Vegan Choices at Easter

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Choices is a very apt name for vegan Easter eggs these days – there really is a huge variety to choose from.

That said, Choices is seen by many as the vegan Easter egg God – which means they can be a little more difficult to track down in the last week before chocoholics everywhere get an excuse to indulge without feeling guilty.

I chose the old favourite – a Choices egg with Caramel flavoured Choices – sweets that battle Vego bars for the kings of vegan chocolate. There are Choices white chocolate eggs and an egg with Rondellos also available. My favourite. It costs £4.60 from http://www.alternativestores.com – I got mine from Sainsbury’s, however.

The main problem here is that with three caramel-flavoured chocs, it isn’t going to last very long.

I love Choices caramel-flavoured chocolates, and you can buy boxes for £3.89 from Holland and Barrett online – http://www.hollandandbarrett.com/shop/product/choices-dairy-free-caramel-flavoured-choices-60006419?&utm_medium=cpc&&utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=bing&utm_adgID58700001086330938 – or get them when you’re out shopping.

They are devastatingly moreish – incredibly sweet chocolate, with a thick fondant caramel centre that takes you to heaven on the back on a unicorn with butterflies circling your head every time you take a bite. I warn you, that devouring a whole box in one go is highly likely once you’ve eaten one…

 

The egg itself is also a joy to munch – for that too is flavoured with the divine elixir of caramel flavour. Sweet and creamy, it’s like a fairy’s embrace and offers a total escape from the trash on TV over the holidays. If it rains, you will forget your disappointment within a second of tasting this wonderful egg-shaped chocolate taste of wonderment.

It’s nice, OK?

I really did save the best until last in my brief series of vegan Easer egg reviews.

There are far too many available now – if I reviewed them all I would be unable to move for a month and would have kept the tooth fairy in overtime for a month.

This is great news people – veganism has gone mainstream, and it’s only going to grow.

Happy Easter.

Moo-ve over for the Vegans at Easter

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You can’t move for vegan-friendly Easter Eggs these days, if I were to attempt to review them all on here, I’d need an overdraft and a new wardrobe of clothes.

However, after my first blog on Easter eggs, I felt duty-bound to buy and, more importantly, eat more for your benefit.

This time, I went for the Moo Free Cheeky Orange Egg with Buttons (http://moofreechocolates.com/) and, as before, the buttons were in the packaging, not inside the egg as Easter tradition dictates.

However, I’m a big fan of chocolate orange, so I was also disappointed to learn that this does not count as one of my five a day – it’s got orange in it, so why not?

Moo Free have been one of the standard bearers for vegan confectionary for several years. They set the bar high before the supermarkets began to smell the money in veganism. While the choice is very, very welcome, please do check out the full Moo-Free range – I’m a big fan of supporting vegan businesses where possible.

Anyway, time to start on the egg. It tastes like chocolate with orange in it.

Is that enough, or do you want more? OK, well, the orange is actually infused into the chocolate through orange crystals, so as well as a subtle burst of sweet orange, you also get a satisfying crunch – lovely. I think “cheeky” is the right word, as the chocolate has a light texture and taste and a substantial sugar-hit, but the orange is not over-powering at all. It’s a nice understated addition to the taste that renders the egg very moorish.

While the buttons are small, and there aren’t a huge number of them, they are a nice, rich, chocolatey after treat – they don’t have the orange crystals, but this adds a nice balance to the whole package in my view.

It’s nice to have a milk chocolate alternative which is so tasty and the packaging and sweetness are both very child-friendly.

But while we’re on chocolate treats, I’m going to throw in something for the adults – the Vego Bar.

If you’re vegan and not familiar with these, where have you been? These beasts are available all year round, but Easter gives you a good excuse (should you need one) to tuck into a Vego.

They are thick hunks of chocolate filled with yummy hazelnuts. The nuts add bite and flavour, but, really, the chocolate chunks are so thick and creamy, they are an utter delight full-stop. Most vegan fairs, online vegan shops and many independent health food shops stock them. Go try.

