its residents. It’s the first European capital to commit to the movement.
- Popular food shops heavily increased vegan-friendly produce on their shelves, with Asda leading the movement with 112 new items. Aldi, Tesco, and M&S didn’t fall far behind with new delicious offers either.
- Many restaurants launched a brand new vegan menu or added new additions to their existing range. This includes popular fast food chains, like Burger King with their “Bakon” burgers, McDonald’s, 7-11, Subway, and Chipotle. Even Beefeater participated in the challenge!
- Krispy Kreme added 2 new vegan donuts, while Insomnia Cookies offered Vegan Chocolate Chunk, Vegan Double Chocolate Chunk, and Vegan Birthday Cake.
- Many companies offered vegan-friendly giveaways on Twitter to support the cause, including Lloyds Pharmacy and Flying Goose Siracha.
- Sky News covered a segment busting vegan myths on nationwide TV, becoming one of the few positive news stories on Veganuary.
- Plant-based NFTs boomed in popularity, like Switch4Good’s #NFTsForGood or the Mysterious Vegan collection.
Do Vegans Hate Veganuary?
Veganuary seems to have positive intentions — yet some vegans aren’t on board with it.
The main reason for criticism is the view that veganism shouldn’t have a try-before-you-buy label. Veganuary presents you with an opportunity to a 31-day pledge, with the hope you’ll stick around after. But if you don’t, you can go back to having a nice steak as soon as February hits without losing face or being embarrassed.
Absolutist vegans also believe Veganuary downplays the horrific truths of agriculture and the horrors many animals endure. The non-profit doesn’t use negative material, like images or videos, in its campaign. Instead, it replaces it with cute photos of farm animals with slogans like “Please don’t eat me this month.”
Veganuary isn’t the most sustainable option either. In many parts of the world, January is one of the few months when a choice of fresh produce is incredibly scarce. Yet, the high demand for Veganuary forces retailers to import more food from across the world to satisfy everyone’s hunger cues. This adds to already polluted transportation and the higher use of pesticides needed to keep the produce as fresh as possible for longer.
Finally, many argue Veganuary became more of a marketing trend rather than a radical change. This applies especially to restaurant chains, which see it as an opportunity to attract a wider customer base by offering new, vegan-friendly options. In theory, it’s great and definitely needed — but it should go hand-in-hand with a pledge for more sustainable production and internal practices.
Don’t Let Angry Vegans Get to You
Absolutist vegans hate Veganuary because it’s not vegan enough. What these criticisms fail to address is the overarching message in the movement, which is reducing animal exploitation and the impact of industrial agriculture on the environment. Even if it’s just for a short period of time.
Extreme vegans sometimes forget everyone has to start somewhere. The 31-day challenge brings on a great feeling of accomplishment. This positive momentum can be leveraged for a more lasting or permanent change, but the fact it’s an option, rather than a commitment, makes the challenge more palatable.
Despite criticism, Veganuary still touches on important topics like animal slaughterhouses, deforestation, water pollution, and exacerbating climate change. The only difference is it does so more subtly. All information is readily available on its website, complete with realistic images and stories, when and if you decide to take a deep dive into it.
Numbers show the positive approach to veganism is working. Since the start of the movement, Veganuary has been increasing in popularity. What started as a small campaign with 3,000 signups in 2014, quickly grew to 168,000 participants in 2018, 250,000 in 2019, and over 400,000 in 2020. It doesn’t seem like the movement will slow down anytime soon.
Research shows about 40% of people who do try Veganuary stick to it for longer than just 31 days, too. This is a huge success as the try-and-test-it method shows people swapping meat for plant-based products isn’t as difficult as you may think.
What Are the Benefits of Swapping to a Vegan Lifestyle?
Veganism comes with multiple advantages to your own health, including:
- A higher intake of vitamin-rich fruit and vegetables
- Improved digestion, including less bloating and better bowel movement
- A lower risk of developing cancer, type II diabetes, cardiovascular issues, or dementia
- Better mental health, even if you already suffer from depression or anxiety
- Possible weight loss if paired with appropriate exercise and nutrient intake
- Extended life expectancy
How Technology Enables and Supports Veganism
Connecting You With Like-Minded Vegans Worldwide
If you don’t have many vegan friends, the new lifestyle can feel quite lonely. Luckily, the internet makes it easy to find and connect with people who share and understand your lifestyle. A quick scroll through Google reveals Facebook groups, social media platforms, Discord channels, and vegan forums scattered across the online world. And available at just one click of a button!
