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.

Vegans and the dating game

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Vegans are people too.

We have, you know, the same issues as everyone else – and we also like to fall in love.

Hereth begineth the debate… To say there’s a lot written about vegan dating on social media is like saying “vegans like to argue on Facebook”, but the truth is, there is one simple rule – there are no rules!

The first law of Vegan Fight Club is that “vegan shall talk about it to everyone, everywhere – ever!”

There are so many vegan groups on Facebook, and dating is a subject that comes up again and again and again and again…

Should vegans only date vegans? Should people who become vegan while in a relationship finish that relationship? Should vegans banish meat-eating partners to the shed to eat their dinner? And so on and so on and on and on…

Again, I say, there are no rules. The human brain is a complex thing, it falls in and out of love more often than a Bon Jovi song called “In And Out Of Love” and it doesn’t always adhere to the rules of the vegan heart.

In other words, it’s up to you.

The dating game has changed beyond all recognition over the last 10 years. Now, people are just as likely to meet online as they are over a vodka and orange in the local pub. But, this means that people are able to stipulate specifically the type of person they are looking for in a partner – short, tall, fat, thin, athletic, lazy, geeky, funny, serious, vegan….

Obviously, this can mean that a huge number of potential partners are thrown into the bin of “nah” automatically!

I, personally, use Plenty Of Fish and message someone every six months or so – such are the restrictions of veganism (and being too tight to pay to find love) and I have recently signed up to Grazer.

There was a lot of excitement in vegan forums around the launch of Grazer – it’s free and it’s pretty much the vegan version of Tinder – although there are vegans on Tinder too – I know, I’ve been on there too!

The whole “swipe left” thing seems a bit cold to me – but such is the fame of Tinder that the phrase “swipe left” has become part of modern language. The main problem is that if you don’t live in London, there might be relatively few local vegans on the site. However, it is relatively new, so give it time. I also found that a lot of people don’t actually tell you anything about themselves on their profile – so you are solely judging them on a picture.

So, basically, Grazer has the same advantages and disadvantages as Tinder, but it is growing and so it’s worth joining and if there’s no one there for you, check back in a few weeks.

The likes of Plenty of Fish also have vegan profiles – but finding them can be a bit like finding a vegan in your local pub – although you can search for “vegan” and find the nearest one to have used that description lives 75 miles away – not all vegans call themselves vegans on their profile.

Then there’s Facebook. Other than having to sell your soul to Satan to sign up, this is also free – and there are plenty of vegan singles groups and pages on there – there’s even one for Vegan Singles in their 40’s (I dislike the rogue apostrophe, but otherwise it’s an excellent group) and there’s naughtier ones for vegans who like to talk about sex – A LOT. Shock, horror, vegans are interested in sex – and not just which brands of condoms are vegan-friendly.

Let’s be honest, most people are on Facebook, so joining a dating group on there is just as likely to bring you success as any “paid for” or “traditional” online dating site. I have met former partners, new friends and dates just by chatting to new friends on Facebook in the past – just the act of interacting online can bring people together.

Then there’s “real life dating”. Yes, people still meet in the pub, club, at gigs, in the gym, at work and while out bird watching (not so much). And, if you’re a vegan singleton, there are local vegan groups, food shares, animal rights meetings, vegan fairs etc etc. You can meet potential partners at all of these (vegan fairs often have speed dating events these days), but, more importantly, you can make new friends, share ideas and enjoy a social life with like-minded folks. You could always run into a sexy vegan by the “meat-free” section of your local supermarket – although I don’t recommend spending a day there on the off-chance – people might think you’re weird…And you could be asked to leave, doing your “street cred” no favours at all.

People become vegan at many stages of life – some are already in relationships with omnivores, some have been vegetarian first and some are now vegan from birth. Also, everybody’s life story is different, so the important thing is not to judge. Some people are comfortable with dating meat-eaters, some with dating vegetarians, some with only dating vegans, we all have our own preferences.

It is also worth adding that there’s a lot of advice and support available in social media forums when it comes to vegan dating, vegan love and vegan sex – vegan squirty cream wasn’t invented without sex in mind you know!

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Vegan on a desert Island

I wrote this about a year ago for a news site that vanished without getting in touch with me! Seeing as this page shares a title with the blog, I thought I’d revamp it very slightly and publish it here – because I can!

 

There are many things that can happen unexpectedly in our daily lives – lottery win, car crash, puncture, TV going wrong – but we vegans have an extra peril to face every day – we might end up alone on a desert island!

To be fair, sending vegans to desert islands isn’t merely a social media phenomenon; people in pubs, work mates and even family members all suddenly become curious about our survival options should we be stranded on one of the few uninhabited desert islands left in the world. Not only that, but there will be no phone signal, no 3 or 4G and no radar tracking the area in which we vanished.

I really was totally unaware of how dangerous being a vegan could be when I ditched the dairy. If you’re not vegan, never get on a plane or boat with us, it will sink or crash and everybody else will die leaving the sole vegan stranded in the middle of nowhere. It happens all the time.

But a vegan can’t be stranded on just any remote, unpopulated desert island, oh no! In order to be a vegan stranding-friendly desert island, it can have no edible plants or vegetables and be populated only by animals – edible animals of course, or the scenario won’t work.

You see, if there is the option of eating vegetation, then we can’t be forced to hunt animals in order to survive on said desert island. The fact that there needs to be some kind of food chain in place so that carnivores survive goes out of the boat window when it comes to random vegan strandings. You see, carnivores have to prey on animals that are, in general herbivores and herbivores need vegetation to survive, so the whole desert island eco system needs to be totally messed up in order to accommodate vegan strandings.

