Category Archives: Blog

Welcome to the Summer Vegan Pledge blog! Throughout June people taking part in the Summer Vegan Pledge 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 Summer Vegan Pledge blog! Throughout June people taking part in the Summer Vegan Pledge 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.

Congratulations! You completed the Summer Vegan Pledge! by Tod Bradbury

Wow! That seemed to fly by!

Congratulations on completing the Summer Vegan Pledge.

I hope that the month was useful and inspired you to continue with your plant-based diet. Either way, I am so glad you joined us. This was the most successful Pledge/challenge that Animal Aid has every run, with a total of 3,766 people signing up!

Over the next few weeks, a feedback survey will be emailed to you. It would be very much appreciated if you would complete this as it will help us understand how to improve any future Pledge’s.

All of the blog posts from this month can be found on this website, so feel free to look back through any that you found particularly useful.

And of course, if you need any further help or advice in the future, please just get in touch!

Thank you all so much for signing up and I am very pleased that you decided to try veganism for the month and I enjoyed helping you all.

Your guide to awkward conversations by Jordan Collins

Jordan is Animal Aid’s Supporter Engagement Officer.

Once your friends and family hear about the decision you’ve made to try veganism, they will have questions. It’s only natural, especially if they don’t know anybody else who is vegan. Try not to be annoyed if you have to answer the same question multiple times at gatherings. If anything, their interest shows that they’re curious about veganism and invested in your life. That said, there are a few ways you can keep these conversations respectful and calm.

First of all, be gentle with the people around you. Forgive ignorance – after all, you didn’t always know everything you know now! Answer any questions you can and try your hardest to make conversations positive. Instead of focusing on the reasons you’re trying veganism (animal suffering, for example), talk about what you’re getting out of it: the exciting foods you’ve tried, people you’ve met, cool facts you’ve learned, how you’ve been experimenting in the kitchen, et cetera. This keeps people from getting defensive and prevents arguments, and it also presents veganism as an opportunity for fun.

These conversations are easier if you have a bit of knowledge up your sleeve, so brushing up beforehand with interesting books like Melanie Joy’s ‘Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows’ can be helpful. That said, you don’t have to come prepared with facts and figures – you’re there to have fun with friends and family, and that should be the focus of your interaction, not getting in another fact about veganism.

Regardless of the way you frame the conversation, there may be someone who is determined to argue. They may feel attacked, may know someone in the animal agriculture industry or may just have a differing opinion. Gently make it clear that there is no need for an argument, and that you don’t want to risk the special relationship that you share by talking about these topics. The goal is to preserve relationships and if the topic is becoming divisive, try to shift the conversation onto something else. The same goes if you recognise that you are becoming upset: steer the conversation in a different direction. Remind one another why your relationship matters, and that your veganism should not affect it.

It’s not always possible to avoid difficult conversations, and in fact you may one day want to tackle the topic with someone you care about, but the key points to keep in mind are to stay calm and to respect the other person’s feelings and your own.

Top 5 common vegan myths busted! by Tod Bradbury

Myth 1: If we didn’t eat them, the animals would go extinct.
The animals who are eaten are far from ‘natural’. They are selectively bred, and in most cases this selective breeding causes them to suffer. Broiler (meat) chickens, for example, are bred to grow so fast in such a short space of time that by the time that they reach ‘slaughter age’ – which is just 6 weeks old – they start to collapse under their own weight; many also suffer from cardio-vascular problems. And whilst if the world did go vegan some species of animals may cease to exist, their wild counterparts (such as bison, wild boar and red –legged jungle fowl) would still exist.

Myth 2: But the animals would take over!
Make your mind up! The only reason there are so many farmed animals on Earth today is because they are bred to meet a demand. As the demand decreases, fewer animals would be bred. Thus the chances of cows taking over are very slim.

Myth 3: Vegans don’t get enough protein.
Nah.

