This month has seen an explosion of new vegan products on the market, and a reported 3.5 million people in the UK are opting for a vegan diet.
Tonight reporter Helen Skelton takes up the vegan challenge, along with two willing volunteers Tony and Kat who agreed to avoid all meat and dairy products for four weeks.
After a strong start, Helen found that the vegan diet became difficult to stick to over time, as her video diaries reveal in tonight’s programme.
Tony and Kat were both motivated by their desire to lose weight. At the end of the challenge, when presented with the choice between a beef burger or a jackfruit burger, both went for the vegan option. Both previously contented meat eaters, they agreed that they would have chosen the beef burger a month earlier, and that the challenge had made them more open minded towards vegan dishes.
Tony reported losing over a stone, whilst Kat says she lost six pounds. However, both say they struggled with energy levels during the month, and found it difficult to give up some of their favourite foods. As a result, both Tony and Kat chose to return to a non-vegan diet after the month trial.
Last week a team of international experts concluded that we should follow a “planetary health diet” to avert global environmental catastrophe. The diet involves dramatically reducing meat intake whilst increasing consumption of vegetables, fruit, pulses and nuts. The World Health Organisation says that red and processed meat have the potential to cause cancer, and other studies have also found links to coronary heart disease, strokes, and type 2 diabetes.
Dr Marco Springmann is the author of a recent study which examined the environmental and health benefits of eating less animal products. His findings show that a low meat diet can reduce premature mortality by around 20%, and markedly reduce environmental impacts globally. Marco believes that the government should introduce a tax on meat, to reflect its risks.
The big question, is really, do we pay the right price for the food we eat. And, at present, the negative health impacts, and the negative environmental impacts, of foods, are not accounted for in the price.
In the programme Helen Skelton becomes the first person in the UK to take a bit of a chicken nugget that didn’t involve killing a chicken. American company uses latest technology to grow meat that is made wholly in a lab. No animals are killed or harmed in the process which uses cells from a living animal. The cells are combined with nutrients in the lab, after which they multiply and form a piece of meat. This lab grown meat is not currently available to the general public, and work is needed to enable mass production and bring the price down. But Josh predicts that lab grown chicken nuggets will be sold in UK supermarkets in the next couple of years.
We're causing way too many animals to suffer. We're better than that. We need big radical solutions.
[Dr Marco Springmann’s study on the environmental and health benefits of eating less animal products](https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(18)30206-7/fulltext)