Our latest blog is by Bishalee Sehijpal from Beetsnbobs

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Veganism in London

There are many things I learnt during my time in Russia: do not smile at strangers, vodka is as cheap as water, and expect laughter when explaining what a vegan is.

Therefore, when I returned to London in the summer of 2018 I vowed to never again complain about the vegan scene we have here (unless I see ‘fruit salad’ as the only vegan option under the desert section, come on guys it’s 2019).

In all honesty, there is not much to complain about. For those who are eating on the go, all major supermarkets have at least one vegan meal deal as part of their vegan range; Tesco has its very own Wicked, Marks and Spencer’s has the newly launched Plant Kitchen, even Boots has a vegan sandwich or two. No longer do I find myself limited to a baguette and pot of hummus for lunch (not that one can ever complain about hummus). The same goes for those finding quick, frozen meals.

If you want a quick meal or order-in, for those days where the hangover is just too bad to bare, London’s still got you covered. Fancy a pizza, there’s Dominos – now serving up vegan cheese, Purezza, Zia Lucia and Lost Boys Pizza. Fancy a burger, there’s Temple of Seitan, VBurger, Arancini Brothers, Wulf & Lamb and Twisted, a delivery-only restaurant. These are just to name a few!

Those days where the vegan scene in London was seen as arduous or exclusive are long gone. A large part of this change in perception can be accredited to Veganuary, a leading non-profit organisation. Founded in 2014, Veganuary has encouraged numerous people from all walks of life to try out veganism for the month of January. This has had a profound effect on the vegan scene in two main ways: restaurants are finally acknowledging vegans, and most importantly, Veganuary has changed the way in which the vegan diet is perceived. 

With family restaurants such as Wagamamas, Pizza Hut, Frankie and Benny’s and Giraffe introducing set vegan menus and offering special Veganuary deals this past January, Veganuary has shook the vegan scene. Even your local pubs and cafés are becoming more conscious of their vegan customers, as seen through Wetherspoons recently announcing the addition of their new ‘gourmet’ vegan burger to their menu. The age-old stigma of vegans being a middle/ upper class, exclusive, diet driven, animal obsessed cult is changing to people just trying to make conscious and responsible choices.

Much to the dismay of Piers Morgan, we cannot mention monumental additions to the 2019 London vegan scene without mentioning the oh-so-famous Greggs’ Vegan Sausage Roll which broke the internet. Coming in at £1, this roll is nothing if not accessible (and delicious)! This craze has even reached across the pond, leading to many putting the rolls up for sale on Ebay. This demand is further reflected in their sales figures in the UK; thanking their vegan-friendly sausage rolls, Greggs announced a 7.2% rise in sales over the past year, with their share price going up by 7.83%. You’re welcome Greggs.

The need for vegan options has not been overlooked by top chefs either, such as Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsey. Yes, this is the same Ramsey who has claimed to be allergic to vegans in the past, and early last year tweeted: ‘I’m a member of PETA! People eating tasty animals…’, causing an uproar amongst the vegan community. A year on, and Ramsey has introduced his first set vegan menu at his London-based restaurant, Bread Stick Kitchen. This extensive menu includes ‘Beet Wellington’, Ramsey’s vegan take on his famous ‘Beet Wellington’ dish.

So what is this growth really telling us? Veganism is becoming more accessible and inclusive. The London vegan scene is growing at a tremendous rate and is showing no signs of slowing down.

However, to nobody’s surprise, there have been a few minor setbacks. Recently, La Fauxmagerie, UK’s first plant-based cheesemonger, came under fire from the dairy industry. The dairy industry highlighted their stance by announcing that they will be taking action against the use of the word ‘cheese’ being ‘misleading’ according to current EU guidelines.

Moreover, this growth, although welcomed by most vegans, has also been raising some questions. For example, should we be supporting these corporations which also trade in animal exploitation? However, for us the answer is as simple as this. This is the perfect opportunity to prove the demand for vegan dishes, and to consequently (and hopefully) decrease the demand for and production of the non-vegan dishes.

According to The Guardian, one in eight Britons are now vegetarian or vegan, and a further 21% identify as a flexitarian. So whether the London vegan scene is growing due to the increased interest in where our food comes from, or whether it is simply due to the increase in curiosity for alternative eating choices, we have to be thankful for the outcome. And that is, the significant increase in vegan options all across London!

All these cafés and restaurants introducing vegan menus is a lovely and gentle reminder to all (that includes you too Piers) that we are here to stay. Not because it is some fad diet. But because we owe it to the victims of the dairy and meat industry.

Bishalee Sehijpal (beetsandbobs)