Veganism through community living

vegan-hills-2
Vegan Hills

The ideas of veganism and sustainable living are interlinked. The Vegoa co-operative has taken this idea to bring like-minded people together in what will, ultimately be, a community living experience with minimal impact on the wider world. The growing group already has worldwide ambitions and has already completed the acquisition of Vegan Hills in Algarve, southern Portugal. Tanya Weghofer very kindly answered my questions in order to gain further insights in a project which combines veganism, entrepreneurship and creativity.

Who are the Vegoans?
We are an ever-increasing number of people who, apart from being committed to a vegan lifestyle, are very diverse in age, nationality, hobbies, backgrounds and beliefs. The members include singles, families, students, and entrepreneurs. What we all have in common is the desire to create an example for ethical, sustainable and cruelty-free living.

What are the driving principles behind the project?
A shared set of ethics centered around veganism and the desire for sustainability is what brought the members of the project together.
We want to show the world that we can all lessen our impact on the environment and turn it around by actively contributing to the positive change we want to see in the world. Our goal is to be an example for others and show that you can not only live but strive in an ethical and sustainable way.

How many people are currently involved?
At the moment, the association counts for 34 members but our numbers are constantly growing, with some families set to join us in the coming months.

Why was it important to form a community of people and not just remain individuals doing separate projects?
Firstly, we are stronger together and many hands make light work!
The whole idea of our Vegan Hills project is to do exactly that, to create a platform and a safe space where our individualities can thrive. In practical terms that might mean interesting projects of your neighbors you might want to get involved in and vice versa.

There are many alternative/sustainable communities that start out with good intentions but that fall apart over time. What are some of the main reasons for this and how will Vegoa be different?
A large proportion of communities fail due to lack of funding, finding the right land, and of course, structural conflict. We have had some blessings in disguise that have equipped us to deal with these challenges early on, and have shown us where to adjust our sails in order to move in the right direction. As a result of our learnings we are practicing Sociocracy which has proven a valuable tool in paving our way forward.
What we believe differentiates us from other communities is the fact that we are humble enough to realize that there are many things we don’t know and we recognize the lack of a perfect system. Therefore, we created a very flexible structure so that people might shape the structure and not everything around it.

You’ve recently acquired land in Portugal to start the Vegan Hills community. What can you tell us about that?
The land of Vegan Hills is 103ha of a lush green, hilly landscape that offers both hilltops and valleys, forests and open spaces and most definitely lots of space to realize projects. It lies in the South of Portugal, in the Algarve region, and has two beaches in the surrounding area, the closest one being only 8km distance away.
The soil is very fertile and healthy and in recent years has only been used as grazing ground for cattle which is one of the reasons why we plan to reforest the whole area. Another fortunate aspect is its richness in clay which can be used for building shelters and various other things.

What challenges do you/have you faced with setting this project up and making it sustainable?
Indeed there were quite a few initial challenges we had to overcome. One of them being the changes in members and trying to find the right blend of personalities to make Vegan Hills the place we all want it to be, and of course raising the money to purchase the land. Each one has been a learning experience and has helped us hone our processes and procedures into the cohesive team we are today.

What would the average day of a Vegoan look like?
This is quite hard to say as one of our core values is freedom, so nobody is obligated to do anything. However, we are fortunately a very diverse group of people with very different hobbies and practices. So, some might then want to incorporate an early morning yoga or meditation session, others head out to the beach for a surf at midday and again other members might make a routine out of a lengthy walk through endless nature in the evening, while others will be tending to the land and will help moving us towards self-sustainability. Every skill is welcomed and each person can contribute to the community in the way they want to.

What obligations do Vegoans have to the rest of their community?
In order to find a common ground that everyone agrees to live by, we created a manifest for both the Vegoa association and the Vegan Hills village.
Both state as their first principle that each member has to live a vegan lifestyle, according to the definition of the Vegan Society, and that every member is obligated to respect the rights and freedom of other Vegoans which, of course, includes the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
Concerning the land, we strive to be as sustainable and eco-friendly as possible, whilst making every effort to achieve self-sustainability wherever it’s attainable.
All in all, however, we want to promote freedom instead of implementing obligations and restrictions.

What can others do if they want to get involved?
If anyone wants to know more about the project, please visit our website at https://vegoa.org/
If any questions are left unanswered or if people want to get in touch or join one of our regular open hikes, please contact hello@vegoa.org
In addition, you can find regular updates on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube.

