I know, I know, January has already commenced, but it is not too late to add one more positive change to your list of resolutions for 2015. If eating healthier, reducing your carbon footprint and saving animals from inhumane treatment are already on your list, then taking the pledge to go vegan for the month of January can help you accomplish all three.

According to The Vegan Society, veganism is "a lifestyle that avoids all animal foods such as meat, dairy, eggs, honey, animal-derived products like leather, and, as far as possible, products tested on animals."

Do you know where your food comes from? In our modern, high-tech society where we get our food from a supermarket not directly from the farm, it is too easy to mentally and emotionally separate the cow or pig with the burger and bacon we ate today. By taking the Veganuary pledge, you are committing yourself to learning the true state of animals' lives on factory farms and our role in their suffering.

Taking the pledge

Matthew Glover and Jane Land, a British husband and wife team founded Veganuary in 2013 in order to give people a chance to try vegan food and to learn about the impact our animal-eating ways have not only on the animals, but on our own health and the health of the planet. By choosing a vegan lifestyle you are committed to eschewing all meat and dairy for the month of January, as well as promising to buy only animal cruelty-free clothing and products.

Probably one of the hardest parts about choosing this lifestyle is knowing what to eat, at home and when you are out at a restaurant, as well as what products are the safest to buy. At veganuary.com, you will have access to lots of resources to help you stay true to your pledge. You will also be a part of a global community of like-minded people who will help you keep your motivation going all month long.

"I think a lot of people, us included, get in a rut with the meals we have regularly and it can be a bit daunting wondering what you're going to put in a sandwich or order at your local restaurant," Land said. "But Veganuary.com has got people covered."

Tips to get you started

The website offers a shopping list to ensure participants have the ingredients they need as well hundreds of recipes and 15 different cuisine types on the recipe pages. They even can help you find vegan-friendly restaurants and products.

Land suggests trying to "veganize" your favourite dishes in the beginning as you first make the transition. If you love burgers, then find a cruelty-free version (by Anna Jones); if you love pasta and pizza, you can find vegan versions of everything from Spaghetti Bolognese, and lasagne to pizza. When you know you will be out and about in non-vegan friendly territory, she also recommends packing snacks or lunch.

One of the biggest myths about veganism that keeps people from trying it is the belief that by going plant-based you won't have enough protein in your diet.

"People do need to make sure they're replacing the protein in their diet. When people are new to vegan food, they often resort to cooking their old dishes but without the meat," Land said. "Eating only vegetables and carbs is going to leave you hungry and, if you're like us, we don't fare well on empty stomachs! So include protein rich foods with every meal: beans, peas, nuts, soy (that includes, tofu, tempeh, veggie mince/burgers/sausages), quinoa, lentils, or seitan. These keep your belly satisfied and your body happy," she recommended.

Once you sign up at veganuary.com and take the pledge, besides all the online resources, you will also receive their regular newsletter with tips, offers and advice. If you have a question that you can't find an answer to, Land encourages you to reach out to their Veganuary Facebook group or to e-mail them.

"We're holding people's hands virtually through the whole process. Our Facebook group last year became a real support network, with many existing vegans providing non-judgmental and supportive help. Veganuary.com and the Facebook group will continue to be active all year round," Land said.

Preventing animal suffering

On what inspired Land and her husband to start Veganuary, she said, "We'd been searching for a role in the animal rights movement. Having seen the success of campaigns like Movember, we wondered how we could do something for animals which could create a similar buzz. So, we decided the best thing for animals is for people to pledge to try veganism, and the best month for trying new lifestyle choices had to be January. Hence Veganuary!"

"For us, it's all about reducing suffering. Seeing animals confined in cages, living in filth, slaughtered in their infancy, it's heart-breaking. By going vegan, the average person, who will eat several thousands of animals during their lifetime, will spare this unnecessary pain. Many people report a sense of relief when they go vegan, knowing they're not contributing to this suffering and feel a clarity of mind that didn't exist before," she added.

Land also pointed out that mounting evidence suggests that animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of climate change. It is responsible for deforestation, pollution and biodiversity loss - not to mention the vast amounts of water given to animals and used to grow the crops to feed them. Did you know that it takes over 4,500 litres of water to produce one steak, but only 158 for a veggie burger?

"It's a highly inefficient way of feeding a growing world population. If people care about our planet's future, going vegan has to be one of best ways of saving it," she explained.

Switching to a vegan lifestyle also has many health benefits for us as well. "Vegans tend to have a healthier BMI, lower blood pressure, lower levels of cholesterol and less chance of contracting type two diabetes," Land said. "Plant-based living is regularly profiled in health and wellness publications and stories of successful vegan athletes and sports stars are on the increase."

Continue the pledge all year long

Land and Glover hope that at the end of the month, most of those who have taken the pledge will continue with their new lifestyle throughout the year and hopefully throughout their lifetime.

"At the end of January 2014 we surveyed all of the Veganuary participants. Of the 750+ respondents, 59% of those previously eating a vegetarian diet told us they intended to stay vegan. The figure was 45% for pescetarians, and 39% for omnivores. Interestingly, the vast majority of those who said they were not staying vegan suggested they would be reducing their consumption of animal products," she said.

One of last year's participants told Land: "My husband and I set out on this adventure together to see whether omitting dairy and egg from our diets would help his asthma. I'm pleased to say his symptoms have vastly improved over the month. We've also gained a greater appreciation of the variety of vegan foods available, cooked more meals from scratch and realized we can survive without diary/eggs. As a vegetarian it has also opened my eyes to the suffering of the animals that supply my milk, cheese, eggs, clothes etc. For this reason I will be staying vegan on day 32 and beyond!"

To make your own pledge or to learn more about the vegan lifestyle, visit veganuary.com.


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