Category Archives: Blog

Welcome to the Great Vegan Challenge blog! Throughout November people taking part in the Great Vegan Challenge will be posting their thoughts, experiences and advice here, so check back regularly for updates. If you would like to contribute to this blog, please email veganchallenge@animalaid.co.uk.

Welcome to the Great Vegan Challenge blog! Throughout November people taking part in the Great Vegan Challenge will be posting their thoughts, experiences and advice here, so check back regularly for updates. If you would like to contribute to this blog, please email veganchallenge@animalaid.co.uk.

The Great Vegan Challenge is back!

After two hugely successful years, the Great Vegan Challenge is returning for 2014 to help even more people go animal-free this November! The idea behind it is simple – you pledge to go vegan for the whole month and we make it is as easy, fun and engaging as possible. 1,700 people have taken part since 2012 and, with the kind help of our sponsors at Fry’s Vegetarian Foods, we plan to make this year’s Great Vegan Challenge even bigger and better!

The response to past Challenges has been overwhelmingly positive; here’s what some of last year’s participants had to say about it:

‘I feel, happier, healthier and fitter than before. A real feel good, positive, life changing experience, thank you.’ – Sue from Colchester

‘An opportunity to try something I have been considering for some time with great support from other likeminded people.’ – Renee from Hampton

‘The Challenge was lifestyle changing for me. I feel happier in myself, knowing that the cruel dairy and egg industry won’t get another penny out of me.’ – David from Runcorn

‘I really enjoyed the Great Vegan Challenge and apprecite the wealth of information and resources and the care I felt from the organisers – thank you very much for the extra inspiration to be vegan.’ – Emily from London

Registration for the Great Vegan Challenge 2014 is now open, so if you’d like to take part and give veganism a try, head over to our sign-ip page.

Daily Vegan 30: And so the end is near… – by Mark Gold

So how has it been for you? Interesting – even fun – we hope? Everyone at Animal Aid would like to thank you all for taking part, which we know you wouldn’t have done if you didn’t care about animals and the work we do. And I guess that if you’re reading this, the chances are that you’ve made it through to the end. Congratulations – though we hope it didn’t prove too difficult.

Soon you’ll be receiving that final questionnaire. Although we’re allowing more than a month to complete it (we know that for some people December is just impossible), we recommend that you fill it in as soon as you can, before it gets forgotten. The feedback we receive is really important to us, helping us to improve and better promote any future Vegan Challenges. And, of course, you get the chance to win one of our three food prizes, generously donated by Fry’s, Vegusto and VBites.

Almost 900 people signed up for The Great Vegan Challenge 2013 and it’s going to be fascinating to see how many of you intend to stick with the diet once we’re not pestering you every day!

For those who decide that they can’t commit themselves totally to veganism, we hope that you’ve at least got something out of the experience and will, perhaps, depend far less on meat and dairy in the future.

For those who do want to stay vegan – and those who are considering it – please remember that we’ll still be available at all times to answer all your queries.

So thanks for reading, and au revoir from the Daily Vegan!

Kalsang’s assembly – by Tamsin and Dhondup

We are really enjoying our Vegan Challenge and, as a family, have discovered a deeper connection and understanding with each other through this amazing time. We will most definitely continue being vegan once the Challenge is over.

Last Thursday, 21st November, our son Kalsang, who is nine, had a school assembly to do. He is very blessed in that he attends Inwoods Small School, which is governed by the Krishnamurti Trust, so the school is already vegetarian and mindful of all sentient beings.

Kalsang chose himself to talk about the Great Vegan Challenge, he feels very passionately about sharing it. So taking in his copies of Animal Aid’s Outrage magazine, the information about the Challenge and some posters and literature that he has from the organisation ‘Tibetan Volunteers for Animals’ (or Semchen), along with some sample vegan chocolate and fruit jellies, he gave a very successful assembly. There was a great deal of interest and many questions and the school has even decided to go vegan for a week!

Many of the families outside of school are sadly not vegetarian, so from one child sharing this information to other children, then that filtering up to the parents, has certainly generated a few questions!