Myth 4: I only buy British, because that way I know the animals are treated well.
Animal Aid and other animal protection organisations have filmed inside British farms and slaughterhouses. Animal Aid has filmed animals being beaten, burnt with cigarettes and otherwise mistreated in English abattoirs – which included RSPCA Approved, Organic/Soil Association accredited, and non-stun. In farms, we have filmed sick and injured animals being left to suffer, amongst other horrendous scenes. One thing that can be taken from all of these investigations is that there is no humane way to breed and kill animals for products that we do not need.

Myth 5: Oh you’re vegan? You must miss [insert animal product here]?
Not at all. You can now get plant-based alternatives to everything from ice-cream, to cheese, to chicken nuggets and everything in between!


The backyard egg conundrum by Jordan Collins

Jordan is Animal Aid’s Supporter Engagement Officer.

Labels like ‘free range’ and ‘organic’ carry a lot of weight nowadays, especially as awareness of animal welfare as an issue is growing all the time. But these animals can still end up in cramped conditions with only limited access to the outside, and hens are typically sent to slaughter once they are no longer able to produce the amount of eggs demanded of them. You can read more in this previous blog. 

Regardless of the location of the hens from whom you get the eggs, they were bred into existence. And alongside them were bred male laying chicks who do not grow big enough or, fast enough to be considered viable for the meat industry, and neither can they lay eggs. So they are killed – a byproduct of the egg industry, whether the eggs you purchase are organic, free-range or from caged hens.

You may be tempted to try to avoid the entire conundrum altogether by purchasing ‘backyard eggs’, so called because they come from hens who are not necessarily kept for profit purposes, but perhaps as someone’s pet. At first glance, these eggs may seem ideal: they come from happier hens, who may have permanent homes.  And it is likely that these hens lead happier lives than their counterparts who live in cramped cages and overcrowded sheds. But there are some unavoidable factors that must be considered.

Laying hens nowadays have been bred to produce far more eggs than they used to: an average of 300 eggs per year, compared to the 10-20 eggs that their wild ancestors lay. This increased eggproduction takes a demanding toll on their bodies, which can result in calcium depletion, a myriad of reproductive diseases and early death. In order to make up for these lost nutrients, laying hens should have their eggs fed back to them.
Ultimately, there is no way to get around the egg conundrum. Instead, try new foods and replace the fats and protein you would get from an egg with nuts, seeds, whole grains and soya products. Added bonus: no bad cholesterol and you’re not purchasing or funding cruelty!

Is palm oil vegan? By Tod Bradbury

Palm oil is quite a controversial topic; whilst it is ‘vegan’ in that that it doesn’t contain any animal products, there are issues involved in its production that we should consider.

Palm oil is often found in ‘processed’ foods – such as biscuits, some peanut butters and margarines.

The environmental implications involved in palm oil production should not be ignored. Vast amounts of rainforests, mostly in South East Asia, are destroyed in order to plant palm oil plantations.

No doubt you will have seen the heart-breaking images of orang-utans and other animals whose homes have been destroyed for palm oil production; and let’s not forget the implications of deforestation on climate change. So it is very clear to see why some people choose to avoid palm oil and products that contain it.

But it is also worth noting that because palm is such a high –yielding crop, if producers were to switch to another oil production, this could result in more of the above effects. Additionally, palm oil is also used in bio-fuel –  half of palm oil imports in the EU are used for bio-fuel, although thankfully the EU has said that it will be phasing out palm-oil use in bio-fuels, with an end to such use by 2020.

The Summer Vegan Pledge exists to share information about plant-based eating, in order to make the transition to veganism easier. Indeed, some may find the idea of removing animal products from one’s diet difficult and ‘restricting’ enough, without having to worry about other products which aren’t of animal origin.

All food production does have some impact on the environment and animals, but it is important that we reduce this as much as possible. Animal farming is one of the biggest causes of deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions globally, not to mention the suffering it causes animals. Therefore, it is vital to end our reliance on animal products. Of course, once you have got the vegan thing down, the next logical step would be to start addressing other issues of concern.

