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Becoming Vegan

EIGHT years ago when I decided to become vegan, I was the only vegan I knew.

In fact I hadn’t even met a vegan! My aunty was vegetarian for six years, but that was back in her ‘uni days’ and so it was described as some sort of hippy phase.

I remember making the decision and friends actually betting on when I would crack! (My friend Rachel bet me twenty quid I would break by a week – a lot to a 17 year old!)

Well here I am, unbroken, unwavering, and gladly friends with a more vegans than ever before.

It got me thinking though, when I first began there was no ‘Fry’s Chicken Nuggets’ available at my local Tesco’s – you had to make do, find your own recipes and pray to god you could make Tofu taste like anything other than just tofu!

A lot of discussions on WordPress, Tumblr, Facebook and everywhere else about vegans – seems to be talking to VEGANS. Preaching to the converted if you wish.

So I thought for anyone you know out there who is thinking about being vegan, or anyone who wants to become one, here are some handy links.

After all, this is what we’re all here to do right?

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Vegan Friendly Finds – Holidays!

The other day I was talking to my South African housemates and they were urging me to go on Safari in the country.

“You’d love it” they said, “The animals are so close, and they live in the wild.”

I have to admit I was intrigued, however after a quick bit of research (including a great Louis Theroux Documentary – here) I found that most of these ‘wild life parks’ or ‘game reserves’ actually made their money from hunting.

Of course there are a few exceptions to this rule, but I found communication slow and even the ‘eco-friendly’ websites didn’t have sufficient information on the animal welfare and upkeep of the ‘sanctuary’.

On my travels I did however find a few websites that can help fellow vegans looking for a guilt-free escape and so I thought I’d share them – I haven’t been on any of these holidays (yet!) but if like me you are just looking for some inspiration and somewhere to add to your wanderlust list, check these pages out.

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Today’s Vegan Friendly Find – Charles Manson – a Quick Vegan History Lesson

Let me start by saying I’m not a big history buff, I didn’t even take it for a GCSE in school, but it struck me today that I didn’t know where a large part of my life, and belief system came from, and this, to me was very scary.

After all the notion of a vegan hasn’t been around that long – yes of course there are always people way back when (usually philosophers) who ate a plant based diet, but I’m talking about it in a modern context

As early as 1909 the ethics of consuming dairy products were hotly debated within the vegetarian movement which was already in full swing. However the term ‘Vegan’ and The Vegan Society, wasn’t born until 1944 by founder and vegetarian society rebel Donald Watson.

The term Vegan was derived at a meeting of six like-minded ‘non-dairy vegetarians’ in London with Donald, and if you didn’t already know, the name comes from the shortening of the word VEGetariAN. (I didn’t know that!)

Since then a lot has changed, and many forms of Vegan exist. According to Wikipedia “Veganism /ˈviːɡənɪzəm/ is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, as well as following an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of sentient animals.

Distinctions are sometimes made between different categories of veganism. Dietary vegans (or strict vegetarians) refrain from consuming animal products, not only meat but, in contrast to ovo-lacto vegetarians, also eggs, dairy products and other animal-derived substances. The term ethical vegan is often applied to those who not only follow a vegan diet, but extend the vegan philosophy into other areas of their lives, and oppose the use of animals or animal products for any purpose. Another term used is environmental veganism, which refers to the avoidance of animal products on the premise that the harvesting or industrial farming of animals is environmentally damaging and unsustainable.”

According to several sources; Pol Pot, Hitler, Genghis Khan and Charles Manson were vegetarian and even vegan at stages of their lives. I know that this fact has nothing to do with the outcome of their actions or who they were in history, but what if they had an impact on vegetarians and vegans today?

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Here’s a few animal laws and milestones that came on my screen when researching this post that I thought notable, I know there will be lots more on the timeline – but to keep it readable I’m only adding high profile ones.

On April 21, 1933, a law was passed by the Nazi’s concerning the slaughter of animals. Germany was also the first nation to ban vivisection on August 16, 1933, by Hermann Göring as the prime minister of Prussia. He announced an end to the “unbearable torture and suffering in animal experiments” and said that those who “still think they can continue to treat animals as inanimate property” will be sent to concentration camps.

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Throughout 1950 – 1960 as pets became more common place, the UK created Welfare codes and laws protecting animals, including The Pet Animals Act 1951 (amended 1983) The Cock fighting Act 1952, and The Abandonment of Animals Act 1960.

