Asda’s Vegan in a tin range reviewed

Asda vegan tins

Nothing beats cooking vegan food from scratch, but Asda’s new range of vegan meals in a tin are great for those in a hurry or out camping.

Supermarkets have really upped their vegan game in the last couple of years – so much so, that some independent vegan shops are feeling the strain. But, with many vegans also feeling the strain financially and, it has to be said, time-wise, these little gems will come as an enticing alternative to slaving away in the kitchen. There is a certain stigma attached to eating meals from a tin – but it’s no different to any other processed food – in fact, tins are recyclable and much of the plastic containers housing other vegan processed meals are not.

Priced at either £1.25 or £1.50 a tin, they are pocket-friendly too. You can stretch them by throwing in your own ingredients too – for example, I add mushrooms to anything resembling a pasta meal.

So what do they taste like?

Jackfruit Thai Red Curry
Jackfruit Thai Red Curry

Jackfruit Thai Red Curry.

There has been a lot of hype of jackfruit, so to see it getting a look in with this new range shouldn’t be a surprise – although one of my Facebook friends described this meal as “ming”!

I thought it was a bit better than that. I liked the crunchy veg and the pleasant spicy hit – I ate it with a biryani which gave it even more heat but, even so, it wasn’t overpowering. The refreshing crunch of the water chestnuts was the best bit for me and the heat actually masked any flavour from the veg – although, jackfruit is pretty tasteless in itself anyway. But overall it did the job.

Asda Vegetarian bolognese
Asda Vegetarian bolognese

Vegetarian Bolognese

Despite most of them being vegan-friendly, all of the range are labelled “vegetarian” – which is odd.

This one is basically soya mince in a Bolognese sauce.

It’s OK. Tesco does one with the spaghetti already mixed in if you’re ultra-lazy but, personally, I like the bite of freshly boiled pasta. This one still tastes like it came out of a tin – but it has, so that shouldn’t be a huge surprise. It has a meaty feel, smell, but unfortunately, the tomatoes are relegated to a background status – in fact, there is hardly any evidence of their presence at all when it comes to taste.

Lentil Ragu
Lentil Ragu

Vegetarian Lentil Ragu

This is my favourite. It reminds me of Jack Monroe’s Tin Bolognese recipe in terms of taste and texture – https://cookingonabootstrap.com/2018/10/05/tin-bolognese-recipe/?fbclid=IwAR0YXJBZCAAVWpAS53hbyYAJMplcYp5mJw_HLOlvR_FVP6nh6xOmaqu07zs

I prefer it to the above Bolognese as the lentils give it more substance and a nicer taste. The tomato sauce is more prominent too.

I thoroughly recommend both this one and trying Jack’s recipe.

Smoky Three Bean Chilli

This is two chilli hot – which is about the right heat for me. It has the spice but maintains the taste of the other ingredients.

This one certainly smells like chilli and it has a nice thickness to it too. The smokiness is married to a distinctive spicy hit and it’s certainly full of beans – in fact, all of these meals are packed with veg, which makes a nice change.

A nice surprise.

Vegetarian chilli
Vegetarian chilli

Vegetable Chilli

There have been vegan-friendly versions of this tinned favourite around for years – even the Stagg veggie Chilli is accidentally vegan, and they’re all pretty adequate when it comes to making a jacket potato filling. I’m a bit odd, so I had this one with pasta – try it, I believe it works pretty well.

There’s a mild to medium heat here and a pleasant enough after-taste. The vegetable chunks impress once again and the overall feeling is one of a thumbs-up rating.

Sweet Potato Coconut Curry
Sweet Potato Coconut Curry

Sweet Potato Coconut Curry

Welcome to my second favourite in this range. Although the sauce in this one is thinner, the taste isn’t. I love the flavour of the coconut combined with a medium-hot curry. There’s a lovely smoothness here and the colour is more appealing than some of the others. I’d definitely recommend this one with rice.

Overall, the range offers what you’d expect from tinned meals at a reasonable price – certainly a good option when you’re in a rush.

After the Ration Challenge

Me with homemade rice milk

 

Having done the Ration Challenge as a vegan, I thought I’d tell you all how it went.