We feel really proud of Kalsang and wanted to share this with you. 

Daily Vegan 29: If slaughterhouses had glass walls… – by Mark Gold

A slaughterman punches a pig in the face

There are many good reasons for becoming vegan, but the one that inspires most of us is, of course, a desire not to have any part in the horrific exploitation of animals. This core belief has been reinforced for me by our undercover investigation work inside UK slaughterhouses. Those who follow Animal Aid’s progress will know that we exposed routine cruelty, with laws broken and regulations ignored. Those images still haunt me – cigarettes stubbed out on the face of pigs, animals kicked, stamped on, cursed, hit in the face with metal shackles and tortured by electric shocks through ears, snouts and even open mouths. Few who have witnessed the footage (if you can bear to look, some can be found here) could contest that slaughterhouses are probably the most barbaric institutions that are still legalised in our culture. These are killing factories where the worst forms of macho behavior thrive.

One of our aims with The Great Vegan Challenge 2013 has been to show that an exclusively plant-based diet does not demand any kind of self-sacrifice. The food can be delicious, as well as healthy and good for the environment and animals. But we have also been keen not to underestimate the difficulties that some people experience in adapting to change and overcoming social pressures from family and friends.

Animals are routinely beaten

So, while we would like everybody who has taken part in the Challenge to remain 100% vegan, we don’t expect it. It’s your choice and we’re not planning to send the Vegan Police round to check the contents of your fridge and food cupboards!

What we would ask of all those who are unsure, however, is to please keep in mind (or better still look at) those slaughterhouse images one more time before you come to a final decision. Thanks.

Daily Vegan 28: It’s Christmas time… – by Mark Gold

Love it or hate it, it’s almost here again and, although it can be a bit of a tough time if you’re the only vegan in an unsympathetic family, it doesn’t mean going without. Nor, if you’re worried about it, does it mean causing too much disruption.

If you have space in the kitchen, and the inclination, there are an infinite number of possibilities for your main course on Christmas Day. Nut roast has become the ‘traditional’ vegetarian option, and there are hundreds of different recipes of varying complexity. Some can be very quick and easy, as long as you have a mixer to grind the nuts. But nut roast needn’t be compulsory, (unlike turkey, which appears to be so for meat eaters) – you’ll find countless recipe ideas online.

If you can’t be bothered with cooking and like convenience foods that imitate meat, you could always purchase a Vbites Celebration Roast. It’s a ‘turkey-style’ roast that comes with four veggie sausages, each wrapped in a rasher of veggie bacon and a gravy mix. You just bung it in the oven for approximately 40 minutes. It would probably serve two. Vegusto also sell a range of delicious festive roasts, available through their website.

All the vegetables and accompaniments can easily be made vegan with a little thought. Bisto’s original gravy, as well as its vegetable one, is suitable for vegans, as are many other brands. And you’ll find that lots of packet mixes for stuffing are also vegan. The biggest problem may be ensuring that the rest of the family desists from the common habit of roasting the spuds in the meat fat.

Buying Christmas puddings isn’t usually a problem, though this year, provisional investigation indicates that the choice is slightly more limited than has recently been the case. Tesco Everyday Value Christmas Pudding With Cider is definitely OK, and both Lidl and Co-op puds appear to be suitable, apart from a question mark over the tiny quantity of sherry. (Some beers, wines and ports have been fined with fish swim bladders (isinglass), egg whites, whey or gelatin. Fining is a process to makes the drink clear. To carry out the same process, vegan drinks can be fined with special clay or allowed to settle naturally). However, Animal Aid is selling a vegan plum pudding this year, so visit our online shop to order yours!

Asda Smart Price Mince Pies and Lidl Deep Filled Mince Pies are both fine for vegans, as are Aldi Everyday Essentials Mince Pies. If you want to bake your own, most mincemeat is now 100% animal-free, as is JusRol pastry. (Other, though not all, ready-made pastry brands are also suitable for vegans.)

Christmas cakes are more of a problem. You’ll have to make your own (there are loads of recipes on the internet) or buy one from a specialist mail order company such as Vegan Cake Direct. Order early to avoid disappointment.

