If there is anything that people don’t like talking about, of course I want to discuss it. I don’t think any subject should be hidden or casually swept under the carpet.
We need to understand why certain! subjects are still taboo and how we can work towards making the apparently awkward part of everyday conversation.
Whilst I was away at Vegan Camp, I surveyed the adults asking what they thought were some of the last taboo subjects. Here is what they came up with:
Sexual fetishes. Anything that isn’t considered “normal sex” by the majority of people, regardless of sexuality.
Periods and period blood.
Human overpopulation and how to deal with it.
Nakedness in general.
I spent two weeks talking about 4 out of the 5 things above without any negative consequences. When I talked about 1 of those things, people would get up and leave. It would generally make them feel uncomfortable. Guess which one it was.
Number 3. Human overpopulation and how to deal with it. It’s not just whilst on holiday with vegans. It’s all the time in everyday life.
I’m going to try and be as honest as possible without being offensive. So here goes;
The human population of Earth has gone from 2.5 billion in 1950 to 7.4 billion in 2016. That’s mainly due to advances in medicine, better living standards and more advanced ways of producing food.
I can hear the deniers now. They are sat there saying that 7.4 billion people can all fit in California. I don’t deny that at all. Listen up, I’ve researched this. If we got the entire human population of the world and dumped them into California, we wouldn’t be able to move. We couldn’t work, eat, play or sleep. We’d just have to stand there. So ultimately we’d die. Not really a great solution.
Ok so here’s the current situation in reality. 7.4 billion people spread around the world. Some of us live in luxury, but most of us live in abject poverty, war zones or on the brink of starvation. Most of us don’t have access to an adequate diet, medical care and every single day is a struggle just to survive.
Out of the 230,000 people that increase the human population every day (after deaths), how many of those do you think live in luxury and how many of those do you think struggle and live in misery?
I don’t like the idea of anyone being born to suffer, that’s why I’m vegan. I follow that principle for humans too.
Why are so many people suffering? War, pollution, climate change, governments feeding grain to animals instead of the local population and then exporting the meat, dairy and eggs to the West.
More people doesn’t help solve any of those problems. It only makes them worse. It doesn’t matter whether you live in luxury or not. Every added person on the planet will contribute to one of these issues in one way or another.
As a Westerner, I’d like to look at climate change and how we’re fuelling that by adding more people. After all, that effects the rest of the world and leads to war and food inequality.
Every new human needs shelter, food/water and energy at a bare minimum. Shelter requires land and resources. So we take land and resources from nature and incorporate it into a town or a city.
Then you need food. 95% of people will eat animal products, which is the most inefficient way of producing food. It uses more land and creates more pollution than any other food source. The 5% will probably eat plant based for a few years before moving onto animal products and 1% will remain vegan for life. Even a plant based diet uses massive amount of land that should be filled with forests and meadows. All food production leads to habitat destruction and therefore species extinction. Look at the decline of butterflies and hedgehogs in the UK over the last decade. It’s horrific!
We also need resources to power our lives. Water for us and our food, of which there is only a limited supply that is usable and we are polluting more everyday. Electricity which is produced by exploiting and polluting the environment in most cases. The more of us there are, the more we have to exploit the environment for power. What happens when we run out of fresh water or we run out of environment to exploit? We go to war for more. This is exactly how the war in Syria started. Don’t think it won’t happen here. It will.
I’ve never met another person who actually wants war, famine and suffering. So what are the solutions? Let’s put them in order of importance.
Do not have children.
Adopt a plant based diet.
Live with the environment in mind.
People never seem to have a problem with points 2 and 3. (Sometimes 2 if they aren’t vegan already.) If you mention to people that a lot of world’s problems could be eased if we decided not to have children, that lose their shit.
Over the last year, I’ve lost a good deal of people who I cared about because of my views on reproduction and how they relate to actually saving our species a lot of suffering. It’s something I’ve had to get used to, like with being vegan, once you know you cannot unknow the damage you do to the planet by having children. People don’t like it. Sometimes they even get violent.
If you are in a position to chose not to have children, you should. You should also support:
Education for girls and women to help them make informed decisions about reproduction.
Free contraception, abortion and sterilisation for anyone who wants it.
Fostering and adoption of children who are already here.
I don’t hate kids who are already here. I don’t really hate anyone. I just wish people would be more informed about those choices. If you chose to have children knowing the world they are going to inherit, that says more about you than it does me. I don’t want anyone to suffer, remember?
(Obviously I understand that it’s not possible for everyone not to have children due to lack of contraception, education and cultural restraints, hence points we should be supporting above.)
As a last point and something to think about going forward, which I’m sure will make me popular:
Why do we advocate spaying and neutering of non-humans to control their population, but when it comes to us we let our population run rampage over the planet regardless of the consequences? Isn’t that speciesism if you’re already vegan?
Ah yes! The great fake debate. Whether we should or shouldn’t consume vegan products that imitate non-vegan products of animal exploitation. As always there are two sides to every debate and I’ll try and cover each side and then give my opinion at the end.