I have previously blogged on my reasons for taking part in the challenge – https://veganonadesertisland.com/2019/06/12/why-im-doing-the-ration-challenge-as-a-vegan/

People are still able to sponsor me at https://my.rationchallenge.org.uk/paulbenton

The charity’s aims are explained on their website – https://www.rationchallenge.org.uk/

Just in case you wondered – I did complete the challenge successfully, and, as a result of my experience, have started to think about my food choices even more deeply than your average vegan (is there such a thing?)

While it’d belittle the challenge to call it easy, I didn’t struggle. I felt a little hungry at times, but I wasn’t desperately craving chocolate or chips – although, to live like that all the time would be difficult. The fact my friends were so very supportive meant I earned plenty of reward items, meaning a bag of kale helped immensely – having soya chunks as my chosen protein also went a long way – dried TVP is so light, that you get a huge amount for the allowed 120g.

One of the main things I realised – or remembered – was how easy it is to make your own milk alternative – rice milk just takes rice, water and a blender. Having just broken my blender, I have also come to appreciate how important kitchen equipment can be. You can get “cheap” blenders for a tenner – by I have found, to my cost, that they break very easily. I will be relying on my stick blender (a fiver) until I can replace said machine.

Making your own plant milk is fun and gives you a sense of achievement – you can also make just the right amount for your needs and save on packaging – a huge issue at the moment.

fried rice for the Ration Challenge
Fried rice for lunch

One of the other things I discovered was how tasty rice and beans are.

Yes, really!

I’ll admit I threw in both salt and my chosen spice – and usually bulked it up with soya chunks and kale, but just rice and kidney beans is fine in itself for a meal – especially if fried. I will admit choosing fried rice and beans as a main meal since completing the challenge.

I enjoyed the lentil soup from the challenge’s recipe book and also the basic flatbread bites – which is pretty much flour and water with added spice. I will be using both of these recipes in the future.

In fact, the only meal I didn’t really enjoy was congee – I prefer my rice with bite and, although I appreciate the energy this breakfast staple gave me, I did struggle to eat it without throwing up. Being sick is not advisable when you’re eating a rationed diet.

My overall belief that a vegan diet further an omnivore diet was reinforced – especially with the weight of soya chunks compared to the two sardines allowed as the meat-eating equivalent.

I realised that, even as a vegan, I don’t need to buy as many processed meals as I do – making dishes from scratch is healthier and more rewarding – and improves one’s relationship with food.

I came to appreciate that many have to live on a strict budget, and this is possible as a vegan, but, you have to be adventurous and eating the same or similar meals day in, day out can become very disheartening – you also have to be very mindful of getting enough of all the nutrients required for a healthy diet.

This made me think more deeply about the added challenge of people who live as refugees – life is certainly not easy and compassion is often in short supply in wider society – something which both saddens and frustrates me deeply.

Are vegan meat replacements too real?

Vegan burger which looks realistic

There seems to be a never-ending race to create vegan burgers which resemble meat in taste, texture and look.

The Guardian calls them “meat-a-like” foods in the following article:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/shortcuts/2019/jul/02/im-paranoid-its-meat-the-rise-of-vegan-conspiracy-theories?fbclid=IwAR2MTm5HO65XPz5ONwS0IC4PhZMltOK-Jh5Slu6X6xbVNGwqQNAmkJzTx28

The following comment sums up how realistic things are getting: “”I always get paranoid when [fake meat] tastes so much like the real thing, that one day it’s all going to come out on the news that we have been tricked into eating real meat this whole time,” reads one comment on the Facebook group. In February, a commenter posted a picture of Greggs’ vegan sausage roll, seeking reassurance that it wasn’t real meat. “Had to stop eating,” they wrote. “Please tell me it’s safe.””

One phrase which vegans hate with a vengeance is “but bacon”, however, over the years there have been a number of bacon substitutes on the market. It seems that here too the alternatives can be super realistic, as highlighted in this article:

https://www.mirror.co.uk/money/shopping-deals/super-realistic-vegan-brand-tricks-17910556

There are a couple of interesting comments in this particular article. The first paragraph states: “Looking to reduce your meat intake but can’t tear yourself away from the idea of from a weekend bacon sandwich, or a roast chicken?”  So, are these products even aimed at vegans?

It seems not! These are vegan products not targeting vegans, and that does actually make sense.

I became vegan because I don’t believe it’s right that animals have to suffer and die to provide for me. The environmental and health benefits are something I discovered after turning vegan, but they are reasons why people are not starting to either turn vegan or reduce their intake of animal products. The article also says: “The Isn’t Bacon even have half the salt of conventional bacon, no cancer-causing nitrates and zero saturated fat – so it’s even better for you.”