 

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Egg-citing times for vegans

The One problem I have with modern Easter Eggs  – vegan or not – is probably age-related, but when I was a kid, the sweets or chocolates that came with the egg were actually inside it – not in a little bag at the bottom of the package.

I feel this new modern way of selling Easter Eggs steals the magic from the Easter Bunny’s basket – for me anyway.

However, one thing that has changed for the better is the number of vegan-friendly Easter Eggs crammed on to shelves up and down the land.

I have decided I should review some, and I’m going to start with a Sainsbury’s one today (http://www.mysupermarket.co.uk/sainsburys-price-comparison/Boxed_Chocolates/Sainsburys_freefrom_White_Chocolate_Egg_65g.html).

The Free From White Choc Egg and Buttons instantaneously made me regress to my childhood and dance with unicorns in my head. The 65g one is quite small, but only costs £2.50.

It contains Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Inulin, Maltodextrin, Maize Flour, Coconut Oil, Emulsifier (Soya Lecithins) and Flavourings and has 12 or so buttons – so a pretty good buy really.

It smells nice too – but I love the smell of vegan white chocolate in the morning anyway.

I also love the taste. It delivers a powerful sugar-kick which dances nicely with the inviting sweet smell that lures unsuspecting non-vegans in for the ride.

The delightful buttons are more of the same really – neither the egg nor buttons lasted very long with me – always a good sign.

I am, naturally, a big fan of the creamy white chocolate from Tesco, so this egg seems a natural place for me to start my Vegan Easter Egg review journey.

I have asked people in vegan groups on Facebook to offer up their own views on various eggs – I suggest you do the same, and I’ll use them in forthcoming blogs.

But, for a start, on Facebook, Leanne Bisson stated: “I’ve had the Tesco finest caramel one and the uh can’t remember plain one from Holland and Barrett so far.. Tesco wins for taste.”

Aldi bunny

While Sam Robinson commented: “I had a chocolate bunny from Aldi it was soo good didn’t even taste like dark choc.”

Eleanore Duggan, said she makes her own and shared her recipe with me….

  • 50g cocoa/cacao butter
  • 3tbsp Cocoa/cacao powder (the taste will vary slightly depending on if you use cacao or cocoa)
  • 1 and a half tbsp liquid sweetener e.g agave, maple etc.

Melt the butter, add the other two ingredients, pour into mould (silicone ones are easiest to use) and chill in freezer or fridge straight away. I’ve never tempered my chocolate during making as chocolatiers do and the texture is still fab. Double or triple up the amounts as necessary and add essences like hazelnut, mint, orange or vanilla or nuts, dried fruit etc for variations.

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Vegan fondant delights

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Tesco Free-From Fondant Truffles

It’s brilliant how many new vegan products are gracing the shelves of supermarkets across the UK.

With Easter fast approaching, I have already seen a mass of vegan-friendly Easter eggs screaming “eat me” as I walk down the aisles in search of naughty Saturday night treats.

Seeing the new to me Tesco “Finest” free-from truffles when I only went in for Almond milk made this vegan’s heart skip several beats. I don’t mind admitting, I’m a secret chocoholic. Not so secret now eh?

These chocolates are perfect for those with a sweet tooth. You certainly get a strong sugar hit from them and they are very moreish. I can certainly see why people say you can become addicted to chocolate or sugar, eating one chocolate at a time really isn’t an option here – but do let me know if you have the willpower to pull that off!

The fondant centre is actually quite thick and carries an additional, albeit lighter chocolate hit. It certainly can’t be described as unpleasant.

The base is firmer than the rest of the chocolate, but is by no means hard. This gives the sweet a little more bite, something else I like very much.

Something else I like very much is tea. I’m a huge advocate for enjoying a cuppa and chocolates together and these offerings from Tesco do compliment a good cup of tea very well.

