This Is The End

Rob here for one more post. It’s been a year since we last posted anything, and whilst I’ve been checking emails and replying to comments and tweeting away, as a blog Vegangstaz is no more. Have no fears – I am still alive, I am still vegan, Kylie and I are still together and very much in love. The truth is, Vegangstaz is just the tip of the iceberg of what I want to achieve.

We have had an incredible ride. I’ve learnt the ins and outs of blogging and WordPress. And we’ve been overwhelmed with the support from people for this little blog we started for fun. Some of our posts have been shared far wider than we ever imagined, and some of our more popular days have seen us hit over 1500 unique visitors in 24 hours. Whether you’re someone who’s currently viewing this post for the first time years after it was first put online, or someone who’s avidly followed everything we’ve done from day 1 (somewhere back in early 2011) – THANK YOU! You’ve all helped make Vegangstaz nothing short of a huge success for us.

So, the tip of the iceberg thing. It’s time to move onward and upward. Vegangstaz may be gone, but my new project is just beginning. What is it?

It’s called True Icon.

It’s a news site on all things ethical – from culture, to vegan food, to fitness, to technology.

And it’s a business. An ethical fashion business to be exact.

Currently, the business side is yet to come, but everything we sell will fit stringent ethical guidelines – and all of it will of course be vegan.

It would mean the world to me if you continued to support this work. I’ll continue to provide the high quality content of Vegangstaz, but covering a wider set of issues. You may have noticed my Twitter handle has changed to @robjtrounce, and a new handle, @becometheicon is set up for the new site. In addition, sign up to receive emails about us and what we’re up to here.

By signing up to the mailing list, you’ll be the first to hear about our product range when it’s launched, as well as some early exclusive discount codes.

I really hope to see you guys over at soon.

Vegangstaz will remain online, but I will no longer be active on it. I hope it has and always will prove to be a useful repository of vegan info and news.

As for True Icon, we are always searching for talented writers, artists, illustrators etc. to join us, so if you’re interested please get in touch. Drop me an email at

I’ve already mentioned that True Icon will cover news for the ethical consumer, and also be an ethical, vegan fashion business. But I hope it’ll become more than that too. I hope it’ll become something of a movement. The capitalist system is here to stay, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t make it our own – make it a system that cultures everyone’s ambitions, make it a system that’s fair to everyone, make it a system where we look at profits in terms of people’s wellbeing and not a series of figures in a bank account.

I look forward to you joining this movement. Become the Icon.

See you on the other side.

Veganic Farming

When it comes to agriculture, arguably the biggest buzzword of the last decade has been ‘organic’.

With the huge expansion in organic farming, organically grown crops no longer need to be sought out at specialised farmers markets or stores, and it’s now commonplace to walk into your local supermarket and alongside every vegetable comes its organic counterpart.

However, the word ‘organic’ has, to some extent, become a victim of its own success. With the huge hype around organic, people often choose to buy organic food (and now clothing) with little understanding of what that actually means other than ‘it’s a better option’.

There is a distinct irony in this: the modern organic movement originated in, essentially, a desire to reconnect with food – food that, over the last century, had become pumped full of chemicals and sprayed with pesticides and fertilisers. When I head to aisle 6 of 54 in my local supermarket to buy a pack of organic tomatoes that have been flown over from Portugal, I could not feel more disconnected from the food that I am buying.

This sense of reconnecting with food on a more personal level is not unfamiliar to vegans. Vegans often talk of the bizarre nature of food shopping today. It’s something we have all experienced – that walk down the meat aisle in a supermarket and the realisation that every piece of cellophane-wrapped piece of flesh around you used to be a part of an animal is a bewildering experience.

Omnivores feel it too – for many that is the very start of their journey towards vegetarianism. It’s that point where you reconnect.

Vegan organic/veganic/stockfree organic farming is a sub-movement within the organic food movement. It aims to reestablish that connection with nature and food once again. Organic food is supposed to be clean – veganic farming therefore sticks to the principles of avoiding pesticide and chemical fertiliser usage.

However, it takes this a step further. Veganic farm disallows the use of any animal byproducts whatsoever. Typical organic fertilisers include animal waste (manure and urea), other animal byproducts such as eggshells, blood, bone, and even animal remains.

The use of such products is abhorrent to both vegans and supporters of a true organic food movement.

The former, for obvious reasons – animal byproducts are a no-go. Most larger scale organic farming operations will purchase the aforementioned animal fertilisers from slaughterhouses, which sell them as a byproduct.

As for the organic food movement, supporters of this should be concerned based on the sheer levels of hormones and steroids which are fed to these animals. These chemicals are rife within their byproducts, and thus are part of so-called ‘organic’ farms. is a UK-based charity supporting veganic farmers and their practices

Veganic farming utilises various other methods for its fertilisation.

