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.

Activism based on your personality by Jordan Collins

Jordan is Animal Aid’s Supporter Engagement Officer

If you’re enjoying the Summer Vegan Pledge and want to encourage others to try out veganism, there are lots of different ways to get involved. Figure out which activities would work best for you depending upon your personality type!

Sociable
Hold a vegan dinner party and invite people in your social circle. Make sure you cook a lot of delicious dishes and even encourage people to make and bring their own. Put a jar on the table andask people to donate the ‘cost’ of their dinner to your favourite animal rights organisation.

Introverted
If you’re less keen to participate in face-to-face activism, there are many other ways to make your voice heard: create, sign and share petitions, write articles for online magazines or start your own blog and share information on social media. You can even write a piece for a mainstream online newspaper to reach even more people!

 

Extroverted
There are always ways to advocate veganism if you enjoy conversations! Aside from distributing leaflets, you can organise or join peaceful demonstrations, get involved with the local animal rights or vegan group in your area and even train to become a school speaker! If you would like to be put in touch with activist groups in your area, just let us know.

 

Energetic
Have excess energy to burn? Try volunteering at a nearby animal sanctuary, mucking out stables and making sure the rescued farmed animals are fed and happy. Some friendly sanctuaries that welcome volunteers include FRIEND Animal RescueThe Retreat Animal Rescue and Foal Farm Animal Rescue Centre.


Everyone
Regardless of your personality type, you can lead by example by simply being your happy vegan self!  

Seitan and tofu: Let’s talk about ‘weird’ vegan food by Tod Bradbury

Replacing meat in your diet has never been easier, with vegan sausages, burgers, and other such products now widely available in supermarkets, health food shops, and even your local corner shops if you’re lucky.

As vegans, we are often accused of eating ‘weird’ things. One such item that is often labelled ‘weird’ is tofu. But curdled soya milk is hardly weird in comparison to, say, dead animals. I am certain that most of you knew of tofu before the Summer Vegan Pledge, but perhaps you may have never tried it.

Tofu has been used in East and Southeast Asian dishes for more than 2,000 years. It contains many vital nutrients, including:

Protein – tofu/soya is a complete protein, meaning that it contains all of your essential amino acids. Per 100g, tofu contains 8.2g of protein.

Iron – iron is essential for your body to create healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Per 100g, tofu contains 5.4mg of iron.

Calcium – calcium is essential for good bone health, amongst other vital functions. Per 100g calcium-set tofu (just look for ‘calcium’ in the ingredients) contains 350mg of calcium.

Here are a few of my favourite tofu-based recipes:
- Chilli tofu

- Vegan cheesecake with mango lime topping

Seitan is something that is growing in popularity; it even features on the Wagamama vegan menu. But what exactly is it?

Seitan is a meat-substitute made of wheat gluten, which is the main protein of wheat. It has been used in Asian cuisine as a meat substitute for thousands of years. Ready made seitan is usually available at most independent health food shops, but companies such as Tofurkey use it in their products.

As with tofu, it is very versatile and takes on flavours and seasoning well, meaning you can make “chicken”, “beef” or “pork” style dishes with it, if you mix the flavourings accordingly. It is very high in protein (as much as 60 grams per cup/340 grams).

It is also pretty cheap and easy to make, here’s a recipe!

But of course, you do not need to eat tofu and seitan if you don’t want to. The great thing about plant-based food is that it is still easy to create delicious, cheap and nutritious dishes from wholefoods – such as beans, legumes, pulses and whole grains.

The Retreat Animal Sanctuary Visit 2018 by Tod Bradbury

On Saturday 16th June, Summer Vegan Pledge participants visited The Retreat Animal Sanctuary in High Halden, Kent. 

Every time Animal Aid does a vegan pledge/challenge, we always arrange a trip to The Retreat so those participating can meet others who are in the same boat as them, try delicious vegan food, and get the chance to meet farmed animals – just like the ones they are saving by going vegan. 

The weather was certainly on our side, with lovely sunshine with a nice breeze all day. Firstly, we were treated to a delicious ‘summer-themed’ lunch, prepared by Neil – a co-founder and The Retreat’s resident chef. It included a large salad, as well as sausage rolls, quiche, fried ‘chicken’ (made of seitan), and an abundance of cakes!
After lunch, we had the opportunity to meet the animals. Our tour guide was the other co-founder of The Retreat, Billy.

