Emila, resident at The Burren Nature Sanctuary in Kinvara Co. Galway
‘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.
The internet is swarming with jokes about vegans, and it’s true that there’s a lot worse stuff floating about in cyber space. Sometimes though, it can be disheartening as the comments sections, media and recently Irish television, have perpetuated untruths about veganism. It’s seen as something extreme and unnecessary. Even worse still, there is a lie about it being unhealthy. Fortunately we are seeing more and more campaigns highlighting the truth.
I want to add a little caveat to this post regarding food intolerance, food issues, and eating disorders; as someone who knows another human quite well who has dealt with anorexia, I am aware that not everyone perceives food in the same way. I know that around the world, food means different things to different people, and that access to resources and money is something which should be considered. So, this post on veganism is in no way telling anyone how they should behave, it’s how they could live, if they wished and why I personally choose a vegan lifestyle. Whatever you individually want to eat, wear or use will be your decision, and I respect that, I’m just here to highlight the reality of the industries and the impact they have on animals, people and the planet. Knowledge informs choice.
First things first, veganism is different from eating a plant based diet and on the internet these days, the two have become a little bit conflated. Veganism is about choosing to refrain from eating animals along with using their bodies or products for consumption in all forms. This means no meat, fur, leather, or by products such as milk, eggs and honey. It also focuses on boycotting industries that are harmful to animals. The rationale behind veganism comes from the understanding of animals as sentient beings who are not ours to use in any way. Their lives are not ours to exploit.
There are many reasons to become vegan, for me, I moved to veganism after being a vegetarian, so the starting point for me was always with the animals themselves. The TED talk by Melanie Joy on ‘Carnism’ is actually something which inspired me to be vegetarian again after a year or so eating meat in college. She explains it so eloquently when she illustrates that our psychology towards animals and, our social conditioning reinforces our idea that some animals are for consumption while others are not. Think cows, v’s dogs.
A couple of years ago, during the summer before I started my Master’s degree, I was researching topics on globalisation, sustainability and gender. I came across some great academic papers about human rights and food production, which inspired me to look at where food comes from, who makes it, and who benefits. I was starting to focus on living a more sustainable lifestyle, since I had started using reusables such as the Keepcup and, a different type of cup, the Mooncup. I was running (and still do) workshops on sustainable consumption and menstrual products with my friend V, and everything in my life was slowly turning into plants. I reduced my plastic consumption, bought an eco-toothbrush and started bringing a canvas bag for my shopping.
In my personal life, I grew up with a real love for animals and the environment as my parents care very much about these issues, so I definitely had that starting point to inspire me. Following that, the more I read and watched about these topics, the harder it was for me to turn a blind eye. Some great documentaries which I am sure you may have seen mentioned on social media are Earthlings and Cowspiracy.
If you want something more academically grounded you could read something on ecological feminist perspectives or climate change and gender as these highlight how what we eat impacts the planet but it also explores how the environment and animals are exploited in a similar way to women. These things may motivate you to then consider changing your lifestyle. I really believe we need to find something we connect with in order to make a personal change. For me it started with asking myself this question; If you love animals, why would you eat them?
Every now and then something reaffirms my veganism for me. It could be an article on how women are disproportionately impacted by environmental disasters, hearing that 1.3 billion farmed animals are slaughtered every week, or taking a visit to an animal sanctuary like my favourite place, The Burren Nature Sanctuary in Kinvara, Co. Galway where you can meet animals who have many stories to tell. Animals who were abused, used and mistreated before these humans took them in.
But I suppose all of this doesn’t really answer the question that gets thrown my way quite a bit on social media; what does eating dairy and eggs have to do with animals health? and even more so, why are you all ranting about the environment?
The dairy industry and the meat industry are inseparable from each other. Your milk comes from a cow, who only produces milk because she was pregnant. Her pregnancy was forced, and when she is done, she will be sent to slaughter. You might come from a farm that does this differently, and I know people often say this in comment sections, I know many people do not mean harm. The truth is, however, the industry is inhumane, and even if it was humane, it would still compromise the core belief that animals aren’t ours to use. In many developing countries, people starve themselves so they can feed animals which will be killed for richer families meat. I think that there is something deeply wrong with that. Animal rights and human rights are interlinked.
Female chickens are forced into confined spaces without room to move, and male chickens are killed instantly. On your organic and free-range farms? They are still forced to produce eggs. Forced birth and production causes extensive harm to these animals. Chickens are incredibly affectionate and caring creatures who love being hugged, Cows form intimate close bonds with their young and will cry for days when their calves are taken away. Pigs are smarter than dogs, which doesn’t really matter as all animals are deserving of love, but they also having incredible depths of understanding and feeling just like your favourite household pets. Take Emilia who is pictured above eating grass and oinking. I first met her when I went to shoot this blog post at The Burren Nature Sanctuary (which is worth a read as it is full of animals), and I have loved her ever since. Pigs are my favourite animal, they even love music and being sang to. Before they reach your plate, they were a being with their own desires, emotions and family bonds.
On your plate, they are often a convenient option.
And what about the planet? Raising animals for food is an environmental disaster. Water pollution, land use and deforestation are all caused by animal agriculture. It is also financially and ecologically wasteful as making 1 pound of beef requires 1,799 gallons of water (National Geographic). Food insecurity and animal agriculture are inseparable from each other. As noted by The Vegan Society, ‘In Brazil alone, the equivalent of 5.6 million acres of land is used to grow soya beans for animals in Europe’ (The Vegan Society). We have the power to make a difference in our lives, and the lives of other creatures, but we can also make the planet a better place for all.