I think first of all we need to look at why a market for vegan foods that mimic animal products exist.
Taste: Most people like to stick with flavours and textures that they know.
Comfort: Certain foods may bring comfort to people for different reasons. For example, when I’m upset a strong but milky tea comforts me.
Childhood: A lot of our likes and dislikes are formed in childhood. If you grew up in a household that didn’t eat many vegetables, you’ll inevitably find it harder to eat a high vegetable diet when you’re older.
There are some quite intrinsic reasons and they make a profitable plant based mock meat, dairy and egg market in the UK and around the world. Even the supermarkets have jumped on the band wagon, with most having their own branded vegan cheese, milk and meat products. If people weren’t buying these products, they would stop making them and or we certainly wouldn’t have the variety we have now.
The question now is, does having imitation products make going vegan easier?
On one hand you could say that veganism is about ethics. If you understand the ethics, it doesn’t matter what culinary options there are for you, because the alternative is unthinkable. To a certain extent, those who have been vegan for over ten years will have lived in that world. (Myself included.)
On the other hand when you initially talk to people about veganism, they often ask whether there are vegan alternatives. These days the answer is normally yes. That gives them the comfort they require and then you can move on to talk to them about the ethics. As a new vegan, it might help them from giving into cravings through familiar tastes, comforts and childhood memories.
Can we even call these vegan products burgers, cheese, yoghurt, mayonnaise and sausages etc? How does vegan chicken or beef style pieces sound to you? Do we need to reclaim some words or should we celebrate plant based foods for what they are and move away from from comparing them to animal based foods?
I think words like sausage and burger absolutely have a place in our movement. After all, they refer to shapes more than content. Hence you can have bean burgers without anyone batting an eyelid. Sometimes though non-vegans pipe up and it causes conflict online and possibly at the dinner table. Something we all want to avoid, obviously.
It might be a good idea to celebrate plant based foods differently for the above reason. At the moment we call things, “chicken style” or “mock duck” for example. Great for new vegans looking for a familiar taste of course. Even people who have been vegan a long time find this helpful when searching for things that remind them of certain flavours and textures. What other names can we use to distinguish these products? Shall me move away from using words like mock and fake? (Genuine questions. Feel free to answer them because I don’t know the answer.)
As a whole consumers are disconnected from the animals they are eating. Even when they have bloody burgers, meat on the bone, fried eggs or grated cheese. They rarely give a thought to that which they spare themselves the sight. Therefore as long as a product is vegan, does it matter if it replicates something which isn’t? I think a very small percentage of vegans really want an imitation bleeding burger, but if they do, does it matter?
Some might say that eating that burger perpetuates animal use because others will see you eating it and assume you’re eating a burger made from a cow, giving them comfort in their continued animal use. Where do we draw the line? A lot of vegan cheeses look like their animal based counterparts, as does the mayo, yoghurt and the cakes etc. Is it a personal choice or is there more at stake than that?
All in all, I think this blog probably throws open more questions than it answers. I’m not sure it needs to be as complicated as I have made it.
If you like a certain food that is vegan, eat it. Does it make your life easier? Does it give you comfort, satisfy your taste buds, remind you of your childhood? Then eat it. As long as you aren’t exploiting animals, carry on in my opinion. No lines to be drawn. No picking and choosing. Just doing what feels right for you and what IS right for the animals.
Let’s have a proper discussion about this.
(NB – I’m one of those vegans that after 11 years still eats vegan “meats” etc because they give me comfort and remind me of what I used to eat.)
I love risotto and I love chorizo, but I’d honestly not thought of combining them until recently. I’m so glad I did because the flavour and texture of this dish is unrivalled.
1 pack of VBites chorizo style pieces
1 large onion
2 large cloves of garlic
Approx 300g of dry pearl barley
1 litre of vegetable stock
1 stalk of fresh rosemary
1 can of higher end chopped tomatoes
First up get a nice big pan on the hob, warming up. Soy based chorizo isn’t as fatty as it’s pig’s flesh alternative, but it still produces a small amount of oil when heated up. Pour the entire contents of your chorizo pack into the pan and allow to frazzle for about 3 minutes. Remove from the pan and place to one side in a bowl.
Now the pan should have a thin coating of oily, spicy, paprika goodness. Chuck in your chopped onion and minced garlic. Allow them to brown a little before adding in the pearl barley. Stir well ensuring that the barley is well coated. Add in your chopped tomatoes. ( Look I don’t normally go in for high end products, but I would recommend a higher end tinned chopped tomatoes in this recipe, because they tend to use vine tomatoes and they give a more intense flavour.) Mix and then add all of the vegetable stock. Unlike arborio rice risotto you can chuck it all in at once, but you need to sir it often.
You may have to add extra water as the sauce thickens because the pearl barley takes about 30 minutes to cook.
