The inevitable Veganuary backlash and the desperation behind Februdairy

As Veganuary comes to an end, we don’t know how many “new vegans” have been created this year, but we do know it has been a total success. More people than ever are doing Veganuary this year and there have been so many newspaper articles on the event, I have lost count. Papers such as the Guardian even published supplements of vegan recipes. But, predictably, there has been a little bit of a backlash.

But, take heart, there always is when something is successful. People in the UK seem scared of success, so the backlash against Veganuary is just a testament to its rise. Of the three anti-vegan article links I can remember, two are discussed below. The third was about the problems of soya and is probably an old link.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/food/article-5239137/The-hidden-downsides-trendy-dairy-free-coffees.html

The article does admit “Veganism is officially no longer a fringe lifestyle, with more people opting to cut out animal products from their diet altogether.”

But apparently Oat milk is the most “calorific” and a skimmed milk latte is the least fattening – all of which misses the point by a million miles.

  1. Many vegans aren’t vegan for health reasons.
  2. Other health benefits of going dairy-free are ignored by the article
  3. Detrimental health effects of dairy are ignored by the article.

Early in January, the Mail also published this: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5227331/RICHARD-LITTLEJOHN-says-Veganuary-gimmick.html

Richard Littlejohn writes: “Meanwhile, the rest of us will shrug our shoulders and take no notice whatsoever,” and then goes and writes a whole smug, predictable article about it – oh the irony Richard!

Right-wing commentators are more obsessed with veganism than vegans are. The backlash just proves how popular veganism is becoming.

Then there’s this from the Sun: https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/5405801/veganuary-ditching-dairy-iodine-deficiency-drop-13-iq-points/ which claims you lack calcium and iodine by going vegan – kale, broccoli and fortified plant milk are all calcium sources – the article claims (wrongly) that non-dairy milk isn’t fortified.

Iodine is something you need very little of and can get through seaweed – but natural iodine is hard to come by – some fruits and veg have a bit, depending on how iodine-rich the soil they are grown in is, so a supplement can be a good bet. Iodized salt is also a source – it is important during pregnancy. The article states that dairy is the best source – that’s only because it’s added to animal feed – it isn’t a natural source.

And as Veganuary careers towards a successful conclusion, we have news of #Februdairy – an attempt to silence the dairy industry’s critics – they say impersonation is the sincerest form of flattery. Here’s what a farming paper says about it: https://www.fginsight.com/news/news/support-your-dairy-farmers-februdairy-launches-to-silence-industry-critics-50675

But it does show veganism’s rise is now a financial threat to the dairy industry – they are desperate to prove they’re not cruel – we, however, know different.

Of course, Veganuary has grown beyond vegans’ wildest dreams over the last four years (the charity was formed in November 2013 – ready for January 2014), so, the biggest surprise is that it’s taken the dairy industry four years to respond. The fact it has responded is a testament to the growing power of veganism! You, of course, can still visit the Veganuary website: https://veganuary.com/ to see what the fuss is all about.

 

 

 

 

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.

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/

 

 

Gosh, these vegan sausages are natural

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Gosh Naturally Fee-From 6 Sweet Potato and Black Bean Sausages reviewed

One look at the ingredients tells you these are jam-packed with natural goodness. Although, reading the ingredients, or, indeed, the cooking instructions, is a challenge in itself. The horrible white on green print means that less than perfect eyes, or less than perfect lighting, renders the back of the packaging illegible.

The big plus, however, apart from the natural goodness, is the fact that this product is both gluten and soya-free – in other words, they are suitable for almost anyone – which is great news.

Now, the name might imply blandness – I have to say that this is deceptive. Tucked away at the end of the ingredients list is two words that completely annihilates all thoughts of blandness – and also disperses any taste of sweet potato (27 per cent of it, according to the packaging) that may have been there when the sausages were first formed!

“Just tell us the words,” I hear you scream. Well, they are chilli flakes! Two innocent words that spice things right up when it comes to sausages. In fact, the heat is the overriding taste that takes control of your taste buds with every bite.

The fact the packet neglects to mention this means you’ll either be pleasantly surprised (like me) or utterly horrified. Let’s face it, not everybody likes spicy food, so the fact the box says “with a hint of lime”, rather than “with a kick of chilli” is a bit perplexing to me – especially as I failed to detect the “hint of lime”.

However, I could taste the black beans (25 per cent of the ingredients) – something which was a huge plus for me – I’m a big fan of beans, and sausages and beans are, of course, natural bed fellows.

They sausages are very dry, so a brush with oil before cooking is a good idea – as is covering them in gravy (especially if you wish to lessen the chilli hit), but they have a soft texture and a rusk-like taste and feel to them – again, this is a plus in my book as it makes them more sausagey (yes, I did just make that word up).

All in all, a pleasant surprise for me, but not one for those who dislike spicy food.

