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

 

 

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?

Has veganism become a middle-class fad?

Will veggie burgers now be called veggie discs?

Has veganism become a middle-class fad at the expense of animal rights?

It is true that the number of vegans is rising – fuelling capitalist companies’ money-lust into providing vegan options as they rake in more and more cash from the affluent vegans in Middle England.

The number of people taking part in specific animal rights actions is on the decline. Protests which used to attract thousands (such as the World Day events) now only attract hundreds – I don’t count the Official Animal Rights March as its aims are general rather than targeted.

Today’s veganism seems to revolve around products, capitalism and purchase power.

I would love to review every new vegan product on the market and become the biggest vegan blogger in the world!!

I could give up my day job, do what I love doing and get very, very fat.

Alas, I can’t afford to buy most of the new vegan products because, like it or not, the cost of being vegan can be very, very high if you consume a lot of processed nonsense.

I watched a YouTube video earlier today while researching a vegan social media star (when did being famous for appearing on social media become a thing?), where somebody was criticising said social media star in an unflattering manner – I am still mastering the art of criticising people in a flattering way! Anyway, said critic was talking about how this person was putting lots of chemicals in their body – if you stick to processed food – vegan or not – then he does actually have a point.

My point is that most of this stuff is also very, very expensive, taking veganism into the middle-class Waitrose aisles and away from the perfectly acceptable Farm Foods, local market and Aldi shopping experiences.

One of the most patronising things vegans say on social media is “what price is a life?” – not exactly the best thing to tell somebody using a food bank or counting every penny of their supermarket shop! This is why I love to heap praise on Jack Monroe’s Cooking on a Bootstrap page – the vegan section (https://cookingonabootstrap.com/category/vegan-recipes/) is by far the best plant-based resource on the internet – it uses ingredients most people can afford and not “exotic” spices which cost three quid a jar!

Many of the so-called vegan “superfoods” like avocados are vastly over-priced (as well as being tasteless mush) and new fads described as “traditional” are not traditional in price – if it’s “natural” it should be cheap – it makes no sense for something which grows to cost extortionate prices – natural food which is good for you is either cheap or a con as far as I’m concerned. Superfoods seems to mean super high prices, so us working class folk are left eating veggie sausages and beans – although I personally prefer veggie sausages and beans to a slice of avocado surrounded by a posh swirl of sauce costing five quid and forcing you to buy a bag of chips on the way home following your meal.

A while ago, I saw a meme which stuck with me. IT said something like “Supermarkets have always had vegan aisles” above a picture of the fruit and veg section. I like this, I like the idea of buying ingredients and not products, I also want veganism to appeal to everybody – not just those with plenty of disposable income.

Veganism is seen as a middle-class fad by many and it is much more than that – Jack Monroe’s website proves how easy it is to cook basic, healthy vegan meals on a shoestring – you don’t have to pay two quid for a carton of plant milk or tiny block of tasteless “vegan cheese”.

My issue is, these expensive fads are making veganism inaccessible, they’re turning people off it. Sometimes vegans want a glass of lemonade and not a super smoothie that costs two quid a cup when you can get the same effect by eating an apple. As for “detoxing” – we used to have a liver for that – many of us still do! This very point was made by a doctor on my local radio while rubbishing all products which claim to do what the liver does naturally. But, hey, the liver doesn’t make money for products from quack nutritionists and their related companies.

Of course, we need processed food sometimes – most people work long hours – so some oven chips and chip Farm Foods vegan sausages and some own brand baked beans is just the tonic – and a more filling one than a Super Green Detox Energy-Boosting £25 smoothie from that shop which is closing down tomorrow due to having zero customers.

 

It’s vegan festival season

received_1831257473593906

As the number of vegans in the UK grows, so does the number of vegan festivals and events on offer.

They’re a great way of meeting fellow vegans and finding products that may be difficult to get hold of on your local High Street. I also find them fantastic for discovering new (to me) independent vegan retailers and connecting with grassroots animal rights groups.

Vegan Events UK is one group with a busy festival calendar this year.

There’s something for all ages at their forthcoming vegan festivals this spring. These popular events, held at venues up and down the country include a feast of mouth-wateringly delicious food, a wide range of fantastic stalls, world food caterers, exciting cookery demos, inspirational talks, interactive workshops, yoga and children’s activities running throughout the day.

Food on offer includes a varied and exciting array of plant-based hot and cold dishes, including Asian, Mediterranean, Indian, Greek, Hotdogs, Burgers, Street Food, Raw Food and Gourmet Food! There will also be a huge range of pies, cakes, chocolates, cookies, doughnuts, sandwiches and salads to take away as well as alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, juices, smoothies, tea and coffee.