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1958 – The Humane Slaughter Act was passed only four years after The Humane Society of the United States formation. (25 years after the Nazi’s)

1966 – The US Congress adopts the Animal Welfare Testing Act which excludes rodents and birds. States adopted animal welfare laws; US Public Health Service, Policy on the Humane Care and use of Laboratory Animals; American Association for the Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC).

1975 – Australian philosopher Peter Singer published Animal Liberation, the book coined the term “speciesism”. 

March 1980 – Aug 1980 – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals was created by Ingrid Newkirk and Alex Pacheco.

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In 1980: Sundarapore, became the first country in modern times to declare a ban on possessing (including carrying, storing, selling, and consuming) meat. At the time of the declaration, approximately 96% of the Singaporean population was already vegetarian.

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1987 California high school student Jennifer Graham makes international headlines when she refuses to dissect a frog. The practice is taken off of many schools curriculum or seen as ‘optional’.  

In June 1989 Avon announced a permanent end to animal testing of their products, including testing done in outside laboratories. Avon was the first major cosmetic company in the world to end animal testing.

1993 General Motors stops using live animals in crash tests. (1993! – For shame!)

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1994 Tyke the elephant goes on a rampage, killing her trainer and escaping from the circus before being gunned down by police, highlighting the cruelty of the circus industry to the world.

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2002 – McDonald’s settles a class-action lawsuit over their non-vegetarian French Fries. 

In 2004 it became illegal to hunt wild mammals with dogs in England. This Hunting Ban – which divided the country – put an end to traditional fox hunting parties in the countryside, and made it a criminal offence that could end in a hefty penalty or arrest if broken by the public. 

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Obviously this is just a potted history of the animal movement – but it’s interesting to see how far we have come, and in some cases, still have to go.

I hope you’ve found this interesting, or maybe even picked up a few facts!

I’m going to leave you with the first ever edition of The Vegan News; written by Donald Watson and published in November 1944.

http://www.vegansociety.com/uploadedFiles/About_The_Society/Publications/The_Vegan_magazine/Feature_Articles/1944-news.pdf &gt

*Please note all photos used are not my own* ;

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Today’s Vegan Friendly Find – Shisha Smoking!

**Update – have found out thanks to the below comments that a German brand named ‘Pöschl Tabak’ offers vegan cigarettes! Also since returning to the UK I’ve noticed Vaping has vegan options so will write a blog about that at a later date**

First lets get this out the way. I’m a vegan, but I smoke. Or at least I did smoke until I discovered smoking was not vegan.

I’m not talking about the environmental impact or the health issues, as those are non essential vegan worries – but at base level – not consuming animal products – smoking is non vegan.

I discovered this when I watched a documentary, where it stated that the fur trade supports the smoking industry by giving dead beavers to tobacco companies for their Castoreum.

Castoreum – more Here – is the exudate from the castor sacs of the mature North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) and the European Beaver (Castor fiber). Within the zoological realm, castoreum is the yellowish secretion of the castor sac which is, in combination with the beaver’s urine, used during scent marking of territory.

Ok what?! I hear you ask…. Well I started researching, and it turns out most pre-rolled straight cigarettes DO have Castoreum in them. Ewwwwwwww.

Not just that, but when looking into tobacco companies that didn’t use this in their cigarettes, I ended up finding out a whole list of other non vegan ingredients that straight cigarettes contain such as gelatine in the filters.

So what about loose tabacoo? Well as far as my research goes, there is only one tobacco company that doesn’t use animal ingredients in their blend – American Spirit. This is 100% vegan, and the brand say they don’t test on animals! YAY!

So as long as you smoke without a filter, you should be ok right? Wrong.

When you look up the owning company of American Spirit- not just the brand – they are owned by the R.J.Reynolds Tobacco Company Who are notoriously horrific animal testers – more HERE – so what do you do?

My only clear answer… Shisha.

Obviously I can hear everyone is saying just give up! And yes I have the perfect excuse and haven’t smoked a cigarette since before christmas, however I like smoking and don’t want to quit, and I know that sounds silly but if and when I do find a vegan cigarette, only then will I decide if I’m going to start again or quit for good.

But until then, believe me when I say, this is the best option we vegan smokers have.

So today’s vegan friendly find is – Shisha.