So, you see, the health-conscious vegans are part of the target audience here – and that is why there is such a desire to make products so realistic.

Meaty-looking vegan burger

While many die-hard, long-term vegans hate the idea of anything which resembles meat, those looking to reduce their intake or new vegans may crave a realistic substitute. There is also the fact that vegans dining with meat-eating friends or family may wish to have something which will have their meal companions say: “Wow, I can’t believe that’s vegan!” Although the potatoes, carrots and cabbage on their plate also happen to be vegan!

The Mirror article also includes the line: “It’s also more sustainable, as it uses 90% less water and 70% less CO2 emissions than meat.”

The environmental impact of animal agriculture has been in the headlines a lot recently and meat production’s impact on the planet cannot be underestimated.

Exact facts and figures are hard to come by, but this Guardian article from 2018 is a pretty balanced look at the issues:

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/may/07/true-cost-of-eating-meat-environment-health-animal-welfare

Its conclusions are pretty similar to those which vegans have been highlighting for some time now.

I tried the Beyond Burger with cheese a couple of weeks before writing this piece and I was shocked at the realism. I have pointed out before that some supermarkets have started stocking vegan foods alongside meat products on their shelves:

https://veganonadesertisland.com/2018/07/15/vegan-in-the-meat-aisle/

As I pointed out then, I am not the real target audience for these products – but it’s undeniable that the growing number of vegans will also buy them – and maybe buy them for meat-eating partners, children or friends who come to dinner.

I do like the No Bull Burgers a lot, and I love that they have added beetroot juice, I don’t think this makes them look or taste like real burgers particularly, but then I don’t really know what “real” burgers taste like. I do know what they smell like, however, and I despise it.

I didn’t despise the Beyond Burger, I just felt it was a little “too real”. I understand that people don’t turn vegan because they dislike the taste, look and texture of meat, but because of the suffering behind the meat. That’s me really, but I have grown to dislike the idea of meat so much that the thought of its taste repulses me. But others are different and they are also catered for by such products.

Of course, the fact that these products are controversial means lots of debate and therefore free marketing for the companies behind them.

I personally prefer veggie burgers to have bits of vegetables in them – but I’d love to hear what you think.

Why I’m doing the Ration Challenge as a vegan

IMG_20190611_092749

I am taking part in the vegan version of the Ration Challenge 2019

The money will help raise cash to support Syrian refugees living in camps in Jordan.

The money you raise will provide food, medicine and education for refugees and support the wider work of Concern Worldwide (UK) to tackle hunger and extreme poverty with the most vulnerable people in the world’s poorest places.

I believe, as vegans, it’s our duty to respect all living beings – and that includes our own species. The meagre rations I’ll be living on for a week – flour, rice, lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, 120g of tofu to replace the sardines non-veggies get, vegetable oil and my rewards – so far, I’ve earned a spice, salt and a few tea bags. I can add a vegetable to this if I raise enough – and a protein (more tofu for example) if I raise £400 – then a luxury item up to £3 if I raise £850. Basically, the ration pack I have to live on during Refugee Week (June 16 -23) is the equivalent of what a Syrian refuge has to live on in a camp in Jordan.

There are recipes provided in the guidance pack – this includes basic rice dishes, falafels and hummus.

It will also require planning and organising a meal planner – something the charity advises strongly. This is another good habit to get into – especially for those who live busy lives during the week and/or live on limited means – why not cook in bulk at the weekend and adapt what you cook throughout the week?

I will have to make my ingredients stretch, so planning will be key – and many families – even in Britain do have to live like this. Remember we live in the era of foodbanks!

Refugees have to be resourceful with their family packs, the rewards system emulates that. I have to resource the rewards myself.

Not much is it? And some people go without.

I have long believed that veganism doesn’t need to be expensive – this shows how vegans can survive on a diet of very little, it also shows me how lucky I am as a vegan in the Western world – there is so much choice, so many luxury items and we sometimes take for granted our extensive and varied diets.