There will be a great selection of non-food stalls at the event selling a wide variety of items including fashion, footwear, jewellery, beauty and skincare products, candles, crafts, clothing, footwear, homeware, gifts and charity merchandise.

As well as stalls to look round, there will also be a wide range of free food samples to try, live music, inspirational talks, live cookery demonstrations, workshops and children’s activities.

Vegan Events UK organises over 20 of the largest vegan festivals and events across the UK. Events this spring are being held in Essex, Portsmouth, Shoreditch, Manchester, Glasgow, Leicester, Liverpool, Nottingham and Dorset.

Festival Organiser Victoria Bryceson says: “With the vegan lifestyle really starting to go mainstream there’s a massive demand around the country for vegan-friendly events. Our festivals are set to be a fantastic day out whether you’re vegetarian, vegan or simply vegan-curious. The idea behind the festivals is to educate and inform everyone about the vegan lifestyle and offer support to anybody who would like it.”

Going vegan has transformed Victoria’s life: “I’ve never felt happier and healthier,” she says. She started the festival with the aim of promoting animal welfare and how to live a more ethical and healthy lifestyle.

“There will be several animal welfare charity stalls raising awareness of their causes. For anybody who would like to get involved with volunteering this is an ideal place to talk to lots of different charities and gather information, and all the stall holders are happy to talk to people and answer any questions.”

The festivals are run in partnership with animal welfare charities including Miracle’s Mission. “It’s all about trying new things and opening people’s eyes to new possibilities,” continues Victoria. “Cutting out meat and dairy from your diet is easier than you might think and many people are increasingly looking for alternatives as they want to live more healthily and ethically. They want to find out more about the new innovative foods and recipes now available and want to do it affordably. Our festivals will educate people on how to do all of this.”

The festivals being held in spring 2018 are:
• Shoreditch Viva! Vegan Festival on Saturday 17th March and Sunday 18th March
• Northern Vegan Festival (Manchester) on Saturday 7th April
• Glasgow Vegan Festival on Saturday 14th April and Sunday 15th April
• Leicester Vegan Festival on Saturday 21st April
• Liverpool Vegan Festival on Saturday 5th May
• Nottingham Viva! Vegan Festival on Saturday 12th May
• Dorset Vegan Festival on Sunday 20th May

Entry into each of the spring festivals costs just £3 (under-16s free), which includes entry to all areas and activities. Standard tickets are purchased at the door on the day. VIP tickets, costing £15, include fast-track entry and a goody bag full of vegan products, samples, discounts and offers can be purchased in advance but sell out quickly.

For more information, please visit www.veganeventsuk.co.uk or www.facebook.com/VeganEventsUK

Vegan Star Wars – the animal rights messages in The Last Jedi

Warning: Contains spoilers!

There a couple of strong animal rights messages in Star Wars: The Last Jedi – this is in addition to the new Viva ad being shown before the showing I attended.

Luke Skywalk shoving a beaker into the breasts of a dinosaur-like creature and gulping down its milk had many in the audience gasping. It’s not a huge leap to realise that this is the reality of milk – one species, stealing the breast milk of another species – milk meant for the babies of said other species.

The docile-looking creature in the Last Jedi certainly looked as if she was pregnant – and Rey reacted with distaste – as many people do when presented with the realities of the dairy industry. Animals are, of course, forcibly made pregnant in order to produce milk for us. Luke’s taking of a wild creature’s milk, directly from her mammary glands, produces a revulsion we should all feel at the taking of a mother cow’s milk directly from her udders – after all, that’s what we’re drinking – it’s just that a machine is stealing it from her.

Then we had Chewbacca coming face-to-face with a porg as he is about to tuck into what looks like a roasted porg. The cute little creatures mirror our reactions to the thought of eating dog or cat – when they are no different to cows or pigs – the latter two are certainly as intelligent as domesticated animals.

Chewie is surrounded by dozens of sad-eyes porgs as he can’t bring himself to chow down on his victim – this creature had a family and friends – it lived and is now dead. Chewie is hungry, but their eyes and reaction of the porgs convey a strong message to the audience.

Further on in the film, we have a strong liberation message in a thinly-veiled horse racing metaphor.

The fathers, are bet on in a Vegas-style setting and forced to race. These horse-like creatures are seen thundering around a greyhound stadium style track. But they are liberated by rebel heroes as a distraction – brilliant!

