Vegan advocacy

I want to approach a really negative and counter-productive kind of vegan activism I keep seeing that is driving me up the wall.

A couple of weeks ago I saw a tweet which I will paraphrase as, “If you’re not vegan, you don’t honestly care about the environment.” That instantly riled me up. I’m studying a degree alongside people who are the future of protecting our planet, and you want to tell me they don’t truly care because they eat meat? I’m being taught by researchers who have done / are doing fascinating things and because they eat meat they don’t actually care?

I do get where that tweet came from. We know that animal agriculture is a huge polluter which increases greenhouse gas emissions, damages water quality, damages and pollutes soil, is cruel to animals, and slaughter houses are an awful place to work. I don’t dispute any of that for a single second. I wholly believe the best diet for the planet is a vegan one. My problem is the approach some people take towards trying to ‘convert’ people.

When you think of a vegan, tell me what you honestly think of. I’m willing to bet a lot of you think of the stereotypical aggressive vegan who is constantly attacking people. That kind of activism generally doesn’t encourage change; it might for some people, but for the majority of people it makes them defensive and not open to change. I’ve experienced it myself and it is counter-productive. 

Earlier this year, while I was trying to switch to a vegan diet, I was really struggling with cheese. We know that cheese has some addictive qualities and I think it’s one of the main foods people struggle with ‘giving up’. I commented on a vegan blog post about tips for moving to a vegan diet and said I was struggling with cheese. I was essentially told by the blogger that I didn’t truly care about the animals because I was struggling with cheese; if I truly cared about the animals, I would have been able to quit cheese in a jiffy. Maybe that wasn’t how they meant it but that’s how it came off to me. I was asking for help and that was not what I received. I remember my mindset being, “well, why should I bother trying seeing as I don’t care about the animals apparently?”

When someone is attacking your choices and telling you you’re wrong, you are about as far away from being receptive to change as you can get. Especially if you have asked for help and are open to change, but what you get is made to feel stupid and not good enough. 

I do understand why some vegans are so aggressive about it; once you understand the horrors and negatives of the meat industry it’s hard to unsee it and understand why some people don’t get it the same way you do. That said, that approach doesn’t work well. 

The majority of vegans were not born vegan. It’s important to remind ourselves that we used to chow down on chicken nuggets and turkey twizzlers (they were horrendous) and one day we made a choice to stop. What encouraged that choice? I can’t imagine it was someone saying you that you can’t care about something you do care about because of your dietary choices. 

As a kid, and even now, I hated being told what to do. My Dad and I used to constantly butt heads because he would tell me to do something, and I already knew I needed to do it but because he told me I wasn’t going to do it. No one likes being told they have to do something.

If someone asks me about my diet, I kind of dread saying I’m vegan because of the stereotype so many people associated with it. It shouldn’t be that way. I’m not going to preach to anyone. If people ask questions about why and want a genuine discussion about it then I love talking about it. I find those discussions so interesting because usually people will say “I think I could live without eating beef,” or “I think I could eat less meat”, and you can see people evaluating their choice in their head. I find that so fascinating.

A few weeks ago, my sister and her boyfriend came up to visit. We were trying to find something to watch on Netflix when one of them saw Cowspiracy and we ended up watching it and talking about it. Since then my sister hasn’t brought any dairy milk because she can’t stand the thought of it. She’s exactly the same as me and if I’d said to her, “you can’t drink milk that because of x, y, and z,” she’d have said “yeah, alright,” and not even thought about it.

Eating meat does not make you an awful person or mean you can’t possibly truly care about the environment. All that idea does is completely turn people off being open to a vegan diet, or a diet containing less meat. Becoming vegan requires huge lifestyle changes and it’s very hard for some people. 

What I would love people to associate with vegans is people who are not judgemental, people who encourage every small change someone makes, and are helpful and educational. That’s what the core of the lifestyle is; love for everyone and everything, and we’re being damned hypocritical if we’re shutting people out instead of helping them.

If anyone has questions or wants to talk about veganism, hit me up in the comments or on social media – I’d love to chat. 

Vegan or not; what do you think, or what are your experiences, with vegan activism?

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Marmite on toast - buying from companies with unethical parent companies

I am a label reader; when I’m in the shower, in the bath, waiting for something to cook, I’ll be reading the labels on whatever I’m using at the time. A few weeks back, I was reading the label on the back of my beloved Marmite, when I noticed they are owned by Unilever.

According to their website, Unilever own 255 brands globally across the food and drink, home care, and personal care sectors. Some of these brands include: Ben & Jerry’s (who are bringing vegan ice cream to the UK ‘soon’), Marmite, Simple, Dove, Lynx, Vaseline and a whole boat load of brands you might use / eat every day. I don’t buy any hygiene or cosmetic products sold by Unilever because I disagree with animal testing, but seeing ‘Unilever’ on the back of a jar of Marmite stopped me in my tracks.

How do I feel about buying food a company whose parent company test on animals, or I consider to be unethical?

