SOME say you can tell its January because the gym is full of a enthusiastic and new faces.

There’s also the exclamations of “new year, new me” on social media profiles.

The fact is the start of a new year is a great opportunity to kick off a change in your lifestyle.

Whether it is doing more exercise, partaking in Dry January or promising yourself a career change, there is no better time to do it.

And one of the most interesting, and perhaps important, challenges you can set yourself is joining in with Veganuary.

It means going vegan for a month and since the non-profit organisation began in 2014, participation in the annual event has more than doubled each year.

Last year there were roughly 250,000 sign ups from 193 countries.

This year, so far at least, there have been more than 350,000 people who have signed up.

Its rise mirrors the growing global acceptance a plant-based diet is healthier and better for the environment.

Alex Coulter, runs Shakers Dairy Free, a popular plant-based diner located in Eld Lane, Colchester.

She said: “We do get a lot of new customers in the diner who are participating and I am always happy to offer support and help.

“From a factual basis, the less animals we breed, farm and kill for consumption the better for our health, the environment and their freedom to life.


“So even if all the people signed up to Veganuary just go vegan for the month, it will only have positive results.

“If a percentage, no matter how small, continue to stay vegan or reduce their consumption of animal products then again it will only be positive.”

It is increasingly clear veganism is no longer seen as just something for purely animal rights activists.

It is a lifestyle choice being made by millions across the globe, including some of the world’s most famous faces including Joaquin Phoenix, Beyonce and Benedict Cumberbatch.

But stereotyping still surrounds veganism.

Martin Pugh is an ecologist, animal rights campaigner and a proud vegan.

He regularly speaks to the public in Colchester with groups Colchester Animal Right Activism, Friendly Vegan Outreach and Anonymous for the Voiceless.

He said: “It took me a while. I am in my late 30s and I wasn’t an early adopter.

“I never used to bat an eyelid when I was making a bacon sandwich, it didn’t cross my mind at all.

“For most of my life I was filling up my trolley with meat and dairy products but two and-a-half years ago I saw a video exposing the dairy industry.

“I started doing some research and the more I did I realised what animal farming was doing to our world.”

Mr Pugh tries to shepherd people towards veganism without being stereotypical “holier than thou” vegans.

They do this by meeting and speaking to residents in the town and enthusing about how delicious vegan food can be.

He says Veganuary is another important tool in getting this message out.

“I was one of those guys who said I would never do it and couldn’t live without meat but now it is the best thing I have ever done,” Mr Pugh said.

“Every single person I speak to who has done it says the same thing.

“It is such a powerful thing to reclaim our health and manage our effect on the environment.

“The big take home message is that veganism is not a sacrifice. All the foods I had before I am still enjoying now without the animal products.

“People are starting to realise it is not a chore but a positive life choice.

“Veganuary is a great initiative. People may see it as a trend but it is opening the dialogue.”

The numbers clearly show veganism, and Veganuary, is not simply a trend.

And as our awareness of its benefits increase, it is only likely to grow and both Mr Pugh and Mrs Coulter agree this can only be a good thing.

Mr Pugh said: “It is a really exciting time and I think the environment movement is an important part of this.

“With all the doom and gloom around in the world,one thing which gives me hope is the younger generation.”

Visit or