Sound Accessibility to Veganism and Vegetarianism is a Mere Illusion – Labour Article
It’s no secret that vegetarianism and veganism have become increasingly popular over the last few years, with vegans and vegetarians set to make up one-quarter of the British population by 2025. This number will undoubtedly increase with those partaking in Veganuary reaching record-breaking numbers this year.
However, there is still a myriad of barriers to both vegetarianism and veganism. Sound accessibility is merely an illusion.
Before my Liberal and Conservative colleagues call me out in their responses, I understand there is a difference between veganism and a plant-based diet. Veganism incorporates more than just diet, as a “philosophy and way of living”. However, for the benefit of this article, I will predominantly focus on the food and diet aspect of veganism, along with vegetarianism.
Most people would assume vegetarianism and veganism have become easier in recent years; the growing statistics prove this, right? Not necessarily. Of course, there are more options now. So in a way, you would be right in thinking this. But, as with anything, it’s not quite that straightforward.
Let’s look at meat alternatives first. As a recent convert to vegetarianism myself (although perhaps more aptly ‘flexitarianism’), I can vouch first-hand that it was considerably easier to make the switch with convenient access to meat alternatives. Not only did it allow for greater ease when altering recipes, but not going cold turkey (pun intended) provided greater motivation to continue.
But it is no secret that these meat alternatives from brands such as Quorn, Beyond Meat, and Impossible Food, can be quite expensive. While this is palpably improving, it still holds true. A mere search for similar items online would prove this.
I recognise that there is a simple counter-argument here – why not cut out the processed meat alternatives? Again, it’s not that simple. Nor should vegetarians and vegans be confined to the antiquated narrative that they survive off plates of grains and vegetables. This is so far from reality – as it should be in 2021. Admittedly, living like this would make this diet much cheaper to sustain. But let’s be honest, it’s nowhere near as feasible or palatable.
Looking at accessibility, there is a similar narrative that holds true. Vegan sections in large UK supermarkets are expanding, I won’t deny this. But their options are still so far away from the extensive selections in specifically vegan supermarkets.
If you were living in Brighton or Bristol for example – some of the easiest areas to be vegan – you would have a plethora of such supermarkets on your doorstep. This is not the case for more rural areas, however. For me, living in the Welsh valleys, I cannot name one vegan supermarket in a considerable radius. Thus, there is clearly a contrast in accessibility between urban and rural areas.
And that’s not it – there are considerable barriers beyond affordability and accessibility.
The sudden increase in the world’s vegan population has not been without backlash from the meat and dairy industries. The EU very recently faced a decision surrounding a ban on labelling plant-based foods as ‘burgers’ or ‘sausages’. This was in fact rejected but they did support a ban on dairy-like names such as ‘imitation cheese’. Their reasoning? To stop confusion among consumers. But in reality, as ‘@earthlinged’ discussed on Instagram, it was actually tabled because the industries feel “threatened by the exponential rise in the sales of plant-based foods”, adding yet another barrier to the accessibility of a vegan or vegetarian diet. As if there weren’t enough already.
Ultimately, it is all well and good for me to list the problems, and I hope I’ve convinced you that there are many in existence, but why is this something we should be talking about in the first place?
It is a salient issue now more than ever with the climate emergency upon us. Knowledge of transitioning to vegetarianism is one way we can help on an individual level. A vegetarian diet can provide huge greenhouse gas reductions and can prevent further pollution of our oceans. And, naturally, there is an animal protection aspect to this. Not only does avoiding meat prevent direct harm to animals, but it also protects wildlife habitats through the reduced spread of the cultivation of their land. These reasons alone convince many to reduce their meat intake, and there are so many more where these came from.
I am in no place to preach and am by no means expecting everyone to cut out all animal produce. However, an individual’s choice to do so if they wish should not be actively restricted. It is a change that can help the global climate situation, and it would be a considerably easier change to undertake without the aforementioned barriers.
I am optimistic that we are moving in the right direction with these barriers getting somewhat smaller. I have to say however, I hope it is not too little too late.
Written by Chief Labour Writer, Abi Clargo
Point of Information
Veganism helps lactose-free products become more accessible and I’m all for it – A Conservative Response
This is probably the first time I agree with Abi. I am actually lactose intolerant and I have dabbled in vegan, vegetarian, and pescatarian diets before. I know the pricing of such products very well. From my own perspective, I’d say that becoming a vegan or a vegetarian is a lifestyle choice. If you can afford it, by all means, you should become one if you do indeed care about the environment or animals. But to me, these things are often a choice based on income. Not everyone can afford to do so and this is something we should accept.
However, lactose intolerance, milk, and gluten allergies happen whether we choose it or not. The higher the sales of vegan products, the higher the drive to offer lactose-free alternatives too. The prices are slowly becoming more and more affordable for many due to the high demand and competitive market. But it certainly doesn’t go far enough. If vegan product prices go down, this will help people in poverty to access products that don’t cause allergic reactions. This also rings true regarding meat products, as meat allergies do occur too.
I do agree with Abi that these products are costly thus making them unavailable for many who need them. Abi made a very good point regarding the rural communities – small shops don’t tend to stock many vegan products. It is possible to eat affordably as a vegan, but this also requires people to buy many diet supplements, such as omega-3 from algae, not from fish and other supplements. This drives the cost even higher and considering that a lot of these supplements are already added to vegan replacements, it’s almost impossible to maintain a vegan diet without these alternatives.
I think that we need to understand that not everyone can afford to be vegan or vegetarian right now. But ensuring that the prices for these products go down is a noble goal to aim for. I believe that we will see the prices reducing eventually, considering that the market is growing and is extremely competitive. Not long ago, lab-made meat was introduced in Singapore and we can already see that the change is happening. I honestly think that in the next decade we will see meat-alternatives to be a cheaper option and meat becoming the delicacy for the upper class.
Written by Junior Conservative Writer, Dinah Kolka
Accessibility needs to be improved, but this isn’t the only way to be vegan – A Liberal Response
Abi makes excellent points in her article: veganism can be expensive and products difficult to find. I also agree with Dinah that it should be accepted that for some people, a plant-based or vegetarian diet is not a possibility, whether this is due to accessibility or other factors. However, I would like to dispute some of the finer points of the article.
Coming from an omnivore with a vegan sister, there is an extent to which I want to advocate for the ‘you can go without some of the alternatives’ that Abi rejected. The increase in veganism has also given rise to a multitude of vegan cooks and bloggers who demonstrate that you can get what you need without having to spend extortionate amounts on Quorn and other meat replacements (I highly recommend Jack Monroe for budget vegan recipes).
Huge amounts of vegan foods and substitutes can be made at home, although I concede that they require time which is a luxury that many people who wish to follow a vegan diet may not have. But, if you are able to, a plant-based diet that doesn’t rely so heavily on substitutes is excellent for your health as well as for the environment.
The backlash from the meat and dairy industries I personally don’t see as such a big deal as is presented in the article: the ban on naming items as burgers and sausages failed, and while the proposed naming ban on cheese is irritating, people will still be perfectly able to find their alternatives in the supermarket.
I think the key thing to take away from this discussion is that you should not judge those who do not follow these plant-based diets – they aren’t accessible for everyone. And hopefully, as Dinah said, as veganism rises, there will be more competition in the market to push prices downwards, while the demand will hopefully lead to the expansion of options and the accessibility of these diets.
Written by Guest Liberal Writer, Emma Hall