After Veganuary: What Happens When the Plant-Based Hype is Over?

Veganuary is a hugely positive, month-long plant-based celebration that each year boasts ever-growing figures of new plant-based converts all over the world. But what happens when the dust settles and our new-found allies find themselves in February?

Jordi Casamitjana, author of ‘Ethical Vegan: A Personal and Political Journey to Change the World‘ sought to find out.These are his findings.

Pictured: Hollyoaks star Eva O’Hara – Veganuary ambassador. Image credit: Veganuary

My last step took me 23 days.

For several years, I received information from multiple sources — some quite subtle while others more obvious — that was pointing me in the right direction. But I needed a push, so, to summon the courage to change, I spent 23 days in isolation on an island in the North Sea during the winter of 2001. This is what it took me to move my intellectual foot forward and make the final step that would metamorphize me from a crawling carnist to a flying vegan. I landed on the island with lots of provisions, which included milk, cheese, and tuna, and while writing a novel in the snowed cottage I used them all. But then I left the island, and I never willingly consumed another animal product for food. I needed a push, and I created a very dramatic one.

Other vegans I know also needed a notch, and for some, January is a good month to get it. The New Year’s resolution has for a long time been used as a self-made push to change an undesired trait, accomplish a personal goal, or improve behaviour. Even the Romans began each year by promising deeds to the god Janus — for whom the month of January is named. But that’s just one day, often misty and forgettable after a long night of drunken celebrations. Like in my case, you may need a bit more than a day to seal the deal. You may need a few weeks. Three or four may do.

They did tap into something real. Research has shown that January is the month when more people try plant-based diets. According to YouGov data, 5% of Britons tried going vegan in January 2021

Veganuary for January

When you discover that becoming vegan is something that most people should be doing, you may try to find ways to convince your friends and family to join you. If that doesn’t feel enough, you may become a vegan activist and do some vegan outreach in the streets. But if you are a businessperson with an entrepreneurial flair, you may want to go higher. An English couple tried that in 2014. Mathew Glover and Jane Land started a new organisation that gave many people the push they needed to try veganism — well, a plant-based diet — for 31 days. They called it Veganuary, and this name, although may

sound a bit weird the first time you hear it, is actually quite clever. By joining Vegan and January, and by tapping into the spirit of the New Year’s resolutions with the guilt of over-indulging holidays, they created something memorable.

Interestingly, this brilliant idea started with a moustache. This is what Matthew said to Elysabeth Alfano during a 2021 interview for her Plant-Based Business Hour broadcasted on UnchainedTV:

“I’d taken part in a campaign called ‘Movember’ where you grow a moustache for the months of November. I thought it was such a great campaign. So, when I got together with my wife Jane, we started to think about: what is the best thing we can do for the animals? Well, we thought about ‘November.’ Vegan had to be whatever someone would be doing for the month, obviously. And then, what was going to be the best month? And, really, it had to be January because of New Year’s resolutions. People eat so much food at Christmas. Also, most people focus more on health and chucking things. We had ‘vegan’ and ‘January’, and we thought, well, Veganuary, is that going to work as a word? And it took off. We were so lucky. The media immediately picked up on it, which was great.”

I thought it would be interesting to find out about this by trying to see what happens to the people who tried Veganuary after a year or two. To do that, I had to find a way to track them and ask them whether they are now ethical vegans…

Pictured: Dirty Sanchez star and ‘Dirty Vegan’ Matt Pritchard; Veganuary ambassador. Image credit: Veganuary

In 2017 Matthew and Jane stepped down from running the charity but still serve as trustees on its Board.

They did tap into something real. Research has shown that January is the month when more people try plant-based diets. According to YouGov data, 5% of Britons tried going vegan in January 2021, while another 3% were already plant-based. Among 18–24-year-olds, 6% were already vegan, while a further 8% tried it in January. About 34% of British people agreed that they would like to reduce their meat and dairy consumption. According to Neilsen, one in eight British households bought meat alternatives during January 2021.

