Vegan townie versus the countryside


It’s that time of year again; when both sides of the hunting debate ramp up the propaganda machine to eleven and claims and counter-claims brighten up radio talk shows.

The latest polls suggest that eight four per cent of the UK population oppose hunting foxes with hounds. The Countryside Alliance claims, every year, that more and more people turn out for the “traditional” Boxing Day and New Year hunts. What they don’t tell us is how many of those who turn out really believe that hunts no longer kill foxes (they do).

As those of us opposed to hunting battle for the Hunting Act loopholes to be closed (they can chase a fox with hounds to a bird of prey or “accidently” kill one when it happens to cross their “trail”), supporters of country (re blood) sports label us “townies” who “don’t understand countryside ways”. In other words, we should “keep our noses out”.

There are several flaws with this notion.

In a post-Brexit referendum backdrop, do we really want to divide our country further? Is a town versus countryside agenda really the best those who enjoy the “spectacle” of a fox being torn apart can do?

This “townie” grew up on the edge of the Lincolnshire Fens. My father an agricultural engineer, my grandparents farmed flowers for a living. So, yup, I’m a really “townie”. The last time I looked, the countryside belonged to us all – we all pay taxes for it, after all. In fact, our taxes also go towards the huge farming subsidies that many in the countryside still receive, and are likely to do so post-Brexit. That, to me, suggests that what happens in those tax-payer-subsidised farms is very much our business.

Farmers are always screaming at consumers to “buy British”. Many of those consumers are also “townies” – “townies” who should keep their noses out of the countryside…. So, maybe, those in the countryside should keep their noses out of “townies’” buying habits? After all, production methods in other nations are often criticised in the UK Press – and by farming bodies – so, maybe, just maybe, that gives us a right to have a very strong view of production methods (including so-called “vermin” control) here too.

Farmers are always protesting about supermarket pricing (admittedly, I’m hardly a big business fan either), maybe we should suggest these farmers simply don’t understand “townies’” ways? Would could make the same response in reply to buying British pleas.

Truth is, subsidies and taxes aside, most “townies” send a lot of money to the British countryside – either through buying the produce or through tourism. That makes countryside issues very much our business – to suggest otherwise is simply obscene.

As a final note, foxes are the best form of vermin control a farmer could possibly have – killing plenty of rabbits (their main prey and the farmers’ most significant “pest”) every year. As a vegan, I’d much prefer to see natural pest management by leaving foxes alone than throwing in ill-judged human intervention.

A vegan at Christmas



When I was a child, the humble nut roast was seen as the staple of veggie Christmas dinners everywhere.

These days, of course, a vegan can go through life without ever going near a dry and dull nut roast. There are of course people who enjoy nut roasts – just as there are people who enjoy watching Elf – I, personally, prefer self- flagellation!

OK, there are some great recipes to make the humble nut roast less humble and slightly more edible, but there is a wealth of alternatives in the world of the 21st century vegan.

I am going for a Vegusto Roast this year, as I’ve become rather bored of grabbing a Celebration Roast at every given occasion – although, price-wise the two are very similar.

Many will forego the processed option completely and make their own Mushroom Wellington, vegetable roast, or even, God preserve us, nut roasts. A simple Ecosia search, or walk through Facebook’s Christmas Wonderland will provide suggestion after suggestion. Recent issues of vegan and vegetarian magazines also provide plenty of suggestions.

Many Christmas puds and mince pies are vegan by default. The news that Iceland’s own brand of mince pies are vegan-friendly is great news for those doing Christmas on a budget. They cost £1.50 for a pack of 12. I, however, already have some Foods of Atherny Mince Pies as I snapped them up at the Animal Aid Christmas Fair. A great event in early December every year for stocking your cupboards with everything you need for the big day (or the looming nightmare of forced consumerism – Veganonadesertisland caters for all vegan beliefs).

This very day, I found a Christmas pud in Morrisons for my table. Their own brand Rich Fruit Christmas Pudding is vegan-friendly and contains booze! Alpro do a widely-available Single Soya Cream (or a custard – an item also produced by Oatly if you prefer soya-free) and vegan squirty cream is now widely available online and at vegan fairs. This year, Coasta is selling some rather nice vegan-friendly slices of Christmas cake in their shops – I thoroughly recommend giving that a try.


