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

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

Tell supermarkets to ‘Mark It Vegan’

For anyone who has tried buying vegan products in a supermarket, I’m sure this will be a familiar experience. You find some delicious looking product on a supermarket shelf, it’s labelled ‘suitable for vegetarians’, but it’s not clear whether it’s vegan-friendly too, so you begin searching through the ingredients list. All is going well until, right at the very bottom, you read the word ‘honey’.

Of course, it could just as easily be ‘vitamin D3′ or ‘shellac’ or any number of other animal-derived ingredients. The point is, imagine how much easier it would be if all supermarket own-brand products that are suitable for vegans were clearly labelled. You could just pick up an item and know immediately whether it was suitable for you or not. That’s the goal behind Animal Aid’s new Mark It Vegan campaign, which is calling on all UK supermarkets that don’t already do so to label their vegan-friendly own-brand goods.

At present only Sainsbury’s, the Co-op and Marks & Spencer label their animal-free products, the rest do so only sporadically or not at all. So, if you’d like to see vegan labelling in stores such as Tesco, Iceland, Aldi and the others, please sign our online petition and share it on social media. Whilst you’re at it, you can also order some of our campaign postcards and ask your friends and family to sign them too.

Struggling to find vegan products in supermarkets is one of the biggest problems faced by new vegans, so this simple measure would help to make going vegan easier and more appealing. And the more people who go vegan, the fewer animals have to suffer and die to produce our food.

Vegan alternatives to Guinness for St Patrick’s Day

Despite the news a few months ago that Guinness was to go vegan, sadly it still hasn’t. So, what can vegans have on St Patrick’s Day if they fancy a drop of the black stuff? Well, here are a few options…

Meantime London Stout

Brewed at the Meantime Brewing Company in Greenwich (hence the name), Meantime London Stout is made with dark malts, rather than the roasted barley used in Guinness and other traditional Irish stouts. This gives it a complex, malty flavour with notes of vanilla, caramel and even nut roast. Widely available in bottles.

Pitfield Shoreditch Stout

Pitfield Brewery, based in Essex, is one of only a very small handful of breweries in the UK that produce beer that is both vegan and organic and is a regular feature at vegan events across the UK. At 4% ABV, their Shoreditch Stout is not as strong as many other dark beers, but this makes it perfect for session drinking. The flavour is smooth and mild with notes of coffee and chocolate and it is surprisingly refreshing. Pitfield also produce a 1792 Imperial Chocolate Stout, but at 7.3% ABV, it’s not for the faint hearted.

Samuel Smith’s Extra Stout

Samuel Smith’s have been brewing beer in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, for more than 250 years. Whilst they produce a wide selection of beers, including several stouts, their Extra Stout is the only one that is available on draught. Smooth, creamy and malty, this is a fine stout and is available in pubs across Yorkshire and further afield. Also look out for their Organic Chocolate Stout, Oatmeal Stout and Imperial Stout, available in bottles

Binghams Doodle Stout (bottle only)

For a small brewery, Berkshire-based Binghams produce a surprising number of stouts. Their Doodle Stout is, rather appropriately, named after the brewer’s dog and features paw prints on the label. Made with a delicious blend of dark malts, this makes for a complex beer. Sadly, only the bottled version is suitable for vegans, which also goes for their Coffee Stout, Vanilla Stout, Ginger Doodle Stout and Hot Dog Stout.

Blackjack Stout

Founded in 2012, Blackjack Beers in Manchester is a fairly new microbrewery, but everything they produce is vegan-friendly, so you can enjoy their Blackjack Stout safe in the knowledge that it is cruelty-free. This beer comes with rich toffee and smoky flavours, but with a nice dose of hoppy spice. Available from Marble pubs and other drinking establishments around Manchester.

For more vegan stout options, visit Barnivore.

Daily Vegan 30: And now 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 and we hope it didn’t prove too difficult.

Soon you’ll be receiving a final questionnaire from us. The feedback we receive is really important, helping us to improve and better promote any future Vegan Challenges. So please fill it in as soon as you can, whilst your memory is fresh, and you’ll be entered into a draw for some great prizes from VBites and Fry’s Family Foods.

More than 1,500 people signed up for The Great Vegan Challenge 2015 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, please remember that we’ll still be available at all times to answer all your queries.

So for now it’s au revoir from the Daily Vegan!

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

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 was particularly reinforced for me by our undercover investigation 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 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. Our latest film – at Bowood’s Yorkshire Lamb in North Yorkshire – led to the closure of the slaughterhouse.

One of our aims with The Great Vegan Challenge has been to show that an exclusively plant-based diet does not demand any kind of self-sacrifice. The food can be delicious and fun, 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.

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 please to keep in mind (or better still look at) these 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 food processor to chop up the nuts. But nut roast isn’t compulsory and you’ll find countless other recipe ideas online.

If you can’t be bothered with cooking and enjoy convenience foods that imitate meat, you could always purchase a VBites Celebration Roast (RRP £5.89). It’s a ‘turkey-style’ roast that comes with a gravy mix and four vegan sausages wrapped in meat-free bacon. You just bung it in the oven for approximately 40 minutes and would probably serve two. Other easy options include a Vegusto roast, a selection of which are available from their website, or Fry’s Soy and Quinoa Country Roast, which can be found in the freezer at many health food shops.

All the vegetables and accompaniments can easily be made vegan with a little thought – gravy, stuffing, etc – and the vegetables shouldn’t be a problem, provided the spuds are roasted in vegetable oil.

Several supermarkets are selling vegan-friendly Christmas puddings this year. At Sainsbury’s, the 6 month matured and Be good to yourself puds are both fine. Meanwhile Aldi’s 12 month matured and standard Christmas puddings are both vegan, and Tesco’s Everyday Value one is also animal-free.

