New Year, New You
Downtown Tony Sliders at VegeNation
Say Hello to Veganuary
Welcome to the New Year. We all know what the first of January brings–resolutions to implement. Whether it’s quitting smoking, promising to work out and put that gym membership to use, abstaining from booze for the month, or any fill-in-the-blank promise you want to make to yourself–it’s the time of year we dog-ear for change.
It’s also the start of my favorite challenge–Veganuary. Created by the international nonprofit of the same name, Veganuary designates the month of January to encourage people around the world to ditch the animal products and byproducts they consume and go vegan. Because a lifetime can seem overwhelming, the challenge is to go vegan for the month. That’s it. Thirty-one cruelty-free days.
Before making the commitment though, let’s look at what going vegan means.
What is Veganism?
In a nutshell, veganism is a lifestyle that excludes anything which comes from animals and other living beings, exploits animals or harms animals. This covers everything from the food we eat and the beverages we drink (did you know that many types of beer and wine use fish guts to filter their products?) to the clothing we wear, the makeup we use (did you know that many red colors in makeup are made from crushed beetles?), and the products we buy.
It can get down and dirty … and also can be overwhelming once you start digging into what is and is not vegan. To be quite frank–it is nearly impossible to live an entirely vegan existence–but it’s the effort which makes the difference and drives the demand for change.
This year, veganism–particularly as it relates to a vegan diet–is set to be the biggest trend of the year. Why? For starters, people are growing more and more concerned about their health.
With the release last summer of the Netflix documentary What The Health, Las Vegans began to question their food, which prompted an increased demand for vegan food across the Valley.
“This summer, we saw an epic boost of people coming into VegeNation after watching What the Health,” says Kelly Bennett, the creative director of, and partner in, the vegan restaurant. “This documentary truly went viral and opened so many people’s eyes to the truth of conventional food industries. People had a mix of emotions when talking about watching the documentary ... from feeling betrayed, angry, to feeling empowered to be a changemaker. We heard so many stories of people thanking us for making an awesome–and approachable–restaurant for them to eat plant-based and they are excited to keep it going!”
Why Go Vegan?
There are plenty of reasons to adopt a vegan lifestyle. Let’s start with the purely selfish one: your own health.
According to Dr. Evan Allen, of Total Care Family Practice, he’s seen first-hand the benefits people reap from making the switch to a plant-based diet.
“I’ve seen amazing and dramatic results pretty much across the spectrum,” he says of patients he’s treated who have cut out animal products and byproducts. “We’ve had patients who reversed rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, severe heart disease, severe type two diabetes … it’s been remarkable.”
While making the change can be hard, every day it gets easier thanks to products being stocked on shelves. If you want to eat meat-like products, Beyond Meat, Gardein, Field Roast, and other companies have created mock meats that make people question if what they’re eating is meat or faux. Same goes with cheese, milk, and more. You can even get baked goods, like cookies and cakes, and not realize what you’re eating is void of animal products or byproducts.
But health isn’t the only reason people adopt vegan lifestyles.
As global warming continues to flex its ugly muscles, more people are becoming aware of the environmental impact agriculture has on us.
Animal agriculture accounts for a whopping 51 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions according to the Worldwatch Institute.
The water supply is in constant danger, too. One cow (yes, one cow) can drink as much as 50 gallons of water daily, meaning it takes slightly under 700 gallons of water to net a mere one gallon of milk. More than 2,400 gallons of water are needed to produce one pound of beef. In comparison, one pound of tofu requires 244 gallons of water. When a person goes vegan, they can save more than 219,000 gallons of water each year.
In terms of pollution, the Environmental Protection Agency reports that factory farms in the United States produce roughly 500 million tons of manure each year. The problem? There’s no animal sewage processing plants, meaning these 500 million tons are stored in waste lagoons or sprayed over fields (the spraying of the toxins and pathogens found in manure leads to people downwind having health issue such as inflammation, neurochemical problems, and more). This eventually seeps into rivers and lakes, which then become contaminated with bacteria and viruses.
