Set the alarm, make a note in your diaries, and circle the date on the calendar: Vevolution returns to London’s Southbank for its fourth year on 16th November, a “festival for the curious, the passionate, the bold, the compassionate, and those who want to change the world”. At least, within the parameters of a pandemic recovery phase, that is; and, with the caveat of that being so (at least as we go to press)…
Beloved for its “inspiring talks, panel discussions and workshops showcasing a plant-powered positive version of the future”, if you’ve ever had a green, animal- and nature-loving thought in your head, do not miss Vevolution. With 32 events held, 6,000 strangers united, and 365,000 people reached across the globe – Vevolution holds some serious sway in eco-consciousness today.
Indeed, the vim, vigour, and vitality of the concept of “Veg” has been very much buzzing this year. While London’s Enfield Borough council declared its intention to ban meat from all its events starting from this December, earlier in the year Veganuary reported that over 400,000 people signed up to its month-long challenge in 2020 and that by the end of those 31 little days alone not only were 2.5 million litres of water saved by participants’ refusal to consume animal products, but over 1 million creatures kept their lives.
The species that retained the most living numbers? Fish, the most slaughtered animal for food annually and yet one of the most “crucial to the world’s ecosystems”. It seems humans will take a bit longer to accept what happens underwater really does matter; it’s not just a case of out of sight, out of mind. This blindness to oceanic reality, in fact, was perhaps no more clearly demonstrated than when the Faroe Islands’ annual whale and dolphin hunt still went ahead back in July, the water running red with the blood of 250 such mammals.
On the topic of the seas, on what premise are some so-called “vegans” supporting the consumption of bivalves? That is to say, eating molluscs (mussels, oysters, clams, etc.). In environmental comparison to plant-based agriculture, mussel farming can offer carbon offsetting (as the shellfish filter carbon dioxide from the water), true; and there’s no risk of cruel bycatch from net fishing either (mussel seeds are grown on collector ropes suspended in the sea when they are farmed). Nonetheless, although they aren’t vertebrates and they don’t have a brain per se, molluscs are living creatures with a nervous system and a heart, stomach, kidneys, mouth, and even a single foot. They also have gills, just like fish. Eating marine mussels (pteriomorphia), then, is pretty much the same as eating snails, and true vegans certainly don’t do that – no matter how nutritionally beneficial.
Furthermore, molluscs are a crucial part of oceanic calcium carbonate production. Together with coral and other “hard-bodied aquatic creatures”, when they die the shells and other body parts sink to the ocean floor and bury the carbon that is there. After many years, carbonate builds up and after millions of years enough carbonate builds up with increased heat and pressure to form sedimentary rock such as chalk, limestone, and even marble.
To return to the Veganuary statistics: well beyond the temporal confines of January, a report published in early summer by the European Consumer Organisation BEUC evidenced consumers’ spending habits steadily leaning towards plant-based over animal in general. At the same time, it noted how the European Commission’s earlier “Farm to Fork” strategy had been misplaced.
Indeed, the Vegan Society also conducted a survey earlier in the year, finding that 1 in 5 Britons “reduced their meat consumption during the pandemic”. Concurrently, Veganuary shared further research by Mintel which found that 25% of Britons aged 21-30 stated that a vegan diet was more appealing as a result of COVID-19, while 12% of the population as a whole (about 1 in 10 of us) felt the same. Additionally, 15% cut down on dairy and eggs – a surprising figure when considering that Waitrose & Partners as of March this year (i.e. just before lockdown) had already reported a 9% increase in such sales. Only last year, 6.6 billion of us were consuming eggs: an increase of 3.4% from 2018 alone, according to Kantar data.
Of all participants in The Vegan Society survey, “43% said they chose to make a change due to concerns over health, the environment or animal rights.” And that’s the key point: COVID-19 has made us rethink our very lives right down to what we elect to put on our plates and by extension in our bodies for the good of the planet and non-human animals. During the lockdown, veg box sales in the UK went through the roof. According to data gathered from 101 different veg box schemes running throughout the nation, there was an overall 111% rise in weekly sales figures between February and April. Britain behind closed doors got hungry, it seems, but that hunger wasn’t for meat: it was for health-imbuing fruit and veg.