Billy introduced us to the hundreds of cows, pigs, horses, donkeys, goats, sheep and other animals who live at The Retreat. He told us about how they came to be at The Retreat and, in some cases, their very sad and tragic beginnings. Many of them are now trusting of people and came over for a head rub and a cuddle.

It is so heart-warming to hear about how these animals are treated not as commodities, but as the individual, sentient beings that they are.
Thank you so much to everyone who came, and especially to Billy and the team at The Retreat who were so accommodating to all of us, and not least for the incredible work that they do all year round.

The Retreat is currently fundraising to buy more land. This will enable them to rescue and care for more animals in need. If you are able to help them, or would like to know more, please take a look at the fundraising page.

You can also check out their website and Facebook page for more information on future open days.
 

Getting your head around plant milks by Jordan Collins

Jordan is Animal Aid’s Supporter Engagement Officer. 

You’ll soon find that leaving cow’s milk behind actually means you have more choice than before because there are so many kinds of plant milks! There’s such a variety that it could take you weeks to try them all. Below we’ve listed some of the more popular types of vegan milk, as well as their nutritional benefits.

Oat milk
Benefits: iron, beta-glucan (which lowers blood cholesterol levels) and fibre.

Keep in mind: oat milk has more calories and less protein than other milks.


Almond milk
Benefits: calcium.

Keep in mind: very little protein compared to other milks.

Hemp milk
Benefits: essential amino acids

Keep in mind: hemp milk has a strong taste so you may only want to use it in savoury dishes.

Soya milk
Benefits: creamy texture; has the most protein of all plant milks

Keep in mind: processed brands may contain carrageenan, which recent research has shown may cause gastrointestinal inflammation; it is best for baking because it remains stable at high temperatures

 

Flax milk
Benefits: omega-3 fats

Keep in mind: little fibre or protein

Rice milk
Benefits: sweet

Keep in mind: thinner than other plant-based milks; very little protein

Cashew milk
Benefits: creamy, good choice for baking

Keep in mind: very little protein

Hazelnut milk
Benefits: heats and foams better than almond or soya milk; contains B vitamins and vitamin E which is good for skin and hair

Keep in mind: higher in fat and calories

Coconut milk

Benefits: high in Vitamins C, B1 and B6

Keep in mind: high in saturated fat and calories.

It is always worth buying plant milks that are fortified with other vitamins and nutrients – such as vitamin B12, vitamin D, and calcium.

One big issue for a lot of hot-beverage drinkers is finding a milk that will not curdle in hot tea or coffee. If you let the hot drink cool a little, that should prevent most incidences of curdling, but some milks still come out ahead. You can also now get ‘barista’ style plant milks that were made specially for hot drinks and coffee!

 

Another option is to make your own milk. This is surprisingly easy and you don’t even need to purchase any fancy kit!

Recipe and method:

  1. Soak a cup of seeds, nuts or grains in four cups of cold water overnight.
  2. Drain mixture; discard the water.
  3. Blend the mixture until smooth.
  4. Use cheesecloth or a strainer to get all of the milk out. The pulp can be used in baking or to make crackers or hummus.
  5. If you want to add sweetness, blend the milk with two dates.

Refrigerated, the milk should last for three days.

“But humans are made to eat meat!” by Tod Bradbury

One of the most common arguments we may hear is that humans are ‘designed’ to eat meat – and thus it is perfectly okay to raise and slaughter animals for consumption.

Now, some vegans argue that humans are naturally herbivores and thus aren’t “designed to eat meat.” And they even include this picture as evidence of that:

This is something that I have discussed with vegans and meat-eaters alike, and the crux of my argument is this: we do not need to eat animals, we can live happy healthy lives without consuming animal products – the production of which causes animal suffering and environmental destruction, therefore whether or not humans are natural herbivores or omnivores is irrelevant. 

I accept that humans are omnivores, because, frankly, we are. Being an omnivore simply means that we, humans, are capable of obtaining nutrients from both plants and animals. That doesn’t mean that we have to, or need to. And as we can obtain all of our nutritional needs from plant-based and vegan sources, we do not need eat animals at all.