This challenge will help me appreciate what I have and reaffirm my relationship with food – something I believe vegans have an advantage of over meat-eaters anyway – but it takes me back to the basics. Many vegans don’t realise how difficult it is for poorer communities to survive and veganism is seen by many as expensive – this is something I have a particular interest in challenging – staple foods are not expensive – and I love the fact that Jack Monroe has published a book called the Tin Can Cook filled with recipes based around canned goods. I am all for pushing the belief that cooking from scratch doesn’t have to mean using a huge list of expensive ingredients. Check out https://cookingonabootstrap.com/category/vegan-recipes/

It is also helping me on my journey to use less more – I buy so much expensive processed food and it isn’t necessary. Vegans really are spoilt now, and I want to get back to basics, I want to expand my cooking repertoire – but not through recipes with a long list of hard to find or expensive ingredients, but through mixing cheap store cupboard staples and seasonal vegetables.

An example of a recipe from the Ration Challenge online recipe book is Simple Falafels using 85g of chickpeas, a spoonful of flour, 60ml of oil and any earned spice and a little of any earned vegetable.

“Pour the chickpeas into a large bowl and cover them with 3 inches of cold water. Let them soak overnight.

Drain and rinse well with water. Pour them into your food processor or pestle and mortar along with any earned spice, and a small amount of earned vegetable.

Mix all ingredients together until you have made a coarse meal. Scrape the sides of the processor periodically and push the mixture down the sides. Process till the mixture is somewhere between the texture of couscous and a paste. You want the mixture to hold together, and a more paste-like consistency will help with that… but don’t over-process, you don’t want it turning into hummus.

Pour it out into a bowl and use a fork to stir; this will make the texture more even throughout. Remove any large chickpea chunks that the processor missed.

Heat the oil in a frying pan. Test one falafel in the centre of the pan. If the oil is at the right temperature, it will take 2-3 minutes per side to brown. If it browns faster than that, your oil is too hot and your falafels will not be fully cooked in the centre. Cool the oil down slightly and try again.

Let them drain on paper towels. Serve the falafels fresh and hot.”

Obvious hummus is another option I can add. I am lucky that I have a food processor, otherwise, I could mash with a fork. But you can see that while I won’t starve, the resources available to me are very different from those I would purchase during a normal weekly shop.

I can also make basic rice milk as I’ll have lots of rice – Soak 155g of rice in hot water for about 3 hours, drain, add a litre of warm water and blend – you can make rice milk bread with this too.

Finally, I wish to challenge the notion that vegans don’t care about humans. I am as much pro-human rights as I am animal rights, I’m doing this challenge to show my empathy for the poorest of the poor – those who flee warzones only to find a life of hardship and persecution. I am a member of Amnesty and believe in a philosophy I call Total Equality – a belief that all living beings with a central nervous system are equal.

To sponsor me, please visit https://my.rationchallenge.org.uk/paulbenton

 

 

Budget vegan pies – in a tin!

Fray Bento Vegetable Balti Pie in a tin

Fray Bentos Vegetable Balti Pies reviewed

Now you can even get vegan pies in a tin!

With the announcement that Pie kings Fray Bentos had dipped a toe into the vegan market, those of us who love cheap pies were dancing in the kitchen and hunting down our tin openers in anticipation.

Not only is this another option for vegan pie lovers, it’s also cheap and requires no freezer – or even a fridge – for storage. Plus, and it’s a big plus, they only cost £1 (when I got mine) at B&M or Morrisons – it’s wonderful that veganism on a budget just gets easier and easier! It must be said however, this isn’t specifically marketed as a vegan product, it’s sold more as a veggie option and they’ve left it to us to publicise the fact it’s also vegan-friendly.

Before you start, you do need a strong tin open to prise off the lid – but once you’ve got that far you just throw it in the oven for 25 minutes – no baking tray needed! Plus, the tin design means the packaging is 100% recyclable and the best before date is an impressive 18 months away – so you can really stock up while they’re on offer! Obviously, unless you wish to blow up the kitchen with a pretty fireworks display, you can’t microwave it – but whoever heard of microwaving a pie anyway? Soggy, radiated pastry? No thanks.

Cooked Fray Bentos pie

The first thing to note after the pie is cooked is that it isn’t particularly pretty. If food aesthetics is your thing, then this is not the product for you. The top of the pie on mine looked like it had been blown up with a foot pump with the filling making a desperate attempt at freedom from the pastry prison – but it didn’t affect the taste in the slightest. It is also a little difficult to get the thing out of the tin and on to the plate – but even Linda McCartney pies have that issue in removing them from their foil home. And, crucially, it doesn’t really stick, so you can get all of the pie out rather than throwing vital bits of pastry away when you’ve finished serving up.

