Since 2014, Veganuary has inspired and supported more than half a million people in 178 countries to try vegan for January – and beyond. They have worked with businesses to drive up vegan food provision in shops and restaurants, and have made veganism more visible and accessible through their work with national and international media.
Jasper Wilkins, a member of the Plant-Based Network’s advisory committee, interviewed the 37-year old co-founder of Veganuary, Jane Land.
Jasper: Tell me a bit about yourself?
Jane: I trained as an English teacher, but for the last six years I’ve been an animal protection campaigner and co-founder of the charity Veganuary. I’d say my path to veganism began long before I became vegan. It began with a famous dog. Lassie. 🙂 As a child I would watch intently and follow her weekly escapades. It was during these adventures that Lassie would often get hurt or trapped and I would sob to see her pain and distress. My mum would try to switch off the TV, but I’d protest and shout: ‘NO, I need to know what happens.’ And she’d let me watch, because, inevitably, Lassie would be rescued and I could go to bed happy: content that the suffering had stopped. It was a further 15 years before I lost that contentment. I saw undercover footage filmed on factory farms and in slaughterhouses. But there was no one there to switch it off this time. I was distraught. Unlike Lassie, this animal suffering was not the result of a misadventure; it was an industry. An industry I had supported with every trip to McDonald’s and KFC and my weekly Sunday dinner. That stopped. I went vegetarian.
It wasn’t until I met Matthew (Veganuary’s Co-founder) in 2012 that I found the confidence to extend that compassion for animals to dairy cows and layer hens.
Jasper: What is Veganuary?
Jane: Launched in the UK in January 2014, Veganuary (pronounced vee-gan-uary) is an online campaign that encourages people to ‘try vegan for January.’ Veganism is one of the most effective choices a person can make to reduce the suffering of animals, help the planet and improve personal health. As a charity, Veganuary is dedicated to changing public attitudes, while providing all the information and practical support required to make the transition to veganism as easy and enjoyable as possible.
Veganuary has had an incredible degree of success in a very short time: over half a million people have registered on our website to date, although we know from a 2019 Kantar study that many more people have taken part. The results from the study suggests that 1.31M people gave up animal products in the UK in January 2019 – that’s 4.7% of the total UK population!
Jasper: What benefits have you had since going vegan?
Jane: It’s changed my life. No exaggeration. Nothing has been as motivating for me as wanting to help reduce the suffering animals and the damage we continue to inflict on our planet. Personally, I feel lighter, knowing I’m being part of the solution. Oh, and as an added bonus, – I also have much more energy!
Jasper: What advice would you give to someone wanting to try out a plant-based diet?
Jane: ‘Veganise’ your favourite dishes. During the transition phase, it can be tough breaking those old habits and keeping things familiar can help.
Get to the supermarket. We’ve even provided the shopping list! Veganuary’s created a list of pantry essentials to ensure participants have a kitchen full of wonderful ingredients for the month ahead.
Start experimenting: explore the range of different plant milks out there, try some dairy-free spreads and stock up on those tasty staple products. We’re all huge fans of oat milk at Veganuary HQ! Plan some meals: check out our recipe pages for some inspiration. With over 500 recipes, 15 different cuisine types, quick and easy dishes, everyone will find something that tickles their taste buds and their culinary abilities! Scope out your area: What veg-friendly restaurants are nearby? Think ahead: if you know you’re entering non-vegan friendly territory, take some snacks or packed lunch with you. Double up on your evening dinner and use the leftovers or make up some sandwiches to take. We’ve been through the transition stage; we’ve had our own wobbles, just stick at it. And as clichéd as it sounds: the truth is, it WILL get easier.
Jasper: Where did you find out information about veganism?
Jane: Everything I could get more hands on I read, watched and listened to. Quite a mixture of DVDs, books and the internet. The DVDs I remember having the greatest impact on me were Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, Speciesism the Movie, and Cowspiracy. There are so many good books out there too: The Animal Activist’s Handbook by Bruce Friedrich and Matt Ball, The Ultimate Betrayal: Is There Happy Meat by Hope Bohanec, On Being Vegan by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau and How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Greger.
Jasper: Who inspires you?
Jane: All the activists who devote their time and energy to save animal lives and make this world a more compassionate place to be.
Links to find out more:
Jasper Wilkins: http://instagram.com/jasperwilkins