The vegan scene is developing more and more each day. According to the BBC, the number of vegans in the UK “jumped from 150,000 to 542,000”, from 2006 to 2016, with the incredible Veganuary project of The Vegan Society. And the numbers keep rising every month. A survey done by comparethemarket.com found that since 2016 the number of vegans soared to 3.5 million just in the UK. I was speechless when I realised how much veganism has grown in this country.
This increase in ditching animal products is not only happening within the food industry but also in the fashion and beauty industries. Sometimes there is a grey area where brands don’t test on animals, but use animal products in their ingredients; or are zero waste companies and allow you to return their packaging to make a new one, but turns out they test on animals. In fact, in many countries like Australia, it is a legal requirement to not test your products on animals, when in countries like China you can only sell products which have been tested on animals. Some also argue that if a company sells their cruelty-free products in China, it shouldn’t be labeled as cruelty-free at all.
But there is a silver lighting in sight. Did you know that many of the early make up products didn’t have a label and that some of their ingredients included “things like lead and some dangerous products”, as Madelaine Marsh mentions in Estée Lalonde’s “The Heart of It” podcast? In fact, some beauty products contained ingredients which could deteriorate skin health and cause serious issues. That doesn’t happen anymore. People are aware of what they buy and what they expose their bodies to. There has been a huge increase in cruelty free beauty products because, really, why would you need to test products on animals if you can do that in a laboratory?
As any vegan person can confirm, it’s a great time to be vegan. Some people have been vegetarian and vegan for years, in times when it’s wasn’t easy. It was impossible to go to a high street food chain and order a vegan salad (which still happens in some places), let alone vegan fish and chips. But brands have noticed the rising of vegan and plant-based lifestyles and how they need to cater for people’s needs and quality of life. With some organisation and planning before getting out of the house, we can live and consume products that are 100% vegan and/ or cruelty-free. All thanks to people behind projects like the following, who made that work possible.
I could write a separate article on Earthing Ed, for his courage, sensibility and passion. A revolutionary champion of animal rights, fighting factory after factory and showing us the horrors and of factory farming, Ed has recently established himself as a restaurant owner as well.
Opened in Hoxton, Unity Diner, Ed’s first London diner (first of many, we all hope) will combine plant-based food with non-profit business. According to their website, “profits from Unity Diner go directly towards funding the animal rights organisation Surge as well as the development of a brand new rescue sanctuary for animals” outside of London. Sounds like vegan heaven to me!
The Vegan kind
Grocery shopping in London is becoming easier with supermarkets launching new products each year. There’s still a long way to go as most fruit and vegetables come in single use plastic containers and our busy lifestyle doesn’t always help. Blessed Planet Organic in Muswell Hill for allowing us Northern Londoners a close zero waste and plant-based shop in the area. But if you live more central, you have a store closer to you that is 100% vegan.
The Vegan Kind’s (TVK) story is very sweet. Founders Scott and Karris started the business after spending too many hours on supermarkets trying to find suitable ingredients for their vegan diet. When they found a lack of suitable food for vegans, they took the challenge to create a supermarket where any vegan could go shopping comfortably without having to carefully read the labels. Five years later, supermarkets have started catering for vegan diets but a 100% vegan supermarket is still one of the best initiatives in London.
Vegan Nights London
Every time I think of Vegan Nights, I always get reminded of the amazing people who make London a plant-based dream land. Once a month, 20 plant-based, meat-free food stalls get together in Shoreditch for one epic night.
With people queuing for miles to get in (true story), this food festival brings the likes of Biff’s Jack Shack, Spicebox and What the Pitta to the East End. This festival shows how much the industry is evolving. Every vegan in London gets together for one night per month to eat as much as possible and share the plant-based love. Some of the best festivals out there and one I believe is making a difference, one month at a time.
The entire McCartney family is considered a vegetarian and vegan’s inspiration to many, including myself. Paul and Linda McCartney were a beautiful couple who fought for animal rights. Linda was a photographer and vegetarian, whose cookbooks and frozen food company Linda McCartney Foods are still some of the best out there.
