There are no reliable figures about how often we eat meat. Some people eat it daily, others twice a week; some say they refuse to eat dead animals, and others simply say they don't like it.

What is becoming increasingly common is that the other option one step further than vegetarianism - veganism - is making big strides, and becoming, on a seasonal level, an option for the 'dry January' type dieters. Would it be an exaggeration to call it a fad?

While there is little doubt that giving our livers a rest for a month can do no harm, and probably has some benefit, there is a complete lack of scientific or medical evidence that shows the same is true of a temporary vegan, or even vegetarian, diet.

Periods of alimentary deprival have been practised by virtually all the world's religions. Fasting is taken to what many people will consider an extreme level by the Mormons, who fast on the first day of every month. Christians have their Lenten period, and if we add in the Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Taoists, Hindus, etc, the list is almost endless. The reality is that there are two ways to fast: either by eliminating a type of food, or by going without food completely for a period.

This puts Muslims, for example, at a severe inconvenience in comparison with other religions, as even on the hottest days during Ramadan they cannot drink water.

Conversely, a practising Catholic will foreswear meat for the Lenten period, but that is hardly stressful unless you are a Texan and cannot exist without a daily steak. But relief is at hand.

A Californian company, funded by Bill Gates and Leonardo DiCaprio, has developed a type of artificial chicken that is indistinguishable from the real thing. Its other advantage is that it has been accepted by religious authorities as 'non-meat' for fasting purposes. The day cannot be too far off when Muslims will have a little, mullah-approved, pill they can take during Ramadan that will stave off hunger and thirst during the day.