It is much easier to eat vegan now than it was even a couple of years ago. Restaurants are often very accommodating in cities and towns. It can still be difficult if you’re dining in some rural areas but if you can make your own food, there are thousands of recipes available and you can make lots of them on a minimal budget. I mean that too, I’m not talking about those recipes that basically want you to own a whole health food store and seven spices you’ve never heard of. I talking about vegan stews, lasagnas, roasts and curries that can feed you happily. Likewise, there are great vegan companies out there making cosmetics, beauty products, cleaning supplies and clothing.
And my health has never been better. I’ve so much energy on a vegan diet, and I also know of people’s allergies subsiding remarkably once they removed dairy. I found that many of my health issues disappeared when I cut out milk from a cow. Which makes a lot of sense, because I’m not a calf! Also, vegan oat drinks, coconut, rice milk and cashew are so delicious and creamy. As you’ll know from my posts, McCambridges has me covered for hot drinks and snacks and Evergreen is a haven for us vegans. I’m not missing anything.
Below I’m going to list a few companies, brands, foods, blogs and websites/Instagram accounts that have some good vegan tips and tricks. It’s also a list of things you could use to help adapt to veganism. In Ireland we are starting to get access to some great vegan foods, and I’m excited for more and more choices as supermarkets start to cater for this lifestyle. Some of these products listed are sadly not palm oil free, so make sure you check them out, I try to eat these in moderation or find similar ones without the palm oil as this isn’t sustainable for the planet. Nevertheless, these items are good starting points on the vegan adventure.
I hope this list helps you in some way. Perhaps if you haven’t taken on the Veganuary challenge this year you could now try it this month, or one day at a time? Starting off cutting out meat is a really amazing step and then removing dairy really makes a massive difference. If you use this Vegan Calculator you can see how many animals, forests, water and Co2 you have saved over your journey. It’s really inspiring. Let me know how you get on, and if you have any questions message me on Instagram or send an email. Becoming vegan is one of the greatest choices I have ever made, and I wish you well exploring it for yourself.
Enjoy all the plants, and also the chocolate ❤
Snacks and Treats
- Lentil crisps from Eat Real
- Vego chocolate bars
- Chocolately Clare bars
- Anandas Marshmallows
- Freedom Marshmallows
- Vegan Town Chocolate Co. boxes
- Biona chickpeas roasted in the oven in some oil and chilli or curry powder
- Hummus, of course.
- Nakd Wholefoods bars (particularly pecan pie and lemon drizzle)
- Choices caramels
- Marks and Spencer Iced Buns
- Nobó vegan ice cream flavours
- Lots of biscuits are vegan just give the packet a quick read
- Rolling Donut Dublin if you’re up there and in need of a treat
- Little Green Leaf Artisan cheese in Cork
- In Galway? Anything in Cafe Temple, The Lighthouse, Cafe Builín Blasta and The Kitchen
- Cadburrys Hot Chocolate for starters (or, if you’re looking for an eco option try Oatly Chocolate heated up in a mug or some great brands in your health store)
- Chicory drink (also great for cramps)
- Teas are usually vegan but if you’re looking for something local to Galway or made here in Ireland try Solaris
- Violife pizza cheese melted
- Spring rolls, waffles, chips etc.
- Moodley Manor 3am Garlic Mayo (and they also make brilliant vegan meats)
- Linda McCartney sausages
- Lentil stew; Marigold vegan gravy and lots of vegetables with some kalo stock cubes
- Homemade vegan lasangna; lasngna sheets, oatly cream, vegan cheese, pasata
- Engevita flakes (makes everything better and is great for a cheese substitute in meals)
- Oatly oat drink, especially the Barista version as it foams!
- Veggie Deli VBites Sage and Marjoram sausages
- Pizza dough topped with vegan cheese, your veg of choice and sauce (most dough is vegan)
- Dairy Free Dream Cashew milk
- Vegan french toast made with egg substitutes or just a little oil and some flour
- Banana bread (banana holds everything together)
- Fry’s Family Foods
- Follow Your Heart do the best vegan Cesar dressing and a brilliant ‘honey’ mustard
- Bread, lots of it is already vegan, many in the supermarket but also great local fresh batches of sourdough and ciabatta can be chomped
- Great organic vegetables can be delivered to your door by Green Earth Organics and Larder360
Cosmetics, Personal Care, Clothing and House Hold
- Ecover cleaning supplies and soaps
- Faith in Nature biodegradables, shampoos and deodrants
- Lush shampoo bar for a zero waste version
- Mable Brush toothbrush
- Kat Von D Beauty
- Youngblood Cosmetics
- The Body Shop
- Homemade alternatives using vinegar, lemon, baking soda
- Lillys Eco Clean
- Bulldog Cosmetics
- Thrifting and borrowing from friends saves clothes, water, and recycling power
- Sassy Spud https://www.sassyspud.com/
Vitamins, Well-being, Inspiration and Health
- I take Viridian B Complex and Vitamin D
- Make sure you’re eating Iron rich foods, plenty of greens, and taking VItamin D so you’ll absorb it
- Speak to your healthcare professional about seriously considering veganism
- Read plenty of articles on veganism
- Watch documentaries like Earthlings, and Cowspiracy for some starter information and YouTubers who are known for giving reliable information like Kiera Rose
- The Original Vegan Society
- The Vegan Kind
- James Aspey
- Accidentally Vegan
- Mercy for Animals
- Kiera Rose
- Kat Von D
- Follow Your Heart
For a quick run down on why to go vegan you can read some points made by The Vegan Society here: https://www.vegansociety.com/go-vegan/why-go-vegan
Please visit The Burren Nature Sanctuary in Kinvara, Co. Galway and donate to their beautiful educational wonderland. Places like this need you!
Images in this post are from my day with @lovejoules which you can see here
P A P E R M A C H E M I N D | I N S T A G R A M | T W I T T E R | F A C E B O O K