Farmers vs Vegans

Cow in a field

Farmers seem to have a beef with vegans these days.

While this is nothing new, it seems the rise in plant-based products on supermarket shelves and the rising number of vegans is starting to get on their nerves.

The farming community has become more vocal in its opposition to any mention of the word “vegan” in the last few months, so as reports suggest more and more people are set to enjoy a meat-free Christmas I can only guess that pro-farming pressure groups such as the NFU and Countryside Alliance (a pro-blood sports group in the main) will increase their pressure on the now powerful vegan pound.

A recent article for the i newspaper not only highlighted the growing number of people intending to eat plant-based this Christmas but also pointed out that according to the Vegan Society, the number of vegans has quadrupled in the UK since 2014.

https://inews.co.uk/inews-lifestyle/food-and-drink/christmas-dinner-vegan-food-waitrose-1343981?fbclid=IwAR1b1bybyhIgNfi_ak0UiXrk56JVoSjf8HOMlIki4SsnoDBJ-iqevf1Ecbk

Of course, the seeds of discord were sown in response to both the 2019 and 2018 Vegan Campout events. Already controversial among vegans for the choice of venue, the Countryside Alliance spat out its dummy over a vegan event taking place on land usually reserved for agricultural shows. Maybe somebody should tell them that agriculture includes the growing of plants needed for a vegan diet?

In October, it was Tesco who faced the wrath of angry animal farmers when they dared to make an advert featuring a vegan sausage. This time, Piers Morgan wannabe Janet Street-Porter lambasted the humble plant-based cylinders in a Daily Mail tirade. Most vegans just laughed.

The NFU seems to be in competition with the Countryside Alliance as to who is the most vocal critic of veganism – and it was this Tesco campaign which saw the union throw its hat well and truly in the ring. Plant Based News also reported on the whole soap opera.

https://www.plantbasednews.org/culture/tesco-vegan-sausage-advert-branded-propaganda?fbclid=IwAR0Y7jVkbsHhZYhbNPDvrkWtSrZn580zpMBpaRvn0BY_JofuZY6io3t0WnY

The BBC provoked the red-faced fury of farmers not once, but twice in recent months. Firstly, a Christmas advert featured a turkey wearing an “I love vegans” sweater. They didn’t care that turkeys generally don’t wear sweaters, but how dare anyone promote vegans? Are we becoming too accepted for comfort?

“The NFU, which is concerned about the impact the ad will have on livestock producers, have now accused the BBC of being in breach of its impartiality rules by promoting veganism,” according to a piece in this article: https://www.farminguk.com/news/farmers-criticise-bbc-for-i-love-vegans-christmas-ad_54563.html?fbclid=IwAR3C0q9FU6b33wBf-okcwe4XuL2F7d3pCduEY7a_TMV3tiKeNNwYT4UWUwE

The numerous promotional items on livestock farming on the BBC’s Countryfile isn’t mentioned by the NFU.

Finally, the BBC actually produced a whole programme about the meat industry’s effect on the environment. Meat: A Threat To Our Planet? Was presented by Liz Bonnin and was also made available on the i-Player. It mainly centres around intensive American meat production. It is less concerned with animal welfare and focuses more on the environmental cost of eating meat.

The fact that going vegan is the best way an individual can reduce their carbon footprint seems lost on many of those who have complained. The most common attack seems to be that British livestock production is nowhere near as intensive as the American model. The individual lives of the animals involved seem irrelevant to all involved. This article in Farmers Weekly sums up the farming community’s anger: https://www.fwi.co.uk/news/farming-backlash-to-bbc-anti-meat-programme-continues

The Countryside Alliance has been responding to any anti-hunting story which appears over the last few years. The NFU seems to be taking a leaf out of their book and attacking anything that’s seen as “pro-vegan” recently. The notion of free speech doesn’t seem to register with either organisation.

Of course, this shows that veganism is now seen as a very real threat to the meat and dairy industries. The rise of the environmental movement has seen the industries come in for further criticism as prominent “green” figures ditch meat and dairy.

To be fair, such a backlash was to be expected. But the power of the vegan pound also cannot be underestimated. Supermarkets are filled with vegan products and even traditional meat and dairy companies (Greggs for example) are producing plant-based options.

The ethics of such moves is widely debated in vegan communities, but it does show that the demand is there. Instead of joining the diversification movement, many livestock and dairy producers instead choose to lash out at the competition.

This can be seen as a testament to the growing influence of veganism.

2020’s Veganuary is expected to be the biggest yet, so the growth in veganism shows no sign of abating. I’ll raise a vegan cider to that!

Peterborough’s Christmas Vegan Success

Crowd an stall shot of Thrive 3 - Peterborough Vegan Christmas Festival

Thrive Peterborough Christmas Vegan Festival was another success for the Thrive Tribe.

Held on Saturday, November 23, in Peterborough, it was the third Thrive event following a ticketed summer gathering.

I am, of course, a member of said Thrive Tribe and one of the four organisers of Peterborough’s number one vegan Christmas festival – along with Kim, Nicola and Kelly.