‘Green manures’ are methods of developing the soil without animal waste. One such example is the growth of cloves and leguminous crops to positively affect the nitrogen content of the soil prior to other crops being grown in it.

The entire system of a veganic farm is finely tuned but effective. When the system is in place, crops thrive. There isn’t even a need for pesticides of any kind, as crops include flowers which provide a rich ecosystem to control pests.

This in turn also provides complete sustainability. Thus, the system is inherently linked to the green movement. The farmers are not having to rely on external requirements such as fertiliser from animals for crop growth (animals which are an integral part to a farming system which is hugely damaging to the environment). By keeping this finely tuned machine running, and using the land to maximum efficiency, crop yields from veganic farms are large and varied.

One Degree are one of the companies supporting the rise of veganic farming in the US. Citing the lack of transparency in the modern food chain, and the lack of guarantee that ‘organic’ necessarily means healthy food anymore, they ensure that every supplier that creates their foods uses veganic farming methods.

They get to know every farmer who works for them and the history of their farms. They ensure that their core values match the farmer’s, and that they know how every product has been grown and by whom. They trust every farmer who works for them.

And when it comes to the people who grow the food that you eat everyday, surely it makes sense to want to trust them too?

For a little more insight into one of those farms, check out Don Hlaydich in this video.

The Fake Meat Race

It is looking increasingly likely that the first fake meat could be on our plates within the next couple of years. Scientists are being driven to create commercially viable artificial meat by 30th June 2012 due to a cash prize of $1 million being offered by PETA.

The rules for this are simple. The meat must be a chicken substitute, and must be created in vitro (essentially this must literally be chicken meat grown in a test tube). The ‘meat’ must be grown in a quantity that is sufficient to be commercially viable and can be sold at a reasonable price in at least ten US states.

The taste must also be indistinguishable from real chicken, and a panel of PETA judges will be putting it through a taste test. The creation of a competitive in vitro meat will, hopefully, do a huge service to animals which are grown for food.

The meal of the future?

I say ‘hopefully’ because it concerns me that there is already a stigma against vegetarian meats, and I somehow doubt that in vitro meat will tackle this. Sure, I can see why omnivores may not enjoy tofu or Quorn (which has released its first vegan burger in the US), but well made seitan is pretty close to meat – I know I’ve had to double-check sometimes.

I’ve given some of my omnivorous friends seitan before and they’ve loved it. Yet they wouldn’t buy it over meat. Why? Because it’s ‘unnatural and weird.’ As a vegan, I can’t see what’s weirder than preferring animal flesh to a grain-based protein, but the point stands. And I think both vegans and omnivores alike will unfortunately view in vitro meat as weird and gross. I therefore worry that animal suffering will not necessarily be lessened significantly by the creation of in vitro meat.

However, I am possibly just being cynical, there is probably a market out there (perhaps meat-craving vegan coeliacs?), I just think PETA may be optimistic about its size. The other possible benefit lies in the ability to cheaply mass produce meat for the growing population of the world with a potentially far smaller CO2 footprint than factory farming. Sadly, however, this is not mentioned in the remit for obtaining the prize of $1 million, and I believe it should have been one of the key points. There is little point in creating in vitro meat if the environmental damage is equivalent to or even worse than factory farmed meat – we are yet to see the environmental effects of test tube meat.

We shall have to see what can be offered up before we can really assess the benefit of in meatro. Dutch scientist, Mark Post, has already created small pieces of beef, and is looking to develop the first in vitro beef burger by the end of the year. This excludes him from PETA’s prize, as chicken is required, but nevertheless Post is allegedly getting fairly close to creating the first test tube burger.

Mark Post is looking to create the first test tube burger by the end of the year

Post has also been heavily support by both the Dutch government (which is definitely a pleasant surprise) and an anonymous donor of €250,000. The donor said that they were motivated by ‘care for the environment, food for the world, and interest in life-transforming technologies.’

Another team in the Netherlands are experimenting with stem cells from animal embryos. They are making slow progress, with Bernard Roelen, a team member, stating that their results could be ‘a decade away’ and that they ‘need research money.’

This has been echoed by Professor Julie Gold, who is also working on a similar project in Sweden. She stated that ‘there is very little funding – what it needs is a crazy rich person.’

Vladimir Mironov, an ex-employee of NASA, has also managed to create pieces of test-tube animal tissue. His current problem is that the tissue is tasteless, lacking in texture, and is simply not very authentic. However, he is excited by the prospect of being able to grow ‘any animal’s tissue’ using in vitro, and even ‘milk, cheese, and eggs.’

Whilst it is looking unlikely that any of these scientists will manage to obtain PETA’s prize, in vitro meat could potentially be a normality in the future if it is done right (and I believe marketing it correctly will play a big part). PETA’s pot of money could actually be relatively insignificant if the products are successful, considering the market for animal products is vast.