I have already reviewed the Tesco selection box and they also produced a dairy-free Advent Calendar this year – it’s a bit late for that now though – unless you wish to devour the first three weeks’ chocolates in one go – which is actually quite tempting! I have added a Moo-Free selection box to my Christmas shelf as their chocolate is divine. But if you want something a little more luxurious, you can’t beat Booja Booja products. But online stores like Animal Aid have a huge range of vegan products available.

Holland and Barrett have many nibbles in their fridge and freezer – I have picked up some Bites VegiDeli Spicy Bean Bites and the absolutely massive VegiDeli 48-piece Party Pack (also sold at H&B) has gone down well in previous years – but you need a huge freezer in which to house it Remember the one in the film The Shining? Well one about that size should do it)!

Obviously, things like vegetable spring rolls, onion bhajis and veggie samosas are available all over, as are the staple favourite Linda McCartney Sausage Rolls. You can, of course, always make your own and enjoy a truly sustainable festive lunch. After all, it’s a time for family – and what could be better than cooking together at the family time of year?

A couple of my previous blogs deal with vegan cheeses – another popular evening or afternoon snack – especially nice with strong pickled onions!

Many stuffings are accidently vegan and so are many gravy brands – including Bisto!

Away from the meals themselves, being vegan can be a bit of a nightmare if you’re the only vegan in the family (or indeed the village). But letting family know to the things to avoid when buying you gifts can help – otherwise you end up with leather gloves, a woolly hat and bubble bath tested on rabbits! Not to mention dairy chocolate and gelatine-based sweets….

Avoiding meat can be difficult at this time of year – I hate the smell so choose to eat separately from those who have a “traditional” Christmas lunch. The other festive traditions of fox hunting, shooting, parading or showing reindeers and horse racing also horrify me – but there are demonstrations up and down the country against the former on Boxing Day – and serve as a reminder that Christmas isn’t really an animal-friendly festival – despite the John Lewis ad!

Many animal sanctuaries – including Hillside – offer “in lieu” presents, where you can buy hay or carrots for the animals and let your loved-ones know through a certificate and, in Hillside’s case, a small calander.

Just because the occasion itself neglects our fellow species, it doesn’t mean that we have to as well. Enjoying a vegan Christmas is easier than saying “pass the sprouts”!


That’s a vegan wrap! Co-op Falafel and Houmous Wraps reviewed


Vegan options are springing up all over the place – Pret’s tasty offerings, for example, have received plaudits from across the social media world.

It’s well-known that supermarkets have also been quickly introducing ranges to tempt vegans to part from their tallow-free cash in recent months – so I decided to try out Co-op’s perfect vegan-friendly lunchtime snack offering.

Famous for being the “ethical supermarket”, the Co-op has received particular praise from vegans for their jam and custard donuts. At two packs for a quid, these have long been a staple of vegan junk food addicts up and down the country. Their Falafel and Houmous Wraps are, I’m guessing slightly healthier than their sugar-laden shelf fellows.

I, personally, find falafels a little dry, so pairing them with creamy houmous is the natural thing to do – they go together like Friday nights and chips! I also prefer the hummus spelling of the dish – but the CO-OP has chosen to go with “houmous”, so I’ll stick to that for accuracy’s sake.

At £2.65 for two, you certainly get enough for the savoury side of your lunch, but I would have liked to have seen a little more houmous thrown in if I’m honest. But what there is does its job and means the wraps are not too dry – they’re not too wet either, which is probably why they haven’t been over-generous on the sauce.

A word of warning, the wraps are chilli wraps and, while mild, they do add a little heat and possess a pleasant spicy aftertaste. When mixed with the natural spice of the falafels, this can produce a satisfying taste to those of us who dislike bland food. But, if you don’t do spicy, you won’t like these.

They have a nice crunch to them too – perfectly provided by the lettuce, red cabbage and small pieces of carrot. So, as well as feeling that your hunger pangs have been satisfied, you come away with the smug feeling that you’ve eaten something relatively healthy while on the go.