Anything else you’d like to share?
As you read this, our land is taking shape, as a friendly group of committed vegans are making the necessary adjustments to create a new way of life, away from the fast-paced consumerist society that many of us have become accustomed to, into a slower paced, more ethically minded lifestyle.
At the moment, we are still looking for members who are willing to create this world with us. Until the 15th March, Vegan Hills is open for everyone, no matter if you have experience with off-grid living or not. We can share the knowledge we have and support each other!
After this day, however, we will specifically focus our search for members on vegans with particular skills that are needed to achieve our goals.
In order to assist those who are interested, we organize open guided hikes, group Skype calls and occasional Meet-Ups in various cities. The information is available on our Facebook page.

vegan-hills-4
Vegans Hills.
beach
One of the beaches near to Vegan Hills.

Save

Veganism in Veganuary and beyond!

veganuary

I love the Idea of Veganuary (https://veganuary.com/) – asking that people should go vegan for the month of January.

Many people who try it don’t go back to a meat-based diet and, with this in mind, I ask what better New Year resolution than trying Veganuary? After all, veganism is better for the animals, the environment and your own health.

I decided to ask some relatively new vegans about their experiences of converting to veganism – some even came to it through Veganuary.

I hope the answers will help other prospective vegans and show new vegans how easy it is to choose a compassionate diet. It may even help some new vegans over the issues those making the change may face.

Those questioned are all members of the Facebook group Vegan Friends UK – there is so much support for new vegans on Facebook and other social media sites.

My participants are:

Scott McKie, aged  21, from Glasgow

Karen Clarke, aged 51, from , Dorset

Lee Cash aged 44, from Brockley, South East London

Katey, aged 22, from Norfolk (now living in London)

Christina. aged 31, from near Preston

Nikki, aged, 44, from Gloucestershire

Rebecca Bamsey, aged 24, from Lampeter, Ceredigion, Wales.

What made you turn vegan?

Scott: “I started listening to punk rock when I was like 13/14 years old and started identifying with “punk” subculture etc, and through that became aware of political, social, environmental etc issues. After a while of supporting animal rights and things of that nature I found it harder and harder to justify eating meat to myself. I tried going vegetarian for a month to see how I found it, went back to eating meat, then decided I’d try going vegan for a month around a year after my last experiment. I thought it would suck changing from my normal, omnivore diet to a strictly vegan diet, so I went vegetarian again for two months running up to my vegan month. Although I then ate dairy and eggs after my vegan trial month the next year (in the month where I would traditionally challenge myself) I decided I would commit to being completely vegan with the aims of it being for good this time. Nearly one year on and there are zero signs of me going back to animal products. A much longer and more drawn out process than I’d have liked but going from being someone who consumed so many animal products, I think the gradual shift over the years has made it so much easier for me to maintain a vegan lifestyle now. I feel better about myself knowing I’m lessening my contribution to the destruction of the environment and to the suffering of non-human animals.”

Karen: “My husband and son are vegans and had been nagging me to make the jump from vegetarianism. I agreed to do it for a month and see how I felt.”

Lee: “I watched Cowspiracy.”

Kayey: “I went vegan in the house and still ate omni when going out for dinner for about four months before Veganuary because I watched conspiracy and I studied environmentally sensitive design at university and they pointed out how bad the animal agriculture industry is and I learnt the science behind our actions against the planet and I couldn’t stand it anymore. I couldn’t stand knowing I was contributing towards the deterioration of our planet.”

Christina: “I was vegetarian since birth. Then I turned vegan after seeing baby goats taken away instantly from there mums and being fed by bottles stuck on to a wall on Countryfile. The more I looked into it the more I was disgusted by the whole dairy and egg industry.”

Nikki: “Animal welfare, having my buried head removed from the sand after 36 years strict vegetarian.”

Rebecca: “I was already a vegetarian and had put on a bit of weight during freshers in uni so I thought it was a good way to drop the pounds if I were to do it for a month. During this month, I began researching veganism and uncovered the issues with the dairy industry. My moral compass wouldn’t allow me to live with the hypocrisy of being a veggie but turning a blind eye to these issues so the ‘diet’ became a lifestyle change.”

 

What made you try Veganuary? Did you think you would still be vegan after Veganuary?

