Questions You’ll Get As A Vegan, And How To Respond

people speech bubble

A while back I posted responses to some of the comments and questions that vegans get; part 1 is here, part 2 here.

I was a little, shall we say, sarcastic with some of the responses back then because as a long time vegan, it can be hard hearing (or these days, reading on social media) the same silly things over and over again while the planet is deteriorating due to animal agriculture; and both non-human and human animals are needlessly dying – the non-human through our brutalising of them, and the human through heart disease, strokes, cancers and diabetes complications that occur through eating the non-human animals.

There are a few I didn’t cover back then, so I’ll tackle them now, and I’ll try and be kinder. Maybe.

 

1. But what if you found yourself on a desert island with a cow, and absolutely NO vegetation around and no chance of getting rescued. Would you eat the cow?

Answer: Probably. But that isn’t happening right now, so I’ll just continue to eat the abundance of plant food available to me and leave the animal products – which only HARM my body and the planet – well alone.

 

2. But if we didn’t eat cows, the world would be overrun with them.

Answer: No. Truly no. We would simply stop breeding them for food if nobody ate them.

 

3. Cont…But if we stopped breeding cows for food and milk, then there would be no more cows. I mean nobody would keep them as pets, so they would effectively become extinct.

Answer: Cows becoming extinct is preferable to them being bred to lead a miserable life in which they are raped, having their offspring instantly taken from them, only living a quarter of their natural lifespan and meeting an untimely, brutal (and in many, MANY cases) long, drawn-out death.

Besides, there are many species that have gone extinct that you never heard of. Did you cry over these?

 

4. But God said we have to eat meat.

Answer: To you? Personally? No, God didn’t. At least not in any religious text I know of. There are proscriptions for IF we eat meat, but that is not the same thing. In the three Abrahamic religious texts, for every verse you give me that you believe means it’s ok to eat meat, there are verses that suggest that meat-eating is against the spirit of the text as a whole. I wrote about religious texts and vegetarianism here if you are interested.

 

5. But I wouldn’t be as healthy as I am now if I went vegan.

Answer: As long as you eat enough calories and enough nutrients (which you should be concerned with if you are omni, too) you will thrive. In general, vegans get less sick than non-vegans, with both serious diseases, and minor ones.

 

6. But I wouldn’t know what to eat on a day-to-day basis.

Answer: Do you have access to Google? Can you type ‘vegan meal ideas’  into the search facility? There you go.

You can do one of two things. Both are great. You can eat EXACTLY as you eat now, but with the vegan versions of everything, or, discover a whole new world of vibrant, colourful foods from all around the world that are vegan by default, and discover how to make them yourself. You’ll have fun while learning, and very soon have a whole repertoire of go-to meals you can draw from each day.

 

7. But I don’t like vegan food.

Answer: You don’t like bananas? Apples? Sweet potato fries? Olives? Sweetcorn? Hummous? Popcorn? This list can go on for miles.

 

8. But eating too many vegetable foods makes me gassy.

Answer: Gross! I mean…If this happens (and assuming you don’t have medical issues with your stomach) then it’s just because your body isn’t sufficiently acquainted with fibre. The more vegetable matter you eat (veggies, beans, wholegrains etc), the more your body acclimates to digesting fibre and the fewer problems you will have with gas. Your body is INTENDED to eat fibre, so get chomping on those beans!

 

Vegan + Healthy Does Not = Expensive Weird Shizz

Chia Seed Pudding from Flickr via Wylio
© 2014 Meal Makeover Moms, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio

 

There was an article in The Times recently about how the ‘clean eating’ blogs and websites (there are a couple of big ones in the UK – I’m sure the US has its own fair share) have fed into eating disorders, and only served to encourage those that suffer from them to stress even more over the food they eat. It suggested that they play into ‘orthorexia’; a condition where you become so obsessed with eating ‘right’ that it impinges on your quality of life.

I guess I can see how this might happen.

What really irked me about the article however is that it didn’t seem to be too concerned about mentioning veganism in the same breath as the ‘clean-eating’ phenomenon, thereby associating it with the harmful effects that these blogs can have.

You need to know that these blogs have ZERO to do with being vegan. In some cases the ‘diets’ espoused aren’t even 100% plant-based.

Veganism is about not exploiting animals for our use; and in broader terms it’s a foundation for exposing all oppressions, about guardianship of the planet, and giving our bodies what they need and not what they don’t so that we have the energy, will, and spirit to do this.

These ‘clean-eating’ blogs seem to be about looking cool AF while slurping on a smoothie full of ingredients from the peaks of the Peruvian Andes (hello? What happened to shopping locally?)

You also need to know that the foods these blogs showcase are not the only path to great health.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My thoughts were very conflicted when these fancy, high-end ‘clean eating’ food blogs forced their way across my radar a few years ago.

My VERY first thoughts on discovering Deliciously Ella (famous UK ‘clean eating’ blogger), quite honestly, were jealous ones that I’m not proud of.

How does a 23 year old afford a house with a kitchen like THAT??? How does she afford a fancy website like that?? How does she have the time to compose those pictures and write text and recipes every day??

