How many vegans are there?

Veganism has undoubtedly enjoyed a massive surge in popularity in recent years, but how many vegans are there in the UK? An Ipsos MORI poll conducted for the Vegan Society in 2016 estimated that there were about 540,000 dietary vegans in the UK, representing 1.05% of the adult population.  More recent surveys have estimated the proportion of the population who are vegan to be 2% (with a further 7% vegetarian) according to the AHDB/YouGov consumer tracker, June 2018, or 3% (with a further 9.5% vegetarian) according to the Waitrose Food and Drink Report 2018-19 (https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/nov/01/third-of-britons-have-stopped-or-reduced-meat-eating-vegan-vegetarian-report).  However, more than half of the respondents who described themselves as vegetarian or vegan in the Waitrose survey admitted that they sometimes eat meat, suggesting that the 3% vegans figure may be unduly optimistic.

In an attempt to arrive at a definitive figure, the Vegan Society commissioned another survey by Ipsos MORI in 2018. This time, as well as asking respondents how often they ate meat, fish or shellfish, or any other animal products such as milk, cheese, eggs or honey, respondents were asked to describe their diet by choosing from five categories, including “completely vegetarian” and “vegan”, using a question from the Food Standards Agency’s Food & You Survey of 2016.  Based on answers to the food frequency questions, 2.19% of respondents were classified as vegans, but only 1.16% of respondents described themselves as vegans.  Analysis of the discrepant answers suggested that the lower figure was the more accurate, so the Vegan Society have adopted a cautious approach in estimating the number of adult vegans in Great Britain at about 600,000 (or 1.16% of the population; https://www.vegansociety.com/news/media/statistics).

But how strict should we be in categorising diet? Put another way, how often is a vegan (or a vegetarian for that matter) allowed to lapse before he or she can no longer be described as such?  Tobias Leenaert, author of How to Create a Vegan World: A Pragmatic Approach (Lantern Books, 2017), has suggested that people who are 98% vegan should be counted as vegans.  On this basis, eating a non-vegan meal no more than once per month would be considered acceptable, but any more than this would get you struck off the vegan register.

So, how many vegans (or ‘98% vegans’) are there in the UK? The short answer is that no one knows for sure, but somewhere between 1% and 2% of the adult population (roughly equivalent to half a million to one million individuals) might be a reasonable guesstimate.

Paul Appleby (with thanks to Malcolm Horne)

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Long Table Meals

OxVeg supporter Amy Symington gained an MSc in Applied Human Nutrition from Oxford Brookes University.  Back home in Canada, Amy is a nutrition professor, research associate, and plant-based chef at George Brown College, Toronto.  She also coordinates the culinary nutrition program at Gilda’s Club Greater Toronto (GCGT), a not-for-profit organisation that provides social and emotional support for people affected by cancer.  Amy has written a cookbook and nutrition guide for chronic disease prevention and management, Long Table Meals: A community focused, culinary nutrition guide to optimal health, to be published in September 2019.  In the introduction she writes: “Taking the time to sit, eat and share homemade, nutrient dense meals with loved ones is important at any stage in life, but can be particularly vital when faced with compromised health.  Sharing and breaking bread together can be medicinal in so many ways.”  Proceeds from sales of the book will be donated to GCGT.  A selection of Amy’s vegan recipes and further details can be found on her website: http://ameliaeats.com/.

Paul Appleby

Amy_Symington_photo_by_Darren_Kemper

(Darren Kemper’s photo shows Amy in her kitchen.)

Let Us Be Heroes

Let Us Be Heroes is a new vegan documentary film directed and presented by Rebecca Cappelli. The film explores the impact of our food and lifestyle choices on our health, our home planet and our values with athletes, digital, food and fashion entrepreneurs, a public speaker and an ocean warrior fighting to protect people, animals and the planet. For further details and to watch the film go to: www.letusbeheroes.com.

