Being the only vegan in the village – or on campus – can feel a bit lonely. It’s fine if you have supportive friends who respect your decision and have a packet of bourbon biscuits stashed away for when you come over. But for lots of people it can feel like it’s you against the world.
But it really isn’t. There are over half a million vegans in the UK and it’s likely that some live closer than you think. When I moved to Maidstone – a fairly average town in a conservative part of Kent – it didn’t occur to me to even look for other vegans because I didn’t think there would be any to find. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that, not only were there other vegans in town, but they also had an active social group and met up regularly! Some of them have since become great friends.
As a student it’s even easier to meet other vegans – especially when you consider that almost half of vegans in the UK are under-35. Most universities and many colleges have a veggie and/or vegan society that organises trips to local vegan-friendly restaurants and pubs, pot-luck dinners, and other social events, as well as cookery demos, film screenings, outreach events and more. Check your student union website to see if there’s one where you are, and if there isn’t, why not set one up yourself? Pop along to your student union and speak to your Activities Officer (or equivalent) to find out what you need to do.
Of course it’s nice just to meet other like-minded people who understand why you are vegan, as well as go along to social gatherings where you don’t have to worry about whether there’ll be anything for you to eat. But there are practical benefits to vegan social groups too. They’re a great way of picking up local tips and advice about where to buy animal-free products or go for a vegan meal, for example. You can also get great recipe ideas and try vegan dishes you didn’t even know existed. Some have also used their collective consumer and political power to push for better (or even some!) vegan options at eateries at their universities or colleges.
But it’s worth thinking outside the university bubble, too, and bridging the town/gown divide, as many towns and cities across the UK have vegan social groups that anyone can join. They usually meet up once a month at a local vegan-friendly café or restaurant, but some have been known to organise much bigger events, such as vegan fairs. To find out if there is one near you, start with Facebook, The Vegan Directory and Meetup.com, and maybe ask at your local health food shop or veggie restaurant.
If, despite everything, you still aren’t able to find other vegans in your area, maybe try some of the vegan Facebook groups out there. Sadly. some can be a bit elitist, but friendly ones include What F.A.T. Vegans Eat, UK Vegans and 100% Vegan Products UK