Unfortunately, vegan mince pies are a little thin on the ground this year. The only ones I’ve identified so far are Sainsbury’s Free From mince pies and Waitrose Essential ones. However, it’s also worth popping into your local health food shop to see if they have any available. If you want to bake your own, most mincemeat is now 100% animal-free, as is Jus-rol pastry.

Christmas cakes are more of a problem. You’ll either have to make your own (you can find loads of recipes on the internet, like this one) or buy one from a specialist mail order company such as the Heavenly Cake Company.

Happy Christmas everybody!

Daily Vegan 27: The vegan ethic – by Mark Gold

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.

One of the most obvious non-food items for which cruelty-free alternatives are easy to obtain is skin care products. In addition to specialist companies such as Faith in Nature and Honesty Cosmetics, several of the leading supermarkets’ own-brand labels now carry the Cruelty Free International leaping bunny logo, indicating that their products are not tested on animals. These include Co-op, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s and Superdrug, although only the Co-op and Superdrug also state which items contain no animal products. And we must give a special mention to Lush, who have been great supporters of Animal Aid and other animal campaigns, and who label all of their vegan products.

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, Bio D, Suma and Astonish.

For make-up, Superdrug’s own ‘B’ range is vegan and non-animal tested. Beauty Without Cruelty is also completely vegan and many of their products are available from the Animal Aid online shop.


Daily Vegan 26: Chocolate galore! – by Mark Gold

It’s amazing how many people think that vegans can’t have chocolate, so here is a quick run-down 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 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. Look out for Plamil, Organica, Vego, and Moo-Free, and many supermarkets stock their own ‘free from’ range. You can even get vegan white chocolate now.

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.

You can, of course, buy a huge range of vegan chocolate from the Animal Aid 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 decadent, luxurious truffles. And don’t miss our gorgeous new Italian Pernigotti range!

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. When made with dairy-free milk, Cadbury’s Original drinking chocolate is vegan (though they have other chocolate drinks that are not), as is the Co-op’s own-brand version, and Sainsbury’s own-brand drinking chocolate. All three are also fairtrade.

Daily Vegan 25: Good companies – by Mark Gold

At the end of The Great Vegan Challenge (now less than a week to go!), we’ll be asking participants to fill in a questionnaire about their experiences, and giving them the chance to win prizes generously donated by VBites and Fry’s Family Foods (more on that to follow).

Like the vegan cheese companies we mentioned earlier (Bute Island and Vegusto), these two companies have always been unstinting in their support of Animal Aid. VBites (formerly Redwoods) rose from small beginnings and is now, of course, owned by Heather Mills. Fry’s is a South African company and is now one of the leading vegan food manufacturers in the world. It reamins in the hands of the Fry family who founded it.  Both companies market a wide range of vegan convenience foods, but Fry’s sausage rolls and the VBites Lincolnshire style sausages are my particular favourites.

There are several other food companies who have helped Animal Aid greatly over the years. You may have seen that some of the popular Nak’d bars (a delicious raw food snack, now available in many 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 very 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).

Daily Vegan 24: 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 with which you feel some emotional attachment?

Well, you don’t have to do everything overnight if you don’t want to, and I don’t think that it’s an issue that you should beat yourself up about. You may, in time, feel too uncomfortable about animal products to keep them. Or you may not.

If you would like to replace your shoes (or belts, bags, etc) with vegan alternatives, you might like to try these companies:

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

Most high street shops also have some shoes made from synthetic materials. And for the sporty amongst you, it’s no longer difficult to find non-leather trainers, football boots and astro turf shoes from the leading brands. You can check which ones have vegan options here.

But 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’.

Daily Vegan 23: Anyone for a cream tea? – by Mark Gold

Another British institution that you don’t have to miss out on is the cream tea!

First the bad news: most (though not all) shop-bought scones contain dairy products, so you are most likely going to have to bake them yourself. There are plenty of good recipes. The one below is slightly adapted from an excellent book available from Animal Aid, entitled Another Dinner Is Possible. I know this one works!

Ingredients for 15 scones

350g self raising flour
1tbsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
40g caster sugar (you could reduce it a bit!)
75g margarine
1tsp grated lemon zest
50g sultanas
150-175g soya milk, plus some to glaze

Pre-heat oven to 220C/425F/Gas mark 7.

Sift the flour and baking powder, then stir in sugar.

Add spoonfuls of margarine and rub it in with fingertips. Stir in lemon zest and sultanas. Gradually add milk to make a soft dough, and knead lightly by hand.

Roll out – not too thinly! – onto a floured surface. Cut into rounds with a cutter, place on greased baking sheet, brush with soya milk and bake for about 10-15 mins until golden and risen. Cool on wire rack.

Now to the big question: what do you use for thick cream? Well, there is a vegan product that you can buy from some healthfood shops called Soyatoo. It is marketed in two versions – one in a carton that you can whip up yourself, or alternatively, ready whipped in an aerosol can. Another brand of ‘squirty’ soya cream that has recently appeared in the UK is Schlagfix, which is available from some health food shops, as well as online from Alternative Stores and other specialist websites.

I’ve known some vegans use dairy-free vanilla ice cream on top of the jam. And there are lots of creative combinations using ingredients such as creamed coconut, silken tofu, icing sugar, cashew nuts, etc.

But my choice, without a doubt, is Tofutti plain cream cheese (also available from health food stores). It’s not sweet, but it combines perfectly with the sweetness of your jam and scone to provide just the thing for a Sunday afternoon summer treat in the garden.