14 Jan 2022

Plant power: the etiquette of Veganuary

There is no better time to review your diet than in January, when you find yourself caught up in the sickly aftermath of carnivorous Christmas excess, replete with resolutions to moderate your intake in the new year, and choose the healthy, rather than the hedonistic, path.

Veganuary’s annual campaign works with businesses to improve provision of vegan food in shops and restaurants, and inspires people to go vegan for the month of January. They aim to create a global movement that campaigns for compassionate food choices and ends animal farming.

Many of us will be inspired by this mission (and indeed for some of us it may be the beginning of a life-long adherence to veganism). But it is important to be conscious of the impact your regime is having on other people, and to ensure that you are not inconveniencing them.

Vegans abstain from all animal by-products – dairy and eggs as well as meat and fish –  and this can certainly give rise to catering challenges. If you are hosting a vegan in the coming weeks, bear in mind that many supermarkets now offer vegan substitutes, and there are a plethora of simple, and delicious, vegan recipes available online, so it is well worth making the effort to accommodate their dietary choices. You might even find your preconceptions and prejudices about vegan food are overturned.

If you are experimenting with veganism, ensure that you warn your hosts that you are doing so well before you arrive for lunch or dinner. A careless ‘oh, didn’t I tell you that I’ve gone vegan in January?’ as you’re confronted by a lovingly-prepared Sunday roast with all the trimmings, will inevitably upset your hosts, and may well send them into a panic. It doesn’t matter how much you protest that you’re happy with the roast vegetables, they will feel that they have fallen short as hosts, even though it is clearly not their fault.

When you do forewarn hosts, it is a good idea to offer them a simple alternative. Explain that you’re eating vegan food, and say ‘but don’t worry about me – I’d be really happy with a vegan ready meal’. It’s very unlikely that you will be offered a ready meal, but it will ensure that the hosts don’t feel too pressurised by your dietary requirements, probably feeling ‘I can do better than that’.

Resist the temptation to lecture or virtue-signal. The unkind characterisations of vegans as holier-than-thou mouthpieces for their cause is less prevalent nowadays, but if you are experimenting with veganism resist the urge to take the moral high ground or to convert others with too much zeal. On the other hand, you should marshal your facts and be ready to defend and explain your choices if people are interested in your diet, or want to challenge or provoke you.

If you genuinely feel that veganism has done you a power of good, then you will naturally be the best ambassador for the cause, and your healthy glow will need no further explanation.

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