“Phenomenal” rise in popularity of veganism shows no signs of stopping

Helen Taylor at The Kind Cake, Albert Street, Hebden Bridge
Helen Taylor at The Kind Cake, Albert Street, Hebden Bridge

The growth in popularity of veganism shows no sign of stopping - and its advocates insist it is something you can really get your teeth into.

Veganism involves avoiding all forms of animal-based products, particularly in people’s diets, and has rocketed in support over recent years.

Elizabeth King.

Elizabeth King.

According to research by the Vegan Society, conducted in 2016, there are estimated to be around 540,000 vegans in the UK, up from 150,000 in 2006.

Vegans do not eat any animal-derived food such as meat, fish and diary products. Some do this for health reasons, others for the environment or both combined.

Over 225,000 people have pledged to going vegan this year, a huge increase from the 3,300 who signed up just five years before.

The launch of a vegan sausage roll at Greggs was a recent example of how the lifestyle choice has entered the mainstream, while the vegan Creme Egg looks set to take Easter by storm.

Vegan food may take more thought and preparation, but vegans say it is more healthy

Vegan food may take more thought and preparation, but vegans say it is more healthy

Helen Taylor, 45, from Hebden Bridge, who owns the entirely vegan Kind Cake Co.

She said: “I went vegan in 2013 because there is so much appalling cruelty that takes place on animals, particularly in factory farms.

“I think it’s definitely becoming more widely-known due to various campaigns around the mis-treatment of animals, and the health benefits from having more of a meat-free diet.

“There’s also the environmental impact, which is another benefit.”

Helen started her business in 2015 with a market stall.

“The biggest thing I have noticed is that people now know more about it, whereas three or four years ago, people didn’t really know what it was.

“Most people know it’s to do with not consuming animal products.

“I’ve had thousands of people come to the shop, and the number of people who have said ‘it’s not for me’ and walked straight out again I could count on one hand.

“Almost everyone is willing to try it, which is a big change.

“I think people are happy to cut down and be vegan when they can.

“What do they call it, flexitarianism? Every time you are vegan, you prevent an animal suffering. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.”

Helen says there are a handful of other vegan businesses in Hebden Bridge, and that a vegan tattoo artist - using disinfectants and moisturisers not tested on animals - was due to take over her shop when she moved out.

Elizabeth King, who is a member of the Three Valley Vegans, a Calderdale group that support those wanting to become vegan, describes the increase in veganism’s popularity as “phenomenal”.

The teacher says the increase is down to the growth in the number of celebrities and sports people who are openly vegan - and also young activists, like Earthling Ed, who opened people’s eyes to what happens to the animals they consume.

When it comes to the argument of why people should try a vegan diet, Ms King says there are numerous reasons for doing so, one being to help the environment.

“Dairy products are some of the worst environmental foods there are.

“They have huge amounts of methane and the cows are increasing subjected to factory farming conditions, never seeing the light of day for months on end.”

She also points out that although reducing meat consumption helps reduce the risk of some chronic diseases, there is increasing evidence which suggests we should have a completely planet-based diet to cut the risk of heart diseases, diabetes and some cancers.

“Trying vegan for a month also means that you will try out new foods, explore different places to eat and really experience the lifestyle,” the 63 year-old added.

For those wanting to try the vegan ways it can be difficult to know where to start.

Ms King, who has been a vegan for 13 years, advises people to use social media because it contains lots of advice. There are things like the Veganuary website which has a starter kit, Veganuary groups and Vegan Society’s page on nutrition.

People can also join groups, like Three Valley Vegans who support anyone wanting to become vegan.

When it comes to food Ms King says people need to use their imagination, try foods they never have before and think about what they already eat that is vegan.

“Apples, baked beans on toast, jacket potatoes – we all eat plenty of vegan food anyway, so it’s just a matter of trying some new ones too.

“To start off with I’d recommend that people try the new vegan “meats” and try oat milk instead of dairy milk.”

Here are 10 places in Calderdale where you can delicious vegan-friendly food