When discussing veganism with non-vegans; hot on the tail of ‘…but palm oil‘ will often follow: ‘why do vegans eat fake meat if they don’t like meat?’
a misconception that people go vegan because they don’t like the taste
of meat. Some may quit meat for that reason – wasn’t a huge fan myself –
but the main reason people go vegan is because they’ve stopped
believing that animals are a commodity put here for our use, and the
main way that manifests is in them stopping participating in the cruelty
and barbarism that is animal agriculture.
Bearing this in mind – why shouldn’t some vegans want to recreate the taste and texture of meat with an animal free product? I mean, why not? In terms of the ethical reasons, a meat alternative serves the purpose of avoiding the cruelty but still having the taste, so win-win no?
People often find that even if they start off eating alternative meat and cheese products as a vegan, they’ll gradually learn how to make amazing dishes themselves consisting of veg, beans, lentils, grains, herbs and spices etc – think chili’s, soups, curries, pad thais, tagines, porotos granados and all manner of dishes that just don’t need a meat substitute.
Alternative meats can be a great help to people who want to move towards veganism but are a little fearful their new food will be too ‘different.’ It can be helpful, then, for them to have their ‘new’ plate resemble the old one. For this reason I am thrilled about all the alternative meat products we now have available to us – vive la Gregg’s sausage roll!
People also go vegan for health and environmental reasons as well as the ethics (for me all three are interconnected).
So how does ‘fake meat’ fare compared to meat in terms of health and the environment?
meat will never contain cholesterol, anti-biotics or hormones, so
already it has that over meat. The chances are very high it will also
contain less fat. Another score. So while it may not be a super healthy
product, a meat alternative will pretty much always be healthier than a
As for the environment, even if non-vegans are quick to point out the meat alternative contains palm oil (and I kill that line of argument dead here), it will still be much better for the environment than meat. Animal agriculture is the prime driver behind ALL FORMS of environmental destruction.
In the last 3 days, on 3 separate occasions (one in print and twice in TV interviews), I’ve heard non-vegans using ‘…but palm oil’ either to denigrate a vegan product, or just generally throw it at vegans with the implication that vegans are hypocritical for using palm oil, when palm oil contributes to deforestation and loss of orang-utan life.
Firstly, we have to acknowledge that palm oil production IS a problem and does cause deforestation and the deaths of the animals of the forest, among them orang-utans. Obviously this is not desirable and nobody would deny that it behoves us all, especially vegans who are mindful of the well-being of all animals, to either make our best attempts to avoid it, or to source products that contain palm oil from an ethical, sustainable supplier.
There are several elements to this.
What non-vegans that throw ‘but palm oil’ in our faces, forget (or just choose to ignore), is the following.
26 million rainforest acres have been cleared for palm oil production*
136 million rainforest acres have been cleared for animal agriculture
Perspective right there! And:
The leading causes of rainforest destruction are livestock and feedcrops
These are just the stats on rainforest destruction; I haven’t even got the space or time to talk about how much more animal agriculture destroys the rest of the environment than does palm oil.
I feel we can all agree that animal agriculture is responsible for far more animal deaths than palm oil production?
70 billion farmed animals are reared annually worldwide. More than 6 billion animals are killed for food every hour
I totally agree orang-utans are cute AF, but it is not a worse crime to needlessly kill them than it is cows or pigs. All have the same capacity to suffer.
And another fun fact, just to illustrate how ridiculous the ‘but palm oil’ argument is:
82% of starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals, and the animals are eaten by western countries
Bottom line; animal agriculture will always be more destructive in terms of environmental damage and animal cruelty and killing than will the palm oil industry.
The other line of ‘reasoning’ the ‘but palm oil’ crowd seem to have is that we, as vegans, are not as damn well perfect as we think we are because we consume products that contain palm oil, so we are hypocrites, and may as well not be vegan.
To this I say:
Many vegans DO avoid palm oil, I know of a couple personally.
Also, as vegans, we are not trying to be perfect, we never were. This is a projection that non-vegans impose on us – I dare say fuelled by a defensiveness they have about not being vegan when on some level they are aware it would be the right thing to do. It’s impossible to be a ‘perfect’ vegan in any case. We can go for a walk and trample bugs underfoot. We use cars that have tires made with animal products; we take planes that use aviation fuel containing animal products. In terms of the environment, we all drain the resources of the planet in some way every day, just by living. All we vegans are trying to do, as far as is practical and practicable, is limit unnecessary cruelty to animals and minimise environmental ruin. The best way to do this to have maximum impact will always be to go vegan. If we make the conscientious decision to avoid palm oil too, well great! And I hope more people do. I need to make greater effort in this direction myself. But we are no less vegan if we don’t, and we are still having the most impactful positive effect on the planet and animals than a non-vegan who just avoids palm oil.
Lol…if you haven’t realised already, I don’t write the sort of blog posts that other wellness types do, i.e. give you a little helpful content and then yell ‘buy my shit.’ I mean, I totally should, being someone who relies on people to buy my shit, but ugh, I can only write about what’s on my mind.
