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Glasgow: the vegan capital of Britain?

The Scottish city is often associated with rather less healthy dietary trends, but it turns out to be a hotbed of healthy animal-free food

Glasgow is regularly credited with more dubious honours: it has been named as the place with the lowest life expectancy in western Europe, high rates of obesity, and the highest mortality rates among the working-age population in the UK. And yet it has also just been named the most vegan-friendly city in the UK by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta).

“Glasgow is fantastic for vegans,” says Yvonne Taylor, a campaigner for Peta. “I’ve been going on about it for years whenever people talk about Brighton or London. Obviously here in Scotland we’re not exactly known for our positive eating – we’re known as having one of the fattest populations in the world – but in contrast we have this quickly emerging vegan movement.” Taylor insists that if you go to vegan cafes, you can see all ages. “People are becoming more aware of their health.”

But why Glasgow? Sam Calvert, spokesperson for the Vegan Society, thinks the city’s vibrant youth culture is one reason why veganism has taken hold. The University of Glasgow was the first in the UK to be accredited by the Vegan Society, she says. “I think that probably did attract more young vegan people to the city. There is also a history of activism.”

The accolade seems to be more anecdotal, though – “Whenever we do blogs about great vegan restaurants around the country, people always say Glasgow is amazing,” says Taylor – than data-driven and she can’t say whether there are more vegan restaurants per head than any other city.

But Glasgow is also one of 10 cities shortlisted as best to live in for vegans and vegetarians in the Vegfest food festival awards to be held later this year. It is also clear that there are many thriving vegan and vegan-friendly businesses.

“I think over time a momentum has built up,” says Craig Tannock, who runs five vegan restaurants, bars and music venues in Glasgow, including the well-regarded Mono, itself nominated in Vegfest’s best restaurant category. “In quite a lot of regular bars now in Glasgow you’ll see vegan options. We don’t make a big song and dance about it, we’re just trying to do good-quality food.”

Although his businesses attract a younger crowd, he also has many customers in their 70s and 80s. “It’s for everybody,” he says. “It’s great to have regular custom from vegans, but most of our customers aren’t even vegetarian.”

Emine Saner

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Glasgow: the vegan capital of Britain?

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