However, you may be reading this with a few concerns about the in meatro race. I know I have a few.

Firstly, these products will rely on meat grown from stem cells. Now, whilst the degree of animal suffering is drastically reduced by using stem cells to grow meat rather than taking meat from a live animal, the stem cells themselves must be taken from an animal in the first place. In this regard, lab grown meat is still meat in its essence – it is still an animal product. As a vegan, someone who, by definition, does not consume or use animal products, I still find the use of animal stem cells to be ethically negative.

Should vegans stick to the tofu?

Secondly, as far as I’m concerned there are three major reasons for going vegan. For me, they are in this order:

  1. Limiting animal suffering.
  2. Protecting the environment.
  3. Benefitting my own health.

So, by eating in vitro meat you…

  1. Will drastically lower animal suffering compared to meat consumption (although, as discussed above, perhaps not avoid it completely).
  2. Will hopefully limit harm done to the environment (although, as discussed earlier, we cannot be sure about this yet).
  3. Will not benefit your health.

Meat in the diet is not a good thing, and with in vitro meat comes all the negatives of animal flesh itself – cholesterol, saturated fat, acidity. In fact, with this breakthrough creating the possibility of feeding meat to parts of the world which currently do not eat much animal protein, we are introducing a potentially negative force. As The China Study observed, we could essentially introduce cultures which lack meat in their diet to a host of problems. Similarly, vegans who choose to eat in vitro meat could also be losing one of the major reasons (and for some the major reason) for actually following the diet.

BUT! And this is a big, or potentially huge but…

It’s a big but and I cannot lie, you other brothers can’t de… wait, wrong kind of but.

Patrick Brown and a team at Stanford University, and another team based in Germany, are currently busy perfecting an artificial meat out of vegetable proteins. This is not entirely dissimilar from seitan, but wheat is not the primary ingredient.

And before you start thinking ‘oh great, another fake meat product…’ this is set to be different. Allegedly, the prototypes created so far have mirrored meat for taste, texture, and nutrition. Whether it will be more successful than seitan at converting omnivores could rely on these factors.

Patrick Brown states ‘we have a class of products that totally rocks, and cannot be distinguished from the animal-based product it replaces, even by hardcore foodies.’

Brown has also been through the process of growing stem-cell meat in a lab, but found the cost barrier to be too high to overcome. Mark Post has even shown support for this work, despite essentially competing against Brown. He has said ‘I think we agree on if there is a vegetable-derived product that can take away the craving of a human being for meat, then that would be preferable.’

Dr Patrick Brown discusses the need for cheap meat alternatives to sway consumers towards a vegan diet:

Meanwhile, Florian Wild of the German team has stated that a factory is now up and running to create 150 pounds an hour of this stuff. She has stated ‘our goal is to develop a vegetable surrogate for meat that is both juicy and fibrous, but that also has a pleasant flavor. The product should have a long shelf life, it should not be more expensive than meat, and be suitable for vegetarians and allergy sufferers.’

The German team will be demoing their product at the end of this month in Cologne, at the Anuga FoodTec trade fair. Needless to say, it should be on the market soon.

Little is known about the method outside of those working on this process, but it involves boiling plant proteins at a high temperature, and then allowing them to cool. During cooling they will bond to create a meat-like substance.

What’s most exciting for me about these products is not just the taste aspect, but the dedication the teams have actually shown to the vegan cause.

Patrick Brown actually decided to dedicate his life to the issue of creating a vegan meat a few years back. He has described animal farming as ‘by far the biggest environmental catastrophe.’

Whilst PETA’s prize is attractive and has caused a number of scientists to work towards creating lab grown meat, Patrick Brown is working on creating a viable meat alternative because it is important to him and his values. To dedicate your scientific career to creating such a product shows a sense of integrity, and whilst it looks like PETA’s prize may not actually go claimed this year, I look forward to sitting down and tucking in to the authentic vegan meat created by the authentic vegan dude, rather than the lab grown piece of cow grown by the new millionaire scientist.

Still, what’s your thoughts? Would you eat lab-grown meat? Or perhaps you’re someone who detests the taste of meat anyway? And will this new vegan faux meat please vegans and omnivores?

The Superior Human

Samuel McAnallen’s new film,The Superior Human? is the latest to question long-standing humanistic beliefs about humanity’s role on this planet, and mankind’s relationship with the other beings that it shares said planet with.

Whilst I am deeply sceptical of the humanist doctrine as it stands (despite being an atheist myself), my issues lie at the core beliefs that truth and reason are all-solving, all-powerful forces (for those interested, John Gray has written a fantastic book entitled Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals on this very issue).The Superior Human? attacks humanism on speciesist grounds.