One of Linda and Paul’s daughters, Stella McCartney, is also a big animal rights activist and a very talented Fashion Designer. She’s one of the most recognised names in luxury fashion brands, particularly for her use of animal-free and vegetarian clothing. As a vegetarian herself, Stella designs beautiful clothing pieces 100% animal products-free and is an active vocal supporter of animal rights and PETA. An inspiration for the next generation of fashion designers, her handbags play a big part in an animal leather-free world.
If you follow my Instagram account, featuring Ella Woodward in this list isn’t going to be a surprise. Ella started her business 6 years ago after being diagnosed with Postural Tachycardia Syndrome. After struggling with medication, she started to look for other ways to manage her health condition and that’s when she found plant-based food. She started her blog “Deliciously Ella” to encourage herself to eat healthily and found herself with an incredible audience and followers.
Ella’s books have been an amazing success, translated to 22 languages and becoming a NY Times best seller. Alongside her husband and CEO of her company, Matt, she has launched a food products brand, opened her own restaurant and recently published another book. She has been a big influence on my journey and to many other people who have discovered, alongside her recipes, that a plant-based diet isn’t scary and can be delicious.
The Body Shop
Arguably one of the most famous natural skincare brands in the world, The Body Shop sells natural beauty and skincare products since its creation in Brighton in 1976. Founded by Dame Anita Roddick, The Body Shop has been a revolutionary brand since early on, fighting for animal rights causes like the Save the Wale campaign with Greenpeace and, possibly their most famous campaign ever, Forever Against Animal Testing.
In June 2017, The Body Shop and Cruelty Free International launched their biggest campaign yet which saw a sounding 3.8 million signatures in the first six month. Last month, with the incredible number of 8.3 million signatures, they took the petition to the United Nations headquarters in New York City to “create a global framework to end animal testing while advancing its sustainable development agenda”.
In a statement sent to Plant Based News, David Boynton, CEO of The Body Shop said how “cosmetic animal testing is outdated, cruel and unnecessary”, something that all beauty and skincare brands should follow. I personally agree with this and, having signed the petition myself a year ago, find this campaign to be one of the best examples of a global outcry against misinformation that needs to be addressed and ultimately scrapped. I find that there is actually no reason to use animals to test products in the 20th century and the people behind this initiative have fought very hard to show the world that things need to change.
Most industries thrive on big brands. The beauty and fashion industries, for instance, mostly follow trends from the big brands like Chanel and L’Oréal (interestingly, some of the worst when it comes to animal testing and using animal products).
Personally, I believe the people who have the biggest influence on the growth of veganism in London are not only the well-known bloggers of the vegan scene, famous for fighting for animal rights, like Earthling Ed, or making sure we have plant-based food recipes available for our “I-have-no-idea-what-to-cook” dinners (“wink wink” to Niomi Smart), but also also small businesses.
People who created the vegan food stalls in Borough and Camden Markets, people who work hard to make sure there is a plant-based option in restaurants out there and those who are at the Friday Food Market at One New Change with the latest vegan skincare.
Some are indeed well-known in the industry and also important in introducing new plant-based products to anyone living in cities around the UK – in London, Manchester, Brighton, Glasgow; you name it!
Names like Fat Gay Vegan, Big V London, Biff’s Jack Shack and VBurger are very well know to us living in London. In Manchester, you can find the V-Rev restaurant (winner of VegFest UK’s Best Restaurant in 2016); The Hope and Ruin and The Greek vegan Deli in Brighton; and also Checkpoint, Mono and The Nut Shack in Scotland. Exeter has also welcomed a vegan market, VegfestUK, that launched this year and Vegan Markets UK hosts many markets across the country, including Oxford, Derby and Nottingham.
The UK vegan scene keeps on flourishing and not only because of big brands. From bloggers to small businesses, and even high street food chains, fortunately we have many plant-based heroes who are working hard to fight misinformation, support a healthy, cruelty-free, ecological lifestyle and help saving the world one vegan burger at a time.
Let me know who are your favourite vegan people in the comments below 🙂