When I found out it was because she was born rich, that didn’t help my jealousy any.

But then I got over myself and thought about it some more.

My next thoughts were in fact about how positive it could be if lots of people were introduced to plant-based eating this way.

As I said, these websites are all about health and style. They are not about ethics, or about the impact of diet on the environment.

But MY initial main motivation for eating plant-based was health, which eventually grew into something much bigger and all-encompassing.

If I grew to embrace veganism and all it entails through seeking health, surely it could happen to others this way?

Upon further exploration of these websites, I became disheartened. Far too many of the recipes contained ingredients that I knew to be expensive, hard for lots of people to find, and questionable in terms of whether they really deliver benefits in proportion to the price they cost.

If you have the money to afford chia, baobab and cacao by the bucket load, then good for you.

However, veganism and plant-based eating are ALREADY erroneously perceived as being expensive and elitist by many people looking for an excuse to never try it.

These ‘clean-eating’ blogs only reinforce this perception.

I explored the reasons why veganism isn’t elitist here.

I also wrote an article for Mind Body Green with 8 tips on how to eat vegan inexpensively, find it here.

Health does not = smoothies with exclusive ingredients in a vintage mason jar on a photogenic piece of distressed wood.

The much less glamourous  (but also less expensive, YAY!) route to health is this:

  • Eat your wholegrains. Lots of ’em.
  • Potatoes too, both sweet and regular.
  • Root veg like carrots and beets rule for their bright colours and the nutrients they bring.
  • Beans and lentils may not sound sexy, but they are where amazing energy is at.
  • Don’t forget your leafy greens of all persuasions, your nuts and seeds, and fruits of all varieties.
  • Add all the herbs and spices and condiments the earth offers and you not only have the wherewithal to eat deliciously for the rest of your life, but a great foundation for your best health ever.

 

I’m interested to know, what do YOU think of these websites? Please let me know in the comments!

 

Leather; And Tips On Finding Great Alternatives

leather

 

For me it was a process.

When I first started eating a vegan diet, I didn’t give much thought to leather, suede or wool; where these products might’ve come from; or how much of them I was wearing.

I mean, I knew the specific animals these products came from, but I knew nothing of how the end-product came to be.

I’d heard that leather, suede and wool were all just by-products of the meat industry. That as long as people were eating meat, these products would exist anyway.

I reasoned that I wasn’t contributing to the demand for animal products, and therefore had no participation in the death of an animal. So if the animals were being killed anyway for other people to eat, then me purchasing leather, suede and wool from these already dead animals made no difference to the demand, right?

Besides, I looked shit hot in leather jackets and shoes!  I loved leather bags and purses; and wool is warm in the cold UK winters, so…

This all changed when I saw the documentary Earthlings and saw exactly how leather is produced.

I’m not gonna post any graphic vids, but you just need to know that leather is NOT a by-product. Lots of our leather comes from India, and many cows are skinned alive.

Leather production is also very toxic and disastrous for the environment.

Yup. Lesson duly learned about leather and suede.

I’ll write about wool at a later (more seasonally appropriate!) date. In this post we’ll just look at leather and suede.

When you make the decision to stop buying leather, suede and wool, you may feel bad for owning what you already have.

My suggestion is this:

Don’t feel bad. What’s done is done. You’ve committed to buying no more of these products and that’s amazing.

Don’t throw your old products away – that’s wasteful. Don’t give them to charity or to a friend – that’s just passing on the karma.

Use the products until they wear out, then buy no more.

There is one problem that CAN occur with this, but I have a super sneaky way of getting round it 🙂 If you have a leather or suede jacket (or bag or whatever), that looks really good on you and people often remark how great it looks – this isn’t cool – it might encourage THEM to buy one. So if you get a compliment, tell ’em it’s fake!! Tell them you couldn’t wear leather because of the cruelty involved, but you found this cool jacket/pair of boots/bag made of pleather! Yes it’s a lie, but you already tell your bf they look great when they’ve in fact had a really bad haircut, so…sometimes…needs must!

You could possibly come unstuck if it was a recent item on the High St or at the mall and this person could have seen it in the shops too. In which case you could just tell them the truth – for example ‘yes, it IS a great jacket, but to be honest I’m only wearing it because I bought it BEFORE I found out how leather was produced, and now I know the truth about leather, I’m not going to buy any more.’

Both these responses could spark a conversation that may end up planting seeds in the complimenter’s mind, so weigh up which one would be appropriate to the situation.

 

Tips On Acquiring A Cool, Leather-Free Wardrobe

 

1. Bags (‘purses’ in American:) )

You’ll have no problem finding a great non-leather bag. There are so many great pleather, canvas, and other manmade bags around. I normally go to a high street shop or department store, pick a bag I like, then search inside the bag for the label that will tell me what it’s made of. Yes, sometimes I’m gonna be disappointed because it will be leather, and yes I may have to try a couple more shops, but I ALWAYS end up with a bag I like.

The last two bags I bought got a ton of compliments – even when they got old and raggedy!

