Feature: Could you be suited by a vegan lifestyle?

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Social media and celebrity culture is helping drive the rise of veganism. Reporter Charlie Bullough looks at why the number of vegans in Britain has quadrupled in four years.

Social media and celebrity culture is helping drive the rise of veganism. Reporter Charlie Bullough looks at why the number of vegans in Britain has quadrupled in four years.

Can you imagine a meat-free future with no dairy products?

Well, the notion is not far fetched as new research shows that half of Britons would definitely consider becoming vegan at some stage.

There are now 600,000 vegans in Britain alone and the number of people adopting the lifestyle has quadrupled in the past four years.

World Vegan Day on November 1 has spawned into a month-long awareness campaign and there is even an app to plot your vegan journey.

Evanna Lynch on ABC's Dancing With The Stars.

Evanna Lynch on ABC's Dancing With The Stars.

Dominika Piasecka, from The Vegan Society, believes social media and celebrity backing is helping spread the word.

She said: “When you logon to your social media account you are bound to see something about veganism at some point. Instagram, which is a picture based platform, has contributed hugely to the growth of vegan living. It’s such a useful tool for sharing recipes and also for following people who are quite prominent within the vegan movement, such as vegan athletes, vegan chefs and businessmen. There are quite a lot of accounts like that.

“Obviously, the celebrity culture has helped as well. A lot of famous people are vegan like Lewis Hamilton, Miley Cyrus and Ariane Grande. A lot of their fans look up to them and they find out about veganism like that.”

Harry Potter actress Evanna Lynch, who played Luna Lovegood in the movie franchise, is also a prominent member of the community and has backed World Vegan Month.

Actress Evanna Lynch. Picture: Faye Thomas.

Actress Evanna Lynch. Picture: Faye Thomas.

The actress, who is currently on Dancing With The Stars - the American version of Strictly, is also promoting the new VeGuide app, which helps people with their first 30 days as a vegan and how to stay vegan.

Evanna, explaining the app in a YouTube video, says: “VeGuide gives you everything you need to know about going vegan. Users will learn everything from how to deal with cheese cravings, to how to deal with comments from non vegans. All delivered through a series of short videos and quick burst quizzes. By the end of the 30 days you will be an expert in all things vegan and fully prepared to live a happy and compassionate life.”

Vegan Society spokeswoman Dominika said the free to download VeGuide was launched on World Vegan Day and it has already had more than a thousand downloads. The app, which is also rated at 4.8 on Google Play, also offers recipes and advice about where to shop for vegan food.

Dominika, who has been a vegan for six years, said the range of food for vegans has increased hugely from when she started. She added: “The number of vegans has quadrupled over the last four years. With that and the rise of ‘flexitarians’ (a plant-based diet with the occasional addition of meat), all these people are driving this trend for buying and trying more vegan food.

A poster promoting the VeGuide app and World Vegan Month.

A poster promoting the VeGuide app and World Vegan Month.

“So restaurants are coming out with dedicated vegan menus and supermarkets are launching new products on an almost weekly basis.”

She highlighted the recent launch of the Beyond Burger at Tesco. Dominika said the plant based patty aims to replicate the taste of meat quite closely.

Christmas menus are also on people’s minds and there are plenty of vegan options to choose from too.

Dominika said: “So there is the good old nut roast for those who are not bored of it yet...In terms of a centrepiece there is also a vegan turkey roast available in Holland and Barrett. It’s a type of flour you mix with spices. It has the consistency of meat, and then when you add the right spices it has the flavour of meat.

“There is also mushroom and chestnut wellington that can work. A lot of side dishes can be veganised, like Brussels sprouts without the bacon bits.

She added: “Those items are mainly aimed at people who do like the taste of meat but don’t want to eat it because of the ethical and environmental implications. So maybe for someone who doesn’t want to give up the taste of meat, they can still benefit from it but without the cruelty associated with it, by choosing this vegan option.”

Dominika Piasecka, a spokeswoman for The Vegan Society.

Dominika Piasecka, a spokeswoman for The Vegan Society.

VEGAN FACTFILE:

The Vegan Society says: “Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”

One thing all vegans have in common is a plant-based diet avoiding all animal foods such as meat (including fish, shellfish and insects), dairy, eggs and honey - as well as products like leather and any tested on animals.

The Vegan Society was established in 1944.

It is the oldest such society in the world and is 74 years old.

For more see: www.vegansociety.com.

The VeGuide app is fee to download on Google Play and the App store.

FESTIVE CHEESECAKE RECIPE:

For the base: 250g/ 8 ½ oz vegan digestive biscuits; 100g/3 ½ oz vegan margarine; 1 tsp ground cinnamon. For the filling: 100g/ 3 ½ oz dried cranberries; Liquid for soaking (see method); 450g/1 lb unflavoured vegan cream cheese; 200g/7oz unflavoured vegan yoghurt; 1 tbsp cornflour; 2 tbsp golden syrup.

To decorate: holly leaves and fresh pomegranate kernels

Method: Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Grease the base and sides of a 23cm/9 inch, loose-based tart tin. Place the cranberries in a small bowl and cover with soaking liquid of your choice – perhaps vegan red wine or brandy, fruit juice or an alcohol-free fruit punch. Leave to soak for up to an hour until required.

For the base: Put the biscuits into a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin until they resemble breadcrumbs. Melt the margarine in a saucepan, then take off the heat and stir in the biscuit crumbs and cinnamon. Mix thoroughly, then press the mixture into the base of the prepared tin and press down with the back of a spoon. Bake on a baking tray for 10 minutes.

For the filling: Put the vegan cream cheese, vegan yoghurt, cornflour and golden syrup into a large bowl and mix well. Drain the cranberries and gently stir into the mixture. Spoon the filling over the biscuit base, smooth it with the back of a spoon and return to the oven for 30-35 minutes until golden and just set. Allow to cool in the tin, then remove from tin onto a serving plate and chill until ready to serve. Decorate with holly leaves (not for eating!) and fresh pomegranate kernels.

A vegan cranberry cheesecake. 'Food photographer: Sue Hicoe

A vegan cranberry cheesecake. 'Food photographer: Sue Hicoe