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

Do people really hate vegans?

Vegan protest

A recent article in The Guardian attempted to explain why people hate vegans.

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/oct/25/why-do-people-hate-vegans?fbclid=IwAR1Y_ZIehJTDu-REZWpqTCnnpOz_MgS2wRim2D2gA7eZOKjU3rUwY2q-cHw

With a provocative headline, the article is rather long, in-depth and, despite being full of history and good points, low on answers.

People dislike trends, there’s always a backlash against them and veganism is definitely a growing trend. People like to fight online and love the number of “likes” when they criticise veganism – Piers Morgan helped Greggs sell millions of vegan sausage rolls through giving them free publicity and sparking a debate. In a world where news sites like to post as many stories as possible during a day, veganism has become a buzz word which is seen as gaining an instant reaction.

News pages know veganism – like fox hunting – is a contentious issue and they like to fuel the fire with negative and provocative headlines – because the more comments, the higher their page “hit” rates – and this, in turn, makes them appealing to advertisers.

People don’t like their conservative world shaken up and veganism challenges the safety of what they have been taught and grown up with. “I like the taste of meat” really has become a convenient reason for not giving up meat.

It also must be said that there are a fair few climate change deniers in the world, and veganism is inextricably linked to battling man-made climate change.

People don’t like being told what to do – with climate and veganism whey ignore the message like a little petulant child with their hands over their ears shouting “I can’t hear you, la-la-la” despite the fact that what they are being told is totally based on facts.

Veganism really does threaten two whole industries – the meat and dairy industries, so, naturally, those involved in those industries are going to react badly to vegans – especially when we openly savagely attack the way they make their livings. Even our very existence through our purchase power is a threat – and our marketing strategies are heavily attacked and countered by their advertising campaigns and PR departments – look at the NFU’s reaction to the latest Tesco advert https://www.livekindly.co/watch-tescos-controversial-new-vegan-sausage-commercial/

I found the reaction both chilling and a beacon of hope – chilling because it shows that those who use aggressive marketing themselves are prepared to try and suppress their competitors – the history of animal product marketing was highlighted in The Game Changers too (my review – https://veganonadesertisland.com/2019/09/22/the-game-changers-vegan-movie-review/ )

I see hope because it shows that the rise and rise of veganism continues and it does pose a threat to those very industry which it is designed to threaten. Let’s be blunt, if we oppose the consumption of animal products then we want to see an end to the industries which profit from said products. Of course, the likes of Tesco who are cashing in on veganism also sell a vast array of animal products – maybe that’s exactly why farmers are fearful – think about it.

Finally, it has to be asked do people really hate vegans?

Behind the safety of a keyboard, I think may commenting on social media threads come across as anti-vegan, in real life, however, my experience is one of gently Mickey taking rather than full-on hostility. Certainly, there’s the backlash from the expected sectors of society, but on the whole, people I’ve worked with are considerate when it comes to going out for meals etc – after all, it has to be said, most people are still not vegan. We still have the freedom to protest in this country too, so vegans highlighting abuse and cruelty where they see it is carrying on this right and tradition – such protest just receive more publicity in the era of social media and as protests are more in people’s faces they have a greater impact – and more of a backlash. I don’t believe it’s anything personal.

A Lincolnshire sausage for a vegan Lincolnshire lad

Linda McCartney Lincolnshire Vegetarian Sausages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linda McCartney Lincolnshire Vegetarian Sausages

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linda McCartney Lincolnshire Vegetarian Sausages ingredients

The reason people hate vegans revealed!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They’re not.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Budget vegan pies – in a tin!

Fray Bento Vegetable Balti Pie in a tin

Fray Bentos Vegetable Balti Pies reviewed

Now you can even get vegan pies in a tin!

With the announcement that Pie kings Fray Bentos had dipped a toe into the vegan market, those of us who love cheap pies were dancing in the kitchen and hunting down our tin openers in anticipation.

Not only is this another option for vegan pie lovers, it’s also cheap and requires no freezer – or even a fridge – for storage. Plus, and it’s a big plus, they only cost £1 (when I got mine) at B&M or Morrisons – it’s wonderful that veganism on a budget just gets easier and easier! It must be said however, this isn’t specifically marketed as a vegan product, it’s sold more as a veggie option and they’ve left it to us to publicise the fact it’s also vegan-friendly.