Veganuary is a non-profit organisation that encourages people worldwide to try vegan food for January and beyond. But it also has a corporate outreach side asking businesses to offer new vegan options for January. During the 2022 campaign, 1,561 new vegan products and menu options were launched in their key campaign countries. Although it started in the UK, Veganuary is becoming increasingly global. They have expanded into the USA, and in 2022 they also ran campaigns in India, Germany, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil.

When people sign up for the 31-day challenge, they get access to cookbooks, easy meal plans, nutrition guides and 31 coaching emails. Since its creation, Veganuary has relentlessly been growing in terms of the number of people who sign up for it. From 3,300 in the first year, passed the 100,000 mark in 2017, passed the 200,000 in 2020, nearly reached 600,000 in 2021, and got more than 629,000 in 2022. According to a press release from the organisation, this year, people tried Veganuary from 228 countries and territories which included every country in the world except Tajikistan and North Korea.

Commenting on the impact of Veganuary’s 2022 campaign, Ria Rehberg, Veganuary’s CEO, said:

At Veganuary we share one common dream: We want to live in a vegan world. A world without animal farms and slaughterhouses. A world where food production does not decimate forests, pollute rivers and oceans, exacerbate climate change, and drive wild animal populations to extinction. A world where everyone is able to enjoy an endless variety of delicious and nutritious foods while protecting the planet and animals.”

And while it will take the effort of countless people, organisations and initiatives to make this dream a reality one day, each January, I can feel us get a step closer to that vision. Veganism isn’t standing in the corner anymore; it’s become a popular choice that many of the world’s largest food businesses are embracing as the big new thing.”

On their website, Veganuary says: “We aim to inspire people all over the world to try a vegan diet in January and beyond through our 31-day pledge. Millions of people from all around the world have taken part since we began in 2014, but we are aiming for a fully vegan world!”.

But a fully vegan world is a world where everyone follows the philosophy of veganism, which, as defined by the Vegan Society, goes beyond diet. A full vegan (also known as an ethical vegan) seeks to exclude all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty, not only those related to diet. So, although I believe the founders of Veganuary are ethical vegans, it seems the organisation is not openly asking for people to become ethical vegans, just to try one aspect of the lifestyle associated with this philosophy (the diet) for one month. They do hope that after trying it for a month many people may stick to it for longer — preferably for life — but stick to the diet or the philosophy? They talk about the vegan world, but do they mean the Plant-Based world? The vegan diet world?

Pictured: Writer Jordi Casamitjana with actor Peter Egan

Veganuary has a page titled “5 ways to help animals after Veganuary”. These are 1. get active for animals; 2. replace non-vegan clothing; 3. swap out toiletries and cosmetics; 4. clean up your household items, and 5. donate to vegan organisations. But is this a “bonus” type of suggestion, or the ultimate goal? It doesn’t seem to be prominent throughout their campaign. Is this because those whom Veganuary are targeting are not quite ready for such a commitment? Is it because those who take the challenge are only interested in food? Is this because their intended audience is not the type of people who would become ethical vegans?

I thought it would be interesting to find out about this by trying to see what happens to the people who tried Veganuary after a year or two. To do that, I had to find a way to track them and ask them whether they are now ethical vegans, just plant-based, vegetarians, or any of the other types of diets that are commonly defined today.

Celebrities Doing Veganuary

Some people are easily traceable because they are, by definition, public figures. If they are important celebrities, they may be very precious of their privacy so they could only be tracked by checking what they want to post to the world on their social media or during interviews. But this is a start.