I got mine from Morrisons, and they are, at the time of writing, priced at £2.47 on their website – https://groceries.morrisons.com/webshop/product/Gosh-Sweet-Potato–Black-Bean-Sausages/389798011 – which seems more than reasonable to me.

 

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.

All hail the kale! Strong Root Kale & Quinoa Burger

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Both kale and quinoa have been called super foods – so this should make these burgers super super!

Well, they are quite nice. And, it’s always nice to find new vegan foods that sound pretty awesome – in a healthy way too! Although, these go perfectly with chips – should you wish to not overdo the healthy thing.

Who doesn’t love kale right? Kale crisps are the perfect homemade vegan treat – health and quick, and for immune system boosters – well there isn’t a better food on the planet.

Crumbs, vegans even wear T-shirts with Kale written on – you don’t see that with potatoes!

But let’s not underestimate Queen Quinoa! Oh no! She is a complete protein and an awesome wheat-free alternative to grains – in other words, you don’t need to feel guilty when chowing down on these burgers.

So what are they like? Well, inside they are very green – kale green in fact – surprising that!

They come in a pack of six, so they are pretty small – a strapping young (ahem) like me needs three with a meal! But, as they’re pretty healthy, I’m not complaining – and no animals have been harmed in making these burgers – I don’t emphasise that fact enough on here!

The coating lacks crunch, but adds flavour – I will happily forego crunch for flavour – and they only take 15 minutes to cook in the oven – bonus!

They taste – well, natural!

They aren’t over-seasoned – or seasoned much at all, it seems – although salt does feature on the ingredients list!

They are soft, delicately flavoured and complement most dishes – so, overall, a thumbs-up from me.

 

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Indulgent vegan lunch treat

CO-OP Sweetcorn Fritter & Pineapple Salsa sandwiches

Limited Edition – £2.50 for two.

 

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If you’re looking for a vegan summer lunch treat and are feeling flush, these are a welcome addition to the choices out there.

The fruity hit of pineapple, the slight zing of salsa heat, the crunch of veg and pleasant taste of the red pepper bread are all reasons to indulge with this summer treat.

On the other hand, the price tag and an ingredients list that would pass for the first chapter of a novel are the downside that scream “buy some strawberries instead”.

Of course, it’s positive that High Street supermarkets are embracing veganism – but that’s probably the marketing execs getting their backsides into gear rather than any long-term romance with ethical living. Either way, it annoys the NFU, so can only be seen as a good thing. And, it’s the CO-OP the only vaguely ethical supermarket – or, at least, the least unethical supermarket, in the UK, so, their vegan output really does have to be taken seriously.

Sadly, this branch’s (Orton Centre, in Peterborough) is seriously lacking in the vegan-friendly freezer department – so one can’t have everything it seems.

Back to the sarnies – and you could have eaten both in the time it took to read the above – they smell nice, they look nice and they taste quite good. The cool salsa dominated taste-wise and the aforementioned hit of fruit is nice, but I wasn’t blown away – even spice-wise or, indeed, taste-wise in general.

They do lack a “wow” factor, and that is a bit of an issue for me. There is nothing in the vegan rule book that says we can’t enjoy utterly fantastic food. We should not expect bland or “OK” vegan options – we deserve to be bowled over with tongue orgasms every time we pay over the odds for vegan food many think we should be “grateful to have”.

Given this, an indulgent price should be reflected in the taste of the product – so, CO-OP, close but no cigar.

 

The great plant-based ‘milk’ debate

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The rise and rise of plant-based dairy alternatives seems to be getting the farming community hot under the collar.

I guess it proves those who say “going vegan won’t change anything” wrong.

In June, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that vegan alternatives cannot use words like milk in product descriptions.

The case was brought by the German Competition Authority against TofuTown (sounds like my kind of place).

The EU Court ruled plant-based alternatives cannot be described using the terms ‘milk’, ‘cream’, ‘butter’, ‘cheese’ or ‘yoghurt’, as these are reserved by EU law for animal products. Finally, a reason for supporting Brexit (although there’s plenty of other reasons for being a ‘remoaner’).

Truth is, the dairy industry is panicking about the fact it’s losing sales to healthier, more ethical (not hard) to vegan-friendly alternatives. ( http://vegfestexpress.co.uk/tabs/blog/2017/02/dairy-free-plant-milks-market—the-future ).

In almond milk etc as “milk” on their websites – and to even stop stocking it next to dairy milks – maybe they’re scared dairy buyers will catch a conscience as they browse the shelves?

So, it seems as vegans up the ante in criticising the dairy industry, it is resorting to desperate measures to fight back. Remember, it is also pressure from the dairy industry that has led to the badger culls in the UK – despite the fact there is no evidence at all that badgers spread BOVINE TB ( https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/13/badger-cull-expansion-flies-in-face-of-scientific-evidence ). So, quite rightly, activists have drawn parallels with the dairy industry. Quite simply, buying dairy milk leads to dead badgers.

