November 1st was World Vegan Day! Since moving back to Brighton in September, I’ve tried to lead a more environmentally friendly diet by being more plant-based. Disclaimer: I’m not entirely vegan (for financial reasons), but I’ve read enough on the topic to speak well about it. These days, I’m about 80% vegan and 20% vegetarian thanks to the wide range of alternatives in the U.K. I’ve made leaps and bounds in the last few months and I look forward to more or less completely transitioning when it’s financially feasible.
I’m here to answer some common questions and respond to comments about veganism. Here goes nothing:
“How long have you been vegan and what made you/ convinced you to make the change?”
I have been vegetarian for six years now, mostly citing environmental reasons. For example, not only does industrial agriculture use up almost 75% of the world’s freshwater resources, agricultural runoff can lead to a nutrient surplus is water ecosystems to create dead zones (from The Ethics of What We Eat). After really hearing myself, I thought it was preposterous that I argue against the environmental devastation that comes from raising animals for meat when the effects are similar for raising them for their products.
Although I came to this realization almost a year ago, I didn’t have the time or resources to become vegan until now. During my last term of my undergraduate degree, I was in class all day and working most evenings, so I didn’t have much time to cook. Not to mention, affordable vegan options in the United States are slim pickings.
When I moved to Brighton, arguably one of the most vegan-friendly places in the United Kingdom, I was determined to make the change. The amount of alternatives here compared to the United States is phenomenal. At WalMart (U.S.), I’d struggle to find a single dairy-free yogurt, at ASDA (U.K.), there’s at least half a dozen kinds by Alpro alone (my favorite is vanilla). Not to mention there’s a wide variety of different milks, ready meals, cheeses and more all available at affordable supermarkets, because what university student can afford to shop at Whole Foods (U.S.)?
I also have a bit more time on my hands now that I only work 20 hours a week and have minimal lecture time. It gives me more time to find recipes (thank you, Pinterest), plan meals, shop and cook.
“Have you found it difficult travelling while vegan?”
When I do travel, I’m not as strict about my diet. On travel, I don’t have time or resource to cook while I’m at home. Also, a lot of countries culturally value meat and it can be hard to find a nutritionally sound meal without it. I will usually try a meaty local dish or two abroad, but stay as vegetarian as I can other than that.
“Best vegan easy/depression meals?”
I’m so glad someone asked this because I have depression and on days where I’m feeling sluggish, it’s nice to have something easy and kind to the animals I can whip up.
- Ready meals: I’ve only tried the ASDA spaghetti and meatballs, but it’s delicious and I’m sure there are other meals. Also, food by Quorn (not all vegan, look out) and Linda McCartney require minimal preparation and can also be great!
- Peanut butter and Nutella sandwich: I love all sorts of sandwiches, but when I can’t be bothered to cut up vegetables, this sweet treat never fails. Vegan Nutella alternatives can be found in most large food stores. Jam or bananas are also good in a peanut butter sandwich
- Buttered noodles: This is my go-to depression meal. Pasta, vegan butter and vegan cheese (you can make your own four-ingredient Parmesan but most large food stores already have shredded vegan cheese)
- Pot Noodle: Chinese chow mien flavor is vegan!
- Granola bars: When I can’t be bothered to cook breakfast, granola bars and a piece of fruit are a great alternative.
“I heard eating honey is kind of a grey area within veganism, is that true? And if so, do you eat honey?”
This is a tricky one. I’d assume most vegans don’t eat honey, I know I don’t. Maple syrup is a great, cheap and widely found alternative to cooking with honey so I never thought much about it. Even though I don’t eat honey, I have no hard and fast reasons why not, it’s purely on principle, but I did some reading and here are some highlights from an article on The Vegan Society:
- Honey is the honey bees’ single source of food and essential nutrients during poorer weather and the winter months and is fundamental to the hive’s wellbeing
- When farmers remove honey from a hive, they replace it with a sugar substitute which is significantly worse for the bees’ health since it lacks the essential nutrients, fats and vitamins of honey. The bees then exhaust themselves by working to replace the missing honey. During the removal of honey, the bees can die after stinging the farmers.
- Honey bees are specifically bred to increase productivity. Already endangered, this selective breeding narrows the population gene pool and increases susceptibility to disease and large-scale die-offs. Diseases are also caused by importing different species of bees for use in hives.
A vegan diet is not only based on not being cruel to animals, but also not exploiting them, which is what most honey farms do. I strongly encourage people to avoid eating honey because bees are so important to food production and there are many, many alternatives.
“Do vegans go horseback riding?”
I’ve never really thought of it. Horses are the one thing I’m allergic to so I don’t personally go horseback riding, but I think the relationship between man and horse is almost exclusively companionship rather than exploitation like we see in pigs, chickens, cows, etc. I did some reading and here’s what I found from an article on Bite Sized Vegan:
- It’s evident that horses do not need to be ridden. They seem to do very well for themselves in the wild without one of us atop them. Horseback riding solely benefits the rider and is thus a form of using animals for entertainment.
- Exercising horses and enriching them in the world around them can be done without mounting them, like you would take a dog for a walk.
- It’s incredibly easy to damage a horses back and displace his or her vertebral growth plates, causing pain and lasting injury if its ridden before the bones are fully developed.
Not to mention that the captivity horses may experience is against its nature of being in social groups and training can exhaust a horse.
After some reading, I’ve moved to on the fence about horseback riding. But it’s not something I do often (or at all), so I’ll wait until I have more information before I get fired up about it.
Although I’m not totally vegan, I’m doing all I can to help the planet and the critters that live on it! If you’re thinking of going vegan or vegetarian or just looking to cut down your meat, I promise you, most vegetarians you know would be thrilled to give you information, I know I am!
Photo by Kylee Alons.