Oxford Eco-Vegan Festival, 24 November

The Oxford Eco-Vegan Festival returns to the Kassam Stadium, Oxford, OX4 4XP, on Saturday 24 November, 10:30-17:00. Tickets cost £3 on the door or you can purchase VIP tickets in advance (allowing early entry and a goodie bag of vegan treats) by emailing events{at}farplace.org.uk. The Festival aims “to promote a vegan diet, sustainability and animal welfare in a positive atmosphere”, with the organisers promising “many stalls mainly featuring food though there will be charity, beauty, clothing and wellness stalls with various talks taking place throughout the day.” OxVeg media rep Paul Freestone is scheduled to give a talk on Animals in Warfare: A Shameful History at 3pm.

Profits from the event go to the organisers, Farplace Animal Rescue. Further details and directions to the Kassam Stadium here.

Oxford Vegan Market dates 2019

The Oxford Vegan Market returns to Oxford Town Hall on Sundays 20 January and 3 November 2019 after what appeared to be another successful event last Sunday.  There was a good mixture of stalls selling a variety of the usual food items (cakes, tea, chocolate, &c), as well as some campaigning groups including The League Against Cruel Sports and the Sumatran Orangutan Society.  Paul Freestone’s photo below shows one of several tempting cake stalls at the Market.

Oxford_Vegan_Market_cake_stall_4-Nov-2018

Plant-based diets are essential to avoid catastrophic climate change

A global shift towards healthy and more plant-based diets, halving food loss and waste, and improving farming practices and technologies are required to feed 10 billion people sustainably by 2050, according to a study published in the journal Nature (https://www.ndph.ox.ac.uk/news/feeding-10-billion-people-by-2050-within-planetary-limits-may-be-achievable-say-researchers). Study leader Dr Marco Springmann of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food and the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford warned that: “the environmental impacts of the food system could increase by 50-90% by 2050 as a result of population growth and the rise of diets high in fats, sugars and meat (whereupon) all planetary boundaries related to food production would be surpassed, some of them by more than twofold.” Conversely, adopting predominantly plant-based diets globally could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than half, and also reduce other environmental impacts, such as fertilizer application and the use of cropland and freshwater, by a tenth to a quarter.  To achieve this, Dr Springmann called for: “comprehensive policy and business approaches … to make dietary changes towards healthy and more plant-based diets possible and attractive for a large number of people (including) school and workplace programmes, economic incentives and labelling, and aligning national dietary guidelines with the current scientific evidence on healthy eating.”

Almost simultaneously, a related paper was published in The Lancet (https://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lanplh/PIIS2542-5196(18)30206-7.pdf).  The paper examined the health and nutritional aspects of sustainable diet strategies and their association with environmental impacts using a global modelling analysis covering more than 150 countries. Three diet scenarios were considered: one based on environmental objectives, replacing varying amounts of animal-source foods with plant-based foods; another based on food security objectives, aimed at reducing levels of underweight, overweight, and obesity; and a third based on public health objectives, examining flexitarian, pescatarian, vegetarian, and vegan diets. The low-meat flexitarian and meatless diets were found to be “in line with available evidence on healthy eating” whilst leading to “large reductions in premature mortality” (by 22% for the vegan diet) and markedly reducing “environmental impacts globally (reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 54–87%, nitrogen application by 23–25%, phosphorus application by 18–21%, cropland use by 8–11%, and freshwater use by 2–11%)”.  The authors concluded that: “a public health strategy focused on improving energy balance and dietary changes towards predominantly plant-based diets … is a suitable approach for sustainable diets.”

[The issues raised in these papers will be among those to be considered at a multi-disciplinary research conference at St Anne’s College, Woodstock Road, Oxford, OX2 6HS, on Wednesday 7 November, 9 am – 7 pm. The effects of meat and dairy on population health, the economy, society and the environment is organised by the Livestock, Environment and People (LEAP) project and sponsored by the Wellcome Trust. The registration fee (£30; student/unwaged £15) includes all refreshments during the conference and a vegetarian/vegan buffet lunch.]

Paul Appleby

Oxford Vegan Market on Sunday 4 November

We have just learned that there will be another Oxford Vegan Market in Oxford Town Hall, St Aldate’s, on Sunday 4 November, 10:30 to 4pm.  Details at: https://www.facebook.com/OxfordVeganMarket/

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