This is what’s on my mind right now:
I heartily applaud those of you who participate in Cubes of Truth, vigils for animals about to be slaughtered, animal rights marches etc etc.
These actions are effective, I know, and this post isn’t meant to throw shade on any of them.
As much as I respect it, I’ve never participated in any action of that sort. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always posting vegan advocacy stuff on social media, and continually having conversations where I’m encouraging folks to think about veganism.
I think it’s that I’ve been vegan such a long time – in the beginning there wasn’t as much of that stuff going on, and there wasn’t social media, so even if marches etc were going on, I wouldn’t have had much awareness of them.
But in the last few years, it’s probably more because I’ve become very aware that animal rights and speciesism are not single issue. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t tackle them in a ‘single issue’ way sometimes – Cubes of Truth, marches etc – of course we should. It’s just that I’ve come to believe very strongly that there is a bigger foundational cause of animals being ‘otherised’ by humans that also needs addressing.
I feel like we should address the cause and not just the symptom, if you will.
It can be argued (and in fact IS by many including Martin Luther King) that the driver of continued racism, sexism and even speciesism – in fact all oppressions – is unfettered capitalism, which, in case you haven’t noticed, is the state we are living in now.
Regarding how capitalism is tied to racism, King argued thus:
“You can’t talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You’re really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry. Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong with capitalism.” – Speech to his staff, 1966.
“We must recognize that we can’t solve our problem now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power… this means a revolution of values and other things. We must see now that the evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism are all tied together… you can’t really get rid of one without getting rid of the others… the whole structure of American life must be changed. America is a hypocritical nation and [we] must put [our] own house in order.”- Report to SCLC Staff, May 1967.
Sure, we ended slavery and had the Civil Rights movement. But there are now more people incarcerated in US jails than any other country, most of them brown-skinned (African Americans and Hispanics make up 56% of the prison population), and most of them employed while in prison, by multi-national companies, on VERY low wages – like 4 cents an hour – to do extremely menial jobs.
Where there is profit in exploitation, it will be done. And even if we think we are progressing, by trying to stop child exploitation and slavery – corporations and company owners will just find a different section of society to exploit. Capitalism is an energy that’s entire point is to grow exponentially, and fuck the consequences. A little like cancer I guess.
If MORE profit can be made by exploiting brown people, so be it. If MORE profit can be made exploiting women, so be it. Animals, the same. There is no reformation of capitalism. You can improve an area, maybe make it a little more socially conscious, this is true – but it’s a bit like a pesky air-bubble, that no matter how you try and get rid of it, that insidious energy will just go somewhere else. For example, we ended slavery in America, but that just led to the Jim Crow laws. We ended those, kinda, but now US for-profit prisons (thanks Bill Clinton!) are disproportionately full of black prisoners who didn’t get due justice- see point above.
As for the otherisation and objectification of women? We KNOW that the pornification of society has detrimental effects on both men and women, and only serves to keep some men viewing women as objects for their use – but porn makes scads of money, so no-one cares. Young girls are increasingly expected by their boyfriends to look and behave like porn stars, but who gives a toss? Too much money in porn to rock the boat.
It IS true that people ate animals before capitalism existed. Women and people of colour were otherised too. But capitalism took this to whole new levels – by its very nature it sees everything and everyone as commodities, so where money could be made off the backs of the oppressed, for the oppressors, this naturally happened.
This is an exceedingly complex subject – there are myriad ways in which capitalism has reinforced oppressions (while appearing to improve some things), and a blog post is not going to address all of those.
My point is, a move towards a more socialist society will be a move towards a more vegan one. US readers – whatever you’ve been taught, socialism IS. NOT.THE.SAME.AS.COMMUNISM! It just means prioritising people and not profits. It means caring more about the welfare of people than the welfare of the markets. Out of the vegans I know, most if not all have socialist values. You probably do too, whether you know it or not. You believe in free university tuition? Publicly-owned national services? The regulation of banks so they can’t get too big for their boots and cause another crash like in 2008? Think the rich should pay more tax, the poor less? Free health care for all? Bingo – you have socialist values, and they are nothing to be scared of. Jeremy Corbyn is known to be vegetarian and I’ve heard those that know him say he’s actually vegan. The French politician who is on the socialist left is not yet vegan, but is aware that he should be, is trying his best and talks often about the plight of farm animals.
Thus, I’ve come to believe that in order to most effectively fight for animals (and women and people of colour) and against the forces that enslave and commodify them, then working towards a more socialist society has to make up a large part of our activism.
The neoliberal/neoconservative (they are the same thing – the neoliberals are just a little more polite is all) economic models that we currently have are not gonna cut it, in terms of how we look at the ‘other.’ They both uphold the rabid capitalist narrative. If we want to see a change from the ground up, we have to change the system.
As a vegan coach and nutritionist, many’s the time I’ve been asked about omega 3, and how to obtain adequate amounts on a plant-based diet.
Omega 3 is vital for heart, eye, joint, brain and mental health, amongst other things.
