Deputy Digital Editor Holly Pittaway discusses the anti-vegan campaign of media outlets, and why she’ll continue eating plant-based regardless
Recently a news story was shared on my Facebook timeline with the headline ‘Vegans and vegetarians may have higher stroke risk’ (you know, just like cancer has been linked to everything from olive oil to chips). Perhaps this story was shared simply because it was interesting, or perhaps it was shared with the intention to warn people off a vegan/vegetarian diet – but as someone who aspires to be vegan and has already given up meat, milk and eggs, the news has just spurred me on further in the same direction.
The study itself was published in the British Medical Journal and investigated the risk of heart disease and strokes in individuals over the age of 18 with different types of diets, from meat-eaters to vegans. The study did find that there was a higher rate of strokes among vegans and vegetarians, however that same group was also found to have a lower rate of ischaemic heart disease compared to those with an omnivorous diet. But according to the study, these findings can’t be 100 per cent certain, as ‘it cannot prove whether the effect is down to their diet or some other aspect of their lifestyle.’
The fact that the headline of this news story failed to mention the lower risk of heart disease to vegetarians and vegans discovered in the study, or the fact that the study may be wildly inaccurate, is a testament to the BBC’s conciseness – but could it be something more? Such posts are often shared on social media as a kind of ‘scare tactic’ to stop people from changing their diet, and to me this is what it felt like. I find it hypocritical that others put so much effort into disparaging meatless diets when most people give very little thought to the unhealthy things we consume on a regular basis – cake is full of fat and sugar, coffee is addictive and going cold turkey can cause withdrawal symptoms, yet we still eat and drink these things without batting an eyelid.
So why are people obsessed with veganism/vegetarianism? In my opinion, it’s a case of difference – refusing to consume meat and animal products is entirely against the grain, with only 1.7 million of us in the United Kingdom choosing to follow such a diet. As a vegetarian of almost three years, I find that people are obsessed with the fact that I don’t eat what they eat, even my friends sometimes remark, ‘are you still vegetarian?’. Everyone is always concerned where vegetarians and vegans get their protein (as if it wasn’t a naturally occurring element in nuts, pulses, beans, quinoa, and more).
People don’t like change – it’s not a fact that can be proven in a scientific study, but just look at history for all the proof you need – and this is embodied in the new and trendy vegan diet. We’ll all remember the moment Piers Morgan spat out his Greggs Vegan Sausage Roll on national TV, then subsequently went on a hate-fuelled Twitter rampage against the snack because he just couldn’t believe the audacity of a sausage roll without real sausage. All the scientific evidence points towards switching to veganism as the best thing we can do for our planet, with the UN reporting as early as 2010 that a vegan diet could be our only path to salvation. And yet, people still use headlines like these as justification for stubbornness, while simultaneously ignoring the negatives of an omnivorous diet.
But hope is on the horizon, as it looks like the trend of giving up meat has taken hold of the nation, if not the world. Next month will see the launch of Cancer Research’s ‘Veg Pledge,’ something that will no doubt follow in the success of ‘Veganuary’ earlier this year, which ended with a ‘record high’ of 250,000 participants. Greggs also isn’t the only fast food chain to have begun offering meat alternatives this year, with Burger King and KFC unveiling their own new menu items recently. But some will never change their ways, and the article shared to my timeline is a testament to that – for me though, I’d much rather have a stroke and die trying to make a difference, rather than sitting back, cheeseburger in hand, watching the world burn.