A New Kind of New Year’s Resolution

by Kayla Sargent

Every New Year presents a blank canvas, a chance to start fresh, and an opportunity to set new goals.  On the first day of 2020, thousands of people set resolutions ranging from weight loss and stricter budgeting to kicking an old habit and learning something new.

This year, animal rights activists capitalized on the season of change by promoting Veganuary and the One Week Factory Farm Detox.  Both campaigns promote the idea that a change in diet and food selection will help protect the environment, prevent animal cruelty and suffering and improve health.  Veganuary promotes an entirely vegan diet through the month of January and the Factory Farm Detox urges consumers to only buy meat, eggs and dairy products from “welfare-certified” farms.



While Veganuary was only recently brought to WAR’s attention through the social media outlets of Miss Montana USA, Merissa Underwood, who encourages her followers to participate, the UK-based non-profit organization was established in 2014.

Veganuary’s “simple” vision is that of a “vegan world” – “a world without animal farms and slaughterhouses,” “a world where food production does not decimate forests, pollute rivers and oceans, exacerbate climate change, and drive wild animal populations into extinction.”

In order to achieve their vision, the group urges consumers to go vegan at the beginning of each year and offers “inspiration and support” for those that take the 31-day pledge.  By taking the free “Veganuary Pledge” participants receive recipes, meal plans and helpful tips for the month.

According to the website, since its inception, Veganuary has had over 500,000 participants in 178 countries.  The organization also works with businesses to incorporate more vegan options in shops and restaurants.  In 2019 alone, over 500 businesses participated in Veganuary and more than 200 new vegan products and menus were launched.

A 2019 survey of Veganuary participants found that 44 percent were omnivores before beginning Veganuary and 47 percent stayed vegan after the 31-day trial.  Forty-six percent of participants went vegan for health reasons, 34 percent due to animal welfare concerns and 12 percent said environmental issues drove their decisions.

“Life for most animals on modern farms is a miserable existence,” according to the Veganuary website.  “All mothers on farms have their young taken from them and all animals – including those reared under free-range or organic systems – end their days at a slaughterhouse.”

The website also places much climate change blame on animal agriculture, calling animal farming a “leading emitter of climate-changing gases.”

“It provides us with just 18 percent of our calories and yet is responsible for 60 percent of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions,” Veganuary claims.

Citing Oxford University research, the website promotes plant foods, like nuts and soy, as an alternative dietary choice.  According to Veganuary, the lead researcher in the Oxford study concluded that “becoming vegan was ‘the single biggest thing’ a typical consumer could do to help protect the planet.”

“Huge swathes of trees are cleared to make way for animals to graze or to grow crops to feed to animals on intensive farms,” according to the website.  “The animals who once lived in the forest must flee or die out.

“Animal farming is also responsible for much air, soil and water pollution, including causing or exacerbating ocean dead zones.  These are areas where there is so little oxygen, nothing can survive.”

In launching the 2020 campaign, Veganuary enlisted the help of celebrities like Paul McCartney, Germany’s Strongest Man as well as multiple actors, athletes and chefs for promotion.  Miss Montana USA promoted the program on her Instagram telling followers to “choose a resolution of compassion and love for the animals, the planet and your health.”

The group hopes to exceed 2019’s participation of 250,000 to at least 350,000 this January.


Factory Farm Detox…

Similarly, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is encouraging producers to “detox” from factory farmed foods for one week in January.  The Factory Farm Detox is entering its second annual year of the consumer challenge.

“The Factory Farm Detox was created to raise awareness about the negative impacts of the industrial operations that raise over 95 percent of farm animals across the U.S. in unacceptable conditions not aligned with consumers’ values,” an ASPCA press release explained.

ASPCA defined factory farms as “industrial facilities on which large numbers of animals are confined in unnatural conditions that prioritize the production of meat, eggs or dairy at the expense of the animals’ welfare, the environment, workers, consumers, rural communities and farmers.”

The week is a “simple” detox, according to ASPCA, where participants do not buy products from farms where the animals are caged, crowded or “lack access to environmental enrichments.”  In order to help participants find alternative products, upon enrollment ASPCA provides a texting hotline where “animal welfare experts” are available to assist in finding products in the local region.  Participants are also emailed a label guide explaining the meaning behind labels like “Animal Welfare Approved,” “GAP Certified,” “American Grassfed,” and “USDA Organic.”

Participants are sent a list of “welfare-certified brands” as well as a state by state farm finder.  The brands include both welfare-certified meat products, dairy products and eggs as well as plant-based alternatives.  Those participating in the detox also receive encouraging daily emails, discussion starters, tips for dining out and shopping and advice from chefs and celebrities.

In an article titled “Five Times 2019 Proved We Need a Factory Farm Detox,” ASPCA outlined events in the agriculture industry that were alarming to the organization.  First, the article noted that Class 1 meat and poultry recalls were up 83 percent since 2013.  ASPCA links this increase to a time period when factory farming was on the rise.

Another concern cited in the article was the Amazon fires.  ASPCA cited Worldwide Fund for Nature (WFN) in blaming the Amazon fires on cattle ranching.  WFN said cattle ranching is responsible for 80 percent of deforestation in the Amazon.

The third event spurring a “Factory Farm Detox” was the June release of the Fair Oaks Farms videos that depicted dairy workers abusing calves.

“These videos prompted consumers and retailers across the country to boycott the brand, but a series of investigations at other dairies followed,” the article read.  “Dishearteningly, all of them showed abuse and neglect of baby calves, who are too often treated as a disposable byproduct of the industrial dairy system.”

The finalization of a USDA rule that removed speed caps on hog slaughter and shifted slaughterhouse oversight was the fourth event cited in the article.  According to ASPCA, this move increases the chances of cruel hog treatment and jeopardizes worker, food and consumer safety.

Finally, the fifth reason a detox is needed, according to ASPCA, was the proposed amendments of “right-to-farm” laws across the country.  These laws are intended to protect farmers and ranchers from nuisance lawsuits filed by those who move into rural areas where farming operations exist.  ASPCA said these laws “prevent communities from seeking meaningful legal recourse even if the air, water, property values or personal health are compromised by waste from these giant industrial facilities.”

In summary, the article said the “problem of factory farming is vast, but the solution starts with each of us.”  ­­­

“Every food purchase is a vote for how animals should be raised, and consumers have the power to show that there is no market for farm animal cruelty,” Kara Shannon, Senior Manager, ASPCA Farm Animal Welfare Department, concluded.


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