Even if your new friends live across the globe, you can send instant messages, call, or participate in video chats. It really can cultivate a great sense of belonging no matter where you live.
Creating and Improving Products on the Vegan Market
Being vegan no longer forces you to give up on the familiar tastes and textures of animal products. The increased demand and technological advances enabled new and existing companies to develop vegan meat substitutes, like meatless burgers, plant-based milk, and egg-less eggs.
These products are taking the market by the storm. In 2021, sales of dairy alternatives in the US reached $7.4 billion. That same year saw $5.41 billion in meat substitutes sales — which is expected to hit $12.3 billion by 2029.
Technology also enabled scientists to create FDA-approved lab-grown meat. Its production uses animal cells only and doesn’t require any farm sacrifices. So, even though it’s still technically meat, it’s completely cruelty-free. Researchers predict that lab-grown meat will reach $1.99 billion in market value by 203521, becoming one of the fastest growing regional markets in the US.
Providing Easy Access to Websites With Vegan Recipes and Tips
If you ever feel overwhelmed or stuck on what to eat, the internet is bursting with vegan cooking blogs, vlogs, and websites — including Veganuary’s site itself. From yummy breakfast ideas to Christmas and Thanksgiving feasts, you’ll find something for everyone. Including meals for specific cuisines like Mexican, Italian, or Turkish!
Many blogs also offer tips on how to stick to your new lifestyle, where to shop for the best products, and information on how veganism impacts the world.
In no particular order, here are some of our favorite vegan blogs:
- The Minimalist Baker, BOSH!, Vegan Richa, Nora Cooks, and The Curious Chickpea
Keeping You Stylish With Cruelty-Free Materials
Technology allowed vegan startups to research, create, and test cruelty-free alternatives to leather, fur, silk, and wool. Inventive solutions include (but aren’t limited to) the use of various fruit, mushrooms, and cork. Currently, the US vegan fashion industry is valued at $396 billion, with predicted annual growth of 13.6% up until 2027.
Making Shopping Easier With Designated Vegan Apps
Skimming ingredients on every product without the V-label to check if it’s vegan can be tiring — unless you use scanning apps, like VeganScan or BevVeg. These analyze the barcodes of any product you scan and identify whether it’s vegan-safe or not. This saves you a ton of time as you don’t have to read through the long ingredient list yourself.
Best Apps for Expert and Newbie Vegans
- 21-Day Vegan Diet Kickstart — If you’re not sure where to start, this app helps you slowly launch veganism in your life. Aside from simple and yummy recipes, you’ll also find handy nutritional tips from experts, so you can stay on track and keep up your motivation.
Available on iOS and Android
- Vnutrition — Tracking your nutrients can be difficult, especially if you’re always busy. Vnutrition sends you friendly reminders and prompts throughout the day to remind you what you need to eat to stay healthy and give your body everything it needs. It’s very easy to use too!
Available on iOS and Android
- Happy Cow — Find out where you can get top vegan food in a few seconds. Happy Cow checks your location and displays all available and recommended options, including vegan reviews and meal photos. Get ready for some serious food coma.
Available on iOS and Android
- Veggly — The vegan answer to Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge. Swipe right or left depending on your preferences, find your next bae, and rest easy knowing they’ll fully support your dietary and lifestyle choices.
Available on iOS and Android
- Cruelty Cutter — Being vegan isn’t just about food — it entices buying cruelty-free products in all aspects of life. Cruelty Cutter lets you know which brands are the go-to and which you should avoid. Scan the barcode next time you’re at Ulta and you’ll know which products were tested on animals.
Available on iOS and Android
- Food Monster — The vegan app of all vegan apps. Run by One Green Planet, Food Monster is home to 200,000 vegan, gluten-free, and vegetarian recipes. And they’re to die for!
Available on iOS
- BevVeg — Not all alcohol is vegan, but you don’t need to drop your drinking habits with your meat intake. BevVeg has a huge database of vegan drinks and a handy app with a scanner, so you can find out which alcohol was made without animal sacrifices.
Available on iOS and Android
- Feel Better by Deliciously Ella — Changing your diet may make it difficult to work out, but not with Deliciously Ella. Aside from hundreds of recipes, the app offers 250 different fitness classes, including yoga, pilates, and cardio. Plus, you’ll get plenty of mindfulness tips and a guide on how to sleep better.
Available on iOS and Android
- VeganScan — Make shopping easier and quicker. VeganScan instantly lets you know whether a certain product is vegan-friendly. Just whip your phone out, scan the barcode, and watch the magic happen.