The answer is – it’s easy. Include a couple of tablespoons of ground flaxseeds on your breakfast oatmeal every day; snack on a few walnuts a week; eat a varied, colourful, whole food diet; and you’re good.
However, as with lots of nutrients (protein, calcium, iron etc), I’m fighting against decades (if not more) of societal conditioning that has told us the only place to get sufficient amounts of omega 3 is from animal products – and that the best source is fish, and fish oil.
This is the short version of why this myth persists:
Omega 3 consists of ALA, DHA and EPA.
These are a-linolenic acid, docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid.
The DHA and EPA can only be obtained, we are told, from fish and fish oil.
What we are never told, is that if we consume flax seed, walnuts and oatmeal that are all rich in ALA, our bodies are perfectly capable of converting the ALA into the DHA and EPA.
What if you just want a super quick way of ensuring you are getting enough omega 3? What if you are allergic to seeds? What if you hate oatmeal because it reminds you of your yucky boarding school porridge? What if you just want another way to get omega 3 for the days you just don’t fancy oatmeal and flaxseeds? What if you have heard the ‘omega 3 comes from the sea’ line so much that you’d JUST PREFER to get it from a sea-based source? (I would completely understand this – we have been so indoctrinated that sometimes it’s hard to change our thinking).
And there is some truth to omega 3 coming from the sea.
Seaweed contains the DHA and EPA. This is, in fact, where the fish get their omega 3. So you can cut out the middle man (fish?) and just go straight to the source!
But how will you know if you are eating enough? I mean, it’s great to eat vegan nori rolls and sushi, and sprinkle wakame flakes into noodle dishes, and to eat miso – but they are not necessarily things we would eat every day, so….. how to ensure we would be getting enough omega 3?
British-based company Vegan Vitality have us completely covered on this. They have made a vegan capsule with algae (seaweed) oil containing concentrated levels of EPA and DPA – more than any other algae oil capsule currently available, which means you need only take 1 – 2 capsules daily to ensure adequate levels of omega 3.
As it doesn’t come from fish, it doesn’t contain any of the nasties that are currently found in all sea creatures – the PCB’s, dioxins, heavy metals etc. And of course, there is not the fishy aftertaste you’d get from a fish oil capsule.
My partner gets up late and ends up rushing like a mutha to get to work on time (I feel sure plenty of you reading this will relate 🙂 ), and so almost NEVER has the time to pour himself out a bowl of oatmeal and grind up some flax seeds. These capsules are an ideal way of getting his daily omega 3. He has been taking them for the past week. We can’t really report any benefits in such a short time, but he says it’s nice not having to feel bad because he knows he hasn’t eaten the nutrients he should have.
Now I’m all about price. I really AM Bargain Basement Betty – attractive as that is. These capsules are available on Amazon for £15.99 for 60 capsules, which is a 2 month supply. For peace of mind that you are getting this critical nutrient, I’d say that was excellent value.
If you know you are not the person who is going to be eating oatmeal and flax seeds most days- whether due to lack of time or it’s just not your thing, or even if you just want to make sure you have back up for those days you have no groceries left in the house, or you’re eating breakfast out etc – then I recommend these capsules.
Omega 3 is important, make sure you have it covered!
Please note:Excepting the pot of capsules I was sent to review, I am not being paid for this article. This article reflects my authentic, professional opinion, as with every product I review.
So your argument for not going vegan is that it’s totally proven now, don’t you know, that plants have feelings too and you wouldn’t want to be a hypocrite and eat plants while not eating animals, so…there’s really no point is there? For added weight you also make the point that harvesting plants kills lots of tiny animals, so… again – what’s the point in going vegan, you’re always going to be killing something, right?
If these are included in your reasons for not going vegan, you’re not alone.
Typically (because I’ve had this conversation fifty-hundred times), this argument will be the last one someone pulls out of their excuse arsenal, after ‘but vegan isn’t good for your health’, and ‘but grass-fed cows are ok’ and ‘it’s too difficult, it’s not realistic’
I saw this very argument unfold the other day in an online publication by an esteemed author in the comment section of a piece she wrote, part of which attempted to discredit and dismiss veganism. This publication is very progressive and forward-thinking, and all its contributors are continually thinking outside, like, every box ever. On practically every other point I agree with all their writers, and can only dream of having the knowledge and insight that they possess.
So it was kind of shocking to see someone of this intelligence/enlightenment level resorting to the ‘plants have feelings too’ argument after her previous arguments were rebutted. I think it’s testament to the universality of the fear people have of having to change their life if there should emerge a logical reason to. They think veganism is too different and alien, they are not aware how kinda pretty normal it is, and that we still eat just as much amazing food as non-vegans. Actually I eat more. So this quasi-scientific-sounding, ethical-sounding argument about the feeliness of plants is used as that final barrier between them and veganism, it’s the argument that is supposed to have the effect of shutting the hell up that annoying vegan they are having the debate with.
So, lemme take that final barrier down for ya!