It analyses (at times, in great lengths) the 18 most prominent reasons why humanity is viewed by humans as being the highest form of life on Earth. It attacks each of these points head on, starting at number 18 (having a large population) and working through to number 1 (having consciousness and autonomy). In the journey, it tackles issues such as the human ability to create art, the use of tools, and culture.

Chester the prejudiced bear believes that bears are the superior species

Frequently, the film will draw similarities from the animal kingdom, showing that we are not unique in our abilities. One particularly fascinating piece explains the intricacies of the prairie dog language system, which is a complex verbal structure. Allegedly, a prairie dog can tell others verbally that someone is walking by, their clothing, their size, their speed, and what they are carrying.

It is one thing to show superior or equal traits in other animals. The film really shines, however, when it bluntly explains where humanity has failed. Illustrating humanity’s destruction of the Earth, it’s grand and frequent massacres of its own species, and analysing our false cultural worship of material goods are just a few occasions where the film does exactly this.

Somehow, despite all this, the film manages to retain an upbeat and humorous tone. Dr Nick Gylaw’s narration is witty and amusingly sarcastic. Towards the end of the film, we are introduced to Chester the prejudiced bear, who believes that bears are the highest species on Earth. This further illustrates the failures of speciesism whilst providing a few chuckles.

The film has some fantastic footage. Ranging from beautiful, to funny, to enlightening, the footage thankfully never bores which is fortunate for a documentary made on a miniscule budget.

The film is, as mentioned, directed by Samuel McAnallen and is produced by Dr Jenia Meng. Narration is by Dr Nick Gylaw, and there are interviews and footage from Gary Yourofsky, Dr Bernard Rollin, Dr Richard Ryder, and Dr Steven Best. The film is free to watch below, and I recommend doing so! Let me know what you think.

Trust Comes Tough launches new vegan shirt

For those who are keen on straight-edge hardcore, you may have heard of Trust Comes Tough before. They are an Australian-based clothing company run by Luke Weber, who also runs Resist Records and used to play in ShotPointBlank.

Apart from straight-edge merchandise, Trust Comes Tough also sells a number of animal rights and vegan related shirts and stickers.

In the past they have collaborated with Sea Shepherd to produce an amazing shirt, and the proceeds went directly to the charity.

They have just released their latest in a long line of vegan shirts. The shirt shows a hand holding a wrench, with ‘VEGAN’ above it, and it is surrounded by the phrase ‘the battle for animal liberation begins today with you and I’.

The shirt is available online in small, medium, large, XL and XXL from Trust Comes Tough’s Bigcartel store for $25 (Australian dollars).

They also have a limited number of previous designs still left for sale (including the awesome ‘Meat Sucks’ t-shirt) so definitely check out the store. There’s some Meat is Murder stickers available too. If you live in the US, there’s a US store set-up selling shirts at $8 (plus P&P).

Curried Mock Duck

It’s been a while since we posted a recipe post and so I thought I’d kick start the posts with a simple yet delish dish. This recipe is so quick and easy you could do it with your eyes closed. I first discovered it on a new app I got for my phone called ‘Veg Web’ and it’s becoming a firm favourite in my repertoire. Try it out for yourself – you won’t be disappointed.

What you need:

1 1/2 Cups of basmati rice

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 cups of vegetable broth (or veggie stock!)

1/2 head of shredded cabbage

2 Onions, sliced

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

3 (10 ounce) cans of mock duck, sliced

1/2 can coconut milk

2 tablespoons of curry powder

1/4 soy sauce

How you do it:

1. In a saucepan heat 2 tablespoons of oil and add the basmati rice. Cook until light brown (be careful not to burn it- no one likes crusty rice!) Add the vegetable broth/ stock and cook until done. Approx. 15-20 minutes.

2. In a large pan, heat the remainder of the oil. Add the shredded cabbage and the onions and saute for around 3-5 minutes until slightly brown. Add the garlic and saute for approx. 1 minute.

3. Add the mock duck, curry powder, and coconut milk and cook on high until thickened.

4. Stir in the soy sauce and serve over rice.

And that’s it! I was surprised myself as to how simple yet tasty this was. I cooked up a batch and kept it covered in the fridge and took it to work for a few days for lunch.

Support Fiona Oakes

Towards the end of this week, the alleged “toughest footrace on Earth” begins. The Marathon des Sables earned this allegation on the grounds that it is a 6-day ultramarathon, through some of the least hospitable environments on the planet.

The first stage is this coming Sunday. Over the course of 6 days, competitors will run the distance of 156 miles (with the toughest stage being 57 miles long). The competitors, of which there are only a handful of ultra-athletes, will race in the Sahara desert where the temperature is, on average, 30°C (just under 90°F), and daily fluctuations make this uncertain (with temperatures often changing drastically within a few hours).