Katey: “I tried Veganuary because my friend Sophie is a vegan activist and through exposure to her views and information I decided to give it a go. I knew afterwards that I would stay vegan because I got involved in the vegan community and I used to suffer from an eating disorder and to my surprise, it changed my entire perspective and relationship towards food. It saved my life.”

Christina: “I didn’t do Veganuary, but Viva had something similar where they sent you emails every day for a month with a day’s food menu. I knew I would continue to be vegan after the 30-day period.”

Rebecca: “I tried Veganuary the previous year to becoming a vegan after seeing a Facebook add, I think it was more curiosity and challenge than actually recognising the ethics of it. ‘Did I think I would still be vegan after Veganuary?’ Not really, I guess I thought it was too ‘extreme’ or quite impossible to sustain in the long term.”

 

Have you noticed any physical/mental changes since you became vegan?

Scott: “Since turning vegan I’m far slimmer/leaner and (predominantly since dropping meat from my diet) my general immune system seems to have improved, and I regularly feel less sluggish and groggy.
Karen: “I have felt much more mentally alert, less fatigued and my asthma has improved. I’ve also lost weight without trying and still eating what I fancy.”

Katey: “Yes. Like I stated previously, it saved me from self-destruction. I feel ten times better. I also suffer from celiac disease and damages to my stomach and bowel from all the abuse I did to it during the dark times of my ED – veganism has made it so much better. I’m more awake, I feel better in myself. My hair has actually started to grow back from when it fell out when my eating as bad. It’s just amazing!”

Christina: “Physical differences much more energy and psoriasis cleared up. Mental differences I was quite sensitive beforehand when it came to animals but much more now and I seem to be much more aware of the suffering in the world (can be quite depressing) it has also helped me with mental issues with food as I no longer feel guilty whilst eating. I struggled at first until I found out everything and since then there’s no going back.”

Nikki: “Yes, I dislike people more. I feel healthier, although I did gain weight at first.”

Rebecca: “I’m not the most observant of my own health. However, I do get a lot less sick (I used to get colds and flues quite regular), I have lost weight and I get a lot less lethargic.”

 

Has there been any times when you’ve found it particularly difficult to stick to veganism?

Scott: “Veganism for my ‘trial month’ was pretty difficult, but since going completely vegan I have had very few difficulties apart from odd cravings here or there. Strangely I did get meat-anxiety dreams for a little while where I’d dream I was eating a burger or something like that and then feel really bad once I realised what I was doing but they didn’t last for very long.”

Karen: “The hardest bit for me is giving up cereals as I haven’t got my head round eating cereal with milk alternatives yet. Apart from that I have found it much easier than I thought. I am a master at seeking out vegan alternatives and I make food from scratch most of the time.”

Lee: “Early on in my vegan journey I had a get together with friend that was organised at a steak house. I got drunk and ended up eating some steak and was ill the next morning. That was the only time I ever struggled. Now I find the thought of eating animal flesh repulsive.”

Katey: “Yes, but not due to veganism itself. Just when I go out for dinner with my friends or try to get food on the go. As I’m gluten-free too it makes it extremely difficult to find anywhere that provides food to those dietary requirements however I’ve gotten used to it now and just call ahead.”

Rebecca: “The hardest is when I’m in a rush looking for food on the go, I definitely should have learnt my lesson to prepare lush by now!”

 

Were you surprised by the range of vegan options available?

Scott: “Part of me is surprised by the amount of vegan options there are but Glasgow is very good for vegans. My more rural hometown of Dumfries in southwest Scotland is a little tougher but still very manageable.”

Lee: “Yes. Especially the fact that vegan bacon is so great!”

Katey: “I was surprised by the development of vegan options in supermarkets – especially over the past 12 months. Makes life a lot easier! Although, I’ve always shopped in the free-from section so I’ve known about a lot of the vegan options for a while.”

Christina: “The vegan options have grown massively in just the 2 years I have been vegan. It’s amazing now.”

Nikki: “Yes, veganism is the future, and it’s showing out there in the shops/restaurants.”

Rebecca: “Yes, definitely! It’s about knowing what things are ‘accidently vegan’ that makes life so much easier (mmm Oreos and bacon rashers).”

 

How “vegan friendly” is the area in which you live?

Karen: “Our area is good for vegan food, a number of restaurants and shops plus two vegan fish and chip shops and lots of takeaways with excellent options and vegan menus.”
Lee: “Very.”

