Meet the down-to-earth ethical vegans, working to change the world from their kitchen tables!
Veganuary is an international campaign that encourages people to try vegan for the month of January. Inspired by the success and awareness raising of Movember, Veganuary set out to create a movement that would appeal to non-vegans throughout the world. A charity, Veganuary exists to promote and support veganism, breaking down misconceptions by presenting information in a fresh, friendly and non-judgemental manner.
The campaign began life as a conversation between husband and wife, Matthew Glover and Jane Land in late 2013. As passionate ethical vegans, they were searching for a way to inspire more people to stop eating animals. Within a couple of months, they’d come up with a name, a brand and a website, and the very first Veganuary was run late at night from their bedroom – entrepreneur and English teacher by day, animal rights campaigners by night. They placed a bet: Jane hoped 100 people might take part, whereas Matthew was a little more optimistic with a wager of 1,000 sign-ups. They both lost. 3,300 people from all around the world signed up to go vegan in January 2014, and – just like that – a phenomenon was born.
One of those 3,300 was marketer, Clea Grady, who remained vegan after the month drew to a close. Fuelled by a new and all-consuming passion, she got in touch with Jane and Matthew less than a month later and officially joined the team in the April. The duo was now a trio, and together they set out to change the world.
Veganuary was rebranded and relaunched for the 2015 campaign with a huge new website and tagline, Try Vegan this January. Backed by support from vegan comedians Romesh Ranganathan, Sara Pascoe, Carl Donnelly, Michael Legge and Andrew O’Neill, momentum for ‘the new month with the weird name’ increased and this time 12,800 people took part. Fast-forward to 2016, and a clear pattern is emerging: Veganuary gets bigger and better every year. 23,000 people (including many celebrities) went vegan this January and, perhaps more importantly, 81% of the follow-up survey respondents confirmed they’d be sticking with the changes they’d made. So who are the people behind the world’s biggest vegan pledge and what have they got in store for us next?
“One of our greatest strengths is also one of our weaknesses”, states Clea Grady. “We’re a very small team. Jane and I are the Veganuary ‘full-timers’, Matthew gets involved during the peak campaign period and for key decisions, and Sally Thompson, (a committed activist who came on board mid-2015) is with us for three days a week. Our size means we have developed a very dynamic way of working. Time is always of the essence for us, so we work very quickly and don’t spend too long worrying if something hasn’t worked. Instead we immediately try to figure out the way it will work. We’re always shifting, adapting, assessing and creating.”
Their unconventional set-up may also be another reason for such dynamism: “We all work from home”, confirms Jane Land. “As a fledgling charity, funds are extremely tight, so this was an economic more than a practical decision initially. But I think we probably see greater levels of productivity than you would in a conventional office. We do what we need to in order to get the job done. And, as anyone in animal rights knows, our job is never done, so we tend to work very long hours.”
So how do they keep up the pace? “We often joke that we couldn’t do this job if we weren’t vegan”, says Jane. “But there’s many a truth in jest. Much of the practical support we offer to new and existing vegans is nutritional, and we live by the advice we give. We need to be healthy in order to work as effectively as possible for animals, and we also acknowledge the importance of representing our community in the best possible light. We literally have a healthy, ‘can-do’ attitude to everything we do. ”
In fact, the team frequently come together to talk and brainstorm over food; meeting at each other’s homes to plan the next stage of the campaign. “We work so closely together, and on something that means so much to us, that our social and work time very much overlap. There is never a time when Veganuary is far from our minds or conversation. We really do live and breathe it”, confirms Jane.
So what are the stages to a campaign that, for the rest of the world, is just one month a year? “People often ask us what we do for the other 11 months,” says Clea, “but the reality is that our year is broken up into four very distinct quarters. January-March is all about that Veganuary: running the campaign, surveying it, and then reporting back our results. During April- June, our focus shifts to the sponsors, organisations and companies who want to work with us. Securing sponsorship and funding is the only way that we can continue, so this is a really vital (and quite scary!) time for us. July-September is where the ideas and the creatives for the next campaign start to take shape. It’s also during this period where we hold our official press launch, and when we tend to travel to further promote Veganuary. And the last quarter of the year is full-throttle campaign mode! All our communications are geared towards generating more sign-ups and encouraging word of mouth: the more people who know about Veganuary, the more people will take part. Our key sign-up period is after Christmas and before New Year, so we’re at our busiest when everyone else is typically taking time off.”
Veganuary’s aim is to reach a tipping point where participant numbers transform from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands, as that’s when they believe we’ll really start seeing significant changes for animals. “Early on we were told we needed to make Veganuary a ‘thing’ in order to be successful”, says Jane. “To do that, we need to work with the companies that impact most on people’s everyday lives. Food is therefore first and foremost for us. The Veganuary message needs to be on every high street – in restaurants, cafes, and supermarkets. Enabling easy changes in food habits is key to making veganism a viable option for the majority; whether that’s for a month-long challenge, or for a long-term change in attitude and lifestyle. Eating out and socialising is still one of the biggest obstacles to people trying and remaining vegan, and we’re determined to help change that. We’re always looking to work with progressive companies who are making positive changes for a more sustainable future. “
“Every year we add another string to our practical resources bow”, says Clea. “For January 2016, it was the Vegan Starter Kit, which is now available all year round for anyone wanting to try vegan, any time. For 2017, our focus is on video content and translation. Much of the content for these videos comes directly from the feedback we received in the 2016 Participant Survey. (Which is exactly how the Starter Kit came about the year before.) If our participants tell us they want something, then we will do everything in our power to make it happen. Our aim at all times is to improve what we do, so that trying vegan becomes easier, and staying vegan more likely. And for the next campaign we’ll be targeting more people than ever before, because we’re translating the whole of Veganuary.com into Spanish, with essential sections also becoming available in German. It’s an exciting, but pretty crazy time!”
So how many participants are we looking at for next year then? “Your guess is as good as ours”, laughs Jane. “It’s a tough one to predict! But with the growing support of the vegan community and our strong media appeal, we’re hopeful that January 2017 is definitely going to be one to remember!”
This article was written and first published in the September 2016 edition of Vegan Life Magazine.