I wanted to give you an insight into the organisation and motivations behind such an event.

Work actually began back in June when the Thrive summer event was still being planned. Even starting so far ahead, we were unable to find a venue in Peterborough available on the Sunday we wanted, hence we had to hold it on a Saturday this year.

We did, however, find a bigger venue next to an out of town shopping area with free all-day parking.

Parking and the venue being too packed were the common complaints from the first vegan festival we put on (I blogged about it – https://veganonadesertisland.com/2018/11/27/a-citys-first-vegan-festival-an-insiders-view/ ), so we listened to people’s views and booked a similar number of stalls in a larger hall.

This worked very well – accessibility is an important issue to me – I want everyone to be able to come and enjoy the day – parents with pushchairs, those in wheelchairs and people who aren’t good in crowds included – I think we succeeded in this aim.

One of the pleasant surprises for me was the number of local independent vegan businesses who applied for stalls – and it was great to see how well they did on the day.

We don’t have an estimate of the number of visitors at the time of writing, but I’d say it was slightly fewer than the 2,000 who visited last year – I put this down to it being held on a Saturday. More people work Saturdays than Sundays and more events are also held on a Saturday.

Booking stalls was surprisingly easy. We posted the event on Facebook and Instagram and the applications began to roll in.

I designed an application form and a list of terms and conditions and we set about organising meetings to discuss applications.

We then started to confirm vendors, promote them through social media and collect public liability and food hygiene certificates.

Things like not blocking fire escapes, electrical requirements (we had to hire two generators after discussions with an electrician) and what the venue would and wouldn’t allow all had to be taken into consideration.

For a small group of people working voluntarily, a lot of work goes into putting on such events – and we were working on the day too – marking out the floor for stalls, making sure everyone was OK, dealing with any issues and overseeing the volunteers, workshop rooms, photo booth and kids’ craft areas.

In the weeks before the event, we went on a PR drive, sending out press releases and printing flyers to hand out to businesses which were likely to attract interested customers. There’s no point in putting on an event if people don’t know about it – and we wanted everybody who might be interested to know about it.

A huge plus for us on the day was the presence of Hench Herbivore – a well known social media star who proves how fit and strong vegans can be.

Stalls at the event included doughnuts, cakes, cheeses, dog treats, candles, toiletries, pressure groups, skincare, food, drink and so much more – people forget how big veganism is now – it really has become an economic force to be reckoned with in the modern age.

However, my main reason for getting involved is simply to spread the vegan message in Peterborough. At the time of our first vegan festival, nobody had done it here before and I wanted to see that change. I travelled to vegan fairs and I wanted one on my doorstep – therefore, if nobody else was doing it then why shouldn’t I? And when Kim came to us with the idea, I jumped at the chance of getting involved (I already co-ran the Peterborough Vegetarian and Vegan group with Kim).

In conclusion, the hard work is worth it – but if you want to bring a similar event to your town on a DIY ethos, talk to people who have put of similar events – there’s a lot to think about before going ahead. But vegans are friendly people and vegan business owners are among the friendliest of all.

Crowd an stall shot of Thrive 3 - Peterborough Vegan Christmas Festival

Peterborough’s Vegan Christmas Fair

Thrive pic

If writing a blog isn’t self-indulgent enough, I am now going to blog about something I’m helping to organise – the ultimate in self-indulgent blogging – and I’m not sorry.

Peterborough (UK) has a thriving vegan scene and, come November, it’s going to have a thriving Vegan Christmas Festival. Not only is this the city’s first Christmas Vegan Festival, but it’s also the city’s first vegan Festival or fair full stop.

In short, this is the biggest vegan event in Peterborough so far – and I’m helping to organise it – so, of course, I’m going to shout about it.

It will be held at the Fleet – a community centre in Fletton, one of Peterborough’s townships – on Sunday, November 25, 2018, from 10am until 5pm and, hopefully thereafter.

There will be stalls – lots of stalls, from independent traders to larger, more established vegan companies, workshops and speakers. You can register to book a stall by emailing Peterboroughvegans@gmail.com with the subject line Vegan Fair Stalls detailing the type of business (independent, a sole trader, or an established firm), what you will sell and a contact name and phone number.

The idea was put together by Kim Coley, who runs the city’s Soul Happy Wellness Centre (soulhappy.org.uk) which hosts the Peterborough Vegetarian and Vegan Group’s (https://www.facebook.com/PeterboroughVeg) monthly Food share (despite the name, all the food is vegan) – Kim and I run the group – or help to run it, all the members have a say in what we do and how we do it.

We decided that towns much smaller than our (albeit baby) city were hosting vegan events, so we should too. After all, Peterborough is very central, has fantastic transport links and the venue itself has a large car park.