Katey: “In London, pretty much everywhere is vegan-friendly. but back in Norfolk not so much. However, I am seeing a massive increase in vegetarian cafes and restaurants!”

Christina: “I still struggle eating out if with friends and family as not everyone wants to eat at a veggie/vegan places. But just have chips or salad. There’s not many restaurants close by, but plenty in bigger cities near me and can get most of what I need from a supermarket and a health food shop. If not, one can always order things online.”

Nikki: “Pretty good.”

Rebecca: “There is a lovely vegetarian whole foods shop, just a few houses away from where I live with all the vegan treats and essentials I could ever wish for!”

 

How did your friends and family react to your change in diet?

Scott: “A lot of my friends and family at first didn’t understand or didn’t think I’d stick with it, and were probably quite shocked that I have given how much I used to enjoy meat, but I think they all more or less get it now.”

Karen: “Most of my family are vegan or veggie and as we have all been veggie for years the omnis are used to it. Did get some non-vegan presents like biscuits etc. But I genuinely think they didn’t realise. I’m quite a strong character so not many people would be brave enough to say to my face anything negative.”

Lee: “Mine have been mostly supportive.”

Katey: “Some of my family members are farmers so they thought I was being silly but none of them were surprised. I was vegetarian for four years when I was at secondary school and then stopped because my ED got bad and the doctors forced me to eat meat to build up my calorie intake. However, my mum and brother have been incredibly supportive. They’d never be vegan but they always cater for me and accept my decision completely.”

Christina: “Friends and family thought it was a phase and used to try and tempt me to eat cheese again, but now they know I’m serious everyone is very supportive of me I did split up with a long-term boyfriend over it though, as he was extremely unsupportive and hated that I had gone vegan.”

Nikki: “Totally disrespectfully, unhelpful, insulting comments.”

Rebecca: “I had a varied reaction! My dad loves it and I think he boasts about me somewhat. My mother rolled her eyes and chuckled at me, she can’t quite understand it, I don’t think, but is still supportive. My partner didn’t react at all really. He engages in philosophic debate with me quite regularly, but he is now giving up beef and milk so I think he might agree somewhat.”

 

From a nutritional standpoint, do you watch what you eat?

Scott: “I don’t particularly watch what I eat in terms of health or nutrition, I’ve never been overly health conscious about my diet at all.”

Karen: “I make sure everyone eats a balanced diet which consists of tons of fruit and veg, juice and smoothies. Plus, we take B12 as a supplement. I believe in gentle conversion and do it through suggestion and humour.”

Lee: “Not particularly but I plan to in 2017.”

Katey: “Yes I do. I’ve learnt so much about nutrition and where to get nutrition from. That’s why it makes me laugh when people say “where do you get your protein from?” Well if you educate yourself you’ll find out where!”

Christina: “I do watch what I eat (sometimes better than others) but also take supplements to ensure I get what I need.”

Nikki: “I try to.”

Rebecca: “Not at all! My ethos is- If it’s vegan, I’ll eat it. Although I do eat a lot of junk food I don’t feel as though I’m lacking any nutrients, not that I am a professional, but I’m sure I’d notice if I was.”

 

Have you converted anyone else to veganism/asked anybody to try Veganuary?

Scott: “My girlfriend and I turned vegan together and have converted a few people to vegetarianism, as well as got more people considering veganism and approaching vegan dishes and lifestyle with a more open mind.”

Karen: “I have had a lot of genuine interest and I’m hopeful……..will encourage Veganuary too.

Lee: “Yes. My fiancée also went vegan shortly after I did.”

Katey: “I’ve managed to convert about four people so far, and got a lot of people to reduce their meat intake. My best friend is now a full vegan and is as much of an activist as I! It’s great!”

Christina: “I’ve planted the seed in a few people but none have gone fully vegan (one is now veggie) and won’t watch documentaries as they are happy being ignorant (their words) I have converted at least five people to drink plant milks instead and made people more aware of where food comes from and what’s it in it (like gelatin, lanolin, cochineal).”

Nikki: “Converted yes, although I don’t think they continued after we split up.”

Rebecca: “I converted a friend over the summer, although I’m not sure if he still is vegan. I shared a Veganuary post and stated if people wish for advice then to drop me a message. So far, I have had two people message me about it and also my partner is making a step in the right direction cutting out beef and milk (all about small steps, right?).”