Before you start, you do need a strong tin open to prise off the lid – but once you’ve got that far you just throw it in the oven for 25 minutes – no baking tray needed! Plus, the tin design means the packaging is 100% recyclable and the best before date is an impressive 18 months away – so you can really stock up while they’re on offer! Obviously, unless you wish to blow up the kitchen with a pretty fireworks display, you can’t microwave it – but whoever heard of microwaving a pie anyway? Soggy, radiated pastry? No thanks.

Cooked Fray Bentos pie

The first thing to note after the pie is cooked is that it isn’t particularly pretty. If food aesthetics is your thing, then this is not the product for you. The top of the pie on mine looked like it had been blown up with a foot pump with the filling making a desperate attempt at freedom from the pastry prison – but it didn’t affect the taste in the slightest. It is also a little difficult to get the thing out of the tin and on to the plate – but even Linda McCartney pies have that issue in removing them from their foil home. And, crucially, it doesn’t really stick, so you can get all of the pie out rather than throwing vital bits of pastry away when you’ve finished serving up.

But what about the taste?

It’s good. As a curry-based delight, it isn’t too spicy, there is a slight kick, but nothing overpowering.

Although, I have some sympathy with those vegans that complain about how all vegan options seem to come with some degree of spicy kick or heat these days – and not all vegans are spice lovers like myself.

The pie’s sauce is pretty thick and meaty for a vegan offering – and I really appreciated the abundance of vegetables available – especially the peas! I’ve felt for a long time that peas have been the most under-appreciated of all the vegetables in a vegan’s cupboard. I put peas in everything and I’m glad they’re well represented here.

The pie is a nice big unit too – many vegan offerings just aren’t big enough and throw in a couple of portions of chips and you can even feed two with Fray Bentos’ foray into veganism.

The pastry itself is also rather tasty. It’s crispy on top and melts in the mouth through its reaction with the sauce, which it complements perfectly.

The list of ingredients is rather long, which isn’t always a great sign, but most of what is on the list is natural and there’s a nice long list of spices. In short, there’s very little to fault here.

Another win for vegans on a budget.

Fray Bento Vegetable Balti Pie ingredients list

Why are vegans portrayed so negatively in the Press?

Newspaper slamming veganism

Vegans are in the news a lot.

Veganism seems to generate debate on comment boards, so news sites like stories about us.

The growth in veganism has become a huge talking point and with it comes the inevitable backlash.

The phrase “militant vegans” seems to be applied to any vegan activist. Papers such as the Mail and Metro who use detrimental phrases such as this do seem to spend an extraordinary amount of time publicising vegan-related articles.

https://metro.co.uk/2018/12/17/militant-vegans-target-the-turkey-aisle-in-waitrose-8257667/

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6539063/Counter-terror-police-brought-help-tackle-militant-VEGANS.html

Constant attacks from the likes of Piers Morgan only help to publicise veganism and provide vegans with their own media villains

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6564267/Piers-Morgan-tries-new-Greggs-vegan-sausage-roll-spits-bin.html

The Greggs vegan sausage rolls received a lot of free publicity from bad old Piers – all publicity is good publicity, after all. Piers himself received a lot of free airtime through his anti-vegan tirades. Maybe he was hoping for some free bacon for his trouble?

Both the Telegraph and Mail have a solid middle England readership – that readership includes farmers and we must not forget that the meat and dairy industries are worth billions.

The worth of the vegan pound may be on the increase, but, sadly, it still pales into insignificance next to the animal agriculture pound.

This article from January 2018 gives you some idea of the rise in veganism internationally.

https://foodrevolution.org/blog/vegan-statistics-global/

In 2019, the figures  must be even better with Veganuary reporting its most successful year so far – https://veganuary.com/blog/a-quarter-of-a-million-people-try-vegan/

There have been reports of the dairy industry and other farmers starting to feel the impact of veganism – https://www.veganfoodandliving.com/dairy-industry-crisis-teenagers-ditch-milk/

Therefore, demonising the lifestyle through the use of terms such as “militant vegan” can sell an agenda to lessen this impact. Positive posting about their industry can also help to counter the rise in veganism – https://www.nationalchickencouncil.org/about-the-industry/statistics/per-capita-consumption-of-poultry-and-livestock-1965-to-estimated-2012-in-pounds/

That rise, albeit posted by the industry itself, is pretty alarming – as is the rise in intensive farming.

