Champagne bottles pop and resistance bands snap as January draws to a close and, with it, countless detox trends meant to help you start the year right. Started in 2014 as a non-profit, Veganuary is one such trend and, with 500,000 participants this year, you might think it the only one on the market. You’d be wrong—Veganuary has a challenger, Regenuary.
Gaining traction thanks to The Ethical Butcher, Regenuary is all about “foods that are local, seasonal and farmed using regenerative methods.” It gets its kicks from accusing vegans of prioritising aesthetics over ethics and ignoring the environmental impact of popular vegan staples, like the infamous avocado.
Foods that are local, seasonal and farmed using regenerative methods.”Regenuary, The Ethical Butcher
Now, I like a bit of smashed avocado on toast as much as the next millennial but, I think we should hear Regenuary out. It would be easy to dismiss the movement as carnivorous waffle, if they hadn’t supported their statement with the facts.
Cattle grazing in the UK increases biodiversity and doesn’t contribute too much to deforestation in other parts of the world, thanks to cows having an 87% forage-based diet. Regenerative farming promotes soil enrichment too, leading to crop yields richer in nutrients. Nowadays, many farmers are also using their land to deliver renewable energy to an average of 10 million UK homes.
If you’re in Veganuary for the environment, it is hard to deny Regenuary’s push towards a more sustainable society. If you’re in it to stop little Ernie from being killed, you might not be so forgiving.
Saving the animals from the ‘chop’ no longer seems to be the main driver behind a switch to veganism. According to a report produced by the Tofoo co., one in five Brits have reduced their meat consumption since the pandemic started, due to a surge in scratch cooking. There are also numerous health benefits to a plant-based diet, as mBANT qualified nutritionist Alice Rose explained to me:
“A vegan and whole food diet tends to be lower in saturated fats and higher in fibre. It also reduces risk factors for heart disease and cancer and is associated with lower levels of Type 2 diabetes.”
The list doesn’t stop there, with plant-based diets associated with lower cholesterol, reduced prostate cancer risks, preventative strategy for heart failure, and healthier gut flora. Veganism can’t give you everything though. Alice drove home the many considerations necessary before undertaking a plant-based diet:
“The big one is B12, almost only available in animals, and then it’s things like iron, vitamin D levels, omega-3s, calcium sources. You need to be eating whole foods, getting the right sort of fibre, fruit and vegetables, finding protein, including pulses, lentils, whole grains, flax seeds.”
Alice isn’t sure how nutritionally informed Regenuary is, as it “seems to be more of a response to Veganuary at the moment.” Yet, she pointed out it’s a lot easier to get nutrition like protein and B12 from meat, adding “eating consciously, looking to eat more local and independently, buying organic, these things are all beneficial to our diet.”
This is the aim of Regenuary. Overlooking the fact they’re still slaughtering animals, the movement encourages the consumer to think carefully about where food is coming from and how it’s been made. You may not be eating a chicken, but how much water was used carting that quinoa over from South America?
Another pillar of Regenuary is the focus on organic produce, something Alice applauded:
“Processed food, whether that’s normal junk food or meat substitutes, doesn’t have the health benefits of a whole food diet. It’s nutrient deficient and full of synthetic nutrients, or other chemical components and preservatives, and ingredients that just aren’t necessary for a good, balanced diet.”
Buying local and buying organic helps your body and the community, and is much more beneficial than junk food, even if it is vegan junk food. It’s this ethos that makes me stop and think when it comes to Regenuary.
A movement encouraging consumers to take a moment and shop consciously… it’s asking the same of us as Veganuary does, just with fewer restrictions. For some people, it might also be the easier option; people with a history of eating disorders can find restrictive diets like Veganuary difficult to manage and potentially triggering.
“Diets are so individual. Those with chronic disease and chronic illness, athletes, anyone who’s pregnant—it’s always best to check with a health care professional before jumping on any trending diet,” Alice commented.
I also don’t think there’s much point in hopping on a trend only to buck it in a month. Real change comes from persistence. As Dr Anita Vandyke says in her book, A Zero Waste Life, “sustainability has to be sustainable for you.”
Making an effective change in your diet can take lots of planning and, as both Alice and I commiserated over, spending hours in the supermarket checking ingredient labels. If you’re going vegan – or regen – it has to work for you. Otherwise, it’ll be easy, come 1 February, to hop in the car to Tesco’s and fill your trolley with whatever catches your eye.
That’s why there’s no point pitting the two movements against each other. I’m not usually one for compromise but, in today’s age, sustainability demands it.
Words by Rhiannon Jenkins