When you’re happy that the barley is cooked and the sauce has thickened to your liking, add the chopped rosemary and chorizo. Turn off the heat and serve.
This subject has been simmering in my head for quite some time. It is a subject for contention within the vegan community and it needs addressing.
Let’s start with the Vegan Society and their definition of veganism:
Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.
The Vegan Society are these days a bunch of welfarists, so I came up with an abolitionist definition too:
Veganism is a way of living that supports the social justice movement of the abolition of animal use by humans. Vegans seek to exclude all forms of exploitation as far as possible in a non-vegan world.
That’s pretty simple, right? If you’re vegan you do not support or promote any type of animal exploitation. That includes vegetarianism, honey, horse riding etc too. Veganism isn’t a diet. That’s pretty clear in both those definitions too, right? So why is the internet full of people confusing what veganism means? What do they have to gain by doing that?
When I went vegan a decade ago, the term Vegan Police was little heard of. I had only heard of it because I was part of The Vegan Forum. (We didn’t have Facebook then.) The term was used for vegans who took things too far. For example people who wouldn’t buy a vegan product from a company because the director played golf with someone who wore fur once. That’s really ridiculous and it does nothing for animals.
In 2010, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World changed all of that. In the movie there is “vegan” guy who has his super powers taken away by the vegan police because he was caught eating chicken. With the availability of social media such as Facebook, the meaning was soon lost, even though clearly in the film, the vegan police are calling out actual non-veganism.
Now, if you call out any non-veganism you get called elitist or my favourite, the vegan police. Why? I’m defending what veganism is. You’re either vegan or you’re supporting the exploitation of animals.
Facebook is full of this, especially the Vegan Humour group where people seem to endlessly worship celebrities, who 9/10 are not vegan at all. Let’s take Leonardo DiCaprio. Yes he’s a good looking man. Yes he was a producer for Cowspiracy. Yes he spouts a lot of environmental stuff. No he isn’t vegan and when I last checked, he didn’t even follow a plant based diet, synonymous with his environmentalism. He’s just full of shit.
Credit where credit is due? Do I need to explain this again? This is a vegan, promoting non-veganism. This person is saying we should support Leo because he speaks out for the environment. That’s great, but it still doesn’t make him vegan or even moving towards veganism.
Adopting a plant based diet and being vegan are two very different things. People don’t stop wearing leather for their health or stop going to the zoo for the environment. They adopt a plant based diet and continue to exploit animals in other ways. People who are on a plant based diet still exploit animals and promoting that isn’t vegan because it hurts animals. Does that make sense?
Here’s another one and this time it’s Miley Cyrus. She is on plant based diet the last time I checked, but she isn’t vegan because she exploits animals in other ways.
Grow up? What for standing up for animals? For not accepting less than veganism because less than veganism hurts animals?
Here’s another one where someone posted a recipe with honey in a vegan food group. For pointing out that honey isn’t vegan, I was told I was rude. No, I’m not being rude. I’m standing up for what veganism is.
Due to the internet, it seems to meaning of veganism is being diluted again and again. You have vegans promoting people who aren’t vegan. You have vegans saying it’s ok to eat oysters, backyard eggs and honey. You have people interested in veganism, going WHAT THE FUCK!?
Let’s be consistent. Let’s call out non-veganism and those who promote it.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t help those trying to go vegan. Of course we should. That’s what we want right? When someone takes a step towards veganism, I find that this sentence is my best weapon and often results in full on vegan transition in a short period of time.
“That’s great! Just remember that only veganism ends the exploitation of animals.”
Imagine how many “vegetarians” would wake up with just that sentence. After all most people are vegetarian because they care about animals. That’s not being preachy, elitist or rude. That’s being honest, but supportive.
In conclusion, we are a fractured movement split even more by the internet and it’s ability to be faceless. I will always stand up for what veganism is and I will never suffer anyone who wishes to water it down. It doesn’t make veganism more accessible, it just hurts the animals.
People often think that vegans live this strange kind of life, where we sit around in tie dye clothes and pray to a tree Goddess all day. Maybe there are some vegans like that. I guarantee though that most of us are just so normal it hurts. Here’s my Sunday for you. My day of rest and fun. 🙂
We let the dogs in early in the morning when it is our rest days, so often I wake up like this.
Epic breakfasts are also reserved for weekends. I made us siracha avocado, baked beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, potatoes and bagels. Super yummy!
Whilst we have breakfast, the girls enjoy causing mischief.
And one of our five rescue cats, Saski Mouche enjoys the winter sun on the windowsill.
After breakfast I enjoy some Gears of War whilst The Beard enjoys some Fallout 4.
My mum called around lunch time and I went to Sainsbury’s for a cheeky mince pie and a cup of coffee with her.
Later on we took the girls out for a long walk up the mountain. We live in a really beautiful area and on our days off, we try and make the most of it.
For dinner I whipped up a lentil roast with a red wine reduction and some spring greens.
So that’s it. Nothing fancy and not a hippy in sight.