“Since becoming vegan, I have found myself becoming far more adventurous with food and staples in my diet, meals I never would have had a few years ago.” Vegetarian and Vegan Society interview


Charlotte Legrand (she/her) talks to Alex from the Vegetarian and Vegan Society about the development of the vegan movement in York.

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Image by Comidacomafeto

By Charlotte Legrand

During my weekly Aldi shop, I couldn’t help but notice the middle aisle stacked high with the bright green packaging of their new vegan range. Piles of plant-based burgers, ice cream, sausages, and chocolate that I later saw shoppers raving about onTikTok. With students at the forefront of the meatless movement, I wasn’t surprised to see Aldi’s shelves wiped out by my next visit – clearly, there’s a growing demand for plant-based eating on a budget. To find out more about how veganism has hit students at York, I talked to Vegetarian and Vegan Society member Alex about how he thinks veganism has changed throughout his time at University and how VegSoc is embracing this change.

How would you describe the aims and ethos of VegSoc to our readers?
While I think the public perception of veganism is still very much focused on diet, it is important to understand that the majority of people choose a vegan lifestyle for ethical reasons. When I moved from vegetarianism to veganism, I remember feeling isolated because I knew no one who shared my views. However, when I first went to a Vegetarian and Vegan Society event, I met many new people with whom I could discuss such things. So for me, the primary aim of VegSoc is always going to be to provide a friendly space for like-minded people to come and make new friends.

Have you seen a rise in the popularity of plant-based diets among students throughout your time at York?
Statistically, the number of people who follow a plant-based diet has increased, but what has been more interesting to me is the increase in support for plant-based options from non-veggies.

Following on from that, would you say campaigns such as Veganuary and Meat Free Monday have helped to lessen meat consumption?
The original Veganuary campaign challenged people to try and maintain a vegan lifestyle for a month, focusing on the ethical factors of veganism. It has since evolved due to its corporate adoption, where the focus is less on the ethical aspects of veganism and more on the dietary aspects. There is no doubt that the new Veganuary is helping reduce overall meat consumption, but I can’t help but feel like it is diluting the underlying message. Despite this, the huge amounts of resources put into advertising Veganuary are definitely helping boost the positive perception of veganism.

How do you find fitting a plant-based diet into a student budget?
As an avid cook, I find a plant-based diet very affordable. I can, however, see why it could be perceived as more expensive. Plant-based substitutes can be expensive and if you’re solely adapting meat-based recipes, the cost can add up. Still, I have found myself becoming far more adventurous with food and staple sin my diet, containing meals that I would never have had just a few years ago. It is also worth pointing out that the cheap stuff is getting really good- Lidl, Aldi, and Iceland have some decent substitutes at very reasonable prices.

Do you have any favourite cruelty-free eats around York to recommend to readers starting their vegan journey?
There are a few great vegan restaurants and eateries around York. The Orchid is an Asian fusion restaurant that never fails to hit the spot, and Döner Summer has a great selection of fast foods. There are a few shops that are great for some of the harder to find ingredients, such as Tullivers, Alligator Whole foods, and The Nut Shop. As for other good places to find vegan products, discount stores such as Home Bargains and B&M shouldn’t be under-estimated.

What changes would you like to see around campus to promote more sustainable choices in students?
Overall, the changes that I have seen in the campus cafes and shops have been positive. There are substantially more choices available. I think the only issue that I have come across around campus is unclear labelling; it would be great, for example, if the drinks behind the bars or the snacks in the vending machines could be labelled.

How can anyone interested get involved in VegSoc?
If you are interested in VegSoc, please come along to one of our events- everyone is welcome! Events are announced via email or posted to our Instagram, @uoyvegsoc. Recent events have included themed movie nights, bar crawls, formals and potlucks.

My chat with Alex really opened my eyes to the reasoning behind the switch to veganism, showing that it’s so much more than just a dietary choice! Although sometimes lost in today’s marketing whirlwind, ethics are still at the core of the decision to cut out meat. Therefore, supermarket ranges such as Aldi’s make it easier and more affordable for students to align these ethics with their eating habits. The future of vegan and vegetarian foods looks just as exciting, featuring potato milk and avocado oil guaranteed to intrigue vegans and non-vegans alike!

I found it so interesting that the Vegetarian and Vegan Society is more than a place to share food recommendations and recipes; it has become a community for like-minded students to come together as part of a wider movement towards ethical change. With two million Brits participating in Veganuary by the end of last month, the society’s future looks bright, as does the global plant-based movement. York, in particular, holds a rich vegan scene – rated as the 5th most vegan-friendly city in the UK. VegSoc’s “vegan guide to York”(found on their Instagram) illustrates the diversity of the city’s vegan options really well, with over 30 takeaways, cafes, restaurants, and bars providing a vast range of meat-less options all around the city!