A Lincolnshire sausage for a vegan Lincolnshire lad

Linda McCartney Lincolnshire Vegetarian Sausages

The widely-available Linda McCartney Vegetarian Sausages are considered the benchmark in veggie sausages. This has pleased many who, up until the last couple of years, have found they’ve been the only vegan-friendly product in the supermarket freezer.

Since 1991, Linda McCartney foods has been the major player in vegetarian processed foods. They are the go-to vegan staple for barbecues, unimaginative relatives and, to be fair, vegans who want cheap bangers and mash or vegan breakfast.

The Red Onion and Rosemary variety is even nicer – and I adored the Red Onion and Rosemary plait and I was absolutely gutted when it disappeared from the shelves.

The Chorizo sausages were the last new vegan sausage product I tried from Linda McCartney, and they’re divine.

I had heard about the legend that is the Vegan Lincolnshire Sausage from the kitchens of Linda McCartney but had yet to find said bangers.

But a trip to my local Morrisons has changed all that.

They were just staring at me from the freezer – and the only cost £2 for a packet of six – I was sold.

The reason for being obsessed about finding the sausage grail is simple – I’m a Lincolnshire lad.

Linda McCartney Lincolnshire Vegetarian Sausages

The first thing to notice is that they’re made of pea protein and soya-free is you have an allergy.

The pea protein gives them a softer interior to the other sausages – this offers a very pleasant sensation when eating them – as does the nice, but not overpowering hit of spice once you bite into them.

The skin is very much a Linda McCartney sausage, but the inside is very different – in a good way, a fantastically brilliant way in fact – it’s soft and delicious but gets very hot – temperature-wise. It’s the delicate hit of black pepper that does it for me – they are my new favourite sausages.

The Linda McCartney brand has pledged to go plastic-free by 2021 and its products are 96.4% plastic-free according to its website with a commitment to make the plastic they do use compostable – they also have a commitment to sustainable palm oil.

Linda McCartney is, of course, one of the big players when it comes to vegan and vegetarian food, so the fact they have serious eco statements on their website is great news.

https://lindamccartneyfoods.co.uk/our-food/vegan-range/

Linda McCartney Lincolnshire Vegetarian Sausages ingredients

The Game Changers – vegan movie review

The Game Changers film poster

The Game Changers is the latest in a list of “must-see” vegan films, but it is the first to receive such widespread cinema showings.

The Peterborough (UK) screening sold out and a number of my friends missed out – it is, however available to pre-order on i-Tunes at the time of writing, and I’m sure it will be available elsewhere in the near future – keep an eye on the website https://gamechangersmovie.com/

But is it any good?

In a word, “yes”. Unlike Earthlings and Land of Hope and Glory, it focuses on the impact of a vegan diet on a human body, while briefly touching on climate change – animal abuse is hardly mentioned and there are no disturbing images – although the discussion on the positive effects of a vegan diet on errections did make a few people blush – but it’s interesting viewing for penis owners and people who enjoy penises in a sexual way.

When it comes to star names, The Game Changers has them in abundance – Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lewis Hamilton and James Cameron – who executive produced the film too.

It features interviews with vegan athletes, scientists and spends a lot of time with James Wilks – an elite Special Forces trainer and winner of The Game Changers The Ultimate Fighter. He is on a quest to discover the advantages of a plant-based diet in repairing the body after injury – obviously, the advantages of the diet are huge – but the fact that someone so closely connected to elite forces is endorsing veganism is huge news in itself and should banish a few ideas that vegans are weak and protein deficient.

World record-holding strongman Patrik Baboumian is also heavily featured – again this dispels any notion that a vegan diet leaves vegans weak and lacking in any nutrients. I like the fact that these athletes also points out the huge range of vegan foods which are now available.

There is a lot of scientific data in the film explaining why a vegan diet is healthier for both athletes and the general population. The information about vitamin B12 is particularly interesting – many state that it is only available from meat, however, it is added to animal feed and used to be available in the soil attached to vegetables – that is now killed by pesticides, therefore fortification or supplements are the best ways for humans to get B12 – vegan or not.