The toughest footrace on Earth

Competitors will also have to carry the entirety of their required personal possessions in backpacks for the whole six days. This includes the food they will be eating. A number of books have been written solely about the experiences of training for and running the race. It may not surprise you that two people have died whilst competing in the race thus far.

Among the contestants for this year’s Marathon des Sables though is Fiona Oakes. Seeing as you’re on a vegan blog, you can probably see where this is heading… Fiona is the first vegan to ever attempt the Marathon des Sables, and is doing so with an ambition to smash the vegan = skinny weakling myth.

Fiona went vegetarian at the age of 4, and has been vegan for all of her adult life. Despite severe knee difficulties which struck her at the age of 14 (which resulted in the loss of a kneecap), Fiona has gone on to become an incredible athlete. She runs between 80 and 100 miles per week, with a record marathon time of 2 hours 38 minutes. She focuses primarily on speedwork – for some endurance is their aim, as finishing some of the mammoth races Fiona enters is enough; for Fiona, however, it is about winning the race.

During her running career she has made a number of accomplishments. She has reached top 10 positions in a number of international marathons (including Florence, Moscow, and Amsterdam) as well as top 20 positions in the London and Berlin marathons. She has come first in the Great North Run, a 13.1 mile event. She also came first in the Finland marathon, setting a course record by 11 minutes.

Outside of the running world, Fiona and her partner work incessantly to help the lives of over 400 animals at Tower Hill Animal Sanctuary – a completely non-profit animal sanctuary which Fiona set-up. She also has involvement with groups such as Captive Animals’ Protection Society, In Defense of Animals, and VITA (a Russian animal rights organisation).


Fiona will be running the Marathon des Sables to raise money for three different causes. Firstly, there is the Tower Hill Sanctuary which she runs. Secondly, the Vegan Society. Thirdly, Facing Africa – a charity for African victims of Noma, a facial disfigurement disease that affects children.

Currently, Fiona is falling way short of her target of £5000. At the time of writing she has secured just over £2000. She is becoming desperate for further donations, or even just promotion of her efforts and why she is running the race.

If you can spare any money at all towards Fiona’s effort, it will be greatly appreciated. You will be helping a fantastic athlete crush a widespread and negative myth about veganism, as well as helping a number of fantastic charity projects. Another supporter has kindly offered to double any donations made in the run-up (excuse the pun) to the race, so your donation will be doubled.

Her donation page is here.

If you cannot afford to donate yourself, please try and share this information with people who may be able to. Any support we can give Fiona is positive.

I will leave you with some thoughts that Fiona posted on her Facebook page about the difficulty in spreading the vegan message within the running community, and her hopes about competing in the Marathon des Sables:

“With 10 days to go before I leave for Morocco to compete in, what is universally acknowledged as the toughest foot race on the planet, my feelings are that of disappointment, confusion, nervousness and anger.

I am not doing this for me. I am doing this for the animals. I am doing this to promote a healthy and ethical vegan lifestyle. I am doing this to break down the many myths, incorrect information and stereotypes being widely publicised about veganism. I am doing this to get the vegan message into the wider public domain in a positive way which the masses can relate to, and what publicity am I getting or help in doing this? – hardly any.

I run my own animal sanctuary caring for our several hundred rescued animals almost single handedly. I am not a professional runner. I do not have any spare money or time for the luxuries other athletes have such as supplements, high quality diet, rest, recover, rehabilitation when injured or ill etc. I just have myself, forcing myself to train alone day in day out whilst always making sure the welfare of the animals is the primary consideration.

I am not trying to say my achievements are any greater or less than anyone else out there. However, top 20 places in 2 of the 5 World Major Marathon series, top 10 in 2 of the biggest Marathons in the world, 4 Marathons wins – all in course records – and first female home in the main race of the Great North Run (top 20 overall) do warrant some publicity for the animals surely to goodness. It is not FOR ME. I don’t want this FOR ME. I don’t care about ME. If I did I would not have dedicated my life for the past 16 years to my animal sanctuary. A life which necessitates no holidays, no money, no rest, no time for oneself. I just care about animals and giving people a reason to consider a vegan lifestyle or not giving them a reason to dismiss it as unhealthy. At the moment, Marathon running and sport is at the TOP OF THE AGENDA in this country and surely this is a fantastic time and opportunity to get people interested and involved in what I am trying to do. Millions of people worldwide compete in running races and Marathons each year and the Marathon des Sables is broadcast in 200 countries by over 1,000 television channels. I hope to be televised proudly wearing my specially adapted Vegan Runners kit to get the word VEGAN out to these people. I will be the first vegan woman to ever complete Marathon des Sables and one of only a tiny handful of women to ever compete in it. This is the race which made James Cracknell, double Olympic Champion and self confessed macho man, cry. It was worthy of the BBC funding a documentary about his exploits in this race and yet it is not worthy of any of the large organisations who are there to promote interest in vegan/vegetarianism to show any interest at all. Can you imagine the impact when the likes of Gordon Ramsay hits out with another rant about how he hates vegans as they are weak and frail, to be able to retaliate with the fact that a vegan woman has completed the Marathon des Sables (and is well over an hour faster than him in a Marathon too). It needs the larger organisations with media and celebrity contacts to act. It is no good just keeping this within the ‘animal’ movement as we are just, to coin a phrase ‘preaching to the converted’. We need to concentrate our efforts on converting and this means getting it out to those who would not normally see or hear about what any of us are doing. However, to convert others we need to give them a reason and, that reason has to be of benefit to them. If helping innocent animals were enough they would have taken the step already.