Other useful links!

Should vegans eat palm oil?
An inconvenient truth: Vegan products and palm oil
Orangutanuary: Palm oil free vegan foods (UK)

How to survive family gatherings as a vegan by Jordan Collins

Jordan is Animal Aid’s Supporter Engagement Officer. 

Family gatherings can be a difficult time even if you’re not vegan, and it may seem like adding one more complication to the mix is just too much. Not to worry! There are some easy measures you can take to minimise conflict.

First, eat something before you head out, especially if it isn’t clear whether you’ll be able to eat anything at the party. An apple and peanut butter, whole-grain crackers and hummus, a nice big sandwich – something with staying power so that you won’t end up depressed and hungry if there isn’t much you can eat. 

Second, go prepared. Just like you wouldn’t go to a birthday party without taking a gift, try not to attend a non-vegan get-together without taking something of your own. If you want to make something that your omnivorous family might want to try, something simple like a casserole could be the way to go. On the other hand, if it’s the only dish you can be sure of eating, you might as well bring what you want, whether that’s seitan steaks or mac n ‘cheeze’!

We’ve covered the technicalities – keeping your belly full at an omnivore’s party – but you may encounter some feelings you weren’t expecting. Specifically, how you feel watching friends and family chow down on meat, dairy and eggs when you know what went into each food item. This isn’t an easy situation at all. It can be difficult to see the people you care about doing something you consider immoral, bad for their health or bad for the environment, but a party is not the place to have that kind of a conversation. If you really find yourself struggling, step away to the bathroom or to have a quick, “healing conversation” with a friend who understands. You need to take care of yourself while respecting the people around you. It’s not worth damaging your relationships by staying and getting upset. 

This advice also extends to difficult conversations. If you are fending off probing or rude questions or accusations (we’ve all had the protein question!), it is perfectly acceptable to take space. Keep in mind that for the most part, nobody is trying to hurt you or be malicious. Be respectful in your interactions and keep a cool head. Ultimately, try to tap into the part of you that appreciated the people around you before you went vegan. They haven’t changed; only your perception has. 

Family gatherings always have the potential to be difficult, but as long as you take measures to safeguard yourself from hunger and sidestep conflict, they can go smoothly and (somewhat) painlessly -  and who knows? You may even change some hearts and minds!

 

Vegan on a budget by Isobel Hutchinson

Isobel is the Director of Animal Aid.

As well as being kind to animals, environmentally friendly and good for your health, going vegan can actually save you money!

Animal products like cheese and meat are often very expensive, so replacing these with plant-based sources of protein can be a very economical choice.

I’ve always been keen to show that having a restricted budget needn’t be a barrier to going vegan. A few years ago my partner and I put this to the test by living on just £1 each per day, for five days. While the food did get a little monotonous (the cabbage risotto was a low point!), it was definitely possible, and we managed to get all the nutrients we needed.

I certainly wouldn’t recommend following the £1 per day diet long-term, but it certainly highlighted what can be done. With a few simple tips, a plant-based diet can really help cut your food bills.

  1. Cook from scratch when you can. It’s the processed foods that tend to cost the most, so using wholefoods like nuts, lentils and beans as protein sources can help to cut costs. If you have a bit more time, dried beans and chickpeas are even cheaper, but they do take much longer to cook.
  2. Get some inspiration! There are plenty of brilliant blogs and resources for plant-based cooking on a budget. The following useful blogs all have plenty of vegan recipes:

3. Go to the supermarket at the end of the day to take advantage of reduced-price fruit, veg and bread.

4. Grow your own, even if all you have is a few herbs in pots on your window sill.

5. Compare prices at different shops – some are better than others on particular products.

6. Bulk buy, if you can, to make the most of multi-buy deals and discounted larger packs.

Why not share your news about bargains and money-saving tips on the Summer Vegan Pledge Facebook page?

Happy shopping and cooking!

