Here we are, five days into No Meat May. How’s everyone going?
No Meat May was founded former meat eater Ryan Alexander and his best mate Guy James Whitworth, a couple of passionate creatives wanting to do some good. They got together in 2013 thirty of their friends, all giving up meat for the month of May. The reasons are fourfold: health, environment, animals, and food security.
With participation more than doubling year on year, No Meat May is now a global campaign, with thousands of new recruits participating each year. Surveys confirming more than 90 percent of people reduce or eliminate meat permanently after participating.
“We recognise that people change incrementally, over time,” says Ryan. “We [hope to] provide a safe stepping stone, evidence based information and support for that bold first step. More than 90 percent of past No Meat May participants go on to reduce or eliminate meat all together, but even those that go back to eating meat are still making a difference to their health, animal welfare and the environment by just taking that one month off.”
How Does It Work?
As an Australian-founded not-for-profit, No Meat May challenges people around the world to eliminate meat from their diets for 31 days. It provides them with free support, tools, and an inclusive community to test out a meat-free or plant-based lifestyle for the month of May.
The Carousel chatted to Ryan Alexander, founder of No Meat May, for his best advice on getting through the month and more.
Why Did You Start No Meat May?
There are so many reasons we need to change our culture and introduce more plant based foods. None bigger than taking care of this beautiful planet. I’m a pretty logical guy, and the maths just didn’t add up to me. There are twice as many people in the world now that when I was born, but the planet we all share has not grown. Add into this the rising global demand for eating meat, which is destroying our forests, climate and oceans, and you can see the cliff edge ahead.
No Meat May is an attempt to help grab the wheel Keanu Reeves style (or maybe more Sandra Bullock) as the bus hurtles towards a cliff.
Is that too dramatic? Basically we started No Meat May as our way to contribute to this global cultural shift and to show people how to take hold of the wheel themselves, show them how to use the stereo and turn it into a party bus.
Did you experience resistance from family and friends?
Sure, a few friends and family members thought we were mad, either to take this on, or because they thought no one would be interested in a month. A week maybe, but not a month. Though over the eight years that we have been running the campaign there has been a huge shift in awareness of the issues, and also in the availability and quality of plant based food. And my dad is now cooking recipes off our instafeed, so I’ll take that as a win (though it was only mushrooms and avocado on toast).
How did you deal with the resistance?
We were pretty focused, and just bulldozed through any naysayers. When you believe in something so much and see that it is connecting with other people it gains its own momentum and fuels itself.
Why do you think it is that we all care so much about what is on another person’s plate?
We are social animals, and food is such an integral part of us being both social, and being animals. Food is like the foundation of our culture, the threads of our memories. It brings us joy, pleasure and it brings us together. And when someone challenges this it can be kinda confronting.
I don’t think it’s so much about caring what is on someone’s plate, its much more about understanding the impact of what we all put on our plates. And when people are not aware of the impact, or much worse don’t care about the impact of what they put on their plates that’s when it gets difficult.
Any tips for transitioning to a vegetarian or vegan diet plan?
- Sign up for No Meat May!!! Seriously, being part of a mass participation global challenge is a great way to change things up. Even if your family or friends are not onboard you can connect with many others around the world, or just know you are not doing this alone.
- Get creative in the kitchen! Try new foods and flavours. We are so lucky here in Oz to have access to food from so many cultures, and sampling the best vegetarian or vegan food from a range of different countries is a great way to see the abundance of options. Italian, Mexican, Thai, Lebanese, Sri Lankan, Chinese … so many cultures have long histories of plating up the plants.
- Download Happy Cow for a GPS enabled app to find the closest and best veggie burger near you.
- Don’t aim for perfection or beat yourself up if you slip up.
- Get social Instagram and YouTube for recipes. Facebook groups are brilliant for community and support. The No Meat May Community Facebook Group is incredible. The food and the people in there are inspiring. We have over 72,000 active members from around the globe who are so supportive and have brilliant ideas!
What are your favourite brands that lend themselves to a vegan lifestyle and make plant-based life easier?
There are so many great brands out there now, and seems to be fab new products on the supermarket shelves every week.
Plant Based milks have come a long way, just be sure to buy those fortified with calcium, and give ’em a good shake.
The Vegan Supermarket (formerly known as the Cruelty Free Shop) has Australia’s biggest range of plant based meats and cheeses, which is very useful to find your feet when starting out. And their omelette mix made from chickpea flour is a complete game changer.
I’m also a big fan of Lamyong products. They’re an Australian company that make the best plant based seafood, prawns made from Konjac and chunky fish made from soy beans. Add a bit of beer batter and plate them up with some chickpea tuna and they are still talking about you three years later.