The obvious comparison is Choices Caramel Chocolate. Choices have long been a favourite of mine and I can devour a box within half an hour.

Obviously, the Tesco chocolates are fondant truffles and not caramel chocolates, but the idea is the same, if not the centres. I guess there’s enough of a difference to buy a box each – but the Tesco fondants are less expensive.

A box of Tesco Free-From Fondant Truffles costs £2 for 156g, whereas Choices Caramel Chocolates are £3.60 for 125g. A big difference then? Yes, but Choices still have the edge taste-wise – for me at least anyway, however, the Tesco chocolates are very nice and are certainly more than an adequate replacement at a lower cost.

I posted a photo of the Tesco chocolates in the Vegan Friends UK Facebook group and the comments were 100% positive, so it’s clear I’m not alone in being a big fan.

You can buy them online from http://www.tesco.com/groceries/product/details/?id=293818980

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Screenshot of people reacting to a photo of the Tesco Free-From Fondant Truffles in Facebook group Vegan Friends UK

The seasoned vegan

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Eating seasonally should go hand-in-hand with veganism.

Eating vegan is the ultimate commitment to sustainability and, therefore, low-impact living should be high on every vegan’s agenda.

Of course, animal welfare is the primary driving force for many (including myself) vegans, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care about our planet too.

Following a vegan diet is the greenest thing you can do. Animal agriculture is, in short, war on the environment. Think about it, we feed grain – that humans can eat – to animals so we can kill them and eat them, when all that grain would feed a vegetarian planet many times over. But that shouldn’t stop vegans from doing even more to preserve the planet’s future – and eating local is another way you can do this. Eating local, means eating seasonally.

Much has been written and talked about the weather decimating vegetable crops in Spain. People are running scared because they can’t get aubergines, courgettes and iceberg lettuce in the middle of the British winter. Less is written about what you can get.

My local market has plenty of purple sprouting broccoli – a more than adequate replacement for the green broccoli everyone is suddenly missing… the purple variety is in season too! In fact, purple sprouting broccoli will be sprouting on to our dinner plates for several months yet, so why not make the most of it? It’s even better if you buy it in a paper bag from your local market, or farmers’ market as most supermarkets seem to bury it in a coffin of plastic – gripping the poor veg tight enough to choke all the life and flavour out of it.

Muddy veg that comes from up the road is obviously tastier than veg that is tired out from a trip halfway around the world, and it lasts longer too. In other words, why should what the weather’s doing to this year’s veg crop in Spain impact on our dinners in the UK?

This isn’t some anti-foreign veg, pro-Brexit rant, it’s quite simply a matter of being kinder to the environment, taking veganism to its logical conclusion and, hopefully, eating more cheaply too.

Squashes are in season – what could be more warming than a winter squash stew? You could turn the leftovers into a delicious soup – wasting veg is another big no-no when it comes to sustainable living.

Personally, I’m a huge fan of Brussel sprouts. I know one can feel very lonely when making such an admission – but, if cooked right, they really are a delight to devour.

I don’t boil them. I shop them up into little bits and stir fry them with onions, black pepper and garlic for about three minutes – the perfect sprout.

Eating seasonally shouldn’t be scary, it just adds a new dimension to your cooking; it means that you vary your meals to fit in with what’s available – how exciting’s that?

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Veganism through community living

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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.

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Vegans Hills.
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One of the beaches near to Vegan Hills.

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Nuts about vegan desserts

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A review of two coconut-based vegan desserts.

I’m a huge fan of Koko’s dairy-free coconut milk. It is my vegan milk of choice, therefore when I spotted coconut desserts waving at me from the supermarket shelf I just had to give them a try.

Somebody had actually recommended the Coconut Collaborative dessert in a Facebook share of a previous blog, so it’d be rude not to give that a try too.

Koko’s Dairy-free Strawberry Dessert weighs in at £1.25 for two 125g pots.