 

2. Purses (‘wallets’ in American!)

I go through exactly the same process looking for a purse as I do with bags. Again, it may take a few minutes more than if I just grabbed a leather purse, but I’ve NEVER failed to find something I like.

 

3. Shoes

There are lots of online vegan shoe companies (Bourgeois Boheme, Olsenhaus, Mohop, Beyond Skin etc)  but they’re all pretty pricey. So what to do if, like me, you’re on a regular ol’ Joe Shmoe budget?

Shoes are still pretty gendered (yawn) so:

Women:

Because women are told that they love shoes above all else, there are plenty of varieties of shoes to cater to this worn-out old trope in your regular High Street or shopping mall (um, silver lining, right?) So it couldn’t be easier finding great non-leather shoes, pretty much everywhere, in all styles.

If there is no marking in the shoe, just look on the underside to see if there is a sticker that has the leather symbol or not. If not, it should say ‘man-made materials.’  And don’t forget, for casual footwear; flip-flops, Converse, lots of trainers (sneakers) should all be made from manmade materials. Check out Dr Marten’s vegan shoes too.

If you feel you need long winter boots then you may need to look a little harder but you should find them. Here’s some, for example.

You know the really cheap shoe shops (Shoe Zone in the UK, Payless ShoeSource in the states etc)?  If you’re looking for a basic shoe or sandal, it’s maybe worth trying one of these shops. I’m not saying every shoe is amazing, and yes, these shops kinda stink of rubber and plastic, but you can sometimes find a pair of decent enough shoes, and you KNOW they ain’t gonna be leather or suede.

I’m not too kool for the ‘Zone or the ‘Source, nor should YOU be! 😀

Men:

It IS a little harder to get non-leather footwear for men, but it’s still not DIFFICULT,

Again, Converse, lots of sneakers, flip flops and most sandals should all be non-leather; check labels for materials if you’re not sure.

Dr Martens do an amazing vegan shoe – so no need to miss out on the old DM’s!

My partner has to dress smart(ish) for work, and did have more of a problem getting smart dress shoes that weren’t leather, but eventually found some on vegetarian-shoes.co.uk.

There IS another issue with shoes – sometimes the glue used in the manufacturing of them contains animal products. Some shoe companies can tell you if they use this kind of glue; others can’t, and sometimes there is conflicting info.

It’s up to you what you do with this. For me, if there is no visible animal product in my shoe, and if it’s not a company that says they definitely use glue containing animal parts – I’m good. We can only do what we can do.

 

4. Jackets, skirts, trousers etc:

As for jackets – I don’t even need to tell you there are a million fabulous alternatives to leather everywhere. If you specifically want the leather ‘look,’ a quick google search just told me that H&M, New Look, Warehouse and Miss Selfridge have great, inexpensive faux leather jackets. I don’t doubt it’s just as easy to get faux leather in any mainstream clothing shops in any country.

Confession: I’ve never worn either leather or non-leather skirts or trousers, and so was completely ignorant on where the faux leather versions may be.

I feared I may have to look toward, er, specialty shops for them 😉

It turns out Forever 21, New Look, H&M, Misguided, Top Shop and MANY, MANY other mainstream shops come up with a TON of results for faux leather trousers and skirts with one quick google, so if this is your thing – Go for it!

 

The Truth Behind The Cute Chick Pics

chick from Flickr via Wylio
© 2009 frannie60, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

 

Apologies for the title – I figured it would make for good SEO. Though I guess it may not exactly attract quality traffic!

As I’m sure you’re aware, social media, blog posts and real life are rife right now with images of cute, yellow, fluffy chicks. A symbol of Easter, spring, and new life, you cannot go through March and April without seeing them somewhere. We ‘awwww’ at them and fantasise about having the chick in front of us for real so we can pet it. Of course we find them adorable as all hell. Who doesn’t?

Try the egg industry.

Quite apart from the wretched life that egg-laying hens have; to the people who produce your morning boiled eggs, baby male chicks are just a by-product. As they will never be egg-layers, it is not profitable to keep them, and they are not good for meat. So what happens to them? Usually one of three things. They are either gassed to death; put into a meat grinder alive; or they are put in a dumpster, all on top of each other so they suffocate.

(This vid isn’t too graphic, but of course it’s not pleasant)

This happens if the eggs are battery, free-range, cage-free and even organic.

Worldwide, billions of male chicks are killed each year in this manner.

Happy Easter from Flickr via Wylio
© 2007 The 5th Ape, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Look, I don’t want to point fingers here, or poop all over Easter. Most people don’t know aboutthis – it’s not exactly advertised, so I am not judging those who eat eggs, and not calling anyone out as a hypocrite. My goal here is to reveal the bigger picture to those of us who haven’t seen it, so we can make more informed choices.

Doesn’t is seem nonsensical that we pay (through the money we spend when we buy eggs) for the needless slaughter of billions of chicks every year; yet at Easter we love looking at pictures of them, or even buying fluffy toy chicks for our Easter tables?

Happy Easter in 66 Different Languages - EXPLORE from Flickr via Wylio
© 2013 Karen Roe, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Also, would we let this happen to kittens or puppies?

