IN THE year that saw proud Zimbabwean Lion, Cecil, massacred by a grinning toothsome dentist, and a ‘heartbroken’ Ricky Gervais call for an end to the thousands of tortured pooches at the Chinese Yulin Dog Meat Festival, an estimated 150,000 Britons denounced all meat and dairy products in favour of a lifestyle rich in quinoa, mung beans, and cauliflower ‘rice’ and courgette ‘pasta’.
...veganism does not have to mean going barefoot and launching a tofu pie in the face of Anna Wintour (PETA did this twice)
When it comes to animal and environmental rights many find our moral compasses spin wildly in search for a guilt-free and fulfilling diet. Good intentions, a love for all species, an inwardly held torment after the ‘horse meat’ scandal, tend to precede the moral rejection of a bacon sarnie. Veganism is becoming a far more tempting prospect.
But, to convert takes a lot of consideration - and goes far beyond learning to love avocados. Vegan ideology will permeate the food you eat, the clothes you wear, and products you use. (Oreo cookies, a debatable yes; Nutella spread, definitely not).
Also, as with any alternative way of life, there’s some misconceptions to shake off.
Of course, most know that veganism does not have to mean moving to Chorlton, going barefoot and launching a tofu pie in the face of Anna Wintour (PETA did this twice). Yet vegans continually confront images of radicalism and the assumption that the diet result in weak, slender anaemic persons lacking in all the goodness from animal produce. And, to the average omnivore, the rules to the vegan diets includes a load of ‘can’t haves’: no meat, no fish, no dairy, no eggs, and so on.
Amongst all the other considerations (can I morally visit Chester Zoo?), the pertinent question for any person contemplating veganism will be: will I starve?
WHY GO VEGAN?
Veganism: once perceived as the radical lifestyle of yogis, Hare-Krishna and red-paint flinging animal activists, has found its mainstream appeal in recent years. Blame new influencers such as Jay-Z and Beyoncé, who encourage 21-day vegan diets as weight loss aids and spiritual detoxes. In Hollywood, veganism is the 'new paleo diet' rather than a means to environmental sanctity. Regardless of moral standpoint, the followers multiply (part-time veganism, meat-reducers, oco vegetarianism is also on the rise). By definition, the Vegan Society see Vegans as choosing to 'avoid exploiting animals for any purpose, with compassion being a key reason many choose a vegan lifestyle’. In that case it's a complete lifestyle re-think. You will have to consider everything from accessories and clothing to bathroom items - animal products are found in more places than you might expect.
BUT WHAT ABOUT VEGETARIANISM?
For some, a life without scrambled eggs and gorgonzola cheese is the deal-breaker when it comes to the vegan diet but the Vegan Society believe it's imperative to give up eggs and dairy for the sake of animal welfare. It said: 'The suffering caused by the dairy and egg industry is possibly less well publicised than the plight of factory farmed animals. The production of dairy products necessitates the death of countless male calves that are of no use to the dairy farmer, as well as the premature death of cows slaughtered when their milk production decreases. Similarly, in the egg industry, even 'ethical' or 'free range' eggs involve the killing of the 'unnecessary' male chicks when just a day old.'
IS A VEGAN DIET EXPENSIVE?
Well, consider the cost of Vegan-friendly Alpro Soya almond milk at £1.79, while six pints of semi-skimmed milk is £1.58. Similarly expensive, 200g of vegan cheese £2.48, where 300g of Cheddar is around £2.00 (according to My Supermarket comparison site). The costs continue to show that your organic and vegan produce is more expensive than other foods.
Advice from NHS website encourages smarter shopping, forward planning, and stocking up on cupboard essentials such as pasta and cous cous.
IS THE VEGAN DIET HEALTHY?
Ever heard of the ‘junk food’ vegan – one who survives merely on vegan regulated junk food goods (there’s surprisingly a lot of vegan friendly junk foods)? Well, they’re certainly not healthy. A vegan diet is as healthy as you make it. A well-rounded vegan diet loaded with nuts, grains, fruits and vegetables will naturally be low in saturated fats, so vegans will be far less susceptible to heart disease. A diet rich in vegetables and grains is said to not only promote more energy, better skin and a slimmer waistline but also help combat ‘obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.’
BUT WILL I GET ENOUGH ESSENTIAL NUTRIENTS?
According to Jamie Oliver nutritionist, Mary Lynch: ‘In terms of micronutrients, a vegan diet is actually more susceptible to being nutritionally poor. A vegan diet is naturally low in calcium, vitamin D, iron, vitamin B12, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids. Therefore, if you follow a vegan diet it is essential that you get enough of these nutrients through specific vegan food sources – and may even need to take additional supplements.’
The vegan society advises to look for Vitamin B12, in ‘plant milks, yoghurts, breakfast cereals, spreads, yeast extracts and nutritional yeast products that are fortified with vitamin B12.’ See NHS guidelines for calcium and vitamin D supplements.
CAN I BE VEGAN AND A GYM BUFF?
All those rippling muscled gym buffs must be onto something, right? Surely you have to devour a whole Nando's chicken every night to get that chiselled body? Apparently not. Take Serena Williams, in support of sister Venus, on a plant-based diet. There are plenty of other athletes who also go meat-free.
Yet, protein is still mightily important to a vegan who works out a lot. According to Vegan Body Builder Robert Cheeke, 'After exercise, the most important aspect of post-workout nutrition is the consumption of protein.'My favorite protein sources are dark greens, beans, legumes heavy foods like tofu, tempeh and seitan. Traditionally, after I complete a workout, my first desire is to consume a protein drink or meal replacement drink.'
SHALL I GET RID OF MY LEATHER GOODS? AND WHAT ABOUT BEAUTY PRODUCTS?
This is difficult. The fashion industry is an ethical minefield. Staying vegan in a fashion respect will take conscious effort. Leather, fur, silks all are no-gos. Stores like H&M offer green options to help with peace of mind, while high end designers Stella McCartney are committed to ethical standards. In terms of skincare and make-up brands, Superdrug stocks B. is for beautiful, a vegan brand that does not test on animals.
WHERE SHOULD I EAT IN MANCHESTER? (WILL I BE BORED?)
From your Buddhist Centre to good Indian restaurants, see Manchester Confidential's Best Of Vegetarian List with vegan options.
For more information on veganism, please see the Vegan Society website.
In Manchester, Eighth Day Cafe offer a lot of information.