Using the ‘but plants have feelings too’ argument with vegans is set on the premise that vegans are trying to be perfect beings who never contribute to any animal cruelty whatsoever. Because they are just so holy and righteous.
Hahaaaa, I’m so holy and righteous!!! If only you knew.
As vegans we accept that no human being can live without harming animals. It’s not possible. If you’re looking for humans that do the least harm to other living beings then I believe that would be the Jains, a religious group in India, who not only are vegan, but also won’t eat root veg because they believe more insects are harmed in the harvesting of them; and they often wear face masks so they don’t breathe in tiny flies and other insects, thereby killing them.
Vegans are not even close to Jains. I love my root veg. And they love me. And God knows how many flies I sucked up in all the years I cycled around London.
We all inadvertently kill tiny insects every day underfoot. And animal products are in SO.MANY.THINGS. Aviation fuel, car and bike tyres and musical instruments to name but three. So unless you want an incredibly hermetic life, it’s impossible to live harming no beings at all.
Our goal is to do the least harm possible, as far as is practical and practicable. We don’t need to eat animal products, in fact we thrive without them, so it’s not only practical but actually sensible NOT to eat them. Plant food is available everywhere, so living vegan is easily practicable too. It’s very easy to find vegan clothing and footwear. It’s NOT easy to avoid using cars, bikes, buses, airplanes etc. You can’t check every step before you take it to ensure you don’t crush bugs. Not practicable. Geddit?
Thus, we accept that bugs and small critters do die when our plants are harvested. But being vegan we’re actually responsible for fewer of these deaths because we only eat plants. Non-vegans eat plants AND animals that eat plants.
Similarly, if you are genuinely worried about plants having feelings, the best thing you can do is go vegan. Why? Vegans just eat plants. Non-vegans eat plants AND animals that eat plants.
Another fave anti-vegan argument is ‘but lions tho’ – meaning; lions have to eat meat to live, therefore so do we. I like to borrow from this and in so doing have found a great two-for-one rebuttal to both the ‘feely plants’ and ‘but lions’ narratives.
We actually ARE like lions, but not in the way you think.
Lions are obligate carnivores. They HAVE to eat meat to survive. They are not hard-wired to care about their prey – otherwise they couldn’t survive.
Humans HAVE to eat plants to live and thrive. Even if plants possess ALL the feels, which I doubt, but even if they DO I cannot care about this, because to survive I need to eat them. So I’ll eat them without regard for their sentience.
However I don’t need meat to live, in fact it makes us sick – so why would I? A lion instinctively wouldn’t eat something that would make it sick. I will eat what I know optimises my survival, just like the ol’ lion. This is practical and practicable. And I am still doing the least harm possible.
Only humans can be self aggrandising and deluded enough that they purchase carved-up dead animals, but because it has a label slapped on it saying ‘pasture-raised’ or ‘grass-fed’ – it makes them feel all fuzzy and like they are doing something good for themselves the planet and the animal.
In terms of health, of course pasture-raised cows, pigs and sheep are better than intensively-raised animals whose bodies are probably full of pesticides and antibiotics. But all animal flesh contains cholesterol, saturated fat, and hormones (think hormone-free meat is safe? This only means no added hormones; you cannot get away from the fact that you will always being ingesting the hormones of any being you consume).
Pasture-raised and grass-fed animals are just as bad (if not worse) for the planet as intensively-farmed, and if everyone in the world decided they wanted to eat this way there wouldn’t be anywhere near enough land to accommodate this. So it’s very much an entitled, elitist way to eat. Not to mention that if it gets more popular, how many forests will be razed to the ground to make way for pasture? God knows the world has lost enough forest already.
As mentioned – you aren’t really doing a whole lot for the animal either. Pasture-raised and grass-fed animals still want to live out their lives, just as (I assume) you do. Pasture-raised and grass-fed animals still go to abattoirs. No-one sprinkles sleepy dust on them so they just drift off to sleep and die for you.
It’s funny that ‘pasture-raised’ and grass-fed’ are such hipster (that have spilled over into middle-class) trends. People seem to be convincing themselves that they are eating in a more ‘natural’ ‘real’ or ‘spiritual’ way when their food sports these labels.
There is nothing natural or spiritual about unnecessary slaughter. Your body not only doesn’t need meat, it thrives without it. You can bleat about being ‘high-vibe’ and natural and primal all you want, but there is nothing high-vibe about unnecessarily brutalising an innocent being who is as sentient as you.
You think these animals are humanely killed?
The phrase ‘humane slaughter’ always makes me laugh. Is there such a thing as humane rape? I mean, there MUST be if there is such a thing as humane slaughter. We only use this term when we are talking about animals. We’d never use it about people. ‘You murdered that woman?’ ‘Yes, but I did it humanely.’ ‘Oh, ok then…er…cool.’
To see if something is truly humane, ask yourself if you’d like it to happen to you. If we assume that you’ll live until 90, then unless at the age of 9 you’d appreciate a bolt to your head to stun you (which is likely not to work) then have your throat slit and be hung upside down by your leg to be drained of blood, then it ain’t really humane to treat animals this way.