Therefore, both sides of the argument – those who claim that ‘humans are omnivores’ in a bid to justify raising and slaughtering animals for ‘food’, and those who claim that ‘humans are herbivores’ in a bid to refute such claims – are wrong in my view.

Whether humans are “made” or “designed” or evolved (whatever your beliefs) to eat meat is not an argument for continuing to do so, given that we can thrive on a vegan diet.

I have included a few interesting resources below, if you would like to read some more on this topic:

https://freefromharm.org/common-justifications-for-eating-animals/a-common-sense-vegan-response-to-the-statement-humans-are-omnivores/

http://www.theveganrd.com/mybooks/vegan-for-life-book/

https://veganbiologist.com/2016/01/04/humans-are-not-herbivores/

Is there such a thing as ethical meat, dairy and eggs? by Kate Fowler

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

People who feel uneasy about the lives and deaths of farmed animals may try to console themselves with the idea that, so long as those animals have a ‘good life and a humane death’ then there really is nothing too much to worry about. After all, don’t we have the highest welfare standards in the world? Doesn’t the Red Tractor scheme guarantee this?

The reality is that the overwhelming majority of animals farmed in the UK are kept inside factory farms, and that the Red Tractor scheme standards require little more than the bare legal minimum. Our conscience may prickle at this, and we may choose to buy only free range products, higher welfare meat, organic milk and eggs. But what about the sandwich we grab at the station, or the meal we eat at friends’ houses, or when we eat out at cafes, pubs and restaurants? It is unlikely anyone eats only higher welfare products but if they did, are those standards high enough to calm the qualms?

Some years ago, Animal Aid undertook an investigation into British goat farms. The unsavoury facts about the production of cows’ milk were hitting home, and consumers were switching to goats’ milk in
the assumption that – because they hadn’t heard anything bad about it – all must be well. Reader, it  wasn’t. Everything that was wrong with cows’ milk was also the case for goats, except that where some cows spend time on pasture all goats in the UK are factory farmed in zero-grazing units. On these farms, we found mutilations, overcrowding, the use of artificial hormones to manipulate reproductive cycles, and dead and dying animals. We found a kid huddled up to her mother who had been shot in the head.

There is no humane and compassionate way to produce commercial quantities of milk – organic or otherwise. Cows, goats and sheep must be made pregnant and the offspring are often no more than unwanted by-products. One goat farmer we investigated admitted he sent his unwanted kids to the hunt kennels.

As for male calves – the unwanted by-product of the dairy industry – they may go for veal production or be shot at birth. The free-range dairy pasture promise, which sounds like a high welfare initiative, actually allows the cows just six months outdoors, and therefore they must also experience six months in. Now, being stuck outside all through the winter wading through mud as the rain lashes down is no fun but if the only other option is six months stuck inside a barn wading through faeces, then something is wrong.

You may have heard of Ahimsa milk, or slaughter-free milk but this is not sustainable. The male calves will be kept at the farm, sometimes ‘put to the plough’ and the older females will retire and somehow the care for this ever-expanding herd of ageing, non-productive animals will be paid for by the sale of milk – a product whose price is in terminal decline. It looks a lot like the UK pensions situation – an ever-increasing older generation being paid for by a smaller proportion of workers, and we know that this model cannot work indefinitely. And there is no need to go to these lengths anyway. Pretty much every supermarket in the country stocks soya, oat, coconut, almond and rice milk – and those beans, grains and nuts lived free until they were harvested. Oh, and they’re delicious.

In recent years, battery cages for egg-laying hens were banned, only to be replaced by bigger cages. A cage is a cage, and none are nice places to spend an afternoon, let alone an entire life. But then free-range eggs should not be mistaken for a genuinely high welfare product either. Even under organic and high welfare systems, the millions of birds who happened to be born male and therefore unable to lay eggs will still be gassed as day-old chicks. The females are likely to join unnaturally huge flocks of tens of thousands of birds, once they have had the ends of their beaks cut off to prevent them harming one another.