Available on Android
- Facebook — Though it may seem an odd recommendation, Facebook is a great way to connect with other vegans through the platform’s groups. Whether you want to make more friends, find new recipes, or are looking for extra tips on reducing your carbon footprint, Facebook has a free group for that.
Available on iOS and Android
5 Family-Friendly Vegan Documentaries
It’s impossible to fit all the information into one blog post, so if you want to learn more, here are some great gore-free vegan documentaries available online. Lost access to your favorite streaming platforms while traveling? Get the best USA VPN and watch anything as if you were back home.
|The Game Changers
Stream on: Amazon Prime, iTunes, Vimeo, and Vudu
Stream on: Netflix
|What the Health|
Stream on: Netflix and Vimeo
|Forks Over Knives|
Stream on: Amazon Prime, iTunes, Tubi, and VHX
Stream on: Amazon Prime
Best Vegan Podcasts, YouTube Channels, and Instagram Accounts
|Top Vegan Podcasts|
|Top Vegan YouTube Channels|
|Top Vegan Instagram Accounts|
5 Common Myths About Vegans and Veganism
⛔ Being Vegan Is Expensive
At its core, veganism should be very cheap as you’re supposed to be living off the land and local produce as much as possible. As long as you base your shopping on fruit, vegetables, pulses, and legumes, your shopping bill will likely be cheaper since you’re not stocking up on meat and fish.
On average, meat and dairy products require a lot more resources to produce than vegetables. Even with subsidies, the costs are higher, so the price follows suit. According to a 2021 study by Oxford researchers that examined and compared data from no less than 150 countries, plant-based eating is unequivocally more affordable.
⛔ Vegans Don’t Get Enough Protein/Calcium/Vitamins
Vegan products, like chickpeas, beans, tofu, and soy, contain an equal or even higher amount of protein, calcium, and other nutrients than animal products. When combined with an increased intake of fruit, vegetables, and plant oils, you still consume everything you need.
Johns Hopkins Medicine and the NHS confirm that people on omnivore diets are sometimes more deficient in essential nutrients than vegans, but that you might need to pay more attention to the balance in your food groups and eat more than usual — but extra food sounds like a win, in my opinion.
⛔ Vegans Can’t Go Out for Dinner With Friends
Many popular restaurants and fast food chains have adapted their menus to cater to an increasing number of vegan customers. You’ll find a wide range of options at McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, Domino’s, Pizza Hut, and many more — so you don’t have to give up on your favorite takeaways at all.
⛔ Being Vegan = Being Healthy
Switching to a plant-based diet doesn’t automatically mean you’ll become a health symbol. Sure, you might lose a few pounds, feel more energetic, and get better blood test results (like lower LDL cholesterol and glucose) — but it doesn’t happen just by switching your food. After all, most consumer-available oils and sugars are still vegan!
For a vegan diet to be healthy, you need to put a bit of meal planning into action, like focusing on whole foods and reducing processed products. This will make sure you won’t be tempted to rely on takeaways or salty snacks and instead fill yourself up with nutritious goodness.
⛔ Soy is Bad for You
In 2009, Men’s Health published an article popularizing the idea that soy gives men boobs and “feminizes” them due to its high “estrogen content”. This claim is based on a case study where one man drank 12 cups of soy milk every day — which is approximately ¾ of a gallon and delivers 1,500 calories. Aside from the fact it’s an unrealistic daily intake, the study didn’t present enough evidence to definitively prove soy has any effect. It must’ve been like one of those studies in the 50’s that said smoking is good for you.
More than that, many scientists have proved the opposite. Soy can decrease the risks of reproductive cancers as it contains phytoestrogens. These aren’t hormones, but their structural build can bind to estrogen receptors and stop cancerous growths from forming.
How Veganuary Can Help You Save Money on Food
Many people think being vegan is way more costly than an animal diet when the truth is it’s actually cheaper to be a vegan than an omnivore out there.
- Buy in bulk for cheap. Most healthy vegan meals are based on ingredients like beans, rice, legumes, corn, peas, grains, seeds, and nuts — all of which you can buy in large quantities for better value. Costco, BJ’s, and Sam’s Club have great savings on these, but you can easily save money at your local supermarket, too.
- Buy in season. Fresh fruit and vegetables don’t have to be expensive either, especially if you look for the ones that have just been harvested in your region. Since shops don’t need to import it from foreign countries, seasonal products usually have a much lower retail price. Veganuary regularly publishes infographics with seasonal fruit and veg, so you can keep up with the changing stock and plan your meals accordingly.