 

Travelling As a Vegan by Kate Fowler

Kate is Animal Aid’s Slaughter Consultant and former Head of Campaigns.

There is something of a vegan revolution happening, and it is happening all over the world. Most cities worldwide have a generous offering of veggie and vegan restaurants, as well as health food shops and supermarkets that stock a wide range of animal-free products. Wherever your travels take you, take the Happy Cow app with you. It lists vegan, vegetarian and omnivorous restaurants where vegan meals can be found, and guides you to their doorstep.

In Europe, every city had plant-based options but some cities have become renowned for the wealth of vegan offerings; Berlin, Paris, Barcelona, Glasgow and Warsaw offer more vegan options than you could possibly eat on a two-week holiday, but don’t assume the little towns and cities elsewhere will be a wasteland. Check the app and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Some of the unsurprising top US cities for vegans include New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. Other cities with more than 100 meat-free restaurants include Boston, Baltimore, Atlanta and Austin. It’s true there are parts of the US where plant-based eating hasn’t quite taken hold but the chain restaurants usually offer something, even if by accident!

In Australia, Melbourne may be the best option but veganism is a country-wide phenomenon. In Perth on the west coast, we ate at a different meat-free restaurant over a 10-day period – it was the first time I’d been offered vegan pheasant and prawns. Honestly, neither appealed but the vegetarian burger chain, Lord of the Fries, which has outlets in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth, is always a popular choice.

Around 30 per cent of people in India don’t eat meat with Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab having the most vegetarians and vegans per capita. In India – like the world over – it is easy to be vegan in the cities, but the country is both the largest producer and the largest buyer of milk, and dairy products get used a lot, so watch out for milk, cream and ghee. If you want choice, head to Chennai which has more than 80 vegetarian restaurants.

In Thailand, Chiang Mai is the place to be with dozens of meat-free restaurants in this beautiful city. In Taipei, you’ll also be spoilt for choice and you’ll be in the birthplace of the Loving Hut, a vegan franchise that has restaurants in Spain, Austria, Vietnam, Singapore, Russia, New Zealand, Canada and four restaurants in the UK.

Of course, there are regions of the world where meat or dairy is found at the centre of every meal, and it is added to the soup, vegetables and sauces, too. A little bit of research and planning may be required before you arrive to ensure you won’t go hungry. Ask in online vegan groups if anyone else has visited that area and has any tips. Find out what the regional delicacies are, and how they are made. Make sure you know how Google translate works. And buy yourself a copy of the Vegan Society’s Passport – either the app or the paper copy. In parts of rural China and on the streets of Cairo, I played a lot of charades, made a few people laugh and got a good meal at the end of it. In some cases, I was invited by the laughing staff into the kitchen to point to the ingredients I wanted and didn’t want. But it should be acknowledged that it is much harder to engage with strangers and try to explain what you want using gestures, drawings and animal noises only, when you’re hungry so take some cereal bars with you. Hopefully, you won’t need them and you can bring them home again, but you will be glad you have them if things don’t go quite to plan.

If you’re going to a part of the world where you will struggle to find vegan restaurants, there is always the option of choosing self-catering accommodation so that you can make your own meals. Vegan ingredients are everywhere, even if vegan restaurants are not.

But if a holiday is not a holiday if you have to cook, then you may want to check out one of the many vegetarian B&Bs and hotels here in the UK, and all over the world. Start with VeggieHotels.com but there are many more besides.

Four Pieces of News That Show How Veganism is Going Mainstream by Tod Bradbury

This blog post first appeared on Plant Based News.

When you mention the word ‘vegan’ or ‘veganism’ these days, people seldom meet you with a sideways glance as they used to. Someone recently said to me ‘vegan is no longer considered some sort of Star Trek character’.

In June alone, so far, there have been four pieces of news which show how huge the plant-based food movement has become – and how much it is continuing to grow.

Firstly, supermarket Iceland revealed that its vegan No Bull burgers have consistently out-sold their wagyu beef counterparts this year. As well as this, Iceland also stated that sales of its vegetable-based food have risen by 10 per cent over the past year.