The birds don’t need to actually go outside to be called free-range, they just need to have access to the outdoors. In such large flocks, weaker birds will be too frightened to cross other birds’ territories and so may never leave. Those who do get outside may find a scrubby patch of dirt is all they have. Far too many investigations have laid bare the reality of commercial free-range farming – birds in cramped, filthy conditions, the floor littered with rotting corpses. The images portrayed in adverts rarely match up to the reality. If they did, they wouldn’t sell many eggs. And, of course, productivity is everything. When egg numbers drop, the birds are gathered up by catching gangs, rammed into crates and sent off to slaughter. Where is the compassion in this high welfare system?

And what of meat? Is there ethical meat? Perhaps there is. It’s called roadkill. But an animal who spent a life of torment inside a farm – or even one of the very few who spent happier days on a truly free-range farm – will still have his or her life taken away. We know from our own investigations thatthere is no humane slaughter. Animals who were reared free-range, under the Freedom Food (now called RSPCA Assured) or Soil Association labels were battered and abused to their deaths inside British slaughterhouses every bit as much factory-farmed animals. Can there ever be a humane death for someone who does not want to die?

Those with a strong stomach can see how these ‘high welfare’ animals met their deaths here.

Vegan Fairs by Tod Bradbury

When you first go vegan, you will be wanting to try as many new foods as possible – and meet more vegans.

Vegan fairs and festivals are the perfect place for this. In recent times, the number of vegan events has soared, with hundreds happening every year across the country (and world!)

They are packed full of interesting stands and displays – from amazing new vegan products, to animal charities and organisations doing brilliant, life-saving work. You will also find cookery demonstrations, and talks about different aspects of veganism – such as activism and effective vegan advocacy.

Attending vegan fairs and festivals will give you the opportunity to meet like-minded people, sample new and exciting vegan foods, and learn more about how veganism is growing.

For information of vegan fairs happening in the UK, please visit the ‘Events’ section of the Animal Aid website. 

A guide to egg replacements by Tod Bradbury

Replacing eggs in baking and cooking is very simple. Whether you are baking a cake or fancy some ‘egg’ fried rice, there is a plant-based alternative available.

Egg production is cruel. Let’s briefly explain why:

Male chicks are useless to the egg industry as they do not produce eggs, and because they don’t grow as fast or big as broiler chickens who are selectively bred for meat, so they are disposed of – either by gassing, suffocation, or being ground up alive. The lives of laying hens are miserable too; whether caged or ‘free range’, Animal Aid investigations have found that these labels mean nothing when it comes to their well-being. And once they no longer produce the amount of eggs to be considered profitable, the hens are sent to slaughter – usually at about 16 months old.

You can see a brief video of Animal Aid’s investigations into egg farms here. Please note it does contain scenes that some viewers may find graphic and upsetting.

Egg replacements are very easy to come across nowadays.



Commercial egg replacers are also available from most health food shops and some supermarkets. Such as Orgran’s Egg Replacer, or Follow Your Heart’s Vegan Egg!

I have included a few recipes below, both sweet and savoury, for you – why not give them a try and let us know how you get on?

1. Coffee and Walnut Cake with Mocha Icing

2. Vegan Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

3. Tofu Scramble – a vegan scrambled egg alternative

4. Vegan ‘Egg’ Fried Rice – using chickpea flour

Vegans with Allergies by Mary Nesbitt Larking

Mary is a vegan activist from Hertfordshire who also runs the YouTube channel The Disabled Vegan Activist.

When people first discover that I follow a vegan lifestyle, one of the most common responses that I receive is “wow, that must be very restricting!”

So imagine their surprise when I tell them that not only do I refrain from consuming all animal based products (including dairy, eggs and honey) but that I am also extremely intolerant to both gluten AND soya.

The discovery of my intolerance came around 2 years into my vegan journey, after suffering with extreme stomach pain and nausea. After almost a year in hospital trying to find the cause of the issues, it was soon realised that I had could no longer consume gluten. Another year passed and new problems began to arise. It was then that soya products had to be eliminated too, and my body was finally able to start healing.

Allergies are a very common- and genuinely valid- concern for people wanting to transition to a vegan lifestyle. With so many delicious vegan treats such as mock meats, mock fish and dairy free ice cream being heavily gluten and soya based, it is no wonder people in my position would feel anxious about still being able to consume a healthy and substantial diet. 