I was also particularly interested by the archaeological evidence challenging the notion that ancient man hunted to live. The argument that it was the marketing of meat that has formed many people’s beliefs in the need for it as part of a healthy diet, that it makes you stronger and more manly was fascinating to me. This section was well argued and it’s something I hadn’t thought of before. It has definitely given my another string to my bow when arguing veganism’s corner in debates.

The scenes of UFC fighter Conor McGregor mocking vegan Nate Diaz’s diet and then getting beaten by him made the already vegan members of the audience smile and nod that justice was done. McGregor was also seen relishing in his steak-based diet – however, Diaz was beaten in the rematch a couple of months later – this wasn’t mentioned or discussed in the film – a shame which could lead to some criticism.

Overall, it’s a very watchable film – the science is explained clearly and the narrative never gets bogged down in the complex scientific facts, but it doesn’t over-simplify them either – a balancing act which is hard to pull off successfully. The famous names and frank interviews are also a big draw for those interested in nutrition for athletes.

It’s well worth a watch and I definitely advise checking out the website for more details – here’s the trailer

 

The reason people hate vegans revealed!

I found the recent Press stories about vegans lacking choline a bit odd. At first, I thought it because we weren’t visiting enough public swimming pools, but apparently, it’s a vital brain nutrient.

I’d never heard of it before the Media used it as a “bash the vegans” stick, the Mail’s story even totally neglected to mention the plant sources of the nutrient.

Apparently, Emma Derbyshire wrote the piece for an opinion body, so it’s an opinion piece, not scientific fact and vegans had great fun debunking the story on Facebook. The anti-vegans were also less than quietly condemning vegans for their “nutritionally deficient” diet, an opinion backed up by no evidence at all.

The Vegan Society have summed the whole thing up rather well: https://www.vegansociety.com/whats-new/news/statement-media-reports-about-choline-and-vegan-diets

But that’s the point in this social media opinion dominated world, facts go to the wall and convenient truths rule the roost. I read someone said “I don’t trust scientists” on one thread. Personally, I don’t trust anyone who’d believe politicians and businessmen above scientists – maybe he thinks the world is flat, cigarettes don’t cause cancer, water isn’t necessary for survival and cars do run on baked beans – basically anything that isn’t a scientific fact! This is what we’re up against when debating climate change – one of the reasons it’s important to be more vegan. Yes, I said “vegan!” Most people say “plant-based” these days as if veganism is a dirty word.

Similarly, stories that vegans carry a higher risk of strokes – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-49579820 – neglected to mention the fact the same study found vegans had a lower risk of heart disease in their headlines.

So, the real question is, why are people so worried about vegans’ health?

They’re not.

When people ask you “where do you get your protein/B12/iodine/choline” (delete as applicable) what they actually mean is “don’t be vegan, it doesn’t give you a balanced diet and that’s a good excuse for me not going vegan”. It’s another stick to beat vegans with. This one has “don’t you dare question my safe little reality with your vegan facts” etched on it.

They say “ignorance is bliss” and this rings so true when it comes to attacking veganism. Vegans are questioning the status quo, in effect questioning capitalism itself as the system is built on animal testing, animal agriculture and viewing our fellow creatures as commodities and not living beings – no wonder the Press, politicians and business leaders wish to lead the attack against veganism.

They do like to profit from the vegan pounds, of course, paying lip service to us by introducing plant-based products in supermarkets and fast-food outlets, raking in the vegan cash while failing to cut back on the number of animal products available.

People who question vegan nutrition online probably wouldn’t rush to your aid if you did collapse from protein deficiency. They laugh in a morbid “I told you so” manner when vegans happen to fall ill – totally ignoring all other factors. It is a sick way of reinforcing their prejudices if you think about it deeply – or not deeply at all come to that.

It comes down to asking why people hate vegans – and it’s not because we always talk about veganism, push our opinions down their throats or any other weak excuses, it’s for all the reasons above. Veganism remains radical, veganism remains rebellious and, fundamentally, it is the only way to save the planet’s wildlife and the planet itself. That this is seen as a threat shows that something is deeply wrong about people’s thinking and attitudes in the world today.

 

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.

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.

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