But what about the taste?

It’s good. As a curry-based delight, it isn’t too spicy, there is a slight kick, but nothing overpowering.

Although, I have some sympathy with those vegans that complain about how all vegan options seem to come with some degree of spicy kick or heat these days – and not all vegans are spice lovers like myself.

The pie’s sauce is pretty thick and meaty for a vegan offering – and I really appreciated the abundance of vegetables available – especially the peas! I’ve felt for a long time that peas have been the most under-appreciated of all the vegetables in a vegan’s cupboard. I put peas in everything and I’m glad they’re well represented here.

The pie is a nice big unit too – many vegan offerings just aren’t big enough and throw in a couple of portions of chips and you can even feed two with Fray Bentos’ foray into veganism.

The pastry itself is also rather tasty. It’s crispy on top and melts in the mouth through its reaction with the sauce, which it complements perfectly.

The list of ingredients is rather long, which isn’t always a great sign, but most of what is on the list is natural and there’s a nice long list of spices. In short, there’s very little to fault here.

Another win for vegans on a budget.

Fray Bento Vegetable Balti Pie ingredients list

Vegans vs plastic packaging

Bekind Kitchen's herb refills

We all know veganism is better for the environment than a vegetarian or omnivorous diet, but why are so many vegan processed foods packed in plastic?

For instance, the Iceland No Bull range comes in a cardboard box with a pointless plastic window to help you see the frozen product inside – it actually looks similar to the picture on the box – so why do it? Iceland has actually committed to eliminating plastic from their own brand products, making this most curious – https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/iceland-plastic-free-packaging-own-brand-products-recycling-pollution-environment-a8161081.html

Iceland's No Bull Burgers

The main issue I have with Iceland is that there is no recycling information on the packaging – so, do they like us so much they want us all to email them and ask them? Do we guess and recycle anyway (this can contaminate a whole load of recycling), or tear off the plastic bit and recycle the box?

More concerning, the tough plastic bags the likes of the No Chick & No Porkies Paella come in doesn’t have recycling information either.

Farmfoods’ burgers and sausages just come in a cardboard box like Linda McCartney sausages – surely this is the best way to go? But the bags the Meatless Balls come in at Farmfoods say “recycle with bags at larger stores” – in other words, if you have nowhere to recycle plastic bags in your area you have a problem – unless you become a plastic bag hoarder – something I don’t recommend.

Iceland vegan Meatballs packaging

Vegan cheese packaging has long been a bone of contention for me. Some vegan cheeses come encased in a plastic coffin and you literally have to stab your way in using knife strikes which put your fingers in mortal danger. It also renders storage impossible, so you have to down the cheese in one vegan cheese munching session – that isn’t really healthy for you or the environment.

 

Tesco’s own brand of plant-based cheeses come with a peel-back top, so the stabbing drama is avoided – but they do state they are “not yet recycled”.

Yet?

They don’t give an estimation as to when the packaging will be recycled -that might be helpful. Maybe if it said “not recycled until October 2020” be could hoard our empty packets for a while – or just not buy the product until then? Or, maybe that’s what they’re scared of happening? Either way, it isn’t good news.

Every little really does help when it comes to the environment. The climate emergency is killing off animals and as vegans, this is something we really want to do everything we can to halt. Going vegan is a huge start, but looking at the packaging of our food makes a huge difference.

For example, I buy my mock meat in a tin from my local Chinese supermarket (also available at https://www.orientalmart.co.uk/ ) as tins are easily recyclable and better than a mass of plastic packaging.

Vegan chicken in a tin

It is also worth checking out your local zero waste independent traders – take your own refillable containers to replenish your hers, spices, rice, flour, soya chunks, muesli, Sos mix and more – local to me, for example, Spice of Life health food shop in Bourne (https://www.facebook.com/spiceoflifebourne/), Backyard Food (https://www.thegreenbackyard.com/backyardfood/) in Peterborough and Be Kind Kitchen (https://bekindkitchen.com/), also in Peterborough all offer this service.

Some packaging that appears to be non-recycling friendly actually is – for example, VBites products look heavily encased in plastic, but one look at their website (https://www.vbites.com/frequently-asked-questions/) tells you it can be recycled, so my advise is either check or ask.

