For Ninety Percent’s co-founder Shafiq Hassan, going vegan was a personal choice, led primarily by the desire not to inflict cruelty on animals. A deep love of wildlife is why he chose Big Life as one of the charities you can select for us to share our profits with. As a child growing up in Bangladesh, he recalls seeing a cow pulling a cart with injuries round its neck caused by the harness. It had a big impact on him.
Cruelty to animals was just one of the many injustices and inequalities that have shaped his outlook on life and becoming vegan in his own life was a result of connecting the dots – not just around animal cruelty but also the bigger picture around the impact of agriculture and intensive farming on the environment.
“The more you read about it," says Shafiq, "and the more you think about what we're doing – the industrial way of farming, and the cruelty that we inflict, whether it's industrial animals, or wildlife – the more evidence is there for the whole of humanity to change.”
Go vegan, but stay natural
But we know it’s a complex issue. With wool, for instance, it is often substituted by synthetic fibres, which wasn’t an option for us. “It was important that the decision not to use wool or other animal-derived fibres did not impact on our commitment to natural materials”, says Shafiq. “For the time being, there are few natural and biodegradable alternatives that will give the same warmth and comfort as wool, but at Ninety Percent we do not believe we should replace natural wool with oil-derived synthetics. We are optimistic that new textile innovations will soon result in natural alternatives and vegan ‘wool’.”
In the meantime, we are investing in four innovative ‘fancy yarns’ designed to take the place of wool in our collections. There is a ‘hairy’ organic cotton where the fibres undergo a combing process to create a strong and compact yarn with a fluffy texture that is then knitted in a fisherman’s rib stitch to give the fabric a luxurious, airy volume. This is the brand’s 100% vegan, organic cotton alternative to wool. “We have always been diligent about the materials we choose to work with,” says Shafiq. “This is who we are. We hope that for the vegans in our community, this will be good news.”
So for Ninety Percent, veganism is the new normal. This Veganuary, we encourage everyone to think about the health benefits for ourselves and our planet. We know we are not alone. According to polling conducted by Ipsos Mori, the number of vegans in the UK increased by 400% from 2014 and 2019, to over 600,000. According to the Vegan Society, the environment is one of the top three reasons cited for people who follow a vegan diet, alongside health and compassion for farmed animals. That’s 1.16 per cent of the population. And alongside this shift are many more of us who are flexitarian, adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet a few times a week. Every little bit helps and adopting a vegan lifestyle, whether it’s cosmetics, house paints, hair treatments, handbags and accessories, or fashion, is part of a growing movement, too.
What does being vegan mean, and why is it more sustainable?
Being vegan means adopting a diet and a lifestyle that avoids any animal-derived ingredients, or products, be it food, cosmetics, furniture or fashion, that have been made in ways that harm animals. Vegans don’t eat meat, fish, seafood, or insects, obviously. But they will also avoid eating eggs, dairy, honey, and anything that has involved the exploitation of animals.
We do not have enough land to feed the world’s growing population. 800 million people do not have enough food to eat, yet the meat-heavy diets of the West (and increasingly, China) are taking up an unfair share of the land. (source: The Vegan Society). It takes more land to rear animals because on top of the land for the animals, we are growing grain to feed livestock, not the people who need it.
In the past, it was quite a challenge to be vegan, especially if you are on a budget. But with a bit of planning, and a good stock of pulses, nuts, and the odd vegan burger, you don’t have to spend a lot on special ingredients, and it’s an opportunity to get creative in the kitchen. You can try it one meal a day, or even just a day a week. We love Meera Sodha’s ‘New Vegan’ recipes in the Guardian.
The vegan fact file: Read, watch, try
Follow the science – and be inspired to act #ForTheWorldWeWant
🥛According to a report by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization about 14% of all emissions come from meat and dairy production. That is equivalent to all emissions from all cars, trucks and aeroplanes combined.
📚A recent study led by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign atmospheric sciences professor Atul Jain found that the use of animals for food, as well as livestock feed, is responsible for 57% of all food production emissions. Plant-based foods create 29% of emissions for overall food production.
🎥Watch NASA’s short film about how climate change is impacting global agriculture.
🐄Beef alone accounts for a quarter of emissions produced by raising and growing food.
🐔There are now approximately three chickens for every human on the planet. Chicken production for meat is the fourth biggest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions for food production, below beef, milk from cows and pork.
🌍You don’t have to go 100% vegan to make a difference. By eating less meat, and showing the meat industry we want it to slow down, we can have a huge impact on the planet. According to Greenpeace, we need to develop ‘meat consciousness’ to promote better health for ourselves and our families as well as the planet.
🌱The Vegan Society’s Plate up for the Planet campaign will help you reduce your food carbon footprint by 50% with lots of motivation, tips and recipes to help you along the way.
🎙️We enjoyed listening to this interview with vegan designer and activist Joshua Katcher on the podcast Dressed.