Vegan townie versus the countryside

fox-hunt

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.

Every Little Helps for a vegan Christmas

IMG_3844.JPG

Tesco Selection Box review

 

Time was, Christmas was a complete horror show for vegans – a dry nut roast for the festive lunch and an apple to follow. Of course, sweets and chocolates were politely declined.

But now, vegans are big business and there are festive vegetarian magazines, an array of festive roasts in supermarkets and health food shops (I noticed one with a used by date of December 17 last week) and chocolate, boy do we have an array of chocolate to choose from!

People have still been excited to see the appearance of Tesco’s own-brand Free From Cho Selection Boxes however, because, now, we have truly hit the mainstream.

Despite the fact it’s only November, and I personally believe the word “Christmas” should be banned before December 24th, I decided to brave the commercial madness on behalf of you lovely people and bought one.

It cost me two quid, which, looking at the contents, is about right. You get three Choc bars – the normal Choc one (a milk chocolate alternative), a Choc ‘N’ Crispie and a White Choc, plus two small packets of choc buttons – a normal milk alternative packet and a white choc packet.

As all of these normally sell for 40p a throw each, it doesn’t take a maths genius to work out that the price is very fair. All the products are palm oil free too, which is important to many vegans.

There’s a small spot the difference game on the back, as, after all, my guess is these a generally not marketed at 40-something cynical blokes.

This is also borne out by the tiny number of buttons in the packets – but with the white ones being sweeter than sugar itself, that may not be a bad thing. The choc ones could be used on cakes as they too are medium sized – those ones are quite creamy, but still carry a noticeable sugar hit. But, again, we need to remember they are aimed at children, and they will absolutely love them.

The Choc ‘N’ Crispie bar is probably the best of the bunch as the crspie bits helps to detract from the sweetness. This means it has more of a creamy taste than its Choc counterpart – I prefer it to the Sainsbury’s equivalent I reviewed in an earlier blog. Talking of which, I have reviewed the other two chocolate bars from this box before too. But here’s a quick reminder for those who are new to my ramblings….

The White Choc Bar has a very sweet smell about it and, in fact, also tastes very sweet – but creamy too. It’s quite heavy and indulgent, but I like that.

The Free From Choc Bar is a little hard when you bite into it, but many people like the crunch effect. It does have an overpowering sugar hit, but isn’t really creamy enough for me. That isn’t to say it isn’t nice, it is a nice treat, it just doesn’t have the chocolaty taste that some of the other bars around possess.

All in all, it’s a good value stocking filler for the young and not so young vegans this Christmas and it’s great to see vegans getting more and more recognition on the High Street.

img_3844

 

Veganism vs “veganism”

World Vegan Day was first celebrated in 1994 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Vegan Society. So, here in the UK, we can be proud of the fact that it all started here.

Marked on November 1st each year, it gives us vegans a chance to celebrate our diet and promote it to others. In the age of social media, that is becoming more and more easy.

But, as the number of vegans grows beyond what anyone could have imagined back when the Vegan Society was first born, I have to ask, has complacency set in?

I read about the big animal rights march in London, the weekend preceding World Vegan Day, where 2,000 vegans marched through the capital. Veteran animal rights campaigners remarked that 20 years ago that figure was 20,000 on some animal rights demonstrations – and that was at a time when the number of vegans wasn’t a patch on the figures we see now. I also read a piece by the Countryside Alliance remarking that the number of protesters at fox hunts each weekend was very much fewer these days than it was 20 years ago – and that’s before the Hunting Act, before the law gave a degree of protection to “sabs”.

This is where the difference between “veganism” and “animal rights” is highlighted most starkly. Many people debate the word “vegan” online, coupling it with “animal rights”, but, if we’re honest, people who follow a plant-based diet are, by the dictionary definition of the term, “vegan”. Newspaper articles highlight the fact that many people go vegan for health reasons, others do it for compassionate reasons, but aren’t what is seen as the “activist” type. Others are what many like to term “armchair activists”, and being an “armchair activist” has never been so easy. Social media means that we can sign petitions all day long – but does it make any difference? Well, yes and no, is the straight answer – as straight as you’re going to get anyway!

No, I haven’t gone all politician on you, but, it’s true, petitions do make the Press, they do make people aware as they pop up in people’s Facebook newsfeeds, but, on the whole, politicians tend to ignore them – look at the recent “Ban Grouse Shooting” petition – it got debated, and the MPs decided to totally ignore the will of the people. Politicians ignoring the people they serve? Never! Sadly, it was thus, and it is time and time again.