I am a woman, an amateur who spends most of her time caring for neglected, abused and vulnerable animals. I am not a great big strapping rower who has the funds to dedicate his time fully to training for this event and who is getting paid to do it. Women are, historically, judged as being weaker than men. Fact, like it or not. What are we saying here if a vegan woman is to complete this toughest foot challenge in the world. We are saying that a vegan diet is not only adequate to sustain an healthy lifestyle it is more than adequate of sustaining any lifestyle – however extreme.

There are large organisations out there whose sole remit is to promote an ethical vegan/vegetarian lifestyle and they won’t lift a finger to help. I am confused as to the reason why? They have media clout, I don’t. I use my running to promote what I believe in by leading by example. If I did not feel that the running were directly benefiting animals and the environment in some way, I would not be able to justify dedicating the time and effort to doing it. Do they think that by publicising what I am doing it might divert funds or attention from their organisation? I doubt this would happen but, even if this were the case, does it matter as these organisations are there to promote precisely the kind of positive thing I am doing so, surely this would mean ‘job done’ in their case. The important thing here is to use every opportunity to get the vegan message out there as so few such opportunities ever present themselves. Who is presenting that message is immaterial, what matters is saving lives and the best way of doing this, as we all know, is to stop the abuse that goes on in the mass production of animals for the food chain. Please can someone tell me what I am doing wrong or am I just being very naive?”

‘Vegan’ Celebrities and the vegan diet vs. veganism

I am hugely sceptical of celebrity vegan role models a lot of the time. Not because of the person themselves, but because of the way many vegans react to their diet change. That is exactly what it is for many of them – a diet change.

I’ve mentioned previously about Bill Clinton unwittingly becoming the spokesperson for veganism in America, and when he announced that he was following a vegan diet bar a bit of turkey on Thanksgiving many vegans reacted as though a lost gospel of the New Testament had been discovered proclaiming that Jesus Christ was a member of the Animal Liberation Front. I saw a ridiculous number of comments on the internet and heard a couple from friends in real life relating Clinton’s motives for eating vegan to the causes of animal rights and environmental protection.

I’m sorry, but Clinton is not a vegan. I’m sure he hasn’t ever thought twice about wearing leather, and if it weren’t for the health benefits of eating vegan he sure as hell would be eating meat now. Just because you eat vegan, doesn’t mean that you are vegan.

What Clinton is, however, is a fantastic advocate for the vegan diet. Veganism and a vegan diet are two very separate things. Veganism is a philosophy of minimising (and, if possible, abolishing) the use of animals in your life. The vegan diet is a way of eating that relies purely on plant-based foods.

For many, the vegan diet is a starting point. I’ve known people who have come to veganism for health and stayed for the ethics. Whether or not this will happen with Clinton, I don’t know. For others, it never progresses past the stage of being just a diet.

However, those who turn to the vegan diet for health reasons are still beneficially affecting the world. To them, limiting animal abuse and environmental damage may be side effects to the health benefits that they are obtaining, but they are definitely positive side effects.

Whilst I feel global veganism may never be reached due to a combination of apathy and ignorance, the health benefits of a meat-free diet are becoming more and more tantalising. Anyone who’s seen Breaking Bad may remember this scene from the first episode, stylishly put in a comic book format by Breaking Bad Comics:

Whilst this may just be a comic of a forgettable scene from Breaking Bad (which is totally awesome by the way! If you haven’t seen it then you should watch it after reading this!) it taps into the essence of what may actually have the world turning towards a vegan diet. We have to watch our cholesterol.

There is overwhelming evidence that a plant-based diet will benefit cholesterol levels, despite Atkins, keto and paleo dieters claiming otherwise (there is little evidence to show their benefits, and the only person I’ve ever known to follow a high-protein, low-carb diet for a prolonged period has now sadly died due to bowel cancer – a disease commonly brought on by eating too much meat).

A diet that has proven to do this is an attractive one, as is one that, for most people, provides more energy, and boosts potential weightloss. With celebrities turning to a vegan diet faster than any other diet at the moment, the general public are following suit. I have read numerous times that the vegan diet isthe fastest growing diet at the moment (overtaking even vegetarianism) and it does not surprise me.