Why I Went Vegan
And, finally, people go vegan for the animals.
One day, early in my Thai life, I was in the organization’s van, returning from a day spent at the sanctuary it ran, and saw a truck full of pigs going off to slaughter. This is my biggest reason for going vegan, thanks to my time working for an elephant rescue organization Thailand in 2012. The realities of factory farming–and even “free range” farming–is easy to discover with a quick Google search. The horrific living conditions animals face while being raised for slaughter did it for me. Across the globe, more countries are recognizing animals as sentient beings and putting protections and regulations into place. Popular fashion houses are nixing their fur. And the list goes on.
I’d never really liked meat, but was always told that I needed protein (or else … what?) and that was how I needed to get it.
That was it for me.
After spending the day with animals of all types who had been rescued from abuse, many from ending up on a plate as someone’s meal, I made the connection and vowed never to touch meat again.
It took me a few more years to finally connect all of the pieces and understand that my decisions as a consumer were directly related to the lives animals live. Right before I returned to Las Vegas in late 2015, after nearly four years abroad, I decided to make the switch from vegetarian to vegan. I did some research and realized it wasn’t that easy to find vegan options in town, so I decided I would find them myself and share that knowledge with others.
Thus, Vegans, Baby was born. Its goal: to make vegan life in Las Vegas easier.
I launched the website officially in May 2016 to help people living and visiting Las Vegas to learn more about the many vegan options in town, from restaurants to businesses who cater to a vegan lifestyle.
The site has grown since its launch and today, Vegans, Baby isn’t just a website, it’s a brand which offers consulting to restaurants to help them go vegan and reach a vegan audience. Vegans, Baby also holds special events around town to bring the community to new businesses who offer vegan options. In November, I published the Las Vegas Vegan Food Guide, which highlights the best in vegan dining in the city, spanning 30 categories and including more than 30 restaurant suggestions.
Las Vegas as a Vegan Town
Over the past few years, Las Vegas has seen a boom in vegan dining. Last summer, the leading vegan magazine, Veg News, named the city as one of the top spots for vegan dining in the US.
We’ve got vegan fast food options now–(Vege-Way) and (Veggy Street). We’ve got almost 10 restaurants in town that are entirely vegan. Other eateries across town are regularly announcing vegan specific menus.
Las Vegas has come a long way in its vegan offerings and it’s become increasingly easier to adopt a vegan lifestyle.
Your Challenge for the New Year
This January, to celebrate the New Year and embrace those resolutions we all set out,I’m giving the valley a challenge: go vegan for the month.
Sure, it’s not easy, but it’s my goal to make it easier.
Vegans, Baby partnered with Veganuary, an international nonprofit which runs a month-long vegan challenge, to create Veganuary Las Vegas. During the month, a handful of restaurants around town–including on The Strip–are helping to make eating vegan easier. For the entire month, Veganuary Las Vegas restaurant participants (facebook.com/veganuarylasvegas has the full list) are offering two or three dishes designed to showcase how delicious vegan food can be. At the end of the month, a portion of the proceeds from every dish sold goes to Veganuary and the Nevada Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
How You Can Go Vegan for January
Join the Veganuary challenge this month and switch out your meats and byproducts for vegan alternatives.
Do a quick kitchen audit and ditch the white sugar (it’s got bone shard in it), toss the butter and opt for vegan versions like organic sugar and Earth Balance butter.
Purchase fake meats, tofu, fruits, and veggies instead of steaks, cheese, and ice cream.
Swap out your cleaning products with the cruelty-free versions you can find at stores like Target and Whole Foods.
Look for the bunny logo on makeup and beauty products to ensure they weren’t tested on animals. Sites like PETA.org have guides they will send you, at no charge, to make your switch even easier. And, of course, ask. Chances are, there’s someone you know or someone who knows someone who is vegan (hey, we’re a growing population). We’re all willing to help. Even if it’s only for Veganuary, every time you make the decision to not consume animals or animal byproducts, you’re making a difference in your health, the environment, and the lives of animals in captivity.