Again, it’s the audience reaction which is important – and their realisation that living animals are forced to race for human entertainment – while being held captive away from their friends and family.

Simple vegan mac cheese recipes that will stop you missing dairy

“But cheese” is something I hear more than “but bacon” if I’m honest.

And I have to admit, I am a huge pasta fan, and vegan macaroni ‘cheese’ is one of my favourite dishes.

There are numerous recipes for making this stodgy delight, and, I have found a recipe I like, so I stick with that. I am going to share that, and a previous recipe, one I revert back to every now and again – because it has a chilli hit, and I like chilli hits.

You can even buy some vegan “cheese” sauces now (this one is pretty good – https://www.realfoods.co.uk/product/7866/cheese-sauce ), and they work well – just pour over the pasta – you can do cauliflower “cheese” in the same way – by just replacing the pasta with the cauliflower.

I do like to sprinkle paprika on top of the mac ‘cheese’ or cauliflower ‘cheese’ when I’m done – and you can crisp it up under the grill if you so wish. Either way, I think it is the perfect winter comfort food.

Anyway, this recipe was passed onto me on Facebook a long time ago, so I’ve no idea where it originated:

 

DSC_1204

Ingredients

  • A pan load of pasta  – around 250g
  • 3 potatoes
  • 1 teacup of diced carrot
  • Approx 25 cashew nuts
  • ¼ cup olive oil (vegetable will do – but don’t use too much either way)
  • Salt
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • ¼ small onion
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • Paprika (optional)
  • Tomato – sliced (optional)

 

Method

Cook the pasta

Cut up the potatoes and cook with the carrots

Dice the onion and garlic

Blend the cashew nuts

Add the cooked potatoes and carrots and gradually blend into the nuts

Add oil, onion, garlic, salt and lemon juice

Blend again.

Add a little water, if necessary.

Blend again.

Mix the “cheese” with the pasta and either serve or pop in the oven or under the grill to brown for 10 to 20 minutes. You can sprinkle with paprika and pop sliced tomatoes on top before putting in the oven if you wish.

Serve. This is really nice with ketchup too.

 

The second one comes from a Peta booklet I received. It’s based on nutritional yeast – which people either love or hate – but which does have a cheesy taste and is loaded with vitamins.

 

Ingredients

  • 1kg macaroni (any pasta will do)
  • 125g soya marg
  • 100g flour
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 ½ tsp garlic powder
  • Pinch of turmeric
  • 50ml oil
  • 75g nutritional yeast flakes
  • 125g broccoli florets – steamed
  • 40g diced green chilis

Serves 4

 

Method

Cook the pasta (maybe use the water as the boiling water part).

Melt the marg in a saucepan on a low heat and whisk in the flour – whisk until smooth and bubbling.

Stir in the boiling water.

Add salt, soy sauce, garlic and turmeric.

Cook until sauce thickens.

Whip in the oil and nutritional yeast flakes.

Mix sauce with pasta and put in an oven-proof dish.

Mix in broccoli and chilis.

Bake for about 25 minutes at 350F/180C

 

The latter one is a bit fat-heavy but more savoury – the sauce isn’t at all creamy like the first one either – it all depends on what you’re in the mood for that day.

If you have any alternative recipes, please post them in the comments – I love trying out new vegan tastes.

A film more important than Earthlings

Land of Hope and Glory is described as the “UK Earthlings”.

It basically consists of undercover film shot in UK farms and slaughterhouses.

It’s harrowing, it’s hard to watch, it’s heartbreaking and shocking. It is also a film all vegans in the UK should watch.

Why?

Well, it’s free to view online – either from the website at the bottom of this article, or on Youtube.

The film is about 50 minutes long.

But mainly because the facts are laid bare. It’s a stark reminder of what is happening every single day of the year. Plus, everything you need to know to form a solid argument while debating with others is there.

These facts are also printed out on the website – as are links to where the footage came from.

So, if Earthlings already exists, why make this?

That too is answered on the website. The makers – Surge (surgeactivist.com – the group behind the Official Animal Rights March) said that people were saying “that doesn’t happen in our country” in response to Earthlings. This film proves it does.

I, personally, think that this film should now replace Earthlings in UK “experiences” as it’s more start, more relevant and will resonate with people on a deeper level in this country – this is their bacon, pork, eggs and milk.

Yes, eggs and milk. Make no mistake, this is a vegan film, not a vegetarian film – footage of the eggs and dairy industries are also laid bare.

It also dispels the myth that halal slaughter is somehow different to traditional methods of slaughter – stunning often does not work, and animals are still conscious when they have their throats slit.