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A hookah (Arabic: حقہ‎, ḥuqqah, hukkā, Hukić, ‒ also known as a waterpipe, narghile, arghila, qalyān, or shisha) is a single or multi-stemmed instrument for vaporizing and smoking flavored tobacco called shisha in which the vapor or smoke is passed through a water basin ‒ often glass-based ‒ before inhalation.

Basically it’s this…

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Looks familiar?

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The tobacco that you effectively melt is made of up tabacoo, fruit purée and molasses. So 100% vegan! and pretty tasty.

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Living in the Middle East, I’m pretty spoilt as they’re everywhere, but you can get them all over the world.

So heres how you do it:

Fill the top bowl with your tobacco, don’t overfill or you will find it burns easily and doesn’t smoke well.

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Cover your tobacco with silver foil and pierce holes for the heat to seep through.

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Now heat your coals – try to get natural coal (coconut shell) otherwise you’ll be smoking what tastes like petrol – which is unpleasant to say the least! We bought an electric coal lighter, as it takes about 3 minutes and saves burnt fingers with a blowtorch!

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Whilst your coal is heating, you want to fill the base of your Shisha up with water (there will usually be a pipe that sticks out the middle that you can pour water out/ fill with) fill the base about 3/4 full and give a good suck on your pipes pipe. Ooooooooo eeeeerrrrrrr.

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If the water bubbles when you suck without coming up the pipe you know you’re good to go! (Hence the name Hubbly – Bubbly!)

All you have to do now is add the white coals and enjoy!

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Remember to turn the coals every now and again, to keep the heat going, that way you will be able to smoke for longer and keep the flavour. I tend to find it will last about thirty minutes max with three coals.

Anymore than three and its too hot and your tobacco will burn.

Obviously be safe, don’t burn yourself or go to bed with hot coals burning in your lounge! But equally give it a go, if you like smoking, especially the social aspect of it, and like me cant seem to find a vegan smoking alternative this might be the best answer.

If you do know any truly vegan brands/options let me know! X

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Outspoken Vegans – Help or Hindrance?

This is a subject I’ve been debating for a very long time, and I think it a subject most vegans deal with on a daily basis.

When should you stay quiet and when should you stand up?

I’m not talking about if you see animal abuse for example, you should always report or speak out against this. I’m talking about on the daily conversation you might have with people when explaining why you don’t want cheese on your pizza, or why you need to know the ingredients that go into the unlabelled bagel.

I for one shy away from confrontation with meat eaters.

 I was once very vocal about my beliefs in my younger years, but found that people didn’t like being preached at, or told why they shouldn’t eat at KFC, and so I learned to shut up.

Infact I now go red if the conversation arises, not out of embarrassment of what I belive in, but of the ultimate argument that is about to take place….

“So why are you vegan?’

*Insert non preachy, straight forward answer*

“Yeah but we’re carnivors, these are canine meat teeth/ there’s a natural order to things and we’re top of the food chain/ you’ll actually kill more animals if you don’t eat them due to overpopulation etc etc etc.”

No matter what you say, no matter how valid your argument, you will not win.  And what makes matters worse is that, due to the stereotypes portrayed in the media, it’s ok for people to literally shout their opinions at us, but when we shout back?… Hippies, brainwashed, tree huggers, extremist, weirdo… the list goes on.

Where did these stereotypes come from? Where did this preconceived notion of a hemp wearing ‘vegan’ happen? And how can we change this weak – complaining – overly sensitive caricature that the group has become, into something that demands the respect of the press?

I know one blog will not and cannot answer this, however I thought I we could start by looking at the current vegan celebrities, or to be more precise, the outspoken vegan celebrities.  

I’ve decided to look at four celebrities – Joaquin Phoenix, Ellen Degeneres, Morrissey and Pamela Anderson.

 

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Instantly I can see that this list comprises of two types of outspoken vegans, and most of us will fall into one of these camps, you’re either a – enlightener or engager.

Enlighteners – such as Morrissey or Joaquin are loud, unapologetic and unnerving on their stance of animal consumption.

From their carefully chosen vocabulary – Morrissey for example branding the White House’s annual turkey pardon as “Thankskilling” – to their actions – Joaquin’s disturbing ‘drowning’ video for PETAs – Go Vegan advert springs to mind!  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ij3W0BetI60)

As the title suggests their aim is to enlighten people to their view. It might not be the most polite way, but it is direct.