I just went on to a UK website for a pasture-raised cow company. I clicked on the section about animal welfare, and there was lots of talk about how the animal is raised, but I was specifically looking for how the animal was killed. You’d think they’d want to make the abattoir sound as fluffy as possible. But you know what? There was zero information on this. Turns out you can’t make an abbatoir sound fluffy.
It talked about how the animals are ‘free to express their normal behaviours’ – but how are they free to do this? If they naturally and instinctively want to live, they are not being allowed to fulfil this desire. It should maybe end the sentence with ‘…free to express their normal behaviours -up to the point where we kill them at a tenth of their normal lifespan.’
Look, I’m not here to force anyone to be vegan. I just don’t want anyone to be deluded by marketing bullshit. If you eat this stuff – please know what it is. It is not better ethically, environmentally, and health-wise only marginally (but if you are genuinely interested in health – go plant-based!).
The people selling ‘pasture-raised’ this and ‘grass-fed’ that will OF COURSE try and make you feel good about buying it – they want your dough! And people that fell for this already will tell you it’s a great thing to do because they want to justify their own habits and feel good about their choices.
But you are more than capable of thinking for yourself.
A tenth. Of a fully-sentient beings natural lifespan. Start by thinking about that.
We all know (don’t we?) that racing horses is cruel. I mean the very fact of using living beings for commercial purposes, not to mention the cruelty, the whipping, the shooting of the horses if they get injured – because it’s cheaper to kill them than fix them – I mean, come on. If you don’t get that that shit’s wrong, then may I politely suggest that your moral compass may be busted.
Don’t even get me started on dressage. When I see majestic horses made to prance around like idiots just to prove the riders can ‘control’ them, it makes me sick to my stomach. Way to strip a living being of its dignity.
These things may be obvious, but I wanted to address a question where the answer may not be so obvious:
Is it OK to ride horses if you don’t race them or use them commercially?
I remember the one and only time I rode a horse (I wasn’t yet vegan). When I say ‘rode’ I actually mean ‘clung on for dear life.’
It was in the south of France, and under pressure from my then partner, we went horse-trekking in the Dordogne.
From the get-go I was uncomfortable. I had mentioned I was nervous to the organiser, so he said he had given me a very gentle, docile horse.
This didn’t make me feel any less nervous. During the trek the horse behind kept head-butting mine up the bum, so my horse kept running away from it. I ended up getting off the horse (THAT was a scary enough manoeuvre!), and telling the organiser I couldn’t go on. He shamed me and said NO-ONE had ever got off the horse in the middle of a trek before. I shrugged and just led the horse by hand back to the stables.
I think I can now verbalise how I felt that day.
I think I was aware at an unconscious level that I was sitting astride a living being, who had the full agency and right to do whatever they wanted at any given time – like ALL living beings do. I would not blame the horse if she wanted to throw me off her back. I was not confident, like the other trekkers seemed to be, that the horse was a thing that would do whatever they commanded. I didn’t see how they could be that confident, horses aren’t machines.
It’s not something I could have expressed that day. I hadn’t given much thought to whether animals were fully-sentient beings or not, and I’d already lived in France for two years at that point and was used to seeing horse butchers everywhere.
Yet it just didn’t feel right.
And while part of this was because I was scared AF that I would fall (not gonna pretend I was a saint thinking purely about the horse), I think I also knew that a horse is a living being, and ultimately, living beings have their own mind – even if humans break their spirits when they are ‘broken in.’ Therefore, the horse could do anything at any time – and why wouldn’t she? This didn’t help my fear of falling any, lol!
Now we know animals are the same as us in every significant way – they suffer, feel pain and fear in the same way we do (some countries have even declared that into law); so regarding the above question there is just one thing to ask yourself:
Would you like a big ol’ lummox riding on your back? Controlling you? Pulling at reins that pulled at your head and mouth? Having metal continually banged into your feet, because your hooves can wear down with all the unnatural weight you carry when people ride you?
I’m gonna hazard a guess that the answer to this is no.
So how can we justify riding horses for pleasure whether it’s for commercial purposes or not? The minute we get on their back we are stepping on their agency.
Yes, they may let you do that – probably because they have been previously ‘broken in’ (ugh, I hate that term), and they know that you are their food source.
This doesn’t mean it’s right.
I’ve found that we get the answer to pretty much any question regarding the treatment of animals if we ask – would we like it done to us?
Would you climb on the back of any of your other pets? Ha! I like to see someone try and climb on the back of their cat – the cat would soon let them know how they felt about that!
I’ve been lucky enough to see truly wild mustangs and burros in the west of America. We don’t get wild horses here in the UK (the Welsh/New Forest/Dartmoor horses and ponies are actually privately owned and semi domesticated), so it was pretty amazing to see these horse families living wild and free.
I get that due to domestication horses need to be fed a majority of their diet by humans, and to generally be looked after; but isn’t that the same with cats and dogs? Why do the horses have to be ridden to merit their upkeep?