Surprisingly, animal testing is not just limited to cosmetics and cleaning products. I would never associate food products with animal testing (perhaps that is naive on my part) but while I was doing some research for this blog post I discovered that some food products are not cruelty free. In 2013, the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) called out Unilever, Nestle, Yakult and Danone for testing food products on animals to allow them to promote health claims.

That absolutely baffled me. Why? Why is that even necessary?

Let’s take a look at the Ben & Jerry’s example too. I love that they have created vegan ice cream and are planning to bring it over to the UK; I want to support companies who are making being vegan easier, because hell knows I find it very hard. I also really want a vegan version of Phish food.

If I choose not to support companies who test cosmetics on animals, doesn’t that mean I should boycott food brands which are tested on animals? Doesn’t it mean it should boycott food brands which might be cruelty free themselves, but are owned by a company who test other food brands or hygiene brands on animals?

On the other hand, I could support cruelty free and vegan companies for doing good, fighting animal testing, and creating tasty vegan food. Some people choose to do this with cosmetics brands, let’s take Urban Decay as an example. Urban Decay are cruelty free but they are owned by L’Oreal who do test on animals. The argument is that it’s good to support companies like Urban Decay because they are cruelty free and maybe, eventually, in some kinda movie-like way, L’Oreal will go “wow, a lot of people support these cruelty free brands we own, so maybe we should quit being dicks to animals.” That would be amazing, but it doesn’t quite sit well with me. I hate the idea that my money might indirectly end up supporting animal testing or supporting companies with unethical practices.

To counter that again, if you try to avoid food, hygiene, or cleaning products with unethical parent companies your weekly shop is about to get a lot harder, involve ordering from goodness knows how many websites and probably more expensive.

I am between a rock and a hard place with this one and would love to hear your thoughts about buying from companies with unethical parent companies.

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One of the funny things about choosing a ‘restrictive’ diet, rather than having to due to health reasons, is that everyone is always trying to catch you out.

Anyone who has chosen to be vegetarian, vegan, paleo, gluten free, etc, will know exactly what I mean. Because you’ve made a decision to do something due to moral reasons, everyone wants to call you out. And maybe that’s their prerogative.

I am a bad vegan. A very bad vegan. I admit it. In fact, it’s probably a stretch for me to call myself vegan at this point. But I’m trying.

There are some things that were so easy for me to give up;

  • Milk; it grosses me out, a lot. The thought of it makes me want to gag.
  • Cream; see above.
  • Eggs; they also gross me out. Easy.
  • Leather; never liked it, not even a problem.
  • Meat; can’t stand it.
  • Non-cruelty free cosmetics; I don’t want something to suffer for the sake of lipstick.

But there is one thing, that I find a lot harder to give up; cheese. It’s a very poor excuse, but I love the taste of a nice strong cheese. I know. I wish I could find a vegan alternative that melted just like real cheese.

And then there’s the whole trying to eat out. I know that in some cities (like San Francisco) eating vegan is a piece of delicious pie, but I don’t live in a city. I live in an area where an eatery’s idea of vegetarian is…*drumroll please*…can you guess it? TOMATO PASTA! *Groans* So many places like to be adventurous with their dishes, until it comes to vegetarian or vegan or gluten free, and then they panic.

I digress. Eating out is hard, but there are a few chain restaurants now where I can eat vegan, like Nando’s or The Handmade Burger Company.

And then there’s dessert. I bloody love dessert. It’s my favourite part of a meal. And my boyfriend is a pastry chef; which means I get a lot of dessert. Do you think any of that is vegan? No. No it is not.

Sure, I could not eat it, but you try one of his peanut butter chocolate fondants and tell me it’s not amazing.

Yes, I am a bad vegan. But I am trying.

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Peanut butter and jelly cupcakes

That’s it! My 30-day vegan challenge is over, but don’t you dare go thinking that I’m going to go back to my old diet.

When I began this challenge, I would say that my diet was about 50% vegan to start with, but I was daunted about what it might mean to try to be as vegan as possible for a month. To my surprise, it wasn’t hard at all.

Changing your diet is really about changing habit, so eating vegan at home is easy as pie so long as you plan your meals and snacks to make sure you have what you need in the house. As I mentioned in my previous weekly updates, eating out is where it’s difficult to eat entirely vegan.

Some restaurants / cafes / eateries are really easy to eat vegan at, a couple of examples I’ve experienced are:

  • Costa Coffee – their soy lattes and fruit crumbles are delicious
  • Handmade Burger Company – they have a good selection of vegan main courses, and their rosemary salt chips are out of this world

However, some places make it impossible for me to eat vegan because they either have no option, or one option, which usually seems to be salad, which I hate.

