Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to eat more vegan food and he has chosen a great time to do it. No longer pasty and bland, the animal-free diet is in the midst of a junk-food revolution
It will come as a surprise to nobody, but some of Jeremy Corbyns best friends are vegan. At an event this week for the cosmetics chain Lush, which has been campaigning against animal testing for the past 20 years, the Labour leader was asked by one of the audience whether he would consider converting his decades-long vegetarianism into veganism. The food has got a lot better one of my close relatives has just become a vegan and I went to her house for dinner and it was absolutely brilliant, he replied. So, Im going through the process, all right? I wont go any further than that.
A Labour party spokesperson later clarified that Corbyn was not actually in the process of becoming a vegan giving up eggs, dairy and animal products but simply in the process of eating more vegan food. Hes in good and growing company. According to the Vegan Society, there are now at least 542,000 vegans in the UK; 10 years ago, that figure was about 150,000. Tesco has said that demand for vegan and vegetarian products has grown 40% in the past year alone. A survey in March by research company Mintel suggested that 11% of Britons have tried to follow a vegan diet at some point.
Theres an old joke about vegans that is trotted out with predictable regularity around any discussion about eschewing animal products. How do you know if someones vegan? it goes. Dont worry, theyll tell you. It speaks to a strong and enduring stereotype of a vegan as malnourished, pasty, hemp-clad and hectoring, someone who eats only lentils and salads, while, yes, reading the Guardian and dogmatically lecturing meat-eaters on the evils of farming. Satirical news site the Daily Mash responded to Corbyns vegangate with a story headlined: Even Im not sanctimonious enough to turn vegan, says Corbyn.
But in the past few years vegan food in the UK has undergone a massive change. The market for vegan comfort and junk food burgers, fried chicken, pizzas, tacos and kebabs has exploded. In east London, the Temple of Hackney takeaway shop is almost never without a queue; it sells fried chicken made of the gluten-based meat substitute seitan (the company that runs it is called Temple of Seitan) and macncheese. In Shoreditch, grime superstar and Corbyn-supporter JME is often to be found at Cook Daily, which is not quite as junk-based, but does a mean chickn or praun pad thai . At four locations in London, theres an astonishingly good Mexican joint called Club Mexicana, which sells fish tacos and pulled jackfruit burritos jackfruit is native to south India and has a texture that resembles pulled pork. If youre looking for chickpeas and chia seeds, youre in the wrong place, reads its website.