With advocates such as Clinton proclaiming the benefits of a vegan diet for health, more and more people are trying it out. For every person who goes vegan to lose weight, the demand for animal protein falls. As demand falls, less animals are utilised for meat and their products. And thus, there is a gain for veganism as a philosophy. If the world followed the vegan diet for health reasons alone, animal suffering would be minimalised.

For Morrissey, veganism is more than a dietary choice

It is, however, important for vegans to keep this in mind instead of seeing every celebrity who wants to shed a few pounds by following a plant-based diet as a hero. At times, the vegan community is at danger of becoming like PETA who seemingly lauds any celebrity as an animal rights activist simply because they said ‘I like my dog’.

There is also a danger of making the terms ‘veganism’ and ‘vegan diet’ interchangeable by describing everyone who follows a plant-based diet as a vegan.

There is a fine line between being glad for someone’s success on a vegan diet with the hope that it’ll persuade some other people to try it, and praising them as a fully blown vegan. In this regard, beliefs are everything.

Dolphin personhood, and animals as persons

Due to their extremely high levels of intelligence and their self-aware mind, cetaceans (dolphins, whales, porpoises, and other marine mammals) have had a declaration of rights drawn up by philosophers and marine biologists.

This bill of rights would grant them protection and they could be defended by law. It will go as far as to grant them the status of ‘non-human persons’.

By granting cetaceans personhood, they would also be granted individual rights. A killing of a dolphin would therefore be equal to killing any other person, including human beings, both ethically and legally speaking.

The bill of rights includes that of liberty, meaning an end to their captivity for theme parks such as SeaWorld. To hold a cetacean captive would be equal to enslaving a human.

It would also ban any practice which ‘disrupts their cultures’ which could include the use of acoustic sonar and certain types of fishing.

This comes at a very important time for cetaceans, particularly when we look at Japanese treatment of the animals. Commercialised whaling has been a notorious part of Japanese culture for over a century now, and the practice of whaling itself dates back for many centuries before that.

Similarly, the Japanese treatment of dolphins has become infamous since the Academy-Award nominated documentary, The Cove. The film uncovered the horrific and frequent dolphin drive-hunts in Taiji, Wakayama.

One of the companies that financially supported these hunts (by buying captured dolphins) was SeaWorld Parks, a chain of theme parks in the US. Should this cetacean bill of rights gain enough momentum and support, there could be further bad news for SeaWorld too, as the parks controversially contain several captive dolphins and whales.

Fishing will also be affected in a fairly big way. Bycatch (the name given to unwanted catches during fishing) consists of a growing number of cetaceans every year. Tuna fishing is mainly responsible for this. Even dolphin-friendly labelled tuna does not mean dolphins weren’t killed in the fishing process – it simply means that the fishermen targetted tuna using other methods (the easiest method for finding tuna hotspots is to target a dolphin feeding area). Dolphins, porpoises and whales are routinely entangled in nets and drown, due to being mammals.

I have no idea what's going on here, I just Googled 'dolphin person' and this guy came up.

This is not the first time a non-human species has been granted personhood. Great apes have famously achieved such a status in some countries. New Zealand, in 1999, granted basic rights to great apes, and it is now illegal to use them for research and testing. 8 years later, in 2007, the Balearic Islands granted personhood to great apes. As an autonomous province of Spain, it has been fighting to convince Spain to follow suit ever since.

Renowned animal rights philosopher, Gary Francione, also argues for the personhood of all animals. As one of the fathers of the abolitionist movement, Francione believes that we have no right to use animals in any way, even if they are treated respectfully. Francione argues that all sentient beings should be granted personhood, with sentience being the only requirement. Cognitive abilities beyond that are not of significance. For Francione, veganism a moral baseline – the minimum one must do to avoid being harmful and morally wrong is be a vegan.

Even if you disagree with Francione’s approach towards animal rights, allow me to at least argue abolitionism from another approach. As it has been noted, the personhood of cetaceans is garnering support due to their cognitive abilities. However, it is increasingly becoming evident that a huge number of species are far cleverer than they are given credit for.

This can be seen in some of the tests done on the animals to highlight their intelligence. One such test, which dolphins performed successfully, was to prove that they are self-aware. If you would like to do this test for yourself then do the following right now:

  1. Stand up and walk over to the nearest mirror or reflective surface.
  2. Look into it.
  3. If you recognised that the image in front of you was a reflection of yourself, then well done, you are self-aware.

If on the other hand you looked at it and thought ‘WHO THE F@%! IS THAT?!’ then I am afraid you are less intelligent than a dolphin, a pig, or even a chicken, and therefore most people wouldn’t recognise you as a person (although thanks to the likes of Gary Francione and myself, there are people campaigning for you!). That’s right, chickens have been shown to be self-aware. Yet there is never any speak of chickens being granted personhood.