Of course as a vegan, I think all animal slaughter is unnecessary. But even though I am used to reading about the cruelty inflicted on ‘food’ animals, and even though I’ve seen my fair share of slaughterhouse footage, the sheer volume of life killed as a waste product in the egg industry has me reeling.

And the mental image of someone gushing over a baby chick pic on Twitter this week, while eating their breakfast boiled egg or omelette, makes me crazy. Not because this person is being hypocritical – you can only be hypocritical if you KNOW the fate of baby male chicks and go ahead and gush at the photo anyway. It makes me crazy because this mass slaughter is just not widely known, and therefore the irony is not realized by many.

Isn’t it better to make a choice whether to eat a product or not based on all the information?

Of course we should enjoy any photos of baby chicks that come across our paths in the days to come; it’s a fun and beautiful time of year. But let’s just have no illusions about the destiny that many of them face.

 

How Being Vegan Helps Combat World Hunger

Success Story - Marilyn (Haiti) from Flickr via Wylio
© 2010 Feed My Starving Children (FMSC), Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Firstly, a few facts from the World Food Programme:

  • Some 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. That’s about one in nine people on earth
  • Asia is the continent with the most hungry people – two thirds of the total. The percentage in southern Asia has fallen in recent years but in western Asia it has increased slightly
  • Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest prevalence (percentage of population) of hunger. One person in four there is undernourished
  • One out of six children — roughly 100 million — in developing countries is underweight
  • One in four of the world’s children are stunted. In developing countries the proportion can rise to one in three
  • 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world, with 23 million in Africa alone

From the UN:

  • The greatest scandal of our age is the fact that just under 1 billion people on the planet go to bed hungry every night. This is despite the fact that we produce more than enough to feed every single person in the world

Now consider these facts; courtesy of the Cowspiracy Facts page:

  • 82% of starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals, and the animals are eaten by western countries
  • Worldwide, at least 50% of grain is fed to livestock
  • These is 15x more protein on any given area of land with plants, rather than animals

 

I’ve read the facts and seen the stats a ton of times, but each time it shocks me anew.

It’s overwhelming how simple the answer is.

Some people bluster and say that reduction of animal product consumption having the effect of eliminating world hunger is too simplistic.

These people are too invested in their steak, because the facts prove otherwise.

The planet can produce enough plant-food to feed the entire population easily.

But we are feeding grain to animals, for the animals to be fed to rich people. It’s easy to see this isn’t sustainable.

If one were to argue that those particular crops were not fit for human consumption anyway (which in some cases is true), well then let’s use that land to grow crops that ARE fit for human consumption, rather than to grow farm animal feed for poor creatures that are bred to be killed.

Something that always stuns me is that during Live Aid in 1985, the international concert that was held to raise funds for the Ethiopian famine relief – a particularly horrendous and destructive famine that shocked the world – we were, wait for it: EXPORTING GRAIN FROM ETHIOPIA TO FEED OUR CATTLE. From an article by Jeremy Rifkin:

At the height of the Ethiopian famine in 1984-5, Britain imported £1.5 million worth of linseed cake, cottonseed cake and rape seed meal. Although none of this was fit for humans to eat, good quality farmland was still being used to grow animal feed for rich countries when it could have been used to grow food for Ethiopians.

It doesn’t make sense to donate money year after year to Comic Relief (just because this is the one time of year we are shown images of ‘starving children in Africa’) and yet perpetuate world hunger by consuming meat.

There are many ethical reasons to be vegan, and ending world hunger is a big one. Going vegan benefits human animals and non-human animals alike and in reducing the suffering of one group, we reduce the suffering of the other group.

If you want more information on exactly how eating meat is a major cause of world hunger, I encourage you to read this exceedingly well-referenced article by economist Jeremy Rifkin in it’s entirety.

 

How You Being Vegan Benefits Every Living Being On The Planet

Planet Gothenburg #photog from Flickr via Wylio
© 2009 Erik Söderström, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Ever heard the one ‘you care more about animals than you do about people, but you should care more about people because you…er.. ARE one‘ ?

Me too.

Not too often thank goodness, but I’ve heard it.

Now I KNOW the word ‘vegan’ was invented, back in 1944, to mean someone who chose not to use non-human animals as products in any way, be it for food, clothes, sport or entertainment.

At this time, the intent was to show compassion towards the non-human animals who don’t have a voice.

These days, with easy access to so much more information, we now know there are many beings that don’t have a voice, or not one that’s heard. I am often overwhelmed by reading stories about women and girls who are sold into slavery, forced into abusive marriages while still a child, who suffer ‘dowry deaths,’ who are forcibly kept from being educated; who self-immolate because that’s their only way out of a desperate life, who have undergone extensive FGM – I could go on.

Firstly, it’s ridiculous to separate people from animals, because people are animals too.

And omnivores need NO encouragement to separate themselves from animals – disassociating themselves serves to allow them to believe they are superior, and thus legitimises their eating of animals.

It’s harder to justify eating animals when we fully realise we are animals too. When we understand that we are the same, we have truly seen ourselves in the ‘other;’ in this case a non-human animal.