One of them is the British naturalist, wildlife photographer, author and TV presenter Chris Packham. He did Veganuary in 2019 and it seems he has been at least plant-based since. And he did it very publicly, posting frequent tweets and videos about his experience. On 3rd February 2019, The Guardian published an article from him titled “I did Veganuary, and now I’m staying vegan. Here’s what I’ve learned so far”. In it, he states: “I haven’t actually eaten meat for 30 years, although I occasionally ate fish and felt bad about it. Two years ago, I visited a modern British dairy farm where the cows were kept in very clean conditions, indoors, all year round. I hated it. So, I switched to oat milk, and last year I gave up eating cheese. But there are still plenty of animal products in cakes and biscuits. And so, until 1st January, I wasn’t vegan.”

At the time, after the 31 days of doing Veganuary, it seems that he was not prepared to go all the way and become an ethical vegan. He wrote: “Three days into February, I haven’t eaten anything non-vegan yet. I’m staying vegan. But I’m not listening to the ultras, and I’ll draw my own lines in the sand. I don’t see a problem with eating locally produced honey, for instance.”

In October 2021, Packham was interviewed for Plant-Based News by Juliet Gellatley, the founder of the vegan organisation Viva! during the Vegan Campout. He said:

“I’ve been vegetarian since my early 20s. I thought I would basically just cut down on meat but then I found that when if I ate meat after a sort of six-month break it made me ill, actually. So, I thought, well, that method is off the menu. So, let’s just forget about the meat and then I carried on eating fish. But, of course, got to the point, as I got older, when we recognized that our fish stocks are seriously imperilled. They’re on the brink, many of them, eight out of ten of our fisheries, are overfished. So, then it became clear to me that eating fish was unsustainable. And I never told this line with the fact that the fish didn’t feel pain and all of this nonsense. So, again, from a scientific point of view, you wouldn’t entertain that in any way shape or form.

The interesting thing is it was factory farming that finally pushed me from vegetarianism to veganism. I went to an all-indoor dairy unit. It was remarkably clean. None of the animals was being abused, although genetically I might argue that they have been in the past given their rather bizarre shape of them. So, in that sense, you wouldn’t say that there were any immediate husbandry issues. But the fact is that these animals never went outside. They did three lactation cycles, they have their calves taken away instantaneously. I just have never been to one before, and I should have done. And it honestly was this close to ‘Brave New World’ which I’d read as a 14-year-old, that I could ever imagine. And I got in the car that night after spending the day there, and that was it. The game was over. I knew that I couldn’t trust myself or the food labelling, to be able to access good quality organically produced animal husbandry friendly dairy products.”

It seems that Packham’s vegan journey has been very gradual, so I would expect that he has continued in it since 2019, and if not now yet, at one point he will move deep enough into veganism to reject all animal products as any ethical vegan can do today. Whether he would accept this label would be, of course, entirely up to him.

The actress Kellie Bright, mostly known for her role as Linda Carter in the BBC soap opera EastEnders, did Veganuary in 2017, but veganism did not stick to her. In 2020 she wrote an article in the Metro titled “Veganuary is for everyone but to get people on board we need to avoid the vegan label”. In it, she explained she still consumes animal products, as it was her intention when she did the challenge. She writes “When I did try veganism it was never with the end goal of becoming a vegan for life… I first signed up because I’d been watching films and documentaries about veganism. There were a lot of pro-plant-based discussions and my husband was interested in any connections to health and fitness that introducing a more vegan diet might achieve… Still, I’m not committed to being vegan all of the time. I am not very good with labels — I have heard extraordinary terms like ‘flexitarian’ but I’d rather not use any of them. Since I finished Veganuary, just giving it a go as much as possible has changed my life… On a really primal level, I believe that we are designed to eat meat but we certainly shouldn’t be consuming as much as we do. The planet can’t support that level of intake.”

I have been lucky enough to be able to engage other celebrities directly as I have personally known them for some time. One of them is the actor Peter Egan (younger generations may know him more for his role as the Marquess of Flintshire in Downtown Abby, but older ones may know him for many more). I knew he became vegan after doing Veganuary in 2016, and I know he is an ethical vegan now, so I asked him how the experience was:

“Veganuary was instrumental in structuring my journey in adopting a full vegan lifestyle. The support was phenomenal in terms of advice in relation to creating a balance in terms of food choices and introduction to a wonderful variety of plant-based foods and how to source them. It was also great to be able to relate to a team who knew what one might miss when transitioning….cheese and chocolate options and delicious vegan substitutes.