 

I have said before, and I stand by the fact that to be a vegan is to be an activist – you are saying “no, using animals as products is wrong”, and you aren’t adding to the death toll in slaughterhouses and on dairy farms – but do you need to do more? That, my friends, is a question only you can answer.

The great own brand vegan chocolate review

The rise in supermarkets catering for vegans has been phenomenal over the past few months. The Sainsbury’s vegan cheese release created such a stir, that I wrote my most popular blog thus far on the subject. So I decided to follow it up with a look at something sweet.

There has been a wide range of vegan-friendly chocolate bars on sale for many years, but, recently, supermarkets have picked up on that too. Many dark chocolates are already “accidently” vegan, so I decided to have a look at supermarket equivalents to milk chocolate treats. Most of them are pretty cheap too, at around 40p for a small 35g bar.

 

Sainsbury’s Deliciously Free From… Choc ‘N’ Orange Bar

I love the way Sainsbury’s have decided that their Free From range is “delicious”, the name is slightly presumptuous, but, in this case, pretty accurate. The orange hit here is very strong and is the prominent taste – as should be the case. The fact the chocolate is also quite creamy in texture makes this one a double hit with me.

 

Sainsbury’s Deliciously Free From… Choc ‘N’ Crispie Bar

I quite like the crunch of little rice krispies in chocolate and this one works very well. In fact, it’s the perfect partner for an early evening cup of tea. It certainly doesn’t skimp on the rice pieces and, like it’s orange sister, it has an impressive level of creaminess.

 

Tesco Free From White Choc Bar

I was so excited when I first saw this. One of my earliest memories was getting a Milky Bar Easter egg as a child, and so, without realising it, I decided I had actually missed Milky Bars – and now there’s a cruelty-free alternative available in many local branches of Tesco! It has a very sweet smell about it and, in fact, also tastes very sweet – but creamy too. It’s quite heavy and indulgent, but I like that, especially in such a cheap bar. My favourite of all the bars in this article.

 

Tesco Free From Choc Bar

Another nice and cheap bar. This one is a little hard when you bite into it, but many people like the crunch effect. It does have an overpowering sugar hit, but isn’t really creamy enough for me. That isn’t to say it isn’t nice, it is a nice treat, it just doesn’t have the chocolaty taste that some of the other possess.

 

Morrisons Free From Choocy Bar

I love the name of this – it will certainly appeal to younger vegans. It’s quite a chunky bar too – impressively so. It’s another one that offers a strong hit of sugar and an overpoweringly sweet taste. This means, again, that the creamy taste is lacking somewhat, but there is still a nice taste of chocolate hiding beneath the sweetness.

Veganism and feminism

Over the past couple of years there has been several Facebook posts linking veganism and feminism – indeed, several thinkers have started to blog about it too.

The main thinking behind it is that in the dairy industry, the production of milk involves forced impregnation, forcibly removing a mother’s milk and forcibly removing the baby cow from the mother.

Many even use the word “rape” to describe the act of impregnation. The physical abuse of a cow’s mammary glands also has to be taken into consideration.

 

Therefore, is it any surprise that some are now saying that you cannot be a true feminist without being a vegan? Obviously, I’m in no position to judge as I’m not female, but I can see the point.

If we follow the generally accepted vegan philosophy that all life is equal and all species are equal, then to see a female creature abused is wrong, and of course, it becomes a feminist issue.

Unwanted male calves are what the veal industry is built around – they wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the dairy industry, so the effects of a vegetarian diet can also be brought into question here. Putting it bluntly, by choosing a vegetarian diet that includes dairy products you are adding to the meat industry by helping to fund the production of veal in the dairy industry.

 

People in the countryside often tell of cows crying out for their calves after they have been taken away from them – this maternal instinct is natural in most mothers – whatever the species and is a level of connection many meat-eaters – including mums – fail to make.

 

A dairy cow is re-impregnated every year to keep her profitable, meaning the mother spends six to seven months a year pregnant, producing milk while she is still pregnant – this can hardly be healthy and means that the cow is literally worked to the bone in a cycle of impregnation, milking and the emotional trauma of seeing her offspring taken away. And the process of milking while pregnant causes the cow a great deal of discomfort.