Other supermarkets may also have suitable vegan festive foods, especially in the ‘Free From’ section, but although I started with the best intentions of checking them all, I do hate shopping and was losing the will to live after visiting three!

Happy Christmas everybody!

Daily Vegan 27: The vegan ethic

The vegan ethic is not only about food, of course. It means questioning the clothes we wear, the hair and skin care products we use, and so much more. It’s about developing a thoughtful approach to the world around us and our place in it. And it invites everyone to share and to encourage the rejection of cruelty and exploitation wherever it is possible to do so.

It is now easy to find cruelty-free toiletries and cosmetics. In addition to specialist companies such as Faith in Nature and Honesty, several of the leading supermarkets’ own-brand labels now carry the BUAV leaping bunny logo, indicating that their products are not tested on animals. These include Co-op, Marks & Spencer and Superdrug, although only the Co-op and Superdrug list which items contain no animal products, too.

Most household cleaning products are tested on animals, but once again, the Co-op and Marks & Spencer lead the big retailers in marketing items that are not. Specialist cruelty-free companies include Faith in Nature (again), Bio D and Suma.

For make-up, Beauty Without Cruelty remains the best bet. Their range is now completely vegan and many products are available from the Animal Aid catalogue and online shop.

3 weeks in, 3 days left – by Damilola Mohammed

One of my favourite meals : Bean and carrot soup with dumplings and vegetable fried rice.

The last 3 weeks have been pretty interesting and I can actually say overall my insides feel good and I’ve definitely had my fair share of what being a vegan feels like. Often I’ve been asked ‘what do you eat?’ or on a few occasions I’ve been told this actually isn’t Godly. ‘Kill and eat’ I’ve been told, lol, but for the most part of it people have been intrigued to know more or just generally surprised that I’ve come so far.

To be honest it hasn’t been easy all throughout, and there were times when I wanted to satisfy the craving, but I kept going guys! One of the hardest things for me has been how restricted I’ve felt at times, constantly checking the back of packages of items to make sure they contain no eggs, milk or cream, only to find 3 lines down that it contains one of the above. You become more cautious of what you put inside you and definitely become much more creative in the kitchen.

Jollof Rice and Sweetcorn with fried plantain

Being vegan has forced me to include more fruit and veg into my diet, which, by the way, is obviously a good thing, and also cook and use ingredients, some of which I had never used before the Challenge in my meals. Something I have noticed on the Challenge, however, is that on some days my face looked a bit grey and I sometimes felt tired. After a little research I found that most vegans take a supplement called vitamin B12, which helps in the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body. This is usually obtained from meat, fish and dairy products, so because it is not found in foods such as fruits and vegetables, vegans tend to not get enough of this vitamin. A lack of vitamin B12 can thus lead to, for example, extreme tiredness, yellowing of the skin or a general lack of energy, etc. It therefore became apparent that my friend and I were probably lacking in B12 and we decided to take the supplement.

Nonetheless, over the last few weeks I’ve had some fantastic meals.

You can read more about Damilola’s experiences of the Great Vegan Challenge on her blog Food Eater Travel Lover.

Editors note: The symptoms that Damilola describes may also be a result of iron deficiency, which can be addressed by eating more green leafy vegetables, beans, lentils, tofu, pumpkin seeds and dried fruit, as well as by taking an iron supplement.

Daily Vegan 26: Chocolate galore – by Mark Gold

It’s amazing how many people think that vegans can’t eat chocolate, so here is a quick résumé of what you can and cannot eat.

Obviously Dairy Milk is out.

Some plain chocolate bars do contain butterfat, whey or lecithin, but plenty do not. Soya lecithin as an ingredient is fine.

It’s also important to remember that if the ingredients appear to be vegan, but it says ‘may contain traces of milk’ elsewhere on the wrapper, this simply means that the item was made on a production line where dairy products are also processed. So there is a slight risk of cross-contamination from the equipment, but otherwise there is no problem.