Also advice in relation to vitamins and supplements as well as clarity on vegan omega 3 options and anything that is capsule wrapped with hidden animal product. All in all, a perfect introduction to a vegan lifestyle without any pressure but full of encouragement.”

Pictured: A Place In The Sun host Jasmine Harman; Veganuary ambassador.

Peter has clearly become an ethical vegan. He was one of the people kind enough to revise my book Ethical Vegan and talk about it during the online launch (due to COVID) in December 2020, hosted by VegFestUK.

Jasmine Harman, the English television presenter, did Veganuary in 2014 (the very first year), Deborah Meaden, the British businesswoman and TV personality, did it in 2020, and Rebecca Callard, the English actress and writer, also did it in 2020. Toni Vernelli, Veganuary’s International Head of Communications and Marketing, told me that all three stayed vegan.
I get why many celebrities, who are always under public scrutiny, may not want to commit themselves to any behaviour based on ethics — in case they are caught deviating from it and disappointing fans. They also may have been approached by advocate organisations or PR people who directed them to express their experiences in particular ways (some, like Peter and Chris, are official “Veganuary Ambassadors”). So, I was more interested in knowing what “ordinary” people — If you know what I mean — have been doing after Veganuary, as they don’t have any of that. Luckily, the Veganuary organisation has been collecting some data.

What Do They Say After the 31 Day Challenge?

After people sign up for the plant-based diet challenge, they fill out a sign-up survey from which the organisation pulls up some stats after January. In 2020, their analysis showed that 37% of the 350,000 participants signed in to spare animals from suffering, 18% to protect the environment and 38% for health. 51% were still eating the flesh of terrestrial and aquatic animals when they took the pledge, 30% were vegetarian, and 19% were vegan. As in previous years, the majority of participants were female (83%) with nearly one-third of sign-ups (29%) aged between 25-34.

In the 2021 challenge, the stats showed that almost half (46%) of the 582,000 participants said animals were their number one motivation for trying vegan, followed by personal health (22%), the environment (21%), for a change/challenge/curiosity (5%), global health (4%) and for a friend/partner/family member (2%). Nearly three-quarters (74%) were still eating animal flesh when they signed up to take part, 24% were vegetarian, and 12% were vegan. Also, 65% were aged between 25 and 54, followed by 55-64 (15%) and 18-24 (14%). 85% were female.

Pictured: Actor & Model Georgia Meacham; Veganuary Ambassador. Image credit: Veganuary

As for 2022, almost half (44%) of the 629,351 participants said animals were their number one motivation for trying vegan, followed by personal health (21%), the environment (19%), change/challenge/curiosity (7%), global health (5%) and for a friend/partner/family member (2%). Half (51%) were still eating flesh when they signed up to take part, 32% were vegetarian and 17% were vegan.

Interestingly, in 2021 there was a considerable increase in the proportion of non-vegetarians and non-vegans who tried Veganuary, but in 2022 these returned to the 51% value of 2020. As for the rest of the demographic stats, 2020 and 2022 are very similar.

After 31 days, participants were asked about how the experience was, and what they were planning to do about veganism from then on. According to the stats published by Veganuary, the participants of 2020 showed the following responses: More than half (59%) of the non-vegan participants maintained a fully vegan diet for the whole month and 72% of them said they were planning to stay vegan after Veganuary. More than three-quarters (77%) of those who didn’t manage to finish the challenge without eating animal products said they were very/extremely likely to try veganism again in the future.