Although these actions are brave in today’s PR focused world, and grab headlines, they sometimes draw negative press to the cause too, and I cant work out if the negative fallout is worth the exposure.

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 On the other hand – the engaging vegans have a completely different approach.

As their title suggests they engage the audience, and try to get people on their side through friendly and warm messaging.

Both Pamela and Ellen have published blogs, or books on their vegan lifestyle and both have posed on billboards as the poster children for the vegan lifestyle.

 This method is more friendly, more welcoming and more ‘female’ (or at least in my opinion).

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Its interesting that the men are shouty and violent with imagery, whilst the women pose naked with lettuce leaves or pose with pictures of animals. But gender stereotypes are a whole other issue we won’t get stared on!

I feel that engaging vegans are more likely to get people talking, and talking in a positive way. As unfortunately if you alienate your audience, they will not listen to you, so instead of showing a five minute movie on the death of a baby pig, talk about how a non-dairy diet like ‘oh my god’ improved your skin and made you lose 12 pounds! Wow!

It sounds like I’m arguing that this method is wrong, but it’s not. In fact I feel the oposite, by taking veganism to its core of what it can and will do for people, this will be more effective than guilt.

However, and this is a big HOWEVER, although engaging vegans are more likely to open a discussion with meat eaters. I truly feel its the enlighteners who – well – enlighten.

Nothing will make you want and more importantly STICK to a vegan lifestyle like hardcore messaging. Those images with blood and guts and pain. Thats what you’ll remember when you tuck into your bacon sandwhich, not the valid but vague reasoning of why Ellen decided to go vegan.

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But who’s right?…None of them are. The important thing is that people in the public eye are talking and publicising what is happening.

And just in case you think I’m being overly critical of the ‘engaging’ side, I want to point out an article that made me cringe with the backlash that this comment will have on us all….

Morrissey recently said:

  • “I see no difference between eating animals and paedophilia [sic],” he replied. “They are both rape, violence, murder.”
  • “If I’m introduced to anyone who eats beings, I walk away. Imagine, for example, if you were in a nightclub and someone said to you ‘Hello, I enjoy bloodshed, throat-slitting and the destruction of life,’ well, I doubt if you’d want to exchange phone numbers.”
  • “If you believe in the abattoir then you would support Auschwitz. There’s no difference. People who would disagree with this statement have probably never been inside an abattoir.”

Enough said really.

As you can imagine the press went mad and so did the comments on the websites, social media and news. His views echo how many of us feel, and equally are the polar opposite of others, but by putting it out there, in the press, its now going to be found by every anti- vegan troll on the internet. And unfortunately, although I applaud and respect Morrissey and this shocking allegiance to animals, I cant help but think to non vegans this is all a little bit lost in translation

The same applies for Joaquin’s heartfelt voice over for the docu-movie ‘Earthings’. Which, not only makes you want rip out your own heart then vomit on it at the heartlessness of the human race, but also makes you want to punch Joaquin, after the seventeenth image of a cows throat being slit in two minutes.

 

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 However you want to look at them, these celebrities are creating a dialogue between meat eaters and non meat eaters, and are exposing the industry for what is truly is – barbaric. So whether it’s with a suggestive smile, a warm embrace or an all out attack on your senses it’s all good.

What do you think?

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Today’s Vegan Friendly Find – Kellogg’s

*UPDATE – Since writing this post it has come to my attention Frosties contain animal derived Vitamin D. Please find below a list of vegan Kellogg’s products. Obviously mistakes do happen and sources can be unreliable – I apologise for the info and hope you forgive me!*

I’m suddenly excited to wake up in the morning!

But before we begin, I need to confess something – This post, was a different post five minutes ago.

It’s not because I’m fickle or couldn’t think of anything to say…. Its because I didn’t trust the information I was being given, and you shouldn’t either.

My post was going to be about –
Kellogg’s Unfrosted Poptarts – Strawberry

Several blogs – including PETA- have said its vegan friendly, and certainly – on the surface the unfrosted flavours look to be ok.

However the more I looked into the ingredients, the more I disliked.

