Interview With The Vegan Society: Part One

picture showing a field and a blue sky
Alice Nott

Alice sat down with Tim Thorpe from the Vegan Society UK to discuss their upcoming campaign ‘Plate Up for the Planet’, the Food Sustainability Bill and what it’ll take for us all to go plant based.

Tim is the Campaigns Officer for the Vegan Society, having joined in 2019, and he has been a vegan for five years. Tim has a background in environmental science but joined the Vegan Society to focus on their ‘Grow Green’ campaign and looking at how agriculture can transition away from herd farming.

‘Plate up for the Planet’ has saved around 330,000kg of CO2 so far from being released

When reflecting on going vegan, one of the things Tim said he wished he had more knowledge of was how to cook and to not see food as simply ‘food’ but something to be appreciated and enjoyed. One of the things Tim suggested for people thinking of going vegan was finding one or two recipes that you enjoy and could easily cook.

Another tip from Tim was to find other people to cook with. Going vegan might not always be easy but having support can make the transition easier and with 400,000 signups for Veganuary his year you are not alone. Even if its just going vegan for a week so that it is less pressure, enough people doing that can add up. ‘Plate up for the Planet’ has saved around 330,000kg of CO2 so far from being released.

going vegan can often be the single biggest lifestyle change an individual can make to shrink their carbon output

This is hardly surprising as farming is the second biggest emitter of gases harmful to the environment in the UK after the energy industry, making up 20% of the UKs total emissions. Going vegan can often be the single biggest lifestyle change an individual can make to shrink their carbon output.

It’s getting easier and easier to take that step; as Tim highlighted in his interview the vegan society has inhouse nutritionists who publish resources on the Vegan Society website and if you get in touch can give you advice. When you sign up for the ‘Plate up for the Planet’ scheme you will be sent vegan recipes to try each day.

the Vegan Society recommend that you should supplement a vegan diet with B12

This doesn’t necessarily mean that a vegan diet is always healthy. In fact, the Vegan Society recommend that you should supplement a vegan diet with B12 either as tablets or through products such as yeast extract. However, Tim suggested that by becoming vegan, his knowledge of nutrition had massively expanded and as with all things the key was variation.

Even so, with KFC and McDonalds releasing plant-based alternatives you can still have the occasional treat. When I asked Tim if he thought it was vegans alone driving this demand, he said he believed it was a more mixed picture, with omnivores being more conscious of their carbon footprint as well as plant-based options having less fat.

Another thing we discussed in the interview was the whitewashing of veganism and it being seen as the reserve of the cities. Tim emphasized the need to highlight voices who don’t necessarily come from a white background and the fact veganism contains many traditions such as Rastafarian vegans.

Tim also accepted that there is probably a higher number of vegans in towns and cities than in rural areas, partly because a higher population means more vegans leading to a better offering of vegan options. However, Tim said that more research needed to be done into why there is this split and what issues drive it.

cultural shifts happen over time and… a diversity of outlooks help

As discussion about cultural appropriation in food reporting has increased over the past few years I took the opportunity to ask Tim if he worried about cultural appropriation being a problem facing veganism? Tim said that simply eating diverse cuisines is not cultural appropriation but could see how chefs on TV adapting dishes from other cultures without understanding those cultures could be seen as problematic.

I also asked Tim about what he thought would happen to cultural tradition such as religious festivals that involve the slaughter of animals. Tim pointed out that cultural shifts happen over time and that a diversity of outlooks help.

Finally, on the topic of individual choices and the growing world of vegan culture I asked him about what he would say to support someone going vegan? He said to remember that “you are doing a fantastic thing”.

Come back for part two where we discuss the Vegan Society’s legislative campaign and what farming will look like without animals.

Alice Nott

Featured image courtesy of Angela Loria via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

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