As far as the 2021 participants are concerned, almost two-thirds (61%) maintained a fully vegan diet for the whole month, 40% said they were planning to stay vegan, 75% of those not staying vegan planned to at least halve their intake of animal products going forward, and 75% were very/extremely likely to try vegan again in the future. Talking about the 2021 participants, the Veganuary’s 2022 Campaigns Review says: “Our follow-up survey of Veganuary 2021 participants found that six months after completing their one-month vegan challenge, 82% of those who were not vegan when they signed up had maintained a dramatic reduction in their animal product consumption. Thirty per cent were still eating a fully vegan diet; 38% were eating at least 75% less meat and other animal products than pre-Veganuary; and 14% were eating at least 50% less.” So, it seems that, in six months, the percentage of those still eating a fully plant-based diet dropped from 40% to 30%.

Our follow-up survey of Veganuary 2021 participants found that six months after completing their one month vegan challenge, 82% of those who were not vegan when they signed up had maintained a dramatic reduction in their animal product consumption.

In the 2022 survey, over half (55%) maintained a fully vegan diet for the whole month, 36% said they were planning to stay vegan, 74% of those not staying vegan planned to at least halve their intake of animal products going forward, and 76% were very/extremely likely to try vegan again in the future. That year, before participating in Veganuary, 31% of those who were not already vegan planned to stay vegan at the end of their pledge but after participating 36% now said they planned to stay vegan.

Comparing the data published for the three years is not straightforward. The data on their website for 2020 only shows the percentage of those who said they would carry on with the vegan diet (72%) from those non-vegans who ate a full vegan diet for the entire month, while it seems that the 2021 and 2022 data shows the percentage of those who said that would carry on (40% and 36%) from all non-vegan participants (those who did the whole month and those who did less). But knowing the total number of participants I could calculate that for 2020 the percentage of all non-vegan participants who said would stay vegan is 52%. Therefore, it seems that this percentage has been declining during the last few years (a drop of 16 percentage points since 2020). One explanation may be that, as veganism becomes mainstream, more people less motivated are trying it for other reasons other than as a “resolution” to see if they can become vegan.

The six-million-dollar question is, though, how many of those 40-36% of previously non-vegans who said they would stay vegan after Veganuary, actually did stay for more than a year. I could not find any stats from Veganuary that answered this question beyond six months (I guess they may not be able to follow up those who signed after years have passed because of the limitations imposed by legislation protecting people’s data), so I decided to do my own mini-research about it.

How Many Stayed Vegan After a Year?

I discovered that on the 31st of January, Veganuary normally posts on Facebook a post congratulating people who made it. Several participants comment on those posts, often explaining a bit how it went, and whether they were planning to carry on. I realise that I could attempt to message these people who did it more than a year ago and ask them if they are still eating only a plant-based diet.

I did it with two posts, one for 2020 and another for 2021. I went through all the comments of those who had tried Veganuary for the first time and who were not vegan before. The stats of what I interpreted these commentators had said they would do after January are the following: 38% said they would stay Plant-Based, 33% did not say what they would do, 17% said they would go Vegan, 4% that they will become Reducetarians, 4% Flexitarians, 2% Vegetarians, 2% Pescatarians, and 1% would not change their diet. Adding the Plant-Based and the Vegans (ethical vegans) together, 55% said they would continue with the diet.

I send all those who commented and were not vegan before a message. In the 2020 post, this means 89 different people (88% of which were female, fitting the overall gender stats of the year). I sent them this message on 28th February 2022:

“Hello XX. I am Jordi Casamitjana, and I am currently working as a freelance writer on vegan issues. I noticed in a comment you made on a Facebook post of Veganuary back on 31 January 2020 that you did Veganuary then. I am currently writing an article for the Plant-Powered Planet Magazine on how doing Veganuary has changed the habits of people, so I am contacting all those who commented on that post saying that they finished Veganuary, to ask one simple question. Would you be willing to answer it? I will not include your name in the article. I am aiming to get some statistics from the answers. This is the question: Two years on, which of these do you consider you are today? 1) An Ethical Vegan (avoiding animal products not just in diet, but also in clothes, cosmetics, household products, hobbies, etc.). 2) A Dietary Vegan (avoiding all animal products in my diet only). 3) Vegetarian (avoiding all meat, including fish, only). 4) Pescatarian (avoiding most meat except fish). 5) Flexitarian (eating mostly vegan food but occasionally eating animal products, including meat). 6) Reducetarian (eating the same I ate before doing Veganuary, but less proportion of animal products). 7) Same as before doing Veganuary. 8) Other (please explain).”