Another test to highlight dolphins intelligence was their ability to trick reward systems. Dolphins have recognised when a reward system is in place (i.e. do this and you’ll get food) and have found ways to trick them. Again though, this is common in other species too. See below for this occurring with a cow.

Again though, there has never been any talk of personhood for a cow.

Francione speaks of humanity as being ‘morally schizophrenic’. We can look at our cats, dogs, or any other animals close to us and love them. We would never dream of calling these animals unintelligent, and we see them as persons (even if they are not recognised as so by society as a whole).

I am not by any means disputing personhood for cetaceans, I fully support such an implementation. However, I am just trying to highlight the inconsistency here. As a supporter of Francione’s ideas and abolitionism, it surprises me that we still fail to recognise animals as beings and not just property to be utilised. These ideas to implement personhood to dolphins, whales, etc. simply begs the question of why stop there? Pigs, dogs, foxes, snakes, spiders, chickens, fish – any animal you can name has shown mind-blowing feats of intelligence, some which we don’t always understand.

And perhaps this strikes at the most important issue of all. We humans, as the dominant species on Earth, like to think that we are the be all and end all to animal intelligence, but the simple fact is that we aren’t. It is impossible for us to understand nature and its complexities in the way that we like to think that we can. Animals and their survival are dependent on their abilities to use their brain.

There are countless examples of intelligent behaviour developing within other species. From ants building fungus farms, to dolphins communicating verbally. The more we discover of Animalia, the more we are astounded. A matter of a couple of centuries ago we didn’t even think that other animals could feel pain, and now this has become universally accepted (with exceptions by some people towards some species e.g. fish).

A quote from Albert Einstein neatly sums this up. Sure, it’s taken out of context, but I think it is still apt (and in fact, more literal):

“Everybody is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it’ll spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Humanity, in its naivety, is at risk of becoming stuck up its own ass. By proclaiming ourselves as dominant, we have come to fail to realise not just that other species deserve rights, but to even comprehend other species as living, breathing beings. I am glad that these discussions are finally happening for cetaceans, but we have a long way to go before Francione’s ideals are met.

WWE World Heavyweight Champion is Vegan

One of the things I love about being vegan and having a keen interest in fitness is that there is an ever-growing number of role models out there in a variety of sports. Whether it’s the likes of Mac Danzig in MMA, endurance athletes like Brendan Brazier, or hulks such as Patrik Baboumian, whatever sport you’re into there are vegan atheletes in the out there (and they are very often hugely successful).

However, here’s something I never thought I’d see. Today I discovered that, as of 18th December, the WWE World Heavyweight Champion has been vegan.

Bryan Danielson (better known by his WWE name of Daniel Bryan) has been in the wrestling business for 13 years now, beginning a backyard wrestler in 1999. However, following success, he decided to wrestle professionally.


Danielson had many years of success in ROH – a lesser-known but still widely respect wrestling organisation. However, in 2009 he was suffering from numerous liver infections and skin conditions. His doctor suggested trying veganism for a while, and he never looked back.

Since then, Danielson has gone from strength to strength (literally) and wrestled for the WWE. However, he’s not simply just following veganism for health reasons. Bryan Danielson joins the likes of Austin Aries (AKA The Vascular Vegetarian), Taryn Terrell, and one of the forefathers of modern wrestling, Killer Kowalski in stepping into the ring with convictions behind them.

Since going vegan Danielson ethical convictions have evolved. Danielson wrestles in faux-leather boots, and has a faux-leather strap on his belt. After briefly being fired in 2010, PETA followers successfully protested and demanded he be rehired. PETA has granted him the award for being the ‘Most Animal Friendly Athlete’ this year too.

Danielson runs a website/blog which he updates regularly with the vegan food and supplements he’s been eating as he travels in his career. Currently Danielson is engaged in defending his title in a feud with The Big Show.

Sadly, the WWE seem to have stumbled across the fairly obvious idea of making veganism his ‘thing’ and making something of a gimmick out of it. This somewhat mirrors their use of CM Punk’s straight edge convictions.

However, I can’t help but smile a little to see a WWE champion in the ring espousing the virtues of veganism in a sport that is otherwise dominated by carcass guzzling men. With wrestlers regularly suffering from early-onset health problems such as heart disease and bone weaknesses due to the amount of animal protein they ingest (whilst Danielson has only gone and reversed health problems he has suffered from), we can only hope that more follow in Danielson’s footsteps and become vegan.

It may have become Danielson’s gimmick but it’s great to see veganism taking such a high position in the WWE, arguably one of the most successful and renowned sports franchises of all time. And it is something of an inspiration to see yet another high-performing vegan athlete reaching the top of their game.

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