The furore follows last year’s great Gary Facebook debate, when Sainsbury’s launched their own brand of vegan cheese ( https://veganonadesertisland.com/2016/10/02/the-great-gary-review/ )

Sainsbury’s had some free marketing over that one – somebody thought that it was wrong to call the product “cheese”. It seems the desperation goes on and one…

So, why can’t market forces just accept that ethical living is on the rise? Big supermarkets are getting in on the act, major multi-nationals are making money out of veganism and the “middle class” vegan has a huge part to play in the economy? Or, are those of us who are anti-capitalist just too prominent in the vegan movement? Revolution cannot be allowed to happen – remember!

Personally, I think there are too many rich and powerful players in the animal agriculture industry for politicians to allow it to fail – despite the fact we could feed the world many times over if we all went vegan tomorrow. So, while veganism was “allowed” to exist as a niche product line, the fact the number of vegans has exploded beyond even our wildest hopes as kicked the meat and dairy industry (it is one combined industry if we’re honest) into attack mode.

I’ve read posts on Facebook in the past about reserving the words burgers and sausages for meat products – but they’re just shapes! You get different meat varieties of sausages and burgers, so why not meat-free versions?

I have noticed in the numerous stories about veganism on national news sites that non-vegans in society as a whole now feel it necessary to go into attack mode in the dreaded comment sections. Does this come from a sense of guilt or a fear that their cosy lifestyle (of pain and suffering) is under threat?

 

The only vegan in the office

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Being a vegan at work can be hard, well, work.

Even with the 4 billion per cent rise in veganism (figures curtesy of the Leave Campaign and Diane Abbott), many people just don’t “get it”.

“But what do you eat.” Food mainly.

“You can’t even eat eggs?” Even eggs? Most people don’t actually die from a lack of egg consumption.

“Don’t you miss bacon?” No I don’t miss a fried slice of pig skin too much.

And so on.

To be fair, many people do try hard.

My former employers used to ask about vegan options on the menu for Christmas meals out. One restaurant forgot to get vegan cheese in and offered me a vegan alternative – and a free round of drinks for my table! Everyone wanted to be friends with the vegan that night.

But I did once go to an Italian restaurant whose vegan option was a pizza without cheese – that actually turned out to be a base with tomato sauce on it and two bits of asparagus. I like asparagus, but two pieces a pizza topping do not make.

But people do forget that it goes beyond diet sometimes. We won’t bet on the Grand National, go dog racing, give to Cancer Research etc etc.

Sometimes explaining these things can get a little bit tiresome – but when that happens, remember that it gives you an opportunity to explain your stance. In effect, you are being asked to be a “preachy vegan” – so go for it. You never know, you might open someone’s eyes.

I asked people on social media for their experiences. One Facebook friend mentioned how friends were raising their child vegan and said this on the ill-informed response she received: “Apparently, it’s ‘borderline child cruelty to impose veganism on someone who can’t think for themselves.’ Like animals can think for themselves, yeah?”

Somebody else had slightly more positive experiences: “People at my office are generally pretty good – and interested in talking about veganism. My boss is ace and has sourced me Vego bars for Easter and vegan cider for Xmas. However, I wasn’t able to go to the Xmas meal as they had a really rubbish vegan option – so it’s not always at the forefront of people’s minds. Also, people always bring in cake for their birthday and I can never eat it.”

Personally, I like the response from one office worker, who said: “My boss’s response “well there must be other normal vegans out there because you’re quite normal”.”

You see, we are normal!

Canteens were another issue, with many vegans bringing in packed lunches even when this facility is available in a workplace. One worker had this to say about company-provided food: “For the last company event I asked in advance if a vegan option could be possible. They ordered me 6 dry bread rolls. Compare that to the treatment I got when I recently visited our sister company in Sweden – they had informed the hotel in advance, arranged a vegan lunch for me every day and had informed the restaurant where we had an evening function that a member of the party was vegan and planned a menu for me.”

To be fair, the first time I ever encountered avocado was at a training event where a vegan meal was provided for me.

Several vegans I asked on Facebook said they were known as “the vegan” at work – something I find a bit laced with prejudice, although it can be done affectionately.

The most blunt response I received was from a builder friend: “Try telling someone you are vegetarian or vegan on a building site it’s almost as bad as telling them you sh***ed their granny the night before.” Quite!

It was also pointed out that “Case law has shown that veganism is a protected belief.” Something that is worth remembering if you get bullied or singled out in the workplace.

One respondent in charge of tea and coffee had been using soya milk instead of cows’ milk for months before anybody noticed… It’s worth checking that nobody has a soya allergy before doing this, however, the same applies to nut milks.

It is a bit difficult when someone brings a smelly McDonalds into work, the same applies to Tuna or egg, all of them smell like hot death to a vegan’s sensitive nostrils. To the death eater, we are a bit weird. Being a bit weird is generally OK you know – especially considering the alternative.

Vegan fondant delights

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Tesco Free-From Fondant Truffles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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