Posts Tagged ‘veganism’

Chickens can feel empathy too, shame about the people…

Whilst trawling through the internet I stumbled upon this rather interesting news article. Apparently scientists have now discovered:

adult female birds possess at least one of the essential underpinning attributes of empathy.

Basically this study found that mother hens are distressed when their chicks were disturbed by a ‘puff of air’. Now, I’m no scientist but this study, to me, seems rather obvious? Why is it that we are only now coming to conclusions that animals just might have feelings too?

But should the fact that animals have feelings mean that we shouldn’t eat them? In my research I came across this article on the same topic. Now it wasn’t really the article itself that made me post it here, but rather the insensitive comments at the bottom. People are entitled to their own opinions and I believe it is important to form and stress our opinions on different topics. Everyone’s opinions are valid. However, what gets to me most about negative comments on vegetarian and vegan issues is how uninformed carnivores tend to be. I would quite happily have an in-depth conversation with a carnivore and talk about each others views on the topic but I have yet to come across a carnivore that can form a rational opinion for why we should eat meat that wasn’t born out of his stomachs desire. The fact is most carnivore’s seem to think with their stomachs and not with their minds. They don’t seem to care about gaining all the information and processing it rationally and developing  a sound and structured argument in their favour. The reason? Because they’re ashamed to admit that what they are doing is wrong. They don’t want to hear the copious amounts of research and information because they want to continue what they are doing and so form weak arguments against vegetarianism. In fact, as I’m sure you’re aware, arguing with carnivores is like arguing with a three year old.

The one argument against vegetarianism that makes me mad more than any other has to be this one:

“If we we are not meant to eat meat, then Mother Nature would not have allowed our bodies to handle it.”

The reason this kind of argument angers me is to do with the amount of ignorance this statement generally comes with.If these people bothered to read the literature available, they would discover that actually our bodies are more optimised for plant based diets. The most convincing article I have read on this topic  would have to be this one here. I challenge any carnivore to read this article and then come back to me with their rational thoughts on the matter. Some of the key points this article stresses are:

  • “Our so-called ‘canine teeth’ are “canine” in name only.” This is to say that other plant eaters have canine teeth and ours closely resemble those of the chimp (who are almost exclusively vegan!)
  • “Our early ancestors from at least four million years ago were almost exclusively vegetarian.”
  • “Our omnivorism means we’re capable of eating meat (useful from a survival standpoint if that’s all that’s available), but our bodies aren’t geared for it to be a normal,significant part of our diets.”
  • “Our teeth, saliva, stomach acid, and intestines are most similar to other plant-eaters, and dissimilar to carnivores and true omnivores.”

These are just some of the issues brought up in the article above and I must say it is compelling reading. Whilst the article comes up with a lot points as to why our bodies are more geared towards plant based diets he does go on to say that this doesn’t mean that there isn’t any evidence to the contrary. However, when there is more evidence for rather than against you have to ask yourself this, which is the stronger argument? Carnivores will undoubtedly say their own despite the lack of strong evidence, but in a game of football if one team scores 6 and the other scores 1 the team with 6 goals surely wins? Now you can’t argue with that!

Another statement that particularly irks me is this one:

You know..plants are alive too. They are living things.”

These people are morons. I’m not afraid of saying that. Are they actually suggesting that plants are on the same level as other animals? Do you not regard your pet dog higher than a lettuce leaf? Because to me this is what your argument suggests. Oh, you’re just talking about animals you don’t care about? Right. Got it. Moron. This is a pathetic statement and one that I refuse to acknowledge (except for just now!). It goes hand in hand with this argument:

But other animals eat animals so why shouldn’t I?

Well this is a fine observation and I will give these people a gold star for their observation techniques. They clearly have some thought process. However, what they fail to note is that in the wild it’s all about survival of the fittest. In the wild the hunted have a chance to get away from the hunter if it’s own evolution has served it well enough. Back in our world we force animals to endure no end of pain and suffering, give them barely enough room to stand in, take their young away from them, and force them to eat gallons upon gallons of utter shit and then kill them in barbaric ways, (amongst other vile things that people would rather be ignorant to so they can enjoy there chicken dinner without guilt). Never once giving them a chance. I don’t think you can compare other species to ours when it’s a fixed race all along. And when you show these people the evidence above this argument has little stand on.

Another point I wish to stress before I finish is that the arguments for vegetarianism go far beyond our bodies abilities to simply process meat. It goes beyond desires, tastes, and people’s view of animals. There are environmental reasons for plant based diets. I read that if everyone went vegetarian you could feed the whole world and have food left over. While people still eat meat you can only feed a third of it (This is from a fact sheet from Peta). The meat industry is slowly but surely destroying our amazing landscapes and natures hard work by gutting down trees and preparing land for livestock. When you think about these other factors and results of  the meat industry it makes you feel guilty. In fact, it makes carnivores appear rather selfish, don’t you think?