From the 89, 19 replied with an answer (only one of them male). I tried to do the same with the 2021 post. For that one, only 44 different people who had done Veganuary for the first time commented (95% women). However, when I tried to send them the same message, Facebook did not allow me. Perhaps someone had complained that my unsolicited message was not welcomed, so I could not send it to anyone anymore. I waited one day, and the following day I sent this different shorter message: “Hi XX. I am a freelance writer, and I believe that you did Veganuary in 2021, based on a comment I saw on a Veganuary post. I am writing an article about people who have done it. Would you mind if I ask you a quick question?” This went through, but only five people replied (all females), to whom I sent them the first message. So, between the two years, I contacted 133 people, from which 24 replied. Not a big sample, but considering that it comes from a sub-set of particularly enthusiastic participants (those who bothered commenting on the Veganuary posts), and assuming that those who carried on with the diet would be more likely to reply to my question (as they would feel proud about it), their answers may give me a rough estimation of the maximum percentage of participants still following the diet one or two years after doing Veganuary.

Pictured: Wildlife photographer, author & activist Chris Packham; Veganuary ambassador. Image credit: Veganuary

The results for the 2020 sub-set alone (after two years) were Plant-Based 35%, Vegetarian 25%, Vegan 20%, Reducetarian 10%, Flexitarian 5%, and 0% the rest. For the 2021 sub-set alone (after one year) were Vegan 60%, Vegetarian 20%, and Flexitarian 20%. Joining both sets (24 replies), the overall results were Vegan 29%, Plant-Based 29%, Vegetarian 25%, Reducetarian 8%, and Flexitarian 8%. What is significant about these results is that I think this is probably the first time that the question had been put to them giving them the chance to choose between ethical vegans and dietary vegans (plant-based), and 29% said they had become the former while 29% the latter (altogether, 58%, the majority of this sample, continued with a plant-based diet). So, around half of those who stayed with the diet became ethical vegans in one or two years.

Here are the explanations that those who replied with anything more than one number sent me:

“Currently 2. I was a pescatarian before doing Veganuary and have gone back and forth a bit. Did Veganuary this year again and kept going.”

“The answer would be 1) I went fully vegan after Veganuary and have every intention of continuing to be for the rest of my life.”

“3 but trying to reduce all the animal items I consume bit by bit month by month.”

“I would say nr 2. I’m still eating vegan. And I was eating vegan before too. The issue is that I now live in a country where veganism is not too popular so at work I don’t have a lot of opportunities to eat 100% vegan. So, I can say that 99% of the time I eat vegan and I’m planning to continue.”

“I would class myself as 2 but working towards a 1.”

“Hi, I’m vegetarian (although most of what I eat is plant-based).”

“Mainly vegan including clothes and shoes. I sometimes have dairy if I am visiting restaurants or friends and family where there are no vegan options available. Still struggle with plant milk in tea so generally drink Earl grey.”

“I’d have to answer dietary vegan but trying hard to be an ethical vegan. I was vegetarian for years before doing Veganuary, haven’t looked back, much easier than I could ever have imagined.”

“I was a vegan for nearly a year, but unfortunately due to health reasons was put on medication that was not vegan. I used that as ‘an excuse’ to start eating cheese again so I would mostly eat vegetarian now but would eat meat on a few occasions now. Hope that helps. I think if the medication hadn’t have been an issue I would most likely have stayed as a vegan with maybe the odd dairy product but I still mainly keep to vegetarian.”