I believe that ‘otherising’ living beings is not single issue. WE ‘otherise’ animals; men ‘otherise’ women; people ‘otherise’ people of different races; straight people ‘otherise’ gay people; young people ‘otherise’ old people and vice-versa.

Woman is the other of man, animal is the other of human, stranger is the other of native, abnormality the other of norm, deviation the other of law-abiding, illness the other of health, insanity the other of reason, lay public the other of the expert, foreigner the other of state subject, enemy the other of friend ~ Zygmunt Bauman (Polish Sociologist, 1925-)

The fact is, we don’t have to just care about one set of living beings; we have the capacity to care about them all.

It’s not a single prejudice that is the most important, but prejudice itself. Though it’s necessary to fight each prejudice singularly in order to make people aware it exists (that’s why I strive to inform about veganism!); as with all negative things it’s also about treating the root of the problem and not just the symptoms. Hate, fear and the ‘otherising’ that results from this are the root of the problem; racism, sexism, speciesism are how the hate and fear manifest and are the symptoms.

The beauty and power of veganism is that it starts with the beings that are most seen as ‘other’ and the effects radiate outwards.

Caring about the beings who are presently seen as the lowliest in society, i.e. animals (although from things I’ve read lately, I’m starting to believe that women are also not seen as fully rounded, sentient beings, and that many people will see animals as sentient beings before they see women as such), has a ripple effect and spreads out to all of society.

I’ll let these guys help me explain 🙂 :

Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace ~ Albert Schweitzer (French/German theologian, organist, philosopher, physician and missionary, 1875-1965)

As long as man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love ~ Pythagoras (Greek polymath, c. 570-c. 495BC)

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly ~ Martin Luther King (Civil Rights Leader, 1929-1968)

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated ~ (this quote is often attributed to Gandhi but can’t be precisely verified) Mahatma Ghandi (Leader of the Indian independence movement, 1869-1948)

So being vegan in effect, helps all oppressed peoples.

How else does veganism benefit all people on the planet?

Well, it benefits the planet, upon which every person resides!

It helps combat world hunger – I’d say that’s being pretty caring of other people?

If we, as vegans are healthy (which if we stick as much as we can to whole foods, there is no reason why we shouldn’t be), we can better care for all living beings – including people.

What about the quality of life and mental health of slaughter house workers? Slaughter house workers are often from immigrant communities, and they are poorly paid to kill animals for us. As a result of the speed of the machinery they often suffer serious injuries, psychological stress due to the nature of the work, and are more prone to committing acts of violence. By going vegan we are not contributing to the awful quality of life of these people or the people they affect.

So I figure it does a disservice to veganism to think of it as only helping non-human animals. Of course, as vegans we are shining the spotlight ON animal abuse and slaughter, and taking ourselves out of the equation that demands this cruelty happen, but I believe that all the reasons for going vegan are interconnected. It truly does benefit every living organism on the planet if you think about it.

We can care deeply about non-human animals. And we can also care deeply about all living beings. And we can ALSO care deeply about nature, because it gives life to, and feeds the soul of all living beings (you just try living without nature). It’s possible to care about all of these things at the same time.

And the accusation that vegans care more about animals than they do about humans is just silly, nothing more than lashing out because of lack of a better argument.

 

How To Never Be The Apologetic Vegan

ristorante italiano in NYC from Flickr via Wylio
© 2013 Michele Ursino, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

Because I’ve been vegan for a million years (ok, 26), there were a good few years when I was the only vegan I knew, and the only vegan anyone in my social circles knew.

Back then, hardly anyone knew what the word even meant, and when I explained, I could tell that I was considered just a little bit TOO different, extreme, and martyr ‘ish.’

I guess because I was highly aware of how negatively people were perceiving me, I developed a bit of an apologetic ‘shtik’

There was a particular group of friends I used to go out with, and we’d often go to a Chinese or Indian restaurant. When the server came to our table, I’d always check that the dish I was about to order was dairy and egg free. As I asked the server these questions, I realised the table would go quiet and everyone would listen to me, so when I finished, I’d sort of shrug and blush a little and say ‘sorry guys, I’m the weird vegan one!’

Knowing what I know NOW, I cringe at this.

I don’t blame myself – I didn’t know any better. I didn’t have access to the multitude of information we have today that could’ve helped me deal with that situation in a more confident way.

If you’re going vegan today it’s quite the opposite.

Most people now KNOW what being vegan means in terms of the ethics, and thanks to lots of us sharing articles and documentaries on social media; the health, environmental, world hunger and social justice reasons to go vegan are a lot more widely known.

We have the courage to talk about it more as we grow in numbers so we don’t HAVE to be remotely apologetic (I didn’t HAVE to be back then, I just wasn’t equipped with the tools and information to help me NOT be).

If you find yourself the only vegan in a group of non-vegans, you may feel yourself straying into apologetic territory – if you are all choosing a place to go eat for example. While you probably don’t mind going to an omnivore restaurant if you know there are going to be adequate vegan options, you will probably want to avoid a steakhouse that you know darn well would only offer you a plate of garnish lettuce.

