In a nation where over 70 percent of the population comprises meat eaters, the idea of a whole month dedicated to being vegan sounds far-fetched. But it is indeed happening. For a whole lot of people across the country, 2019 kickstarted with ‘Veganuary’ — a campaign-meets-challenge that promises to motivate, guide and help you give the cruelty-free vegan lifestyle a try in the month of January. ‘Cos what better month to make a resolution or try something new, right?
Surprisingly, in biryani-loving Hyderabad too, the concept has found many takers. Take for instance Meghana Reddy, a medical student, who is giving veganism a shot, one day at a time this January, er, Veganuary. “I have been a meat eater all my life, but two years ago I turned vegetarian. Since November 2017, I’ve been thinking about switching to a vegan lifestyle. The more I researched, the more I realised that a vegan lifestyle has huge health benefits and it is the best way to decrease my carbon footprint. But I did not want to turn vegan overnight. I wanted it to be a gradual process. That’s when I came across Veganuary. I found the talks andemails extremely
y informative; they tell you why you should adopt this lifestyle and how it benefits you. I feel that by the end of the month, I will have answers to all my questions,” she says.
HISTORY OF VEGANUARY
Started in the UK in 2014, Veganuary is a concept that inspires people to try adopting the vegan lifestyle for the month of January. After the UK, countries like USA and Australia adopted it in 2015. And today, more than 250,000 people around the world have signed up for it already in 2019. This is India’s debut year for Veganuary, and to make it successful, there have been aggressive campaigns in 15 cities with a total of 45 events.
“Surprisingly, the response exceeded our expectations. Before the beginning of the month, we heard from the international team that they received 250 sign ups and we are yet to receive the numbers of this week coming Sunday. We are receiving requests from more cities and so far it seems like a success,” shares Dharmesh Mehta, country head for Veganuary.
“Their website has a lot of recipes and products — all of which seem so exciting and new. I’m glad I found this platform to learn and see how I can make this change at my own pace,” adds Meghana.
So, how does Veganuary work? “It is basically a 31-day email programme for which you have to register on the official website. Once that’s done, you will receive emails every day with a variety of information — from tips that will help you make the switch, to fact files and mythbusters about veganism to recipes that will show you how vegan food is just as yummy,” says Pulkit Parikh, one of the volunteers at Hyderabad Vegans, who has been actively promoting the campaign in the city. “The best part is that this time, since it’s our maiden Veganuary in India, recipes have been developed keeping Indian preferences in mind. They include readily available
vegan alternatives like plant-based milks made from cashews, almonds, coconut, soy, vegan curd, vegan cheese, mock meat, tofu which replaces paneer and gives you vegan versions of many popular desserts. The idea is to motivate people and make them try the vegan lifestyle. We want to tell them that by choosing veganism, they will not be deprived of food options. In fact, all their favourite foods have an alternative that’s vegan,” adds Pulkit.
The plan seems to have worked wonders, especially for fence-sitters who were jittery about missing out on their favourite ‘perugannam’ or paneer dishes, because the mailers show you just how much option there really is. Jayashree Raj, a Hyderabad-based radio jockey and animal rights activist, says, “I’d recommend this programme to anyone who’s hoped to give veganism a shot but was hesitant for one reason or the other. It’s worked like a charm for me. Though I have been a vegetarian all my life, it was impossible for me to avoid dairy products at home. And being a chai lover, it is even more difficult. This month though, I’ve decided to go fully vegan. After two years of struggle, I can finally say I am on my way to making the switch.”
Aparna Sood, a city-based entrepreneur who signed up for the programme, says, “I have been meditating for the past 13 years and since then, I am trying to embrace a
vegan lifestyle as animal products don’t let your body to settle down. So when I came across Veganuary, not only did I decided to try it, I also made my parents and younger brother be a part of it, because it’s hard to adopt a new lifestyle when others around you are not following it. I’ve discarded everything that isn’t vegan and have even asked my milk delivery guy not to come for a month.”
While diet seems to be the biggest concern for those wanting to make the switch, the fact is that veganism isn’t just about a diet; it’s a lifestyle that refrains from any form of animal exploitation. “Being vegan, reflects in the person you are, right from clothes you wear to the food you eat and the causes you believe in. I learned that by being a vegan, I can save lakhs of gallons of water, as well as electricity. The health benefits are of course a great bonus too,” Jayashree points out.
Vikas Teja, a student from Malla Reddy Engineering College, says the programme has helped him become more confident about navigating his way around issues like socialising and eating out. “The emails also have suggestions on what vegans can try out when they go to restaurants with non-vegan friends. We can order a protein bowl while others enjoy their coffee. Such options make transition period easier,” he says.
The best part yet? That you can sign up any time of the month. So, whether you want to do the planet some good, give your diet goals a healthy twist or save animals — Veganuary is your chance!