“8. I am sticking with a vegan diet as much as possible but occasionally having some dairy if the options are limited. So probably about 90% vegan. I’ve been a vegetarian for over 40 years.”

“I consider myself an ethical vegan. So far haven’t had any slip-ups, and I have no intention of going back to an omnivore diet.“

“I was a meat-eater before Veganuary. I am 90 per cent vegan but occasionally have dairy when eating out. I still strive to be vegan for ethical reasons.”

“I’m still an ethical vegan and will never go back.”

“I am between 1 and 2. I don’t consume anything animal-related. I am in the process of changing cosmetics, cleaning products etc to vegan abs ones that aren’t tested in animals. I was vegetarian for approximately 27 years, then did Veganuary and haven’t looked back.”

“I am 1). Hadn’t thought of having a name or title as such but 1) fits my lifestyle. I actually managed a vegan diet for 4/5 months after Veganuary but am since back to vegetarian. No milk though and rarely other dairy products and hope to keep cutting out animal products to eventually be vegan. I do avoid animal products on other items I buy as much as possible but no expert at this yet.”

“Hey, I’m a bit of everything! I definitely don’t eat anything that comes from the sea, been like that for 4 years now for ethical reasons. I have always shopped ethically cosmetic, household products etc. I am flexitarian but I am vegan for breakfast and lunch. For dinner, I sometimes eat meat, but I only eat chicken and beef. I don’t eat any other meat types. I definitely eat more vegan foods than before Veganuary and have switched from eating vegetarian at breakfast and lunch to vegan. I only drink oat milk now. I would like to be a full-time vegan, but a lot of the vegan products use coconut and the coconut can be sourced by cruelty using monkeys. When I buy meat now I choose meat that is slaughtered where it’s lives so not travelling miles to a slaughterhouse and has been free-range. Because my partner eats meat it’s hard to be a full-time vegan.”

Pictured: Harry Potter actress Evanna Lynch & Veganuary ambassador. Image credit: Veganuary

As I said earlier, this method would overestimate the percentage of those becoming vegan or plant-based as they are more likely to reply to my questions, and they were already a sub-group more likely to have commented on the Facebook post. So, the results do not represent all Veganuary participants, but rather the “responsive” participants, those more likely to respond if we ask them for their diet status now (in other words, those more likely to have changed their diet after Veganuary). We can use the 29% of ethical vegans after Veganuary as the “maximum” percentage, knowing that the real value would be less than that. Remember that, from the Veganuary questionnaires, in 2021 around 40% said they would carry on only eating plant-based food, and six months later this went down to 30%. With our data, we now know that a maximum of around half of those were ethical vegans one or two years later. That means 20% of the non-vegan participants, at the most (or 18% if we use the 2022 percentages)

What Does This All Mean?

The data from my mini-research is not statistically significant and is from a tiny sample, but this is the only thing I got. Nevertheless, I think it can help me to arrive at some conclusions beyond pure speculation. If up to 20% of the participants in the 2021 Veganuary became ethical vegans and still hold this philosophy one year after, as that year 582,000 people signed in, a maximum of 116,400 could be ethical vegans now. Let’s be conservative and assume that the real figure is 10 times smaller than that, around 12,000 people. That is still something. We are talking about thousands of people who become ethical vegans thanks to a campaign. Some of these may indeed leave veganism later, but some of those Plant-Based people could become ethical vegans later too, so the conclusion “thousands” still feels right to me.

If you expected that most would become ethical vegans, this may sound disappointing, but I did not. I actually expected fewer, considering how little I could see about the philosophy on the Veganuary website. Would more women stay feminist if they tried some aspects of feminism for 30 days? Would more people become environmentalists if they tried eco-transport for a month? Would more people stop drinking after doing dry January? How many of the resolutions made in New Year are still complied with two years later?