Much has been written about zero waste products in the bathroom and getting rid of plastic straws etc, I now believe it’s time to get our house in order when it comes to vegan food packaging. Most of the plastic wrapping is unnecessary – and alternative products are available to consumers. Maybe we should start informing manufacturers exactly why we’re choosing not to purchase their products when the plastic wrapping is not as cruelty-free as the product it houses.

What are we going to call vegan burgers now?

Will veggie burgers now be called veggie discs?

Much has been made by an EU plan to stop veggie and vegan products being called after meat product shapes such as burgers, sausages and steaks.

According to the article, “The protected designations would include steak, sausage, escalope, burger and hamburger, under a revised regulation that passed with an 80% approval.” Article at https://metro.co.uk/2019/04/04/vegetarian-food-banned-called-burgers-sausages-bacon-9114570/?fbclid=IwAR2tb7_mbRZBS_rdZJgrRG7oDwLSz2W51biCLrC3QMUrRQMmjM-sT39LNco

There have been a few attempts to do this, most notably in France in 2018: https://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/france-bans-meat-and-dairy-related-words-from-vegetarian-and-vegan-food-packets-a3822831.html

It is a French MEP who has bought the latest proposal before the European Parliament – it will be voted on after the European elections.

The UK dairy industry threatened to take legal action when vegan cheesemonger La Fauxmangerie opened in London – https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/vegan-cheese-plant-based-dairy-eu-laws-cheesemonger-a8775001.html

A whole industry taking on an independent trader seems a bit like overkill – but overkill is what the meat and dairy industries do best! It also stinks of desperation – are they scared that us snowflake vegans might hit their profits? I have blogged on this subject before – https://veganonadesertisland.com/2018/10/28/how-dare-you-call-a-vegan-burger-a-vegan-burger/comment-page-1/#comment-532 – so it is a bit of a shame that this issue is coming up yet again.

As I said last time, words such as sausages and burgers are the names of shapes, not foods. Are we also going to band fish steaks, lamb sausages or goat’s milk? No, that’s the right type of misnaming it seems!

There isn’t a vegan sausage or brand of soya milk on the planet that can be mistaken for a meat product on a supermarket shelf – that would defeat the object, so I really can’t see what all the fuss is about – people who love Quorn Sausages won’t suddenly say “I’m not going to buy them now they’re called Quorn Tubes because they don’t taste the same”. That would be ridiculous, but then politicians are pretty good at being ridiculous aren’t they?

So what can we call vegan sausages and burgers? Discs and Tubes sound a bit silly really – a Veggie Disc sounds like something you’d throw at the Evil Meatathron in an ‘80s video game. A Veggie Tube sounds like a streaming service for plant-based viewers.

Are Bangers OK? That’s just slang, right? Veggie bangers may sound like Moby’s best rave tunes or a Vegan porn channel, but it is one alternative. Plant Circles is another option – although that sounds like aliens have visited your nan’s begonias.

Instead of “steak” maybe we could have Vegan Bricks – or would the building industry be opposed to that? How about a vegan Loaf – I doubt bakers would take issue with that – they haven’t complained about meatloaf (the food, not the rock star – although I doubt they’ve complained about him either).

Some soya milk is already sold as Soya Drink, or Almond Drink, so the milk branding doesn’t seem to have made much difference. But I am a little stuck on an alternative name for cheese – Gary seemed to go down quite well – maybe we couple have a vegan cheese could – Gary and Georgie? Or we could just replace one letter – Vheese or Cheeve – plural Cheeves – that sounds a bit like a butler alternative though.

Will blatant truths such as No Meat be OK? I like the Iceland No Bull, No Moo etc range, maybe they can just remove words like “burger” from their packaging as their brands are strong enough to stand up on their own? You can see from the picture on the packet that it’s a burger shape.

Are musicians going to complain about chicken drumsticks?  Can you see how ridiculous the whole argument is yet?

But post-UK in the EU will this matter? Who knows? Many vegan products are made abroad and, as seen with the cheese war, the UK meat and dairy industries are already pushing for such measures, so an EU implementation may give them an excuse to wander off down a similar crooked path here.

It’s a distraction. It diverts attention from the real issue – the ethical reason for going vegan, the health reasons for going vegan and the fact that many people are moving away from meat and dairy and those industries don’t like that.

 

Punk rock turned me vegan

Punk rock turned me vegan

The anarcho-punk scene of the 1980s was fuelled by animal rights – not just veganism before veganism was cool, but actual animal rights.