Peterborough already has Resist Vegan Kitchen (https://www.facebook.com/resistvegankitchen/) serving vegan street food from its base at the Ostrich Pub (https://www.facebook.com/ostrichinn/) a very vegan-friendly bar. Resist also cater at many events in the area. I’ve blogged about them before (https://veganonadesertisland.com/2017/10/29/vegan-pop-up-kitchen-with-punk-ethics/ )

There is also a new jazz bar/vegan restaurant in the city ( https://www.facebook.com/WhenPollyMetFergie/ ) and a new stall providing vegan street food is heading for the city market ( https://www.facebook.com/bekindkitchenvegan/ ) and let’s not forget Backyard Food (https://www.facebook.com/backyardfoodpeterborough/ ) a small shop at the Green Backyard community garden selling eco-friendly stuff for the house, body and belly. I bought vegan cookies from there today.

Cookies 2
Cookies and crisps from Backyard Food

Anyway, a small group of us from the vegan group is helping to organise this vegan extravaganza and as we put it together we will be on the lookout for volunteers, suggestions and any help in publicising the event.

Jodie has already designed the awesome event poster/banner.

We look forward to seeing you there.

A vegan at Christmas

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When I was a child, the humble nut roast was seen as the staple of veggie Christmas dinners everywhere.

These days, of course, a vegan can go through life without ever going near a dry and dull nut roast. There are of course people who enjoy nut roasts – just as there are people who enjoy watching Elf – I, personally, prefer self- flagellation!

OK, there are some great recipes to make the humble nut roast less humble and slightly more edible, but there is a wealth of alternatives in the world of the 21st century vegan.

I am going for a Vegusto Roast this year, as I’ve become rather bored of grabbing a Celebration Roast at every given occasion – although, price-wise the two are very similar.

Many will forego the processed option completely and make their own Mushroom Wellington, vegetable roast, or even, God preserve us, nut roasts. A simple Ecosia search, or walk through Facebook’s Christmas Wonderland will provide suggestion after suggestion. Recent issues of vegan and vegetarian magazines also provide plenty of suggestions.

Many Christmas puds and mince pies are vegan by default. The news that Iceland’s own brand of mince pies are vegan-friendly is great news for those doing Christmas on a budget. They cost £1.50 for a pack of 12. I, however, already have some Foods of Atherny Mince Pies as I snapped them up at the Animal Aid Christmas Fair. A great event in early December every year for stocking your cupboards with everything you need for the big day (or the looming nightmare of forced consumerism – Veganonadesertisland caters for all vegan beliefs).

This very day, I found a Christmas pud in Morrisons for my table. Their own brand Rich Fruit Christmas Pudding is vegan-friendly and contains booze! Alpro do a widely-available Single Soya Cream (or a custard – an item also produced by Oatly if you prefer soya-free) and vegan squirty cream is now widely available online and at vegan fairs. This year, Coasta is selling some rather nice vegan-friendly slices of Christmas cake in their shops – I thoroughly recommend giving that a try.

 

I have already reviewed the Tesco selection box and they also produced a dairy-free Advent Calendar this year – it’s a bit late for that now though – unless you wish to devour the first three weeks’ chocolates in one go – which is actually quite tempting! I have added a Moo-Free selection box to my Christmas shelf as their chocolate is divine. But if you want something a little more luxurious, you can’t beat Booja Booja products. But online stores like Animal Aid have a huge range of vegan products available.

Holland and Barrett have many nibbles in their fridge and freezer – I have picked up some Bites VegiDeli Spicy Bean Bites and the absolutely massive VegiDeli 48-piece Party Pack (also sold at H&B) has gone down well in previous years – but you need a huge freezer in which to house it Remember the one in the film The Shining? Well one about that size should do it)!

Obviously, things like vegetable spring rolls, onion bhajis and veggie samosas are available all over, as are the staple favourite Linda McCartney Sausage Rolls. You can, of course, always make your own and enjoy a truly sustainable festive lunch. After all, it’s a time for family – and what could be better than cooking together at the family time of year?

A couple of my previous blogs deal with vegan cheeses – another popular evening or afternoon snack – especially nice with strong pickled onions!

Many stuffings are accidently vegan and so are many gravy brands – including Bisto!

Away from the meals themselves, being vegan can be a bit of a nightmare if you’re the only vegan in the family (or indeed the village). But letting family know to the things to avoid when buying you gifts can help – otherwise you end up with leather gloves, a woolly hat and bubble bath tested on rabbits! Not to mention dairy chocolate and gelatine-based sweets….

Avoiding meat can be difficult at this time of year – I hate the smell so choose to eat separately from those who have a “traditional” Christmas lunch. The other festive traditions of fox hunting, shooting, parading or showing reindeers and horse racing also horrify me – but there are demonstrations up and down the country against the former on Boxing Day – and serve as a reminder that Christmas isn’t really an animal-friendly festival – despite the John Lewis ad!

Many animal sanctuaries – including Hillside – offer “in lieu” presents, where you can buy hay or carrots for the animals and let your loved-ones know through a certificate and, in Hillside’s case, a small calander.

Just because the occasion itself neglects our fellow species, it doesn’t mean that we have to as well. Enjoying a vegan Christmas is easier than saying “pass the sprouts”!