Here are my top tips to keep you away from sounding apologetic when you’re out and about:

 

1. Remember: How YOU perceive yourself is often how EVERYBODY will perceive you. If you don’t sound like you’re giving much value to what you’re saying, no one else will value it either.

It could well be that years ago when I was talking about being vegan to my friends I was doing so in such a feeble, apologetic way that I CAUSED their negativity about it, rather than their negativity causing me to be apologetic.

Always try and have at the forefront of your mind the moment when it clicked for you that you wanted to be vegan. Whatever it was that inspired that decision, keep that front and centre. This will help you radiate confidence when talking about it, and when making group decisions based on it.

2. We are not yet in the majority, but we can ACT like we are – because guess what, we should be; and sooner or later we WILL be (yay!). Act like what you’re talking about or asking for in restaurants is completely normal and if you are challenged, be surprised you are being challenged. If we act like we’re the norm, it will happen quicker that we will be. We’ll manifest it. We’ll collectively fake it till we make it!

3. Be ready for when new people ask you why you’re vegan. Tell of your ethical reasons if it’s these that inspired you to go vegan, but also have at hand a few knockout facts that cover all bases. The Cowspiracy Facts page is great for this.

4. Even though I recommend we act like we’re in the majority, we should (and I know I don’t need to say this) always be unfailingly polite. It costs nothing, and a bit of politeness and charm always help a request get heard.

I’ve never EVER had a server have a problem with me politely asking questions. I’ve even managed to get a decent meal in bayou country in Louisiana when only hog and crawfish seemed to be on the menu, and the servers were initially a little wary when I said we didn’t eat meat. When I politely suggested a few ideas we got a perfectly decent salad, and fries with Cajun spices.

Don’t forget, in the restaurant context servers are there to serve, and are aware they’ll get a good tip if they please you, so no apologetic mumbling needed here as long as we are courteous in our requests.

5. Never be afraid to suggest a different restaurant to the one being suggested. After all, others would do this based on taste preferences, there’s no reason why you can’t do this for your ‘taste’ preferences, just suggest another fun place that you KNOW has great food.

6. Know that as long as you are telling your truth, stating facts, and making requests politely – you  have no need to act, or be, apologetic. Should anyone try and make you feel that you should be, this is their problem.

7. Why would you ever act sorry for saving animals, saving the planet, promoting world peace, getting healthy so you are not a drain on health resources, helping combat world hunger, helping end violence and having a positive impact on all oppressions?

 

On How Eating Animals Breeds Violence

Sunday Lunch Anyone!? from Flickr via Wylio
© 2007 Richard Riley, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

There are so many ways that being vegan impacts the world.

You know about the animal cruelty, environmental destruction, poor health and threat to world hunger that comes with a standard meat and dairy strong diet.

And Lord knows I’m ALWAYS going on (particularly on my live broadcasts – follow me on Periscope right here, YES IT’S FREE!) about the dynamics of oppression and how all oppressions (speciesism, sexism, racism etc) are the same and feed each other, so we need to be aware of this because, as MLK says: ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere‘ etc., etc.

So I’ll go along thinking I have a good grasp of where veganism fits into the big picture of, er, everything; then I’ll read something that makes me think of yet ANOTHER reason why everyone being vegan would just…well…..stop the world from going down the toilet!

You’ve heard the saying ‘violence breeds violence.’

In how many ways might this be true as it relates to the violence inherent in the meat industry breeding violence elsewhere?

There’s a couple of interesting studies I’d like to share.

In the late nineties/early two thousands, a prison facility in Victor Valley, California tried a program they called NewStart where they let inmates choose whether to have standard food and go through the normal prison program; or a vegan diet with some Bible study and anger management classes.

The main reason for initiating this was, as quoted by the nutrition services co-ordinator of the prison ‘what we eat affects not only our bodies physically, but also our mental attitude, our levels of aggression and our ability to make good decisions.’

State officials were skeptical about how many prisoners would actually choose the vegan meal plan, but 85% wound up on the program!

The results?

It seems that violence decreased significantly amongst the inmates on the NewStart plan.

And check this:

The remarkable behavioral changes could even be seen outside in the prison yard where according to prison officials, nobody “owned” or controlled the yard. Typical lines drawn between blacks, whites, hispanics, gang members and other groups were non-existent. On the NEWSTART side, everyone played basketball together and had great fellowship. The CDC [standard prison program] side of the house had the same racial divisions experienced at any other prison.

Not only that, but the recidivism rate for the inmates once released was 2%, when the average for California is 90%.

Now I’m sure the anger management classes and Bible study contributed to these results somewhat, but it leaves some big questions as to whether more people going vegan would mean far less violence in the world.

Could more people on a vegan diet even help to eradicate racism (and racist violence) as it did in the prison? And if it did this, could it also end sexism and violence against women? I believe it could – if we stop seeing animals as ‘other,’ we stop seeing anyone as ‘other.’

Can you even imagine how it might be if all children were raised vegan from birth?

What about domestic violence and violent crime in a community?

