Halifax residents were frequenting their local pizza and donair shops looking for their fix last month, only they were asking for cashew cheese and soy-based meats in their takeout orders.
Veganuary is a global phenomena that has seen over 1,000,000 participants since 2014. On Veganuary’s website, there are links to sign up for tips, recipes, and advice on how to commit to the month-long vegan pledge to eliminate meat, dairy, eggs from the diet and add in plant-based proteins and dairy substitutes such as gluten-based meats, soy cheese, and beans or legumes. The practice of veganism could also involve the elimination of clothing and other items with animal products, such as leather or fur.
Halifax resident Lindsay Wickstrom and her wife Cindy participated in Veganuary. Wickstrom explained she had “experimented with different diets in the past” such as keto, pescetarianism and a juice diet, and when she came across Veganuary on social media she decided to give it a go.
She did an interview two weeks into her vegan journey, and again on the last day of January as an update on how it went.
In an interview with The Signal on Jan. 14, Wickstrom said it was going well, and that “we both feel great, have more energy at the gym, and not as many aches and pains.” Wickstrom did note that due to suspected increase in fibre intake, they each experienced a bit of an upset stomach.
On Jan. 31, Wickstrom said she did have one cheat day, but she stuck with the vegan diet until the end of the month, with plans to go back to eating fish when the month was over. She said Cindy stuck with the diet for three weeks, and had to stop due to stomach issues and issues with arthritis.
Wickstrom said that they still enjoyed the food, but noted some difficulties with the social aspect of the diet, such as going out to non-vegan restaurants and searching for a vegan option.
“It was tricky once we started going out a little bit more,” said Wickstrom.
“I don’t think that I could operate that way, always having to bother my server.”
Some of the vegan food from restaurants in Halifax Wickstrom said she enjoyed were G-Street Pizza, and Kam-Moon Mediterranean Food.
Wickstrom said she will likely add some elements of the vegan diet to her normal Mediterranean-style diet, such as the omission of eggs. She plans to re-introduce fish into her diet, but has enjoyed trying new recipes, and new local restaurants around Halifax the past month.
Another Halifax couple who participated in Veganuary were Katie Taylor-Flynn and her husband Dillon.
Due to the pandemic, Taylor-Flynn and her husband double-bubbled with a vegan couple, so they were familiar with the food. At the beginning of January, they decided to give veganism a go after giving it some thought, and watching a popular film The Game Changers.
Taylor-Flynn, an Anglican priest, explained that during Lent she would normally give up something as part of her faith. This year, she decided to give up meat, dairy and eggs — all foods that were not considered vegan.
“It was a lot easier than I thought it would be,” she said in an interview.
Taylor-Flynn is originally from Labrador and spoke about the incongruities between the practice of a vegan lifestyle and the culture in Labrador, and noted that there are different ways to look at veganism.
“I joke that I’ll be the only vegan dressed in sealskin.”
Veganism on the rise in Canada
The practice of veganism has been on the rise in Canada in recent years. In a study by Dalhousie University conducted in 2018, it shows there are now around 466,000 vegans in Canada. About 2.06 per cent of the population consider themselves vegetarian, according to this study released in 2019. Another study from Dalhousie in 2018 shows that around 6.4 million Canadians limit the amount of meat they consume.
In this COVID-19 food autonomy report released by Dalhousie University last October, research shows that young Canadians are willing to pay extra for locally grown fruits and vegetables, foods that are a staple in the vegan diet.
The plant-based meat market has also seen an increase in global consumption. From 2017 to 2019, there was a 29 per cent increase in dollar sales of plant-based foods in the United States.
Newfoundland businesses see interest in Veganuary
Gillian Phillips, owner of Gingerly, a vegan bakery in St. John’s, N.L., said she has seen more of an interest in her treats in the past few months.
“It’s great to see. I started doing some restaurant pop-ups and collaborations and they have been quite successful,” she said in an interview.
Phillips also commented on the difficulties that can come with the transition to veganism. She said that she also serves savory foods at her restaurant pop-ups with foods such as pasta, fried rice, and brunch dishes, and that they have attracted vegans and non-vegans alike.
“Maybe it makes the transition easier when traditional dishes are veganized; burgers or pasta, a chocolate chip cookie or a brownie,” Phillips said.
The owner of St. John’s, N.L., business Soothe Downtown Spa, Gloria Williams, said that she has also seen people coming into her spa who are participating in Veganuary. Her spa offers all vegan beauty products, such as makeup, skin treatments and nail polishes.
She said that there has also been more interest in her vegan products around the month of January in general.
About the author
Antonia (she/her) is a journalism student and classical pianist based in St. John's, NL.