Many of us who have been vegan for a while – we’re talking 10 years or more – lament how the animal rights movement of the ‘80s and ‘90s was bigger and more effective than it is now – despite the massive rise in veganism. And that movement had a soundtrack.

Bands such as Crass, Conflict, The Poison Girls, Flux of Pink Indians, Dirt and Icons of Filth wore their hearts on their sleeves in advocating direct action, singing about slaughterhouses, animal experiments and fox hunting. Remember, there was no Hunting Act at all then, so sabotaging a hunt came with a real risk of both arrest and physical confrontation.

This brand of punk was raw, angry, passionate and very diverse. In Meat Still Means Murder, Conflict sang: “From newborn throats, red rivers flood.” The lyrics were direct, powerful and these bands really did mean it.

Some of these bands still exist and the likes of Goldfinger and Propagandhi from the States still have strong vegan and animal rights messages.

The rawness of the anarcho bands really struck a chord with me. As someone who came to punk through thrash metal and grindcore bands such as Napalm Death and Carcass, I found the aggression and anger appealing. And reading comments on punk threads and hearing comments from crowd members during gigs, I know for a fact they are not preaching to the converted.

With the rise of veganism has come the rise of vegan celebrities. Singers such as Thom Yorke from Radiohead and Miley Cyrus mean there’s a vegan for all tastes in music – although I’ve yet to hear a song from either advocating direct action, protest or describing how baby cows are slaughtered. But I guess I could be wrong – I’m not an avid Miley Cyrus follower, her target audience isn’t really middle-aged men though!

Punk rock has always been about rebellion and I love the fact that bands such as Active Slaughter are still flying the flag for animal rights today, but it does worry me that more people are concerned about new flavours of ice cream than are getting involved in protests – protest which attracted tens of thousands in the ‘90s, before the internet, before Facebook and before the advent of keyboard warriors. Why is this?

There is an argument, of course, that the single biggest thing you can do to save lives is to go vegan. And that’s true, but, globally, meat consumption is rising, so, if a farmer can’t sell his animals here for meat, won’t he just ship them abroad?

People have differing comfort zones, but maybe it’s time to ask, not what won’t I do for animal rights, but what can I do?

Is the new Vego vegan chocolate bar a bit of all white?

Vego White vegan chocolate bar

The introduction of the Vego White bar caused quite a stir among vegan chocolate fans.

Vego bars have long been a favourite of many vegans and vegetarians with a sweet tooth, the fact that they’ve branched out – first into a chocolate spread and now into white chocolate – has been a cause for celebration.

But is the new bar any good?

I, like many others, love the traditional Vego bars – they are so chocolatey – they’re big hunks of delight with a nut in the middle. I think it’s the size and mass of vegan chocolate which makes them so good – and addictive. But they are rather expensive at around four quid for a normal bar. They also tend to leave one’s hands with a chocolate coating as it’s impossible to eat a bar before it starts melting. Vego White doesn’t suffer from this problem.

One issue I do Have with it is the foil shroud which houses it inside the main wrapper – that’s double the packaging folks, which isn’t good. It is also on the pricey side at £2.09 for a 50g bar from the independent health food shop where I bought mine.

Vego White vegan chocolate bar

Vego’s white chocolate sister is thinner than its more established sibling and lacks the deep flavour punch of the vegan chocolate’s elder statesman. However, it has almonds! We all like almonds, right? It even states “Almond Bliss” on the wrapper! They certainly add a welcome crunch to this new plant-based confectionary creation.

The Vego White is, like other vegan white chocolate bars, incredibly sweet. If it’s a sugar hit you’re after, then this is definitely the one you want. Personally, I love it, as I get older I do seem to be developing more of a sweet tooth.

However, it has to be said that other, much cheaper vegan white chocolate bars smash you with a similar sweet sensation. I’m thinking of both Sainsbury’s and Tesco own brand bars in particular – although both of that lack the almonds and the relate crunch which accompanies this vital ingredient.

I was also concerned about the “main contain traces of milk” disclaimer on the wrapper – which also proudly displays the word “vegan”. This basically means milk products are made in the same factory as I understand it. Does this put you off? I must admit, I’ve lived with it so far.

So, is Vego White the new king of vegan chocolate.

No. But neither is the other Vego. I like both, I like them a lot, but that accolade still goes to Choices. I don’t see them around as much these days, but a Choices Easter Egg has always been a must and the chocolates are simply divine. I think in their case, it’s the caramel flavouring which makes them stand head and shoulders above the opposition.

