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No meat, no dairy, no problem: is 2014 the year vegans become mainstream?

As New Year dietary fads go, giving up meat, dairy and fish altogether might seem extreme for the average person looking to shed a few pounds. Yet there are growing signs that 2014 could be the year that veganism – often viewed as the preserve of hippies, animal activists and health obsessives – stops being a niche dietary choice and gains new followers, and not just because of soon-forgotten resolutions.

This year will see the German supermarket chain ‘Veganz – We Love Life’ opening its first branch in the UK, offering over 6,000 vegan products. The store is hoping to take advantage of increasing interest in non-meat, non-dairy food, with celebrities such as Jay Z and Beyoncé among those to have reportedly tried adopting veganism.

Most UK supermarkets already stock vegan products, but Veganz is the first dedicated chain store of its kind in Europe. Set up in 2011, the company hopes to open a total of 21 stores across the continent by 2015 to meet growing demand.

Veganism has long been plagued by stereotypes of it proponents. But what will dedicated full-time proponents of the lifestyle choice – its title officially coined in 1944 by founder of the British Vegan Society Donald Watson – make of the part-timers and the potential for it to become the latest fad diet?

Amanda Baker, senior advocacy and policy officer of the Vegan Society, is not overly concerned, and welcomed the potential for it to grow in popularity. “From our point of view, people are beginning to recognize the arguments that we have been making all along,” she said. “We all teach our children that it’s wrong to harm animals unnecessarily and a plant-based diet can be really healthy.”

The Vegan Society estimates that there are at least 150,000 vegans in the UK. With a population of around 63 million, that’s less than one per cent, but the term “vegan” will soon have legal status. In 2010 the European Parliament adopted UK Food Standards Agency labeling guidelines and, following a five year period for compliance, civil suits may be brought against anyone misusing the term from 2015.

This is yet more welcome news to the Vegan Society. “Veganism is a lifestyle and an ethical way of looking at the world. It is a human right to be vegan and a protected philosophy,” said Ms. Baker.

“We enjoy our vegan lives and we want others to share the benefits. It helps to have people talking positively about it, especially high profile figures like Bill Clinton and Al Gore.”

While many more are likely to follow 402103_10151100415128769_533864270_n however, the signs are that more will at least be giving it a try than ever before.

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