As well as ‘traditional’ plain chocolate, specialist companies are now marketing a lighter, ‘milk’ variety that is suitable for vegans. Organica makes the best one – and even a white chocolate, too. But also look out for Plamil (which was the first UK company to produce chocolate specifically for vegans and everything it produces in its factory is vegan) and the Moo-Free range. And you may even find vegan chocolate buttons and white chocolate buttons in the Free From section of your local supermarket.

Unfortunately, you’ll be hard pressed to find vegan-friendly boxes of chocolates in high street shops, though the delicious Booja Booja range is beginning to get a wider distribution, and Waitrose also has vegan chocolates at times.

You can, of course, buy a huge range of vegan chocolate from the Animal Aid catalogue or online shop – including some of the above mentioned. We also sell a wide range of delicious chocolate boxes. There’s something for all tastes, from ‘Mars’ and ‘Snickers’-style bars to truffles and creams.

Drinking chocolate can sometimes be a problem. Quite a few of the most common versions do include dairy products, often whey or milk powder. Fortunately, there are plenty that don’t. Cadbury’s Original drinking chocolate is vegan (though they have other chocolate drinks that are not) and the Co-op’s own label is also vegan (though not labeled as such, once again because of the cross-contamination risk from production lines). Both are also fairtrade. And there are many more possibilities.

Daily Vegan 25: An obsession with shoes! – by Mark Gold

Why is it that when you tell people that you’re vegetarian or vegan, their first reaction is often to stare at your feet in the hope of spotting a pair of leather shoes? If they find any leather, it’s as if they feel vindicated in their meat eating: they think they can dismiss you as a hypocrite and get on with munching their steaks.

So, what should you do if you’ve recently given up animal products, yet you still have some items – shoes, furniture, bags or whatever – that are not vegan? Some will no doubt take them all down to the charity shop at the first opportunity. But perhaps you can’t afford to replace them immediately? Or maybe you have an item or two you feel emotionally attached to? You don’t have to do everything overnight if you don’t want to and I don’t think that it’s an issue you should beat yourself up about. You may, in time, feel too uncomfortable about animal products to keep them. Or you may not.

So next time some Smart Alec triumphantly points at your leather shoes (or another remaining item containing animal products), I suggest you dismiss them with a reply along the lines of: ‘yes, I’m not perfect. But I think it’s much better to be inconsistently kind than consistently cruel.’

Incidentally, if you would like to replace your shoes with vegan alternatives, you might like to check out these companies:

Animal Aid Shop
Ethical Wares
Freerangers
Veganline
Vegan Store
Vegetarian Shoes
Eco Vegan Shoes
Wills Vegan Shoes
Bourgeois Boheme
Beyond Skin

Daily Vegan 24: Good companies – by Mark Gold

At the end of The Great Vegan Challenge (now only a week to go!), we’ll be asking you to fill in a questionnaire about your experience, and giving you the chance to win some vegan products provided by VBites, Fry’s and Vegusto.

The vegan cheese companies we mentioned earlier (Bute Island, Vegusto and VBites) have always been unstinting in their support for Animal Aid. Redwood – now officially called VBites – rose from small beginnings and is now, of course, owned by Heather Mills (McCartney).

Fry’s is actually a South African company, but their UK distribution is run by Beanies, a small family set-up in which the main players are Lisa Drummy and her dad. It would be difficult to find anybody more dedicated to the vegan cause than Lisa.

Vegusto are relative new-comers to the UK, having arrived from Switzerland about 2-3 years ago, and have made quite a stir with their high quality products.

All three companies market a wide range of vegan convenience foods. Fry’s sausage rolls, VBites gourmet sausages and Vegusto ‘No-Moo’ piquant cheese are my particular favourites.

There are several other food companies who have helped Animal Aid greatly over the years. You may have seen that the popular Nak’d bars (a delicious raw food snack, now available in may supermarkets) even include Animal Aid’s logo on their packaging.

Amongst non-food vegan companies, a special mention must be given to Honesty Cosmetics (who manufacture the Animal Aid skincare range), while the Lush chain has also always been keen to support Animal Aid and many other animal and environmental charities.

(There are bound to be companies I have overlooked. Sorry, and thanks to them as well).