People in Scotland used to be brought up on a diet of meat and two veg but the times are definitely changing.
These days, more people are making informed choices about the food they eat, the clothes they wear and their impact on the environment.
That’s certainly true of Julie McLean, who helped to launch Scottish Borders Vegans last year.
A committed vegan for many years, she contacted Vegan Outreach Scotland after spotting a post on its Facebook page.
Julie said: “I contacted Rebecca Knowles who started the group up in Aberdeen four years ago. It is very well established up there but VOS was running roadshow events across Scotland too.
“I asked Rebecca if she would come to Galashiels to stage a roadshow and she was happy to do so.”
The roadshow made its way to Market Square last August and the response was very positive, so much so that Julie asked if she could form a branch in the Borders.
She said: “We had a very good response from the roadshow, with lots of people taking leaflets and asking questions, discovering more about becoming vegan and why it’s so important.
“So I asked Rebecca about setting up a branch here and she was so supportive.
“VSO members in Aberdeen held a jumble sale, raising £350 for us and we held a raffle here, raising a similar amount.
“That enabled us to set up Scottish Borders Vegans, giving us enough funding for our own stall, leaflets and banners.”
Julie’s daughter Emma Livesey joined the group and her granddaughter Lidija (6) is the youngest member.
Mari Cross, Angie Tait and Mitch McFarlane are also now members.
But Julie is hoping more people will get on board when Scottish Borders Vegans sets up its own stall in Market Square on Saturday (April 20) from 11am to 3pm.
Julie hopes the stall will attract people who are considering veganism.
She said: “It will give everyone in Galashiels, and all the surrounding Borders towns, an opportunity to try vegan for themselves.
“People can come along for a chat and get more information about veganism, as well as sampling some vegan food, milk alternatives and some delicious cakes.
“There’s a misconception that these outreach events are for vegans and vegetarians only.
“Actually, they’re more for people who haven’t adopted any of these diets at all but are vegan-curious.
“They may want to try new foods, be lactose intolerant, thinking of ways they can help the environment, trying to help animals, looking to eat more healthily or maybe just want to lose some weight.
“Everyone is welcome to come along – we’ll be happy to answer any questions people have.
“We’ll also be on hand to give advice on where you can eat vegan in the Borders, local vegan festivals and the best places to buy essential vegan products.
“The Scottish Borders is becoming a great place to be vegan. There are now so many friendly places to eat and enjoy local food, you’re spoilt for choice!”
For Julie, choosing a vegan lifestyle was not about diet but rather stopping cruelty to animals and the toll our choices take on the environment.
She added: “Going vegan is the most impactful thing we can do to help our planet and the animals we share it with. For me, the main reason is the morality and ethics and bringing an end to animal cruelty.
“All of the lifestyle choices we make, from what we eat to what we wear, have an impact on our planet.
“The conditions animals are kept in and the way they are slaughtered is not humane at all. It’s awful.
“We want to open peoples’ eyes to some of the practices that are used.
“Male chicks are thrown into grinders as they have no economical benefits to farmers and calves are taken away and artificially fed so that we can consume their mothers’ milk.
“We claim to be a nation of animal lovers but only certain ones. We’re happy to exploit others for food, clothes and animal testing.
“Our aim is to get people to look at the bigger picture and think about what they’re doing in their own lives.
“More and more people are getting on board and we hope our stalls will help.”
Different vision for the world
A new study from comparethemarket.com suggests that six per cent of Scots have gone vegan and 14 per cent are now considering it.
More cafes and restaurants are starting to cotton on to the trend by offering a selection of vegan choices.
But choosing to go vegan may also have an impact on our climate too.
A recent study published in Climatic Change sought to estimate the difference in dietary greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions between UK meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans.
It concluded that dietary GHG emissions in meat-eaters were more than twice as high as those in vegans.
The study concluded that it was likely reductions in meat consumption would lead to reductions in dietary GHG emissions. It is just one of many reasons people in Scotland are now considering changing their dietary habits.
Vegan Outreach Scotland’s vision is a sustainable vegan world where no sentient being suffers to become our food, clothing, science experiment or any other form of exploitation.
Founder Rebecca Knowles said: “Appealing to the public to change their eating habits is just one part of the change that needs to occur.
“If public demand for meat, fish and dairy products declines then suppliers will have to change their output accordingly.
“Farmers for Stock Free Farming (FFSFF) looks at supporting farmers who are curious about growing plant protein crops.
“The Vegan Society has also produced an excellent report that gives specific examples of green protein crops that can be cultivated in the UK.”
To find out more, visit www.veganoutreachscotland.co.uk.