It has been quite a few years since the movement to go vegan has caught some traction. And like it is with every ferment, Veganuary met its nemesis in Februdairy. While the Veganuary campaign encourages people to try going dairy-free for the first month of the year, Februdairy can be dubbed as the Big Dairy’s angsty campaign to retain consumers.
With the dairy industry’s plummeting sales in the face of rising veganism and the exposure of its brutal treatment of cattle, Februdairy can be seen as a desperate save for dairy industry. But is there more to this resistance than just an ad campaign meant to hold fort against vegans? Will this project be successful? What is the truth behind Februdairy after all- are state agencies also complicit in promoting the apparently cruel dairy industry?
The History of Februdairy
Februdairy is a social media campaign that ‘celebrates’ the dairy industry. The voices rallying to protect the dairy industry from the vegan ‘hijack’ and ‘misinformation’ campaign surfaced somewhere around 2018. There isn’t much history around Februdairy because it is fairly recent.
During the month of February every year, dairy enthusiasts and companies air positive messages about the consumption of dairy products such as milks, cheeses, and yogurts. According to some Februdairy supporters, it is not a smear campaign on veganism. In fact, dairy fans consider it a battle against the entire vegan project, which is ironically predatory in its tendency to promote itself.
A popular argument is that the growing negative publicity has painted all dairy farmers as bloodthirsty unethical monsters. The increasing market share of the vegan industry is also eating into the profits of dairy manufacturers, which adversely impacts small dairy owners.
The inception of this ‘grassroots online movement’ is credited to Dr. Jude Capper. Capper is an independent livestock sustainability consultant from the UK, and is widely hailed as a hero by the livestock industry. She was also felicitated with the Sir John Hammond Award from the British Society of Animal Science (BSAS) in 2021 for her contributions towards sustainable livestock production.
Capper coined Februdairy when she encouraged dairy farmers to wage their own battle against the rising vegan industry. However, the movement ran out of steam quite soon and is dubbed as one of the biggest counterproductive online failures.
Why Did It Fail?
Vegans think of Februdairy as a Karen-style movement which received its deserved due quite soon. The reason why Februdairy failed was quite obvious. For example, think of screaming ‘white lives matter too’ when people are rallying under the ‘black lives matter’ umbrella.
It seems completely nonsensical since African Americans have suffered tangible harm due to institutional racism. Hence, the call for ‘white lives’ seems like a distraction rooted in overwhelming privilege. While the parallel is very dissimilar to the massive misfire Februdairy was, the philosophy remained the same.
The premier reason behind why Februdairy bombed was because it became exactly what it stood against. No guesses for this- it became a smear campaign attacking veganism instead of promoting the welfare of dairy farmers.
The problem with Februdairy was not just that it was crushed by the bigger intolerance of vegans, but that it was a completely misplaced strategy to begin with.
According to leading farm leader, Andrew McCornick, Februdairy did quite the opposite, instead of getting positive publicity for the dairy industry.
McCornick thought that the resistance failed because it opened dairy farmers and companies to a wider scrutiny, than promoting the benefits of meat and dairy. Several vegan activists pointed out that Februdairy resorted to the same intolerance it campaigned against.
Moreover, Capper’s claim that the vegan offensive was funded was outdone by the fact that Februdairy itself was funded and abetted by sections of the UK media. In this regard, media attacks on popular vegan campaigner, Joey Carbstrong, were particularly strong. Watch Carbstrong’s reaction to the vicious media attacks on him-
Does the Failure Mean the Death of Februdairy? Did Veganuary Win?
In the face of the Februdairy failure, Veganuary did score a point, but it is indeed far from winning the battle.
Several people join Veganuary, and many are impressed enough to adopt it forever. But it simply doesn’t work out for some people, especially those who keep going back to meat and dairy because they can’t really do without it and those who strongly believe that a vegan diet is deficient in the nutritional value an animal-based diet can provide.
What we can conclude is that despite its failure in gaining popularity, Februdairy is very much alive. The campaign is still marked every year with due sincerity by dairy moguls and ardent consumers with #februdairy on several social media platforms.
The fact that Februdairy founder Capper had been an ex-vegan herself says much about the counter-transition from vegan to non-vegan diets.
Moreover, there are other factors to consider like the increasing possibility of monocultural farms to cater to the vegan industry, the advent of sustainable livestock practices and more people agreeing with reductionism rather than a complete rejection of dairy and meat.
Reductionism has become way more popular than adhering to the two extremes due to its feasibility and the lack of intolerance. This also means that Februdairy, despite bombing big time still stands as a formidable opponent to Veganuary, even if it lost the chance at an initial hooray due to weak credibility.
Which Movement Should We Support?
After reading through the whole trajectory and analysis of the two lifestyle movements, the big question remains- which side should you choose?
In fact, giving a straight answer is the most difficult part of this exercise simply because both plant-based and dairy-based diets are equally surrounded by legitimate concerns about dietary nutrition, ecological impact and the ethics they follow.
Dairy has been a part of most of the diets around the world in some measure. However, it has been panned for artificially inseminating cattle, cruel treatment of calves, exacerbating climate change and appropriating animal lives for human gains.
At the same time, several farmers are also attempting to go a gentler route. There are several research projects that are focussing on how to reconcile sustainability goals with animal husbandry and livestock culture.
But it seems that the ethical argument comes stronger in the case of vegan diets and lifestyles. Several researchers and dietitians have endorsed veganism and have ‘debunked’ theories claiming that such diets are not nutritionally dense.
Still, there are severe criticisms of Veganuary and plant-based milk products. For instance, water-scarce regions such as California suffer due to the stress on water-intensive sources of vegan protein like almonds.
Vegan milks and cheeses have come under fire for ‘tasting like dust’ and heavily relying on emulsifiers to replicate the texture of dairy. The debate seems endless due to the emergence of constant evidence on both sides.
This might tighten the predicament than solving it. Maybe there is really nothing conclusive about choosing a side. Although in the spirit of respecting life forms, we would advise you to try vegan products such as lab-grown meat and vegan milks.
Yet, we wouldn’t endorse it as the ultimate good trend as there are a fair share of allegations the vegan sector faces despite its raging popularity and growth. While the ascent is admirable, it is still in a nascent stage.
Wrapping Up- The Ecowiser Take on the Battle of Lifestyles
Adopting either camp or taking a middle route in dietary habits is entirely a matter of research, preference and your beliefs about the value of life. Whether animals belong in food or not will still be a hot ground for debate and experimentation, one can say that misplaced publicity stunts like Februdairy can do more harm than good to the entire discourse.
Februdairy cannot really shed its image of a Big Dairy-funded publicity stunt. The story of its failure highlights the need for an informed perspective, rather than blind criticism based on claims of ‘intolerance’.
Do you think differently of Februdairy? Or are you camp #veganuary all the way? Let us know in the comments below!