If you are an ethical vegan and someone said to you “I have found a way to make thousands of ethical vegans every year by just making them sign up to a website”, what would you say? You would say that’s fantastic, would you not? Is not that this project involves spending that many resources for participant, so everyone who doesn’t make it is a significant loss to the organisation, right? And if they told you that this project would allow many vegans from different countries to have a full-time job promoting this campaign for a vegan company, what would you say then? Even better, I would say! And this year they have generated more than 4,351 international media stories. In terms of cost-effectiveness, which other vegan outreach campaigns can claim better results?

I have done vegan outreach of several types (the Cube, leafleting, Earthlings Experience, stalls, etc.), and in my best month, I might have managed to have meaningful conversations with perhaps 100 people who may be willing to take veganism seriously and may give it a try. But these are not people who I “converted”. This is just the equivalent of people who signed on to Veganuary. I would never see those hypothetical 100 people again, and if they tried without any support, it is reasonable to believe that a lower percentage of 20% would be ethical vegans after two years? Yes, it is. The percentage is likely to be much lower. I now spend my time trying to help people stay vegan with my writing (mostly in vegan echo chambers) rather than trying to help carnists in the world to try veganism, but I know targeting the general public is a far more difficult task, so any ethical vegan for life created “from scratch” is a worthwhile effort.

If during all my street outreach I would only have managed to help one full carnist to become an ethical vegan for life, I would not feel I have wasted my time. Each ethical vegan that exists reduces the distance we need to travel to get the critical mass of vegans required to make a significant political change towards the vegan world. And it increases the chances of new committed activists being formed, some of whom may be good tacticians who can make a strong impact with their campaigning. What matters is not the decreasing demand for animal products, or the number of animals “theoretically” saved by buying plant-based alternatives. What matters is the number of ethical vegans determined to change the world.

I am certain that Veganuary “makes” ethical vegans. It may have a higher impact on temporarily changing people’s behaviours, but for me, that is just a side effect of trying to help people to become vegan.

With the accounts of some vegan celebrities who may become an inspiration to others, and with the analysis of the available data, I am certain that Veganuary “makes” ethical vegans. It may have a higher impact on temporarily changing people’s behaviours, but for me, that is just a side effect of trying to help people to become vegan. The data does not show that enough flexitarians or reducetarians are created to justify changing Veganuary’s name to Flexinuary or Reducenuary. And although it could be argued that a more fitting name may be Plantbasednuary, it doesn’t have the same ring to it or the same value either, right?

Pictured: Professional Actor Peter Egan, an ambassador and keen animal rights activist. Image credit: Veganuary

Mathew Glover and Jane Land went to start other vegan campaigns (such as the Million Dollar Vegan Campaign), but also founded a new food company called VFC (Vegan Fried Chicken) which produces fast-food style vegan “chicken”. He was interviewed by The Green Queen about it in an article titled “Vegan Chicken Brand VFC: Why We Banned The Term ‘Plant-Based’ In Our Marketing.” In it, he said the following: “We’re activists first and food producers second. ‘Plant-based’ doesn’t cover how we feel or what we want to achieve as a company. The word ‘vegan’ accurately reflects that promise we made to do all we can to rid the world of factory farms and spare the lives of birds.”

If the spirit of Veganuary’s founders has not been diluted in the current organisation, the ultimate goal should be making ethical vegans after the plant-based hype is gone. There may be several flexitarians, reducetarians, vegetarians and plant-based people created for each ethical vegan “achieved”, but this could be seen as by-products. Like the many drafts before a Nobel prize-winning novel is published, or the many “studies” after a museum-worthy painting is finished. All valued by themselves, but not as much as the final work of art.

Veganuary makes ethical vegans. I am now convinced it does. It would be nice if those running it could find a way to make more, so I hope they are trying and not settling for less. Easier said than done, I know, but that is what making a vegan world is all about.

There is life after Veganuary.

Don’t waste it.

By Jordi Casamitjana
Author of ‘Ethical Vegan: A Personal and Political Journey to Change the World’