Given that recent reports also show that around 22 million people in the UK consider themselves to be ‘flexitarians’ – i.e reducing their meat/animal product intake – it is no wonder that such products are out-selling their meat-based competitors.

When the Wicked Kitchen line launched in Tesco stores in January 2018, sale projections were estimated to be a little over 1 million units in the first 20 weeks. Fast-forward to the end of that 20-week period, and sales figures show that they have absolutely smashed that projection, with more than 2.5 million units sold! Derek Sarno, co-founder of Wicked Healthy along with his brother Chad, said that this proves there is an ‘undeniable demand for vegan food.’

Now, time for a little bit of controversy: Sainsbury’s have announced that they are to start selling plant-based ‘meat’ in the standard meat aisles. They will soon start selling Danish plant-based brand, Naturli’, which features ‘mince’, burgers and sausages.

I can completely understand why some vegans and vegetarians may not be in favour of this idea – after all, why would we want to be rummaging around in the meat aisle when we can just go to the vegetarian or vegan section? The rationale behind this, however, is based on research and studies. Studies have shown that placing plant-based products in the meat aisle increases their sales. This means that more people will be trying vegan products, and therefore helping animals. In the US, the Beyond Meat burger is sold in the meat aisle – figures show that the product is now the number one selling burger-patty in Southern California.

So whilst the idea of being in the meat aisle may not be appealing, to say the least, I think it is undeniable that such a measure will help animals. A few moments of discomfort whilst shopping is worth it if it means that more people will try plant-based foods. But of course, you will still have the option of going to the free-from section and vegetarian/vegan sections.

Last, but certainly not least, more than 3,500 people have signed up to Animal Aid’s Summer Vegan Pledge – a 30-day Pledge which takes place in June. This figure is unprecedented and the highest number of participants that we have ever had for a vegan pledge or challenge event! I am hopeful that a large majority of those taking part will remain vegan beyond June, and many others will reduce their animal product consumption afterwards. Figures from our previous pledges/challenges show that on average 50 per cent of participants remain vegan and a further 45 per cent reduce their animal product consumption after taking part.

One thing is clear, these news stories are just a small part of an ever-growing movement. Plant-based eating and veganism are words that are now normal, and in the public sphere. As it become harder to ignore the impacts of animal farming – on animals, the planet, and our health -, veganism is surely set to continue to grow.

 

Essential Fatty Acids: A Vegan Guide by Tod Bradbury

Vegans tend to consume less fat than diets containing animal products, which is why vegans on average have lower cholesterol levels than meat-eaters and vegetarians. But our bodies do need some fats in order to maintain and function properly – these are known as essential fats because our bodies cannot produce them. These fats can easily be obtained on a vegan diet.

Omega 3, or alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), and omega 6, or linoleic acid (LA), are needed to maintain a healthy immune system, brain function and vision. Omega 6 is easily obtainable in things such as hemp seeds, walnuts and vegan butters, but getting adequate omega-3 (ALA) may require more planning.

Vegan sources of omega 3
- Chia seeds
- Walnuts
- Rapeseed oil
- Linseeds/Flaxseeds
In order to ensure your ALA levels are high enough, it is important to ensure there is a balance between your omega 3 and 6 intakes – this is easy to do.

The Vegan Society recommends using rapeseed oil as your main cooking oil instead of sunflower oil or other oils that contain high LA levels, and to take care with servings of pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

In order to reach the recommended ALA intake in your diet, vegans can consume a tablespoon of seeds (hemp, chia, flax) or six walnut halves per day.

Ways to boost your omega 3 intake
- Add chia seeds to your breakfast (they are great on porridge!)
- Add a few walnuts to dishes like stir-fry and curry, and top salads off with flaxseeds or chia seeds; this will also add a bit more protein to the dish.
- Use rapeseed oil for cooking.
- If you prefer, you can also take a supplement.