Luckily, the world as we know it is changing. With every day that passes, more and more great tasting, allergen free products are being introduced to supermarkets. Online shops like Ocado have an absolutely huge range of yummy foods, and each month I treat myself to products like GoodLife Sweet Carrot & Nut Burgers and Alpro Hazelnut Chocolate Ice Cream.

Of course, expense is a factor. The great news about that is that every day essentials such as rice, beans, lentils, chickpeas, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and potatoes are all completely safe for people in my position. And whilst it may sound dull, the right combination of herbs, spices and condiments can truly add to a dish.  

One of the cheapest- yet most flavoursome- dishes that I make is gluten and soya free vegan chilli. I use a variety of beans, tinned tomatoes, rice and a huge variety of spices to give it a hearty kick. Garlic is a great one to give your dishes a richness, too.

To help others in my position, I run a Facebook group called Gluten Free Vegans UK. Within this group, there are people suffering with a variety of allergens such as gluten, soya, nuts, certain fruits and vegetables and even some legumes. It is a useful tool for providing one another with judgment free advice on how best to survive under restricted circumstances.

In short, if you’re considering veganism but are feeling unsure as a result of your allergies and intolerance, don’t let this hold you back! It is absolutely possible to eat healthy, delicious and flavoursome allergen free food.

The Vegan Boozer by Fiona Pereira

Fiona is Animal Aid’s Horse Racing & Shooting Campaign Manager.

One of the greatest sources of disappointment for me when I went vegan was not that I had to give up cheese, but that a lot of alcoholic drinks were not vegan.

This is because a long time ago, someone found that if you add the swim bladders of fish (isinglass) to beer, it helped to make it much clearer and less hazy. The same thing happened with gelatine in wine and cider, and a whole bunch of other ingredients, including egg whites, blood and crushed crab shell.

Ever since then, brewers have been adding these things to their drinks to improve the appearance of their products. However it doesn’t improve the taste and some argue that it actually mutes some of the flavours. But that doesn’t change the fact that it is a common practice and you will need to watch out for such drinks. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that there are still plenty of drinks that are free of these horrible things and suitable for vegans. Below, I’ve listed some beers and other drinks that are vegan.

In addition, there are two main things that will help to guide you. Firstly, some supermarkets mark which of their wines and beers are vegan (notably, Co-op, M&S and Sainsbury’s). Secondly, Barnivore is a website and app, of particular use to those who love real ale, but which also lists loads of other drinks that are vegan. Barnivore updates its list via users sending in confirmation they have received from companies – which means the website is constantly updated. Simple yet brilliant!

Oh, and there’s now a fully-vegan Baileys-type drink called Besos de Oro.

 

 

Here are some commonly-found drinks to get you started:

Lager

Thanks to historical German beer purity laws, most lagers are made without the use of clarifying agents, so are usually safe for vegans. Ales on the other hand, usually do contain isinglass, especially those dispensed from pumps at pubs (cask ales).

  • Budweiser
  • Carlsberg
  • Heineken
  • San Miguel
  • Stella Artois (but not their ‘cidre’)

Vegan-friendly Ale and Craft Beer

  • Badger Ale (bottles only)
  • Beavertown (with a few exceptions)
  • Black Sheep (bottles only)
  • Brass Castle
  • Brewdog (with a few exceptions)
  • Brixton Brewery
  • Meantime
  • Pitfield
  • Samuel Smith’s (except the Old Brewery Bitter and Yorkshire Stingo)
  • Shepherd Neame (bottles only)
  • Sierra Nevada
  • St Austell (bottles and cans only)

Wine

Much as with beer, animal ingredients are often used to clarify wine, but unless it states the ingredients on the bottle, it is often impossible to tell which ones are vegan-friendly. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Co-op, Sainsbury’s and M&S label their own-brand vegan wines
  • Oxford Landing
  • Yellow Tail (red wines only)

 

Cider

Most small-scale cider producers don’t use animal products in their drinks, but some of the larger ones do. Here are some of the ones that are vegan-friendly:

  • Brothers
  • Merrydown
  • Savanna
  • Old Mout
  • Orchard Pig
  • Thatcher’s
  • Sheppy’s
  • Stowford Press
  • Westons