Well, this study from the universities of Windsor and Michigan State found that in locations surrounding slaughterhouses, there are clusters of domestic violence incidences and violent crimes amongst the workers and their communities that occur BECAUSE of the nature of the work in the slaughterhouse:

The findings indicate that slaughterhouse employment increases total arrest rates, arrests for violent crimes, arrests for rape, and arrests for other sex offenses in comparison with other industries. This suggests the existence of a “Sinclair effect” unique to the violent workplace of the slaughterhouse, a factor that has not previously been examined in the sociology of violence

The study, by the way, was to see if what was a hypothesis about the connection between violence towards animals in the slaughterhouse and crime and violence outside of it (initially explored by Upton Sinclair in his novel ‘The Jungle’ about a big Chicago slaughterhouse) held any weight.

It’s no great stretch of understanding to see that if someone is desensitising themselves to the brutality they are inflicting on sentient beings all day long, that when they leave the workplace this desensitisation and lack of empathy is still in place and would affect every relationship outside of it.

An Australian study that was carried out to see if the same conclusions that had been drawn overseas were relevant to Australian slaughterhouse workers found exactly the same result :

Senior sociology lecturer Dr Nik Taylor at Flinders University said it had been established that the more positive a person’s attitude to animals, the lower their aggression levels, and that the reverse is also true – if you’re cruel to animals, you’re more likely to be violent to humans.

She found that meatworkers’ aggression levels were “so high they’re similar to the scores… for incarcerated populations”.

How does this branch out to the general population?

Even though those who don’t work in a slaughterhouse aren’t doing the killing, they are still desensitising themselves to the suffering of others.

Even the most unenlightened meat-eater knows that animals are killed for the meat they eat, and thus they have to compartmentalise this fact on some level to be able to consume it. It’s a pretty sound bet that if they met the animal face-to-face they wouldn’t be able to kill it themselves.

So it kind of follows that anyone who eats animal products (or at least meat, because many are actually unaware of the violence inherent in the dairy and egg industry), have desensitised themselves to the fact that an ‘other’ has been killed for their food.

Their desensitisation is a little more indirect and less intense than the slaughterhouse workers perhaps, but it is there nonetheless.

The second we desensitise ourselves to ANY ‘other’ in this way; violence (be it domestic violence, rape, general aggression) becomes possible to inflict on any ‘other.’

It’s fun imagining what a vegan world would look like 🙂

 

Forget Diet And Detox – New Year, New Lifestyle

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Guys – did you know I’m on TV these days?

If you’re not already, follow me on Periscope https://www.periscope.tv/KarenCottenden (download the FREE app) and get FREE vegan tips and insights 6 days a week!

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So you’re counting today as the first day of the New Year right?

Good. Me too.

Now, I can totally see the point of changing shit up at New Year.

It’s an easy way to measure progress; we will always know where we started from, and we’ll have made a clear and well-defined intention that is loaded with the freshness and hope the New Year brings.

This is good.

But…

How many of us have made ‘New Years Resolutions’ only to have forgotten all about them by, ooooh, March at the very latest?

I believe the reasons for this are:

  • We know the resolution will benefit us, but doing it (whatever it is) feels like torture
  • We’re not really engaged with the reasons why we are making a change
  • We’re lazy mofo’s (JK!)

Those of you looking to go vegan/plant-based purely as a way to ‘diet’ or ‘detox’ this January have it ALL wrong. Yep, ya do.

Don’t misunderstand – I’m not judging you for wanting to lose weight and clean up your insides with a whole food, vegan diet. No Sir.

It’s great that you’ve realised the best way to achieve these things IS with a whole food vegan diet. Lots of people still think that avoiding carbs are where it’s at; so props to you for being cleverer than these types.

And as I mention on my ‘About’ page – any way into veganism people may have is TOTES KOOL with me.

But you are coming to it from a perspective that may not serve to sustain your resolution.

You see, being vegan isn’t a DIET. At least, it works BEST when it’s not perceived a diet, but as a whole new lifestyle.

Why?

We always think of ‘diets’ and ‘detoxes’ as temporary. I mean, who is on a permanent diet? OK, you probably know someone who says they are permanently ‘dieting’ but not because they want to, and you know they’re not happy about it.

I encourage you to think of going vegan/plant based as an entirely new lifestyle. An exciting and vibrant one. One that will change your life forever for the better in ways that you can’t even imagine right now. Not only will it benefit your health, but it will benefit every single living organism on the face of the Earth, and the Earth itself! It will help combat world hunger. Your new lifestyle will help give today’s children a chance to explore and experience the natural beauty of the world when they are older, and to eventually  bring their own children into a cleaner, safer, more stable world not fearful of extreme weather events, scarcity and war.

YES war! Going vegan can stop wars! Check it:

As long as there are slaughterhouses there will be battlefields ~ Leo Tolstoy (Russian author, 1828-1910)

As long as man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love ~ Pythagoras (Greek polymath, c. 570-c. 495BC)

As long as people will shed the blood of innocent creatures there can be no peace, no liberty, no harmony between people. Slaughter and justice cannot dwell together ~ Isaac Bashevis Singer (Polish/American author, 1902-1991)

Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace ~ Albert Schweitzer (French/German theologian, organist, philosopher, physician and missionary, 1875-1965)

There is nothing wrong with focussing on the weight loss or detoxing benefits of this lifestyle if it’s that that drew you in in the first place, or with eating specific plant-foods that promote this. But if you go into it thinking of it purely as a diet or detox, you’ll:

A) Come to a point when you consider your goal achieved, go back to old habits, and find yourself making the SAME resolutions next year (PEOPLE – we only have so many years, let’s make DIFFERENT resolutions every year!)