Isn’t it possible to have a horse companion (just like a dog companion) and take them out for walks every day, let them run some, pet them, and just generally enjoy the company of these beings without climbing on their backs and making them do stuff?
If you are vegan, ESPECIALLY if you have just gone vegan, you need to get to know Ethiopian food.
Why am I ordering you around like this?
Because it’s the tastiest food on the planet, period. No meat or cheese alternatives needed, no ‘nooch’ needed (not that there’s anything wrong with these things, I eat them myself, but it’s important to know that there is tasty food out there that is vegan by default and mind-blowingly tasty, and it’s the plants and herbs and spices that make it so).
Once you’ve tasted Ethiopian food, trust me, you will have choice words for the next person who dares to tell you ‘ vegan food is tasteless.’
If you’ve never tried it before, Ethiopian meals come on a base of a flatbread known as injera. It looks like a pancake with air holes. This bread is made (or should be!) from a highly nutritious grain called teff, native to East Africa. The bread is slightly fermented – which means it is excellent for gut-health. There is oftentimes (where that knowledge hasn’t been lost) a fermented food in most traditional national cuisines, and in Ethiopia it’s the injera.
The injera is topped with a selection of stews of your choice.
In most Ethiopian restaurants, not only is there a large number of vegetarian stews (which are also vegan), but they will make it easy by offering a vegetarian selection, so you can try all (or a good selection) of the veggie stews for a set price.
My favourites are shimbra ‘asa (a berbere stew with fried chick pea balls), misir wot (a lentil stew), and gomen (spiced collard greens). But you don’t need to remember these names, the wait staff will know exactly what to give you.
Call me fussy (though I prefer to call it ‘discerning’) but one of my pet peeves is restaurants that don’t use 100% teff for the injera. In one sense, this is understandable – it is not a cheap grain, but there are ways around it that still give people the option of having an authentic, healthy experience if they prefer.
In the US, lots of Ethiopian places offer authentic 100% teff injera, so no problem there. Otherwise, a restaurant may offer a ‘regular’ injera which may be made from a mix of teff flour and white wheat flour, but they will also offer an authentic injera (which they may also cannily label as the ‘gluten-free’ option, as teff contains no gluten) for an extra dollar or so. I have absolutely no problem with this – teff is expensive, I get that, and this gives us health-seekers the option to avoid white flour and get all the benefits from the teff.
You can read about my issue with white flour here, but bottom line – it ain’t real food, and I like my food real AF.
At this point I should also add that 100% teff injera is, in my opinion, the tastiest version.
So, your stews come on a bed of injera, and you get several rolls of injera alongside, with which to eat your food.
Yes, you understood right! NO knives and forks required! Second to the taste, this is my favourite aspect of eating Ethiopian meals. You just tear off some injera, grab some food with it and slap it in the ol’ cakehole.
But don’t worry, you will not be judged if you get nervous and ask for a fork – I’ve never seen an Ethiopian restaurant that didn’t have cutlery for if customers prefer this.
The taste and texture of the injera perfectly complements the berbere and other spice mixes of the stews.
When you’ve finished the stews, you can then – if you have any room left – eat the injera on the base of the platter, which will have soaked up all the sumptuous juices of the stews.
If you are a coffee nut, there is traditional Ethiopian coffee to be enjoyed which I believe comes with a coffee ceremony. I don’t drink coffee, but kinda wish I did every time I see the intriguing coffee paraphernalia in the restaurants.
For the longest time, I couldn’t find an Ethiopian restaurant in London that made 100% teff injera, they all cut it with white flour.
But then, one day while casually looking for a restaurant to celebrate our anniversary that night, I stumbled upon Orit, which promised injera made with 100% teff!
I called just to make sure, and was assured this was correct.
Even more good news was that Orit was pretty local to us, so we went that evening to give it a try.
I could barely contain my excitement – an authentic Ethiopian restaurant near my home and not 3000+ miles away seemed too good to be true.
I feared we’d get there and they’d say ‘oh we usually have 100% teff injera, but tonight we’re out.’ You have no idea how many times I’ve heard this.
My fears were completely unfounded.
When we arrived we chatted with the friendly owner, who has his teff imported wholesale from Ethiopia, and he supplies other London Ethiopian restaurants with it.
The injera was as dark brown as could be (a sign that it’s made from teff), and had that deliciously sour taste that authentic injera has.
Orit has a decent selection of vegan stews – not the full compliment – but enough to have ample variety and to make it interesting.
We had the Yetsome Beyeayenatue, which is their selection of vegan stews.
The stews were misir wot (berbere spiced lentils), gomen (collards) and shiro – and I’m not sure what the others are called, but if you are familiar with Ethiopian food, they are the ones you get at most restaurants.
All were perfect, and induced a feeling I only ever get when eating Ethiopian food. It’s hard to articulate (as you will see!) I can only describe it as feeling so satisfied with the tastes and textures you’ve just experienced that it feels like your soul has been fed.
I defy you to eat great Ethiopian food and try to describe that feeling more eloquently (if you do, please know I will plagiarise you 🙂 )
We will be visiting Orit as often as we can. Life is sweet when you have grub this good so close by.