That is one thing that worries me about the rise in veganism in the short term – the cutting of corners until the square becomes a circle by the meat industry in the hunt for more profit against any falling sales. We have seen with the likes of the persecution of badgers in the UK the lengths the industry will go to protect its interests.

Although, other articles suggest the rise in meat consumption isn’t such a good thing – https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jul/19/rising-global-meat-consumption-will-devastate-environment

The fact this is published by the Guardian is also notable – it’s the audience is mainly middle class, liberal and left-leaning – the stereotypical vegan in other words.

Linked to this we have the Februdairy campaign:  https://www.lep.co.uk/news/business/are-you-ready-for-februdairy-1-9566906

Obviously, supermarkets can’t ignore the rise in veganism – but there does seem to be a hint of guilt around the constant vegan bashing – not only in headlines, but in the comment sections of online stories about vegans and, disturbingly, it seems to be creeping into real life too.

https://metro.co.uk/2019/01/25/vegan-schoolboy-14-punched-bully-tried-force-feed-bacon-8393291/

Yes, there is a dark side to the anti-vegan propaganda and, of course, there is more than a hint of the “do not challenge the status quo” mentality rocking all over the discourse of the argument. “eating meat is tradition”, “we’ve always eaten it” and “this farm has been in my family for generations” is the kind of thing we hear.

Maybe there’s a little bit of guilt in there too – people want to hide away from the cruel reality of slaughterhouses – an “out of sight out of mind mentality”, which manifests itself in online attacks on those who choose not to hide away from reality.

There is a certain amount of hypocrisy there as stories about extreme cruelty to dogs and cats receive prominent coverage. Interestingly, there have also been stories about cruelty to pigs on farms – but, in a way, it is suggested that this is the exception and not the rule.

https://inews.co.uk/news/uk/pig-farm-workers-guilty-animal-cruelty/

Vegans are constantly being told not to “force their opinions down everybody’s throat”, the problem lies in the fact that it’s the very same people saying this that are forcing their views down vegans’ throats.

 

The things people say to vegans…

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before….

As vegans we are all subjected to many wonderful comments and questions from those who look at us and scratch their heads – yes, my friends, we really are that wonderful!

Here’s my handy guide to the barrage of comments that will make you grind your teeth down to the gum….

Where do you get your protein?

We hail seitan (unless we’re wheat intolerant), we are tantalised by tofu and embrace Edamame. But, hey, where have you bean?

Beans are so heavy in protein they give spinach a run for its money in the protein department. Peas are good too – and they’re colourful, easy to cook and go with any food on the planet – except, maybe, ice cream!

Vitamin B12?

Well, most plant milks are fortified with the stuff and nutritional yeast spreads are a great source. It is also available in the outer skin of button mushrooms – and I don’t know about you, but I’m a total mushroom addict.

Seriously, why do people suddenly become concerned about the nutrients in your diet when you become vegan. Have these people randomly asked you over dinner if you get enough B12 before veganism embraced your heart?

No, of course not. People aren’t concerned about the nutritional value of your diet at all, they are just using fake concerns to attack your choices. Not really very clever, is it?

Do you know how many animals die in the production of vegan food?

Well, I’m guessing it isn’t an exact science. This is a new one that’s been tossed in vegans’ direction over the last few months and it makes me bury my head in my hands and shout “arrrrggghhh” at the Facebook page on my screen that has suddenly turned into an anti-vegan cliche.

So, people are worried that insects die in the production of plants that either go directly onto vegan plates or are fed to animals which are then killed?

Well, since you put it like that…. I do, we do, you should do, it’s not rocket science, is it?

It is the most illogical argument against veganism since I found myself alone on a desert island with no plant life to sustain me. Those rowing boats on the park lake can be lethal you know? I was lucky I managed to swim ashore – the island was only 25 metres further away from me than the lake’s shore too!

But veganism is so expensive.