The phrase “a mother’s work is never done” has never been more apt. This may all be a simplification of the issue, but scientists established a long time ago that animals do undergo a grieving process, so the notion of children being taken from mothers can be applied to any animal that is slaughtered of meat too. It is the emotional detachment many people feel towards animals of a different species that allows the meat industry and, indeed, the dairy industry to survive. The fact that many feminists have yet to see their beliefs cross the species barrier is another reason that there’s not outrage over the treatment of an over-worked mother – a mother who produces between 20 and 50 litres of milk a day – 10 times the amount her calf would need – how is this natural or fair on the female? Dairy cows or often worn out with the over-milking at around the age of four or five and they are sent to slaughter. A cow’s natural lifespan is at least 15 years – some can live to be 25.

 

Feminism rejects the idea of women being abused by men and, in short, that is exactly what happens to a cow – so the dairy industry is very much a feminist issue in my humble opinion.vegan-fem

Dressing vegan style

I remember telling a friend I wanted to buy some vegetarian shoes and he said “but you don’t eat shoes”.

It’s a common misconception that veganism only refers to diet.

Wrong!

Vegans don’t wear animal products either – and it’s becoming increasingly easy to find cruelty-free clothes. I’ve discussed before how most vegans try to avoid using any products connected to the exploitation of animals.

The leather industry is not a byproduct of the meat industry – this is yet another misconception. The cow’s skin makes up 10 per cent of the animal’s profitability, this makes it by far the most lucrative part of the poor creature. So it’s the leather industry that is actually making the meat industry more sustainable. The meat industry is being propped up by the leather industry – the two are closely entwined.

In fact, the softest, more luxurious leather comes from new-born, or even unborn calves. These are often the same calves that are part of the controversial veal industry – part of the meat trade that many omnivores try to avoid. Sometimes unborn calves are used to make up this “luxurious” leather – nice eh?

Other, more exotic animals, are increasingly used to make into leather too. In South Africa, Ostrich skins make up 80 per cent of the bird’s value, making it the main reason they are farmed at all.

The fact that alternatives are readily available means that it really isn’t difficult for vegans to avoid animal skins – even Shoezone on the UK High Street stocks mainly synthetic shoes – although sometimes you have to make sure that glues aren’t animal-based when buying from none vegetarian specific stores.

 

A couple of years ago, Peta released film of the shocking cruelty suffered by sheep on farms in the US and Australia which produce wool. Don’t forget, the wool belongs to the sheep, not to us. And the cruelty that exists inside many slaughterhouses and farms often goes unseen as these are highly secretive businesses – for good reason – they don’t want you to know the truth.

This is the primary argument of most vegans, animal products are not ours to take. The farming of animals for our use is seen as wrong, we are breeding them and feeding them food that should be grown for human consumption.

The fur industry has always been controversial and wearing furs did become a social taboo, so it seems very off that it is still viewed as OK, in fact, normal, to wear the skin of other animals on a daily basis. People were shocked because animals were killed solely for their skin and fur farming was banned in the UK. But it is still legal to sell fur here, and it is sold – for eye-watering prices. In some social circles fur has been sneaking back into vogue over the past few years – something which has caused outrage among animal rights groups. Thankfully, the silly prices asked for fur will mean it never makes up anything more than a very niche market.

For vegans, ethical fashion has become second nature as awareness of the cruelty involved in leather and wool has become more publicised. In fact, vegans often wear T-shirts promoting their views and many of these are sourced from environmentally-aware companies and companies who do not employ child, or slave labour.

A Polish vegan in the UK

The growth of veganism is a worldwide phenomenon and with my hometown of Peterborough welcoming members of the Eastern European community to live and work here, I decided to interview Polish vegan Artur on what veganism means to him and the cultural differences between being a Polish vegan and being a British vegan.

How long have you been vegan? What made you go vegan?

For me it’s quite hard to answer really. I never was into milk, because I didn’t feel well after drinking it. Than I was seeking the truth and wondering what’s the reason why people eat dogs or cat in some countries and what’s the truth – is it right or not? Is it right to eat cow then? I just asked myself this question. (It is a bit longer story, because previously I had some series of talks with a Buddhist from Sri Lanka, he was not eating the meat of land animals. He was mostly plant-based with fish from time to time. So that made me reconsider many things as well, and also the question came is he right to eat fishes? His thoughts were not representing the acts fully – but he was eating fish only because he didn’t really have the knowledge that he doesn’t need the animal protein to maintain health and longevity).