It’s quite creamy, but the coconut hit is so slight that it’s almost non-existent. Whether or not this is a good thing depends on where you stand on coconut taste-wise. My guess is that if you don’t like it, you probably wouldn’t be buying a coconut-based dessert. I could be wrong. And, to be fair, you don’t need to like coconut to like this offering – and, alternatively, you won’t necessarily like it if you do like coconut.

To me, the whole product doesn’t have a distinctive enough taste to wow me either way. It’s light, fairly sweet (it does contain sugar) and there are a few small pieces of strawberry to brighten things up a little.

I didn’t hate it – but I didn’t love it either. It works well as a more interesting cream-alternative poured over something rather than a stand-alone dessert in my view. Worth checking out if you’re a vegan (or dairy-free) looking for an alternative to the many soya-based desserts on the market.

 

I did, however, love The Coconut Collaborative Blueberry Yoghurt Alternative. A more luxurious offering than the Koko dessert, it will cost you around £1.50 for a 120gm pot. I think it’s worth it.

You can smell and taste the coconut in this one.

It’s creamy too, and, it contains a good helping of fruit. The blueberries add a nice colour to brighten up the dessert too.

Like the Koko offering, it’s soya-free, but this one only contains natural sugars too – that’s probably why the coconut taste is more prominent, this dessert does not have the sweetness hit like its competitor. I, personally, like that.

Not only that, but the blueberries add a slight sharpness to the taste party too.

I find strong coconut flavours a little chalky, but we don’t quite stray into that category here.

Coconut fiends will adore this one.

A Cauldron of vegan taste

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Cauldron’s vegan burgers and sausages reviewed

Cauldron Foods (https://www.cauldronfoods.co.uk/) follow in Quorn’s footsteps by introducing a vegan version of their popular vegetarian products.

To be fair, Cauldron already had a couple of vegan-friendly delights on offer – their marinated tofu pieces have long been a favourite of mind – who doesn’t hate chopping tofu – right?

Anyway, since Cauldron has made the effort to up their vegan game, I thought it’d be rude not to give their new products a review on Vegan on a Desert Island.

I found the Vegan Wholefood Sausages and Vegan Wholefood Burgers on offer at £1.50 a pack in my local supermarket – what a perfect excuse to break out the chips and take these offering for a test munch.

Obviously, the vegan burger market is getting a bit flooded these days, and Morrisons’ own brand burgers are cheap and very nice. Frys are the king of the taste bud tantalisers for my money and Quorn’s Hot and Spicy Burgers do pack a mean-coated punch – but the underlying Quorn is as bland as ever!

As for sausages, will anybody ever bring out a more popular banger than the Linda McCartney range? Frys (again) give a great account for themselves, and Vegusto really are the daddies if you want an extra special treat!

So how do Cauldron’s offerings munch up? Well, they are vegetable, not soya-based, which is great news – in fact, they appear soy-free. The burgers have “cauliflower, aduki beans, spinach and chipotle chilli”, while the sausages are sold on the basis that they contain “grilled Mediterranean vegetables, haricot beans and tomato pesto”. That all sounds good to me.

You get two burgers in a box, or six sausages. The bangers are average banger size, but the burgers seem a bit on the small side – although, they are very thick too.

The sausages, smell stunning while cooking – the tomato certainly dances around your nostrils screaming “eat me” very loudly.

The sausages are my favourite of the two. While reminding me of traditional vegetable sausages a little, the tomato hit real is an overwhelming joy. It’s the dominant taste and the one which will be the hook that draws most people towards these rather impressive vegan offerings. But they are packed with veg too – so you feel healthier devouring them, and they look as good as they taste.

The fact that both products only take 12 minutes under the grill to cook is obviously a big advantage too.

The burgers are a little dry, but they make up for this by containing a decent spicy punch of heat. While they are basically bean burgers, the spice and spinach do manage to make them stand out from the crowd.

Overall, a nice addition to the range of vegan products on offer – and that can only be a good thing.

Veganism in Veganuary and beyond!

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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.