There will be fresh water on the island of course – the carnivorous beasts need it to survive too, and there will be trees – there has to be something with which to make fire, so said carnivores’ flesh is edible. However, these trees cannot be the type of trees that produce fruit, oh no, or else stranded vegan will become fruitarian and mess up the whole hypothetical stranding horror.

Another issue for the stranded vegan is that, generally humans don’t eat carnivores. Why this is so is down to speculation really – the smell, evolution meaning we haven’t developed a taste for them and the fact that they are harder to catch could all be reasons. Also, said carnivores are often dangerous, so our poor stranded vegan would probably die while trying to break his or her moral code. Don’t forget, most people are stranded without a gun (especially if they’re vegan), so they will probably be hunting with a home-made bow and arrow. Most people that go on cruises or fly abroad don’t carry weapons you see, customs aren’t usually very friendly towards people packing high-powered rifles!

I used to make bows and arrows as a kid, and I wasn’t very good at hitting my brother with them, so I’m sure I’d be useless when it came down to trying to kill a mountain lion. And I’m not sure there’d be enough string or sharp flint kicking about on the island to make the bow and arrows either!

But, fish are carnivores. So, it seems, the desolated desert island would have to be surrounded by an abundance of sea life – no edible seaweed though – to give our hapless, soon to be lapsed vegan any chance of survival. Of course, there will be a tree (without edible fruit) to provide the necessary weapon for catching the poor fish which will provide 100 per cent of your balanced diet – you see, wooden speared fish are the solution to all castaways’ problems!

The message to all vegans is, unless you want to become a seal, avoid getting stranded on desert islands at all costs. When going to work, to the pub, to a vegan fair, or down the shops, take a route that avoids any desert islands on which you can become accidentally stranded.

 

Veganism vs “veganism”

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The Great Gary Review

Veganism is big business on social media.

Stories connected to vegans automatically get multiple shares and provoke debate on news posts, therefore, the Gary/Vegan Cheese debate shouldn’t really come as any surprise. It certainly hasn’t done Sainsbury’s any harm. You couldn’t buy this much advertising! Several national news outlets even picked up on the debate and it went viral quicker than many cat videos.

If you missed it, basically, Sainsbury’s has released a number of own-brand vegan cheeses – something which got the vegan community instantly excited – it doesn’t take much with us lot! Anyway, one less than vegan social media user became upset over the term “cheese” when it comes to dairy-free products and posted a long rant to this effect.  She ended with “call it Gary or something”. So vegans did. Instantly, and hilariously, the ranter’s joke backfired and sent the products’ new moniker viral. I’m sure non-vegan Garys are over the moon.

It all proves two things: Vegans do have a sense of humour and new vegan products sell themselves in the world of social media.

Personally, I don’t care what you call it. I see it as rather petty to get offended over what a product is named. In fact, Sainsbury’s haven’t actually labelled them “vegan cheese” on the packaging – instead they are presumptuously called “Deliciously Free-From…” then Cheddar Style etc.

 

Much of the publicity surrounding the release centred on the fact that the cheeses are coconut-based. The cheeses actually contain between 22 per cent and 24 per cent coconut oil and they are not soya-free. So if you don’t want soya, you’re better off with Violife or Vegusto. Personally, it doesn’t bother me and claims soya gives men boobs and the such-like are pretty nonsensical – it is certainly no quick fix for sex-change patients. Also, many meat products also contain soya and many animals bred for meat are fed on the stuff.

 

I decided to try the new products, including a cheese spread and new lasagne, so I could share my thoughts with you lovely people.

The lasagne was something I was very excited about, but it really isn’t as good as some of the home-made offerings I’ve tried. It is, however, vegetable and not soya mince-based. It also says it “serves one”, which in supermarket terms, means serves one with chips, a salad, garlic bread and pudding!

I avoided going down the lazy microwave route and cooked it properly. But it still stuck to the bottom. Once out of the plastic dish, It was still a little watery and doesn’t have any real spice kick. But there is a fair amount of tasty veg and the pasta tasted nice and creamy. I’d have it again – probably with lots of chips.

 

The Garlic and Herb Soft Cheese is a lovely breakfast treat on toast. It certainly doesn’t skimp on the garlic, it has a real kick and a nice, light texture. It’s delicious in fact. And, as with the cheeses themselves, there is no underlying coconut taste or, indeed, after-taste. Plus, it’s actually softer and more spreadable than many similar products on the market.

 

Now let’s look at the cheeses themselves. I’ll start with the

 

. This is a white cheese with a creamy taste and soft texture. It has a medium-strength hit and would work very well in a salad. I can’t actually remember what “real” cheese tastes like, so I have to judge the products on their own merits.

The Cheddar Style is probably the most traditional alternative, and I would say it has a cheesy taste given what I’ve said above. It’s the kind of vegan cheese I would have in a sandwich with pickles.

 

I approached the Wensleydale Style with Cranberries with some trepidation, as I, generally, don’t like sweet and savoury mixed. But I was pleasantly surprised. It’s certainly colourful – it looks like ice cream, but the sweet aftertaste isn’t unpleasant and it’s another creamy one. This is something that would work well on crackers.

 

Finally, comes the best – Cheddar Style with Caramelised Onion. This is the one that made angels dance around my mouth and spread glitter over my tongue! The powerful onion taste is to die for, making this one that would rule over the cracker kingdom.

 

At £2.25 each for a 200g pack, they are cheaper than many other vegan cheeses and they come in re-sealable packaging – which is always a bonus. All in all, they are certainly a hit with me.