Or:

B) Get bored, because you’re just eating fruit and chia seeds and drinking smoothies in an effort to achieve your detox goal; when you could be eating from a HYUUUUGE variety of delicious dishes as you educate yourself about all the ways to veganise old favourite meals, and the multitude of yummy world cuisines!

 

By looking at your resolution as a lifestyle change, rather than as a detox or diet (even if it’s those things that were your initial motivations), your entire perspective on it will change.

Because ‘lifestyle’ implies longer term; you’ll relax into it, learning new things bit by bit rather than bracing yourself for what you may feel is the deprivation of a ‘detox’ or ‘diet’.

You’ll push yourself to discover and explore new foods rather than just grabbing a kale/beet/wheatgrass/whatever smoothie,* and soon find yourself delighting in the amount you’ve learned, not to mention loving all your delicious new culinary creations.

I also encourage you to get informed about the environmental, ethical and social justice impact that veganism has, even if these are not your reasons for going vegan.

Why?

Because the more you know, the more your consciousness will expand, and the more reasons and incentive you will have for STAYING vegan, and thus, slim and untoxed!

We ALL like to feel that we’re doing good. Animal product industry marketers rely on this when they try and sell us ‘humane’ or ‘free range’ products.

So, instead of going back to feeling good about ourselves for buying eggs that are, in reality, produced in JUST as cruel a way as those at more intensive egg farms and benefitting only the bottom line of the greedy egg industry; and for throwing £20 into a charity bucket for ‘Starving Children In Africa’ when it’s actually animal agriculture that siphons food away from hungry people to cattle (for less hungry people to eat); let’s feel good about ourselves in 2016 for something that ACTUALLY MEANS SHIT.

Embrace every aspect of your new lifestyle – it truly is so much more than a diet ever could be.

And if you need personal, one-on-one guidance – you know darn well where I am.

Seeing this as a lifestyle shift and embracing its totality, rather than purely as a diet or detox means it may take a little longer to achieve your weight goal (though most likely not much longer at all!), but I promise you, once you reach it, you are far, FAR more likely to maintain it.

 

* I don’t mean to bash the smoothie; but it doesn’t hold a candle to a huge plate of Ethiopian food, or a table full of Middle Eastern Mezze.

Now Is The Time

onion veg

 

Well OF COURSE I’m going to take the opportunity when we’re on the cusp of this new year to encourage you to go vegan/plant-based/whatever you want to call it, if you aren’t already.

But let me explain WHY the time is now; why there has never been a better time to take this step.

Global consciousness is rising, it really is. People are beginning to think about the wider issues outside of their own four walls or their own community.

They are beginning to consider the impact their actions have on other beings, both human and non-human.

They are beginning to join the dots and see how their life choices connect to cruelty towards others and environmental degradation, not to mention how these choices can lead to personal ill-health.

In east and west coast US (and progressive cities in between – Hi Austin, Asheville, Boulder etc!) this information is coming through loud and clear and the markets are rapidly changing to accommodate this new demand. You find restaurants, cafes and food emporia loaded with sumptuous plant-based fare. Brighton in the UK is getting there, and I hear Berlin and Gothenburg are vegan meccas. Forgive me Aussie readers, I’m ignorant about your country (though I’d love to visit one day), but I believe Melbourne is the place to be for plant-based delights aplenty.

Other places may be slower on the uptake ( 🙂 ) but are moving in that direction nonetheless. You only have to consider how vegetarians and vegans were perceived twenty years ago and compare that to now to know this is true. If you are too young to know this, ask an older friend or relative.

Yes, sadly it’s true that as some countries that were once poor are getting richer, many of their photo monbiot imagecitizens are indulging in more meat and dairy, believing this is the ‘western,’ affluent thing to do. But, as technology enables information on the destructiveness of animal food production to spread fast and thick on a global scale, it is inevitable that very soon animal consumption will decline in these countries too, and at a much quicker rate than it did in ours.

If you are thinking of moving in a plant-based direction; whether you want to go vegan overnight, or start with vegetarian and see how it goes, or switch some animal products for plant-based ones and see how that feels – you’ve chosen the right time.

Here, here, here and, ooooh… here are some tips.

You will be part of a strong and gathering current of consciousness, a flow of positive energy that will only ever increase exponentially in force.  It doesn’t even matter right now if you think I’m talking hogwash and your reasons for going vegan are more health or environment-based than ethical. All the reasons are interwoven, and you’ll feel connected to them all sooner or later.  It’s no coincidence that the best thing for animals and the planet is also the best thing for you.

Get in on this energy at this stage. Don’t be late to the party. You’ll miss so much!

Just do something. Move forward. Now is the time.