A year ago, I tried veganism for a month. November being World Veganism Month, it seemed like a perfect opportunity. There were plenty of stumbling blocks, but now I can proudly say that I have never looked back.Like vegetarians, vegans don’t eat meat or fish, but they go further and choose not to consume or use ANY product that in some way uses an animal. This means avoiding dairy, eggs, honey, wool or silk, as well as not using products tested on animals. This may seem restrictive, but it’s a positive and enlightening experience, and one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
The most obvious reason for going vegan is for the animals. It is argued that veganism does more than vegetarianism to prevent animal cruelty, and that in the developed world we are able to survive without animal products. There are many other reasons to try veganism; Industrial animal farming is one of the biggest contributors to global warming and pollution, so a vegan diet is automatically more environmentally friendly, whilst replacing animal foods with plant-based nutrition is much healthier. Overall, vegans aim to live a humane and ethical lifestyle.
Admittedly, it’s not always easy. When I first tried veganism, I was astounded by how many everyday products contained animal ingredients where I didn’t expect them. Quorn, that favourite meat-alternative of vegetarians, contains milk and egg powder. The Body Shop, surely a safe haven that eschews animal testing, right? Not since L’Oreal bought them out, one of the biggest animal-testing companies in Europe. It frustrated me to see how many companies felt the need to use animals unnecessarily. Then there was my catered hall, meaning that my first memories of veganism consist mainly of potatoes and baked beans. Sigh. However, these setbacks are a real eye-opener; it takes a lot of courage and effort to really look at all the products you take for granted daily. A little bit of research and label-reading can make you highly aware of the complexity of being truly ethical. It seems a setback, but I found this a very liberating journey, and it’s satisfying to know that you can change your mentality and lifestyle.
The mention of veganism around students often brings up the question ‘Isn’t it more expensive?’ My response is that, like any diet, it can be made affordable with a little effort. If you’re on a budget, avoid specialty products with several labels such as ‘organic’ or ‘super-food’, and instead re-evaluate what you already buy. Choose non-egg based pasta, and even small ‘extra’ supermarkets stock milk alternatives such as soya milk. Replace meat with beans and pulses; dried or in a can they are a lot cheaper and far more ethical than cheap battery chicken. If you’re feeling brave, try something new like tofu, and investigate international food stores for inspiration. Fresh fruit and vegetables from markets and independent grocery stores is a cheaper option than supermarkets, and buy pasta, rice etc in bulk. Many supermarkets have ‘free from’ ranges which have various egg and dairy-free products, and some supermarket’s like The Co-operative and Sainsbury’s label their own brand vegan products. For affordable cosmetics and toiletries, all of Superdrug and Co-op’s own brand products are vegan too. The number of ethical alternatives to animal-products is surprising; vegan milk, chocolate, cheese, sausages, ice-cream…it goes on! I am a sucker for chocolate, so I was overjoyed to find that vegan milk chocolate buttons taste no different. Over the summer I began vegan baking, which is not much different, and changes any sceptic’s opinions!
Of course, going vegan isn’t easy, and many decide that it is not appropriate for them. But even if you make mistakes or find it difficult, veganism is an interesting topic for discussion, and trying out a more ethical lifestyle can only be a positive experience. Give it a go, and see what a vegan lifestyle can do for you.
The Vegan Society is the best source for vegan information and help. They have a vegan pledge where you can get a mentor to help you and answer questions. Their society trademark can be seen on many everyday vegan products: http://www.vegansociety.com/become-a-vegan/
Animal Aid is a charity that aims to increase public understanding of animal welfare. This is site is a useful introduction to veganism. http://www.govegan.org.uk/index.html
BUAV ( British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection) campaign’s to end cosmetic testing on animals. They list cruelty-free companies on their website: http://www.buav.org/
The official World Vegan Day Website: http://www.worldveganday.org.uk/
Recipe for Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
Takes 30 minutes, makes about 12 large cookies.
- 250g Soya/Sunflower Margarine
- 50g Caster Sugar
- 100g Light Muscavado Sugar
- 300g Self-Raising Flour
- 2 tbsp Sweetened Soya Milk
- 175g Dairy-free Dark Chocolate.
- Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/ gas 4. Line 2-3 baking trays with greased baking paper. In a bowl, beat together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Stir in the flour and milk, mix well, the stir in the chocolate.
- Divide the mixture into equal portions on the baking paper, and shape each portion roughly into a ball. Space well apart to allow for spreading. Lightly flatten each ball with your fingertips.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes until the cookies are pale golden around the edges, but still feel soft in the centre. Take out of the oven and allow to cool.
- Enjoy! Vary the recipe by adding extra ingredients. I like to sweeten the mixture by adding a tbsp of syrup and/or 1 tsp of vanilla essence.
by Alice Porter