So I put this last thought out to the carnivores of this world. Whilst you sit there eating your bacon cheese burger, take a moment to think about everything that it stands for. Think about how much of the world you’ve destroyed for your second of enjoyment!

If you’re not convinced, why not ask your doctor about meat, below! Enjoy.

Vegan for Lent Challenge

A couple of weeks ago I did a post about a film coming out called Vegucated. This film is due out in Spring and follows the lives of 3 omnivores who make the transition to a vegan diet for 6 weeks, and looks at how they handle it. I promised I’d post a pretty similar challenge, so here it is. Lent begins this Wednesday, 9th March. Now I am not a religious person at all, but something about the challenge of Lent has always appealed to me. The idea of giving something up for 40 days is one I find quite meaningful and shows a huge level of self-determination if you stick it through, providing it’s something you’re not used to living without.

Last year my university held a “Vegan for Lent” campaign. The idea was to get people who were not vegan to try out veganism for 40 days and 40 nights, as is tradition. As an added incentive, many were sponsored for doing so and raised money for charity. At the time I was vegetarian, and after the determination of seeing it through for 40 days I remained vegan. I’ve heard many different methods for making a transition from vegetarian to vegan, some doing so slowly whilst others change overnight. However, this really worked for me as it was almost like it wasn’t my choice – I had to stick to the challenge or else I’d fail. And here I am, vegan for over a year now.

I’ve already seen calls to modernise Lent, and give up something which means more to the world than just chocolate, or the usual Lent sacrifices. For example, there’s even a Catholic Coalition on Climate Change calling for environmentally influential changes during Lent, such as giving up plastic bags. Like I said, I’m not a religious person but I enjoy the challenge of Lent. So, if you want to do something worthwhile this Lent then try veganism. Stuff yourself with any non-vegan foods that may be going off, and freeze the rest, and try giving up all animal products. See if it’s as big a challenge as you think.

As a helping hand to get you started, the New York Times are publishing a list of vegan dishes for anyone taking the challenge, take a look here. These recipes should be easy to make and prove to you that vegan cooking isn’t too hard. Please do let us know if you are going to take the challenge, and we would happily provide you with any assistance you may need as well!

Good luck, and by the end you’ll have earned the title of Vegangsta!

The importance of vitamin B12

When going vegan people often bring up the difficulties of watching your calcium intake, your protein intake, and your iron intake. Whilst a decent calcium and protein intake is easy to maintain (I get more calcium and protein than most omnivores), iron is something that should be watched. But ensuring you get enough iron isn’t too hard. The only real threat of deficiency in a vegan diet is vitamin B12. B12 comes from bacteria – no foods naturally contain it – it isn’t intrinsically in meat and animal products. It is essentially created by bacteria. Bacteria obviously thrive in animal products and meat, creating vitamin B12. I have heard some reports of ensuring B12 can be obtained by eating unwashed vegetables, but I wouldn’t call this a reliable (or necessarily a safe) source of B12.

So why is B12 important? And are vegans destined for deficiency?

B12 assists ensuring an effective working nervous system, and works to help with red blood cells. As you can imagine from this, a sign of deficiency is anaemia, so couple B12 deficiency with iron deficiency and you have a double whammy of anaemia. One of the other main benefits of B12 in the diet is that it helps to release energy from food. So, B12 is definitely important, but what are the risks of being deficient in it? Well, as mentioned, anaemia is a key problem in B12 deficiency. A more serious lack of B12 can result in pregnancy difficulties, heart problems, and/or damage to the nervous system. Some doctors have listed B12 deficiency as a cause of ME.

This is probably sounding pretty worrying, but don’t let this put you off veganism. The good news is that it’s very easy to stay on top of B12. The body needs an exceptionally tiny amount of the vitamin to stay healthy, and even if you’re not getting that then signs of deficiency will only start to rear their head after around 5-6 years as your body holds onto a huge supply of B12, storing it as though it were fuel for a car. This means there’s plenty of time to ensure you are back on track with your intake of the vitamin. As for where you’ll find it in a vegan diet, that’s also easy.

Most soy milk/plant milks are fortified to contain extra calcium and B12, as is a lot of tofu, so you’ll easily be getting enough from just a standard vegan diet probably. Often meat substitutes are fortified with B12. On top of this, many cereals are fortified with it. Another great source (if you can stomach it) is yeast extract, such as Marmite and Vegemite. If you’re taking a multivitamin pill, that’s also likely to have B12 in it.

What I’m trying to highlight is that B12 should be noted as important but it should not be a worry.