So at that point, I was eating meat and my thoughts were mostly like, I love animals but not so much to shorten my life. I thought you can’t live healthy life without meat – I knew at that time that meat is full of antibiotics and hormones but I tried to pick “good sources”. So after some time I did my research read some serious studies, involving thousands of people, about the omnivore diet based on fats and proteins of animals and its comparison to the vegan diet and I found that veganism really is preventing many chronic diseases, also cancer, diabetes, and promotes longevity etc. Also that it is full of antioxidants and really good for your body.

Overnight I stopped all kind of meat and eggs, and only from time to time I had cheese. Now I am fully vegan but I don’t really remember exactly the date. It is about 2 years since I stopped meat and eggs than gradually day by day went fully vegan.

 

Are there many vegetarians and vegans in Poland or among the Polish community in the UK?

I don’t really have any idea about any Polish vegans in UK, all my Polish friends in UK I know are omnivores. I know one polish guy in UK who went vegetarian just to cure himself from cancer as a part of treatment he had, what’s funny is he cured himself and went back to the omnivore diet but he doesn’t eat so much meat now. He also tries to avoid cheese, now he is fine, but his decision was only based on health.

 

What are the main differences between the vegan foods available in Poland and in the UK?

I can say just about the city I am living here in UK (Peterborough) we don’t have one strictly vegan restaurant. In Poland a comparable size of city has about five restaurants with only vegan food, which is really nice. Still you can eat vegan food in our city in the UK which is very good.  And don’t forget, most vegans are good at cooking so it helps in any kind of situations.

 

In the UK, Poland is often seen as having a diet that is traditionally centred around meat – is this so?

I can probably say Polish people do eat a lot of meat nowadays, but most of the Earth is eating a lot of meat now. (Only in America from 1950s to 2000 chicken consumption in pounds per person tripled).  Back to Poland. There are some traditional dishes which include meat, but potatoes are their base and they are served with meat so the main source of carbohydrates is still potatoes.

 

Is it easy to buy vegan food in Poland – are there many shops that sell only vegan food?

I never went to an only vegan food shop in Poland, but most of the bigger shops have vegan sections. But you can still have problems with processed vegan foods like cheese. You can get them in eco-shops in Poland but sometimes it’s not easy, that’s why I think variety of processed vegan foods in UK is bigger.

 

What is your favourite vegan dish?

I love a lot of vegan foods, but if it must be one: Pizza!

 

Can you share a Polish vegan recipe with us please? (I really like the dumplings you bought to the food share)

In future I will upload a recipe for vegan dumplings on my YouTube channel because explaining that for me is quite hard and there are many different methods of doing this.

At this time I can send you a link of some other vegan dumplings:

http://www.feastingonfruit.com/vegan-dumplings-potstickers-oil-free-gluten-free/

Review – Suma Baked Beans with Lincolnshire Style Meat-Free Sausages

img_3791img_3798Baked beans with vegan sausages in a tin – as soon as I saw these advertised I had to have them. I was like a kid having watched a toy advert before Christmas! So when I saw tins for sale last weekend, I was on them like a cat on a hanging thread, I had to try them as soon as possible.

I resisted the temptation to down the tin there and then and cooked them at home instead. In fact, I had them with a plate of hash browns – very nice – but I’m sure chips or a jacket potato works just as well.

At £1.49 for a 400gram tin, they are great value. I got six mini-sausages and you cook them like “normal” beans.

The sauce isn’t too watery and the beans are not overly seasoned – actually, I added pepper to spice them up a bit as neither they or the sausages are particularly spiced. However, this means that neither the flavour of the beans or the sausages wipes out the taste of the other.

They complement each other well and they are very suitable for children.

The sausages are nice and soft and taste nice and “meaty” – I haven’t eaten meat sausages for 27 years, but they are exactly how my mind remembers tinned sausages cooked on a camping stove tasting. And yes, I can imagine they’ll be fine cold if you’re hungover at a music festival.

I can foresee that these will be a huge hit with vegan and veggie students everywhere. They certainly get the thumbs-up from me.

If you can find them locally, they are available online from http://www.alternativestores.com

Also, Suma are a workers’ cooperative, so give them a “like” on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/SumaWholefoods/

or visit their website – http://www.suma.coop/