I should be writing commercial posts urging you to buy my services like other good entrepreneurs, but I’m not really one of those. If it’s on my mind – it’s coming out. To YOU, bwahahahahaaa! 🙂
For me, it’s not about loving animals.
It’s not that I don’t love some individual animals, but it’s not why I say I’m vegan. Saying ‘I love animals’ as your reason for being vegan, in my opinion, is not helpful to the greater discourse on why it’s not cool to eat animals.
There are two reasons for this.
It robs animals of their individual differences and makes them sound even more ‘other’ than people see them as already.
It obscures the moral baseline argument, which I believe holds stronger sway than ‘I love animals’ as it doesn’t rely on whether the person you’re talking too also feels they love animals. Lots of people DON’T have a connection to any animals, so the ‘moral baseline’ reasoning is arguably the one that can be best and most universally understood.
What the HELL are you talking about Karen?
Let me explain!
Take any other oppressed group. Choose from, say; women, black people, gay people, Jews etc. Try saying ‘I love (fill in this space with any of the aforementioned oppressed groups).’
Can you hear how dehumanising it sounds? Like you’ve lumped them all together? Just as you wouldn’t say ‘I love men/white people/straight people/non-Jews’ because it sounds ridiculous.
For example, saying something like ‘all women are lovely’ or ‘I love women’ is dehumanising to women and robs them of the fact that they are all made up of the full complement of human characteristics that men are – some good, some bad, some dull, some ugly, some charming etc, and they are ALL DIFFERENT. Women can be as unlovely and unlovable as some men. Because they are just as human. Because they are a living being. To say ‘I love women’ or women are all delicate/sweet/lovely is benevolent sexism and will always be as dehumanising as malevolent sexism.
Similarly, all non-human animals are different. I’m sure you’ve known a cat that was gentle, sweet and loving; and I’m sure you’ve known another that was a complete c**t.
To say all animals are lovely (which I’ve often heard people say) is to deprive them of their individual differences, and the full range of characteristics that any human or non-human animal can have, and does whatever the animal equivalent to dehumanising is, to them (de-animating?)
The reason I wouldn’t have an animal killed for me to eat – even if it was the most bastardly creature on the face of the planet – is the same reason I wouldn’t have another human (even a really nasty one!) killed for me to eat. I believe the moral baseline is that if it is not necessary (i.e. if you are not an obligate carnivore like lions and tigers, and if it is not in self-defence) then you do not kill anyone. Whoever they are.
Why am I bringing up this point? Even if I’m right in what I’m saying, does it really matter?
Yes! I think so.
If you do whatever the animal equivalent is to dehumanising animals, then others (who are in the habit of seeing animals as existing for them to eat), will always see them as lesser beings, and that could always be their justification for continuing to eat them. But the more they see the animal as being the same as them; with the full range of emotions, characteristics, personality traits etc – which we all know animals HAVE – the harder it becomes to harm them, or have them harmed for their consumption.
The short version of that paragraph is – the more you see yourself in the other, the less possible it is to harm them. And if you are going around saying animals are all so sweet and innocent, then even though you think you’re saying something nice, you’re still making them sound ‘other.’ You’re making them sound like they are one homogenous gloop of beings that aren’t as fully-rounded as we are. This is not helpful.
The documentary Earthlings does a great job talking about all the ‘samenesses’ there are between humans and non-human animals, and looks aside (though we can also argue that you get humans that look VERY different from each other) we’re the same as animals in every significant way.
We often argue that animals feel pain in exactly the same way that we do. So to then go and make them sound like they are some kind of benign, docile ‘other,’ in my opinion, does not further the ‘sameness’ discourse.
The more we can get across the message that animals and human animals are pretty damn much the same (the clue is in the fact that we are both animals!!), the more others will realise it is not right to harm them.
To aid this end, I feel rather than trying to advocate for veganism by saying that you ‘love animals’ to people who may not have the same frames of reference as you do (they may not have had pets, or been around animals much); better in the long run to argue the point that animals are not ‘other’ they are pretty much the same as us, and ask them to consider the moral baseline of not having any other living being killed unnecessarily.
There is nothing I love more that debate, so let me know if you disagree. I have a comment section – use it!
One day while walking in the West Village, I spotted a place called Amorino, and recognised the name. A friend of mine in Bordeaux had raved about a place with exactly the same name, that supposedly made the most amazing vegan gelato and sorbets.
As I got nearer to this Amorino, I realised that it, too, was an ice-cream joint, and the penny dropped that Amorino was probably an international chain of ice-cream joints.
After a quick flurry of messaging back and forth with my French friend (who confirmed that this New York Amorino was indeed a branch of the shop that she had visited in Bordeaux), a little further research taught me there were actually lots of branches in London. DOH! It always seems I learn about the vegan options in my own city in totally backwards-azz ways!
We decided to come back and try Amorino properly the next day. Which turned out maybe not quite the right day to do it – Memorial Day. As you can imagine, it was packed to the rafters. This was our stupid oversight though, so I wasn’t gonna judge the whole experience on that.