 

Choices and Vego vegan chocolate

Why are vegans portrayed so negatively in the Press?

Newspaper slamming veganism

Vegans are in the news a lot.

Veganism seems to generate debate on comment boards, so news sites like stories about us.

The growth in veganism has become a huge talking point and with it comes the inevitable backlash.

The phrase “militant vegans” seems to be applied to any vegan activist. Papers such as the Mail and Metro who use detrimental phrases such as this do seem to spend an extraordinary amount of time publicising vegan-related articles.

https://metro.co.uk/2018/12/17/militant-vegans-target-the-turkey-aisle-in-waitrose-8257667/

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6539063/Counter-terror-police-brought-help-tackle-militant-VEGANS.html

Constant attacks from the likes of Piers Morgan only help to publicise veganism and provide vegans with their own media villains

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6564267/Piers-Morgan-tries-new-Greggs-vegan-sausage-roll-spits-bin.html

The Greggs vegan sausage rolls received a lot of free publicity from bad old Piers – all publicity is good publicity, after all. Piers himself received a lot of free airtime through his anti-vegan tirades. Maybe he was hoping for some free bacon for his trouble?

Both the Telegraph and Mail have a solid middle England readership – that readership includes farmers and we must not forget that the meat and dairy industries are worth billions.

The worth of the vegan pound may be on the increase, but, sadly, it still pales into insignificance next to the animal agriculture pound.

This article from January 2018 gives you some idea of the rise in veganism internationally.

https://foodrevolution.org/blog/vegan-statistics-global/

In 2019, the figures  must be even better with Veganuary reporting its most successful year so far – https://veganuary.com/blog/a-quarter-of-a-million-people-try-vegan/

There have been reports of the dairy industry and other farmers starting to feel the impact of veganism – https://www.veganfoodandliving.com/dairy-industry-crisis-teenagers-ditch-milk/

Therefore, demonising the lifestyle through the use of terms such as “militant vegan” can sell an agenda to lessen this impact. Positive posting about their industry can also help to counter the rise in veganism – https://www.nationalchickencouncil.org/about-the-industry/statistics/per-capita-consumption-of-poultry-and-livestock-1965-to-estimated-2012-in-pounds/

That rise, albeit posted by the industry itself, is pretty alarming – as is the rise in intensive farming.

That is one thing that worries me about the rise in veganism in the short term – the cutting of corners until the square becomes a circle by the meat industry in the hunt for more profit against any falling sales. We have seen with the likes of the persecution of badgers in the UK the lengths the industry will go to protect its interests.

Although, other articles suggest the rise in meat consumption isn’t such a good thing – https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jul/19/rising-global-meat-consumption-will-devastate-environment

The fact this is published by the Guardian is also notable – it’s the audience is mainly middle class, liberal and left-leaning – the stereotypical vegan in other words.

Linked to this we have the Februdairy campaign:  https://www.lep.co.uk/news/business/are-you-ready-for-februdairy-1-9566906

Obviously, supermarkets can’t ignore the rise in veganism – but there does seem to be a hint of guilt around the constant vegan bashing – not only in headlines, but in the comment sections of online stories about vegans and, disturbingly, it seems to be creeping into real life too.

https://metro.co.uk/2019/01/25/vegan-schoolboy-14-punched-bully-tried-force-feed-bacon-8393291/

Yes, there is a dark side to the anti-vegan propaganda and, of course, there is more than a hint of the “do not challenge the status quo” mentality rocking all over the discourse of the argument. “eating meat is tradition”, “we’ve always eaten it” and “this farm has been in my family for generations” is the kind of thing we hear.

Maybe there’s a little bit of guilt in there too – people want to hide away from the cruel reality of slaughterhouses – an “out of sight out of mind mentality”, which manifests itself in online attacks on those who choose not to hide away from reality.

There is a certain amount of hypocrisy there as stories about extreme cruelty to dogs and cats receive prominent coverage. Interestingly, there have also been stories about cruelty to pigs on farms – but, in a way, it is suggested that this is the exception and not the rule.

https://inews.co.uk/news/uk/pig-farm-workers-guilty-animal-cruelty/

Vegans are constantly being told not to “force their opinions down everybody’s throat”, the problem lies in the fact that it’s the very same people saying this that are forcing their views down vegans’ throats.