The documentary is split into chapter by species – pigs, cows, sheep and birds. It does focus on farming and the use of animals for food – but there are other films available that tackle subjects such as animal experimentation and hunting.

There is a link on the website to a short film on fish.

Despite the fact this film was released earlier this year, it seems to be getting very little publicity among vegan groups on social media. That is the main reason I have decided to write this blog.

It is an important film. It’s modern, it shows what is happening on farms and in slaughterhouses here in the UK and it does not shy away from graphic, hard-hitting scenes.

In other words, it is vital ammunition in an activist’s arsenal.

It doesn’t go into the health benefits of a vegan diet (again that is discussed in other documentaries) and it would be nice to see a farmer try and defend what they do in a film such as this. I may think it’s indefensible, but I like to see a little balance just so the charge of “vegan propaganda” can be discounted.

I also think the fact the film lacks star appeal may put some people off – as does the fact that Earthlings is seen as THE animal rights film – but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for other movies! There is certainly room for this – I cannot reiterate enough how relevant it is to the UK! It is notoriously difficult to obtain footage from inside slaughterhouses and farms, so this really needs to be seen by everyone:

By vegans to remind them of what goes on and to arm them with the facts.

By non-vegans to show them the suffering behind their diets.

See the film at https://www.landofhopeandglory.org/

 

 

Where have all the vegans come from?

The number of vegans keeps growing and growing and social media keeps uniting them.

It’s odd really – animal rights protests and protest movements are attracting a fraction of the participants these days in comparison to the ‘70s and ‘80s, but it does actually make sense.

Many new vegans are driven by celebrity culture promoted by social media – often this means people are vegan for health reasons – and the argument that veganism is a healthier diet is certainly compelling.

But there is certainly a rise in compassionate vegans – people who are vegan for animal rights reasons – and the rise in social media means that there has also been a rise in social awareness. Look at the reaction to the film Earthlings compared to the Animals Film – the latter was actually broadcast on Channel 4 during its opening week. At the time, of course, there was no social media, internet, or even mobile phones, so the Animals Film was only talked about in school playgrounds, offices and common rooms.

Yet, in many ways, the Animals Film is more important than Earthlings because it got there first and got mainstream coverage – and it includes footage of the ALF and hunt sabotage. It’s worth tracking down on e-bay.

One could argue that the huge increase in the number of vegans saves countless lives in itself – and it does. Vegans are everywhere. When I first became vegetarian, there was one brand of soya milk in my local health food shop – and it tasted like dish water.

Now, every supermarket stocks plant milk and most stock plant cheeses. Most restaurants have vegan options and veganism is talked about in the national press.

Even farmers have been complaining about plant milk being called “milk” – because they see the rise in its popularity as a threat to the declining dairy industry.

However, social media also promote laziness – anyone can share a petition, comment on a story or fire off an email – getting out and demonstrating, or doing direct action seems less, well, popular these days. That’s probably because electronic protest is so easy, or maybe it isn’t seen a socially acceptable – I’m not sure why.

The rise in veganism has, by many, been labelled a “middle class thing”. The rise in luxury foods like hummus and avocado as vegan staples hasn’t helped – the latter is over-priced and over-rated in my opinion.

The main issue I have with vegans on social media is bullying. People who are vegan for different reason, new to veganism and transitioning are often shamed, shouted down and attacked for using this or that product, liking this or that person and not boycotting this or that company – it’s a very easy way of turning someone against veganism. Gentle debate often produces better results – especially with people who are, broadly speaking, on the same side as us.

On the plus side, information sharing – such as where is good and bad to eat, where you can buy what and swapping recipes and cooking tips has never been easier – and sometimes, online friends can become real-life friends.

It is also true to say that film of animal abuse is now easier to share – you are not limited to TV as a medium and nearly everybody in the Western World can take video on their mobile phone. This means that animal abuse is very often caught on video and shared widely. The same goes for vegan messages and recipes – and definitely for vegan products – look at the Gary publicity!

So, which came first, the decent vegan food, or all the vegans? Well, firstly, there is no replacement for cooking from scratch and using natural ingredients. I, and many other vegans, eat too much processed food – because it’s available.

Supermarkets are driven by demand – and social media gives a medium to voice such demands – so, the rise in veganism can, I believe, be the reason supermarkets are catering for us.

The message is being heard and spread because it’s backed up by science, welfare concerns, health concerns and, it has to be said, the promotion from celebrities and, in particular, sports stars, as a healthy diet.

A Cauldron of vegan taste

img_3904

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.