While Amorino isn’t 100% vegan, there are around, I’m gonna say, 10 vegan flavours – which is pretty impressive. Usually in these kinds of places there might be a sad-looking lemon sorbet as the sole vegan option. So to have this much choice in a commercial gelato house is fantastic.
The vegan flavours are all clearly labelled ‘vegan,’ and they are all placed together, so there is no chance of making a mistake, and I’d imagine there is negligible chance of cross-contamination with the non-vegan gelato.
I’ve had conflicting info on whether the cones are vegan or not. Our most recent Amorino server said they were, but I just read somewhere online that they’re not. But no matter – just get a cup, you’re not 7. Unless you are.
The queuing system (it’s the same system in every branch I’ve since learned) is a little bizarre. You queue at the till and pay for your gelato size (it comes in several different size cups or cones), and you are given a receipt. You then move down to the gelato counters, give your receipt to the dude behind the counter, who takes the appropriate size cup/cone and you tell them what flavours you’d like.
Now that sounds practical enough, but in reality, it would be better if you could see the gelato first and make up your mind what you wanted, then pay, and then grab the goods. The way it’s set up now, you pay, then (if you’re like most people) you stand there for ages holding up the queue while selecting from the abundance in front of you.
Maybe if you could see all the flavours first, so you’d already decided in advance? I don’t know, it just feels there could be a better and quicker way.
I learned on my last visit that the vegan flavours are actually sorbets, and not gelato – and all the gelato are non-vegan. Which COULD be disappointing. But it’s not.
The saving grace, and the reason why I will keep revisiting Amorino, is (SPOILER ALERT!!!) for the pistachio, hazelnut and chocolate flavours. Even though they are technically sorbet, they taste as creamy as ice-cream and are all absolutely OR-GAS-MIC. Mighty flavourful and not too sweet, the sweetness is masterfully apportioned to enhance the flavour, and doesn’t at all overwhelm it, as can be the case with inferior ice-cream.
The other flavours can change, but they seem to always have chocolate, strawberry, raspberry, mango, lime & basil, passion fruit, banana, and coconut.
On this first visit in NY, on the advice of my friend I tried a cup of the pistachio, and paired it with almond (you can have as many flavours as you like but it’s probably best not to go for more than three to avoid overkill and everything running into each other – and you’d have trouble fitting more than three scoops into a small cup anyway!).
They helpfully offered a taste of the flavours we were interested in to help us decide (but don’t expect this in the UK – service is different here. They will rarely offer a taste, but if you asked nicely you could probably try one or two of them).
The pistachio recommendation was, as, um, you already now know, spot-on. I could have gone back for seconds and thirds. The almond was great too – but I slightly preferred the pistachio.
There are high stools and tables to eat at, and a few regular tables. The decor is best described as nouveau fake..um..old Italian (gold and cherubs everywhere) but it’s pleasant enough. If you come at a busy time you’ll be hard pressed to find a table, so plan your visit carefully, or, weather permitting, go eat your gelato in a nearby park.
Amorino isn’t cheap, but it’s the price you’d expect for a quality, artisanal product. A couple of large cups (which aren’t really that large) will set you back almost 12 quid, but honestly, if it tastes like 12 quid, I’m happy to pay it. London can be extortionate and it’s easy to find yourself paying through the nose for mediocrity, but this is not the case in Amorino.
Once back in London, I decided to try the branch in Fulham Broadway with a friend.
The set-up was exactly the same as the NY branch. This time I had hazelnut and chocolate flavours. OMG – the chocolate is also incredible. Rich; dark; earthy; just the right amount of sweetness, not at all bitter. The hazelnut flavour rivalled the pistachio, and may be my new favourite. It has crunchy bits of sugared hazelnut in there for extra texture and is just divine.
I had another visit to this branch last week – this time with my partner. We went around 9pm. This Amorino is open until 11pm, and it’s nice to be out later in the evening somewhere that isn’t drinky – which is usually your only choice for late evening outings here. We decided to go all out, get large cups and have three flavours each. I got the hazelnut (OBVS), some strawberry, and some lime and basil.
I’ve noticed the hazelnut and pistachio are like Clarke Kent and Superman, they never seem to be around at the same time!
The strawberry was great; I’d definitely get it again. The lime and basil I thought would be interesting because of the basil but….not so much. It just tasted of lime, which is nice enough for one or two mouthfuls, then you get kinda all citrussed out and you’re DONE WITH THE CITRUS.
On my expert advice my partner got the hazelnut and chocolate, and then went rogue with some raspberry. He gushed over the hazelnut and chocolate flavours OF COURSE, and said the raspberry sorbet was good but is better at La Gelatiera.
I reckon on future visits (and there will be MANY) I’ll stick with the hazelnut, pistachio and chocolate – but I could be tempted to try the passion fruit and mango flavours at some point too.
Go at a non-peak time, grab a cup of the pistachio or hazelnut or chocolate flavours (or all damn three), and take your time relishing and savouring this artisanal frozen gustatory delight.