- If fresh fruit and veg are not available, go for frozen. Frozen food can be cheaper than fresh and it still contains similar amounts of vitamins and nutrients. You can shop for frozen smoothie mixes, chopped vegetables, and even rice that cooks in a minute. All you’ve got left to do is throw in some protein like tofu and you have a nutritional meal costing just a few dollars to make.
- Don’t necessarily go for the vegan sticker. Try to avoid buying processed products with a vegan sticker, like fake bacon or cheese. The trademark allows companies to mark its price higher, adding up to your final bill. You can splurge from time to time, but it won’t be healthy and it likely won’t be cheap. Plus, a lot of regular items can be accidentally vegan (like many Oreo varieties) if don’t mind reading the labels.
- Coupons, wholesale clubs, and cashback programs.
- If you’re not keen on paper coupons or you don’t get the weekly circular from local retailers, try looking for their official app on the app store. Digital coupons can apply savings directly on your loyalty card.
- Aside from signing up for the retailer’s membership program, some brands also have wholesale clubs with a yearly subscription. Don’t be dismayed by the fact that you have to pay something to get in – try to calculate how much non-perishables you’d buy in a year and you might find that paying to be part of a wholesale club is worth the effort.
- Some cards from American Express and Visa give you a percentage of what you spend on certain products. Don’t mind the seemingly small numbers (usually in the 3% – 6%), as these can be quite significant the more you spend. For every $1000, that’s $30 – $60 that you might be able to get back, so definitely nothing to scoff at.
- Don’t go shopping on an empty stomach. It might sound like something Sun Tzu said, but it’s nonetheless true, and proven with scientific methods.
- Make a list and stick to it. Take a few minutes to assess your needs and wants before you head out to the store. Clearly separate the two and prioritize what’s absolutely necessary. Don’t add anything to your cart from the “wants” category until you’re fully one with the needs and have a good idea of what the needs part is going to cost you.
- Compare prices between stores. Store promotions are sometimes built around the fact that competitors can’t beat that discount for a specific product/product range, so the effort of pulling prices from two, maybe three retailers before making a purchase is absolutely worth it.
- Look for generic brands. Last, but certainly not least, generic brands are often cheaper and of similar quality to their top-shelf counterparts. Sometimes, these can be a hit and miss, but you won’t know if you like something until you give it a try.
The best part? Any of these tips can help you save money regardless of your food choices, so you certainly don’t need to be vegan to optimize your food budget.
Can You Still Participate After January or Without Going 100% Vegan?
Yes! As I said, Veganuary is about raising awareness about how humans and farming impact the environment and what we can do about it. These issues are prominent all year round, so the challenge doesn’t have an expiration date. And it doesn’t have to start with an all-or-nothing approach.
If you’re not quite ready to ditch milk in your coffee or scrambled eggs for breakfast, try a vegetarian diet instead. This will keep cheese, milk, and other dairy products on your menu, but still cut down on your meat consumption.
If you usually cook for your family and your partner or kids don’t want to give up chicken nuggets, implement one or two days of the week when you don’t serve meat. Meatless Mondays are a popular option, but it can be any day that suits you best.
One reason for swapping a steak for a chickpea curry is to reduce water waste and the production of methane — a greenhouse gas responsible for speeding up global warming. Cows produce a fair deal of methane, but food waste is also a huge culprit for its emissions. Research shows a family of four can often emit four times more greenhouse gases than cows just by throwing food out. The solution to this? Reduce your food waste.
You don’t have to make any big changes in your food consumption to support the cause either. Animal cruelty involves testing many products on caged animals, like rabbits, mice, or rats. If you start choosing cruelty-free brands when buying makeup, skincare, or any other products, you contribute to the societal pressure on companies. You can also reduce your carbon footprint by choosing public transport whenever possible.
So Should You or Should You Not Hate Veganuary?
Veganuary receives a fair amount of criticism around the world from vegan activists who focus specifically on exposing the gruesome truth behind the meat industry. The truth Veganuary seems to be hiding — but for a good reason.
Though the negative reality many animals face in slaughterhouses cannot be omitted, these images don’t have to be at the forefront of the campaign to spark change. Veganuary made a big difference in the world already by engaging people in a conversation about animal cruelty and exploitation in its own way.
The goal of Veganuary remains the same: reduce animal suffering, lessen human impact on the environment, and give back to nature.