Basically, it comes down to this – nowhere on their website do Kellogg’s say that unfrosted Poptarts are vegan, or even vegetarian. Although the ingredients look OK at first glance, and the allergy information doesn’t state animal, when going through it bit by bit I found a few ingredients I just couldn’t look over; Pyridoxine hydrochloride & Thiamine hydrochloride for eg. Although they could be from plant. I think they’re from eggs. Infact I’m pretty sure that at least three other ingredients in the recipe are derived from animals (e numbers ect) but you think they’re not because PETA and other sources have told us so.

So wheres the evidence? Wheres the letter from Kellogg’s saying it is? Nowhere. And thats why the blog has changed.

If you have any information I don’t have on Poptarts – please let me know!

*Deep breath* …. And let’s begin…

Today’s Vegan Friendly Find is – Kellogg’s Cereals:

There are a few that are vegan and here are a couple of them.
A couple of Special K also don’t have vitamin D.

 

Also, when I was researching Betty Crocker products for my last post I found out that General Foods, (the people who own BC) had caved into public pressure and are now using sustainable and responsible sourced Palm Oil. (YAY!) So I thought to myself…. I wonder what other companies do this? And low and behold….

The Guardian reported HERE:

“The food giant Kellogg’s has caved in to public pressure and agreed to buy palm oil only from suppliers who can prove that they actively protect rainforests and peatlands and respect human rights.

The move, which follows intense pressure from consumer groups around the world, is expected to improve the survival chances of highly endangered animals like the Sumatran tiger and the orangutan in southeast Asia, as well as provide some protection for indigenous peoples in Indonesia, Malaysia, New Guinea, Latin America and west Africa who depend on tropical rainforests for a living.

At least 30,000 square miles of tropical forest has been cut down in the past 20 years to supply the burgeoning global food industry with cheap palm oil to make packaged foods, ice cream and snacks. The deforestation has led to illegal land grabs, forest fires and social conflict in communities which depend on forest resources for their livelihoods. The heavy loss of peatlands has also contributed significantly to the increase in climate change emissions.”

In a statement, Kellogg’s said that it will require its suppliers to “protect forests, endangered species habitat, lands with high carbon content, and peatland of any depth. Suppliers will also be required to protect human and community rights.”

“While palm oil is a very small percentage of our total ingredients, as a socially responsible company, concerns about the sustainable production of palm oil are clearly on our radar screen,” said chief sustainability officer Celeste Clark.”

 

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Today’s Vegan Friendly Find – Hershey’s Chocolate Flavour Syrup

Today’s Vegan Friendly Find links in really nicely with the yummy recipe Im about to upload, but don’t go expecting such organisation and seamlessness from all my posts!

So let me introduce to you the Vegan Friendly Find that is…

Hershey’s Chocolate Flavour Syrup.

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HERSHEY’S Chocolate Syrup is made from – High fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, water, cocoa, sugar, Emulsifier (xanthan Gum E45) Vanillin, artificial flavour and is reported as 100% Vegan.

There have been some debates online as wether the sugar and emulsifier used was vegan, however after a bit of research, I’ve discovered the Emulsifier used definitely is, and several blogs and forums have reported Hershey’s customer service claiming the product is vegan, so thats as good as a go for me!

This syrup is perfect for a pick me up treat – its good to make hot chocolate with soy milk, put in cakes, mix it with icing sugar to make frosting, great on vegan ice cream…. And of course…. DEEEE-LICIOUS with Benji’s Vegan American Style Pancakes! (Recipe to follow this post)

On a little bit of a serious note though, whilst doing my research (as I don’t want to be responsible for ANYONE eating ANYTHING thats not vegan) I found that the PETA site – http://www.petakids.com/accvegan.asp lists products they claim are ‘Vegan’ but at the bottom of the page it holds this disclaimer –

* Items listed may contain trace amounts of animal-derived ingredients. While PETA supports a strict adherence to veganism, we put the task of vigorously reducing animal suffering ahead of personal purity. Boycotting products that are 99.9 percent vegan sends manufacturers the message that there is no market for that particular food, which ends up hurting more animals. For a more detailed explanation of PETA’s position, please visit http://www.caringconsumer.com/labels.asp.

I’m not gonna lie, I feel a bit p*ssed off about this. Its organisations like PETA that I turn to to have the power and money to get the truth for its members.

If I wanted to eat something that was 90% Vegan, I would. When I’m searching for 100% vegan products I don’t expect to be conned into supporting a product or company who aren’t actually vegan.

I get their argument I really do, but their moral standpoint comes at the price of our own.

What do you think?