How easy is it to be a vegan? This is not a simple question to answer - much depends on your commitment, your ethics, the availability of vegan and cruelty-free products where you live and your reasons for wanting to be vegan. But more than anything, it is dependent on your definition of "vegan".
To the true "hard core" vegan, it is not just a decision to give up eating all animal products, whether it be meat, dairy or even honey. Many vegans are motivated by their love of animals, and dedication to animal welfare. As such, any product that is regarded as part of every day life, from shoes to make-up, are what really defines a vegan. Leather is of course a no-go area, so shoes must either be synthetic or fabric (the PETA UK website has an impressive list of vegan clothing brands). Make-up must, obviously, not contain any animal products, or be tested on animals. And the list is endless, and any aspiring vegan must do research thoroughly before purchasing any every day item.
But the retail industry has been quick to latch on to the vegan bandwagon, and ethical brands are cropping up everywhere, making the transition to total veganism ever easier. The Co-op, for example, has been campaigning against animal cruelty since 1990. Their website states:
"Co-op branded household products have carried Cruelty Free International 's leaping bunny label since 2004, when we became the first major UK grocer to gain the certification across all cosmetics, toiletries and household cleaning products."
All Co-op branded cosmetics and household products, including cosmetics, toiletries and household cleaning products, are therefore cruelty free, not having been tested on animals. And increasingly, other supermarket chains are following suit. Marks & Spencer is one of the leading chains for its cruelty-free policy for all its own-brand products, Waitrose has never tested their health, beauty or household products on animals, while Sainsbury's has held a BUAV (now Cruelty Free International) approved status since the 1990s.
To many others, veganism is the decision to cut all animal products from their diet, whether for various reasons including animal welfare. Some will argue that this is not true veganism - but that is up to an individual's own conscience. But at this level, the transition to veganism is much easier and achievable. Again, supermarket chains are recognising the growing vegan market, and now each offers a wide variety of vegan products, from meat substitutes to dairy-free ice cream and cheese - our own speciality here at Bute Island Foods. A plethora of vegan blogs have appeared on the internet, each offering advice on the transition to veganism. Recipes for vegan dishes abound, not least in our own recipe pages. And increasingly they include ingredients which, once thought exotic, are now readily available in local shops.
So whether you are vegan in diet only (and who are we to say this is not true veganism?), or adhere to a strict regime of ensuring that no animal product ever crosses your threshold, a move to a vegan lifestyle is becoming increasingly easy. Just one reason why veganism has quadrupled in the UK in the last four years.