No according to the vegan section of Jack Monroe’s website – https://cookingonabootstrap.com/category/vegan-recipes/

This article from the, normally middle class, Guardian is also useful: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/sep/18/no-fresh-meat-how-to-eat-vegan-on-a-student-budget?fbclid=IwAR33ZONH0jyvSpDa-LcnmwOMla9vPe3j4aRBDHDfIA0ovvU03vt0Yx5nrBY

Yes, meat substitutes can be expensive, but vegetables aren’t, beans aren’t, pulses aren’t and you can get cheap spices from any supermarket – come on, get creative on a Sunday and bung it in the freezer for the rest of the busy week.

How do you spot a vegan? Don’t worry they’ll tell you.

Yes, in a restaurant it is pretty essential to inform the staff that you don’t want any animal products on your plate. As the free leaflets advertising meat pop through your letterbox, scream from the billboards in the town centre and scream at you from the newspapers, magazines and TV adverts, one could be forgiven for thinking that it’s the meat producers trying to force their views down our throats…

Have you read any articles on veganism on mainstream news outlet pages on social media? They are all filled with meat-eaters giving their opinions on vegans and veganism – bit ironic really!

You just eat grass/rabbit food

Sorry, but I’ve never seen a bunny tuck into vegan mac ‘n’ cheese, beetroot burgers and chips or the latest vegan pizza to hit the stores.

Why do you make food that looks/tastes like meat

Why do you throw 16 different types of plant (herbs and spices) on your meat to make it taste like plants? Last time looked sausages and burgers were the names of food shapes, not the food themselves. But, let’s be clear here, most vegans object to meat production because of the cruelty involved, therefore, it’s not the taste of meat they are objecting to, is it? Many vegans grew up eating meat – they had no choice, it’s what their families served them for meals – in other words, they forced a meat-based diet down their throats. So how is this different from raising a child as a vegan?

Vegans are extremists

Because not wanting things to die is so very extreme….

 

A city’s first vegan festival – an insider’s view

 

We don’t know exactly how many people attended the Thrive Vegan Festival in Peterborough, all we know was it was an overwhelming success.

We put it together in a couple of months. Our small team, spearheaded by Kim Coley, of Soul Happy Well Being Centre in the city, booked the stalls, organised the workshops, the venue, the layout, the rules and regulations and managed to really put veganism on the map in our little UK city.

Kim hosts and I help with Peterborough Vegetarian and Vegan Group’s monthly foodshare, it was this group which was the catalyst for the event. The Thrive Tribe formed with the sole aim of bringing a vegan Christmas fair to life. Peterborough had never held a vegan event. Smaller towns and cities like Boston, Louth and Lincoln had, so we wanted to get in on the action, and boy did we succeed!

We couldn’t have done it without a lovely band of volunteers, who manned the door, filled the goodie bags, served tea and coffee, helped at the video booth, manned the kids’ room and so much more.

Yes, there were issues, mainly because the event was so much more successful than we could ever have dreamed. There were animal rights groups, vegan food, vegan clothes, vegan chocolate, vegan cakes, vegan cheese, vegan cosmetics – you name it, we had it.

The workshops covered everything from vegan motherhood to making curry via Cath Kendall and John Curtin. And, yes it was heaving, busy, packed, a joy to behold for those of us who had worked so hard at pulling it off.

But it was also rewarding beyond belief. I wrote the terms and conditions, designed the receipts and checked people’s public liability insurance. I kept people up to date via email and also worked on some of the PR for the event. Informing the local press and radio and getting the message spread across social media helped enormously. We also conjured up the hashtag #thriveveganfestival in advance of the event to help people get the word out.

The help the people at the venue gave us on the day and in advance was invaluable – we actually called them because the toilets had run out of loo roll! We also had a minor issue with one of the electric points tripping – which was very annoying for the two food vendors affected. Luckily, it was sorted out and both stalls enjoyed a bumper trading day. Sadly, one outside food vendor didn’t make it due to breaking down on the way.

One of the best things for me about attending such events is actually talking to people. I get so inspired by other activists and vegans, it’s always brilliant to hear different perspectives and ideas, and there was plenty of that on Sunday. It’s also great to see the vegan community pull together to make things like this happen.