All in all, I’ve found it easy. I will be doing a post over the next week or two about what I’ve learned from being vegan for 30 days. In short though:

  • I’ve discovered new food and I actually feel inspired by food, which is something I’ve struggled with for a long time
  • I’m taking an interest in what’s in my food and feel I’m eating a more balanced diet for it
  • I feel more energetic, and I think that’s a result of eating a more balanced diet
  • I’m cooking meals, instead of just dessert
  • My Mum and I are having a lot of fun talking about food and cooking together

I’m glad I took this challenge because it finally gave me the push to kick the cheese to the curb. Aside from one meal out, I’ve not eaten cheese for a month – something I considered unthinkable before, and I haven’t even missed or craved it.

I definitely will not be returning to my old diet and I’m looking forward to discovering so many more tasty vegan recipes.

In keeping with the other updates I’ve done for this so far, here are a couple of recipes I’ve really enjoyed this week:

  • Peanut butter and jam cupcakes – these went down a real hit with everyone
  • Spicey falafel and roasted veg naan-wich – after seeing this pin, we decided we had to try it. We used the falafel recipe from Mayim Bialik’s Vegan Table, made our own avocado sauce, and it’s not hard to roast your own veg

If you’ve got any questions about becoming vegan, or need some tips, let me know because I want to put a blog post together helping people switch to a vegan diet.

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Vegan millionaire shortbread

With three weeks under my belt, I’m beginning to feel like a little bit of a pro at this vegan thing.

I’m really enjoying cooking and spending time searching for tasty recipes – and not just for pudding either, I’ve been hunting down and cooking actual, nourishing meals, which is impressive for me.

The only time I’ve not been able to eat vegan during week three was, yet again, when I went out. I almost managed an entirely vegan meal at one of my favourite diners – I asked for nothing on the veggie burger but guacamole, but they put melted cheese on too…Maybe I should have sent it back, but I honestly couldn’t be bothered for the sake of a slice of cheese. Perhaps that makes me a ‘bad vegan’, but the place was rammed, it was probably an honest mistake, and I was hungry.

The second time, I went out to a little dessert restaurant in the city my university is in and there was nothing vegan on that menu that I could see. To be honest, I was disappointed because they have a huge range – pretty much any dessert you can think of – so I was a little gutted to see that there wasn’t a dairy free section. Especially when it’s easy to make dairy free desserts.

On top of that, my best friend’s Mum had a party and there was nothing vegan and to be honest, I don’t expect friends to go out of their way to do things especially for me. Though, saying that, if I had an allergy would I expect something allergen-free? Food for thought.

Eating out aside, everything I ate during week three was vegan. I’ve discovered that Aldi’s Oaties are vegan, which is good on one hand, not so good for my goal of eating less biscuits. Another surprising vegan discovery is Kellog’s Star Wars cereal.

Two of my favourite recipes in week three were:

I can’t believe how fast these 30 days are going, this time next week the challenge will be over with. To be honest, I have no intention of going back to my previous diet – I’ve found a vegan diet much easier than I expected and I feel much better in myself (though a part of that is because I am eating healthier).

What tasty things have you eaten this week?

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I have now completed my second week without eating cheese!

I don’t feel like there’s a huge amount to say in addition to last week’s update because I haven’t found it hard. Well, I tell a lie; I went out for a meal on Monday and there was no choice but to eat a non-vegan meal. There were no vegan meals on the menu. I had a veggie burger which, for some reason, had cheese in it. I have no idea why because it’s not necessary and I couldn’t even taste it – so that was a bit annoying.

When I started this challenge, I knew that eating out would be the hardest part because so few places near me are vegan-friendly.

In other news, I read that Ben & Jerry’s are releasing a vegan range which makes me so happy. It’s nice to see a big, international brand acknowledge vegan diets or people who are lactose intolerant. I’m not sure if / when it will be available in the UK, but I hope they bring it over here.

I’m continuing to feel better in myself and am enjoying cooking, and experimenting with new things. Here are a couple of recipes I’ve enjoyed this last week:

What recipes have you been enjoying recently?

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Last week, I decided to take the 30-day vegan challenge and I’m pleased to say that the first week has been really fun.

I originally planned to do a bit of a food diary but I completely forgot, so instead I’ll give you a little overview of how the first week has been.

My biggest weakness is cheese, but to my amazement I haven’t craved it or felt like I was missing out. I’m so impressed with this because I definitely ate way too much cheese before.

In general, I haven’t found a vegan diet to be very restrictive. The only time it has felt a little restrictive is when I went to Costa Coffee to meet my friend – I didn’t spot a vegan option. I tweeted Costa though, and apparently their fruity crumble is vegan, so I’ll keep an eye out for that next time I go – I’m hoping I just missed it. 

There are a couple of things I’ve eaten during the past week that have become absolute favourites for me and I cannot get enough of them:

  • Peanut noodles
  • Thai pasta from Mayam Bialik’s Vegan Table
  • Bliss balls – I started out with Kayla Itsines recipe, but ended up just doing my own thing, throwing in desiccated coconut and more cocoa powder

So far, so good and I’m looking forward to another week of discovering new, delicious meals.

 

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