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Vegan? Don’t preach it.

By Vidya Ramesh

Wednesday 3 May 2017 Student journalists

I’m walking through the central shopping district in Manchester, city of hipsters. Birthplace of the Guardian, it is now home to Afflecks Palace, self-proclaimed “totem of indie commerce” and its own gourmet cereal café.

“Why cuddle one animal and kill another? GO VEGAN!” Similar exhortative slogans are scribbled in chalk along High Street. They lead up to Almost Famous, where for an extra £2 you can ‘Go Piggy Style’ with the ‘Bacon Bacon mayo’. A man emerges from the burger joint, spots the writing and snorts. He then undoes his flies and squats over the “VEGAN”.

I have long resigned myself to new acquaintances assuming that I’m on a fad diet upon revealing that I’m vegan. It’s understandable; the quickest way to shed a few pounds is to exclude animal-products from your diet. Many do follow veganism as a fad, or more worryingly as in the case of growing numbers of teenage girls, a noble form of calorie restriction.

But veganism doesn’t need to become a religion too, preached from all four corners (and in Manchester’s case, the ground). The appeal of a plant-based diet should lie in its simplicity, and thereby its capacity to be adopted by the diversity of post-millennial beliefs and lifestyles.

I am a student powerlifter. Veganism cuts my grocery bills down to size, still allowing me to pursue athletic goals. A standard post-workout meal is a tin of Sainsbury’s Basics baked beans with a packet of microwaveable brown rice.

Over thirty grams of protein for less than a quid. As a Hindu and a self-identified feminist, veganism holds additional resonance. It chimes with notions of respect for the cow, and of a mother’s ownership of her own body, contested time and again in pro-life (or anti-choice) advocacy.

At Cambridge, our campus has been visited by international animal welfare campaign Animal Equality, our student newspaper now has a resident vegan columnist, and the Cambridge University Vegan Society has campaigned against the plans of King’s College to cull their Canadian Geese.

For Lauren Perry, a second year Historian, the rise of student veganism makes perfect sense: “I have made so many friends through veganism at Cambridge, and am lucky to be in a college which celebrates this sustainable lifestyle, such as through ‘Green’ formal dinners. Being vegan is not only good for the planet and animals but also incredibly cost-effective; hummus and pitta bread are some of the cheapest food items on the supermarket shelf”.

If that isn’t a good incentive for a cash-strapped student to consider adding more plant-based products to their shopping list, I don’t know what is.

Hi there, my name is Vidya and I’m an undergraduate student reading History at the University of Cambridge. I grew up in Manchester, the birthplace of the Guardian and Suffragette movement; it was impossible not be continually aware of the power of activism, solidarity, and liberal politics. On campus I try to channel these incredibly charged ideas into practical action, particularly in regards to the welfare of students who identify as women. As a director for a student-run think-tank, The Wilberforce Society, I have overseen events on raising the participation of women in public policy, while also co-authoring a policy paper on sexual assault policies within higher education institutions. As a campaign manager for my University’s Women’s Campaign I am also organising a programme of activities to help female students tackle anxiety. In my spare time I enjoy powerlifting (still at a novice level, sadly), as well as living ethically to the best of my ability, such as by following a vegan lifestyle (#vegangainz). As an NUS Journalist I hope to raise awareness of the events taking place on campus that centre around the three concepts I mentioned before: activism, solidarity, and liberal politics. Whether in the form of an intersectional feminist reading group, to a disabilities rally outside the students’ union, you will be sure to hear it hot-off-the-press from me!