IMG-20181127-WA0017

It’s also amazing to see how many vegan small businesses there are now. There are many of these events up, down and around the UK now and there are different independent companies at each and every one! Isn’t it fantastic to see so many entrepreneurs putting ethics at the heart of their working lives?

Every event I go to adds new vegan delights to my kitchen cupboards. This time I was over the moon to buy vegan BBQ sauces from Callowfit (www.musclefinesse.com) – they have a brilliant range of dressings and sauces and they are based in Peterborough  too!

 

 

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.

 

My vegan journey – a blogger’s story

It’s quite an egotistical thing to write about yourself I guess.

But writing a blog in itself is a bit self-indulgent, so I thought I’d explain a bit about how I came to be a vegan on a desert island.

My journey began before the internet – yes, people did exist before social networking, and people were actually able to think for themselves – although networking, marketing and sharing news and ideas took a bit longer, there was more actual talking to people face to face.

You see, not all vegans hate people. It’s true that some people do indeed suck, but not all of them. I like to shy away from huge generalisations, social media has been awesome in that it helps to spread the message, but the online bullying of vegans (sometimes by other vegans) has been very demoralising.

I digress.

I don’t know when I turned vegan. This is a shocking revelation in itself in the days of Veganversaries, but it’s true. I know I was somewhere between 28 and 30 at the time, but that’s as near as I can get,

Sorry. It just happened and so I didn’t really think about it. I’m 46 as I write this though, I do remember that.

I also remember turning vegetarian. I was 16, so it was the September of 1988. I know this because I had just started college in Boston. I was shy (I’m still very shy and get crippling anxiety in social situations – if I have to walk in a pub/party alone, I sometimes don’t turn up), quiet, unpolitical and not at all punk rock – although I did like Napalm Death.

Anyway, one of my new friends was vegetarian. He took us into the college library and put on a video tape (ask your mum) about the ALF (Animal Liberation Front). I went home and said I was vegetarian. That simple.

Friday was chppy tea night, so that night I had a big bag of chips instead of fish and chips.

And that was it. There was, and still is, a health food shop in Holbeach (the rural town in which I grew up), but supermarkets, in general, sold very little in the way of vegetarian food. I remember dried packets of Vegetarian Casseroles and Stroganoff and Lind McCartney did veggie pasties as well as pies. Dried soya chunks were the only real meat substitute.

I tried the one brand of soya milk available in the shop – it was horrible and that put me off veganism for the time being. Although, I do remember one of my father’s non-veggie friends asking me why I ate eggs when they contained baby chickens. I didn’t have an answer.

As a kid, we used to play games around being shipwrecked on a desert island – I think Robinson Crusoe type films were popular at the time. We made bows and arrows out of sticks. I remember only wanting to pretend to kill old and infirm animals to eat while “surviving”. Now I’d probably live off nuts, berries, roots and plants.

Also, the pioneering animal rights film The Animals Film (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Animals_Film) was shown around this time. Not only is this film better than all other animal rights films in my view, it included the Animal Liberation Front and hunt saboteurs in it as well as scenes of animal abuse, it was actually shown on mainstream television. Yes, it was part of Channel 4’s third night of transmission in 1982. So, this could have been the film (or part of it) I saw in the library – I may have taken it out on loan, or I may have seen a repeat – I can’t quite remember – obviously, I was only 10 when it was broadcast.

So how did I make the transition from vegetarian to vegan?

I just thought about it.

I remember I was living in Louth, in Lincolnshire at the time. There was a health food co-operative nearby and vegan food was becoming more readily available – although I started buying punk vegan recipe books. I loved anarcho-punk, and bands like Conflict and Subhumans had strong animal rights messages in their lyrics so that helped. But there was no social media. However, I know that part of my thought process centred around how it was unnatural to drink the milk of another species.

People kept saying to me “it’s natural to meat”, yet how could nicking milk from a calf be natural? So, in a way, meat-eaters turned me vegan.

And that was it. Did I stray? Yes, a couple of times by accident, and in New York when I struggled to find vegan food – but I wouldn’t now, and I am glad it’s so easy to spread the message and help people go vegan. Outreach is very important.

The title of my blog, while referring to the old cliché vegans often hear, “what would you do if you were stranded on a desert island?”, is also relevant in that my change and transition was a solo journey – as if my mind was on a desert island.