It has actually been highlighted that obtaining B12 from fortified foods makes it both more absorbable and obtainable that maintaining B12 levels from animal products. The US Institute of Medicine actually states “because 10 to 30 percent of older people may be unable to absorb naturally occurring vitamin B12, it is advisable for those older than 50 years to meet their RDA mainly by consuming foods fortified with vitamin B12 or a vitamin B12-containing supplement,” making it clear that fortified foods are more efficient. Indeed, it has been said that a well monitored vegan diet is far less at risk of B12 deficiency than the average omnivore.

Hopefully, from this you can see that B12 should not be too much of a worry. It is just important to highlight it, and ensure that you avoid any claims that B12 can be consumed through unwashed vegetables. Whilst this may be true, there is nothing wrong with being careful about what you eat. This also doesn’t mean a vegan diet is unnatural – what is natural about killing more animals every five days than the number of people who’ve died in every recorded war and genocide in human history (click the link, it’s a pretty interesting article).

I hope this has been of some use, and I apologise if I got anyone worried at first about their health. If you need any more info on B12, check the sites below:

Excellent Vegan Society page on B12

Vegetarian Resource Group page on B12

In-depth look at B12, although beware her advice about not cleaning vegetables…

Love it or hate it, it's a good source of B12

Vegucated

This morning I came across a pretty interesting premise for a documentary. The film is called Vegucated, and the premise is simple: take 3 New Yorkers who live on a diet of meat and cheese, and put them on the vegan path for 6 weeks. From the looks of the trailer (see the bottom of this post), the three of them are given a decent helping hand in terms of learning the ropes with stuff like staple foods and ethical considerations. It seems like the 6 weeks turn out to be a life changing experience, and the film focuses quite effectively on the major obstacle in the way of the growth of vegetarianism and veganism: ignorance.

The film is premiering this Spring, and whilst I wouldn’t expect a wide-release of any sort, I look forward to seeing the full thing whenever I get the chance. Props to the three volunteers who took part in the experiment as well, whether or not they stayed vegan by the end of it (guess we’ll find out when the film is released). I believe that trying out a vegan diet and understanding it is one of the most important steps that anyone can take, and there’s no denying that the transition can be hard at times.

Look out for Vegucated when it’s released in Spring, and stay tuned to Vegangstaz where I’ll be detailing a similar challenge for the veggie-curious in the near future!

Egg replacement for use in baking

Possibly one of the main things that put people off baking vegan but actually so easy to solve with tasty results. There are a variety of egg replacers available (such as these on Goodness Direct). But there are also quite a few methods which don’t really require any special ingredients other than those as readily available at supermarkets as the eggs themselves! These substitutes were taken from ‘The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions’ by Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman.

If the recipe requires eggs for binding in baked foods (usually those that require 1 egg per recipe), try:

  • 16g (2 tablespoons) of any starch – such as cornstarch or arrowroot – whisked with 30ml water (2 tablespoons)
  • 18g (2 and a half tablespoons) flaxseed meal whisked with 45ml (3 tablespoons) warm water
  • 60g (quarter of a cup) applesauce, pumpkin, or other fruit or vegetable puree. Half a mashed banana works well, but often flavours the recipe so watch out!

If the recipe require eggs for leavening in baked foods (usually 2 or 3 eggs per recipe), try:

  • 15ml (1 tablespoon) mild vinegar combined with soya milk such as Alpro. This should curdle to provide 235ml (about one cup). This method is best used for recipes that also use baking soda (sounds disgusting but I’ve tested it and it works well)
  • 60g (quarter of a cup) nondairy yogurt.

If the egg is required to add moisture to baked food (usually 1 egg), try:

  • 60ml (quarter of a cup) coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon of oil combined with non-dairy milk to make 60ml (quarter of a cup)
  • 60g (quarter of a cup) fruit or vegetable puree.

You could also try replacing egg white by using 8g (1 tablespoon) agar powder with 15ml (1 tablespoon) water, whipping it, then chilling thoroughly, and whipping again. However, this is unlikely to work for a recipe that require more than one egg white, therefore egg replacement powder (as mentioned above) is the best bet, as it works well as a replacement for egg white as well as all other egg requirements. Eggcellent 😉

Urban Decay- cruelty free beauty (part 1)

Urban Decay

In my opinion, Urban decay are a bit of a rare breed of make-up company. They are not only one of the hippest make-up companies out there, constantly bringing about beauty with an edge and never failing in their attempts to put the fun back into your make-up bag, but they do this all with a strict cruelty free ethos. Thereby showing you it is possible to have it all without resorting to testing on animals. Furthermore, although not a vegan company they still find the time to appreciate and recognise their vegan clientèle by creating specific vegan make-up palettes and adding ‘Marley’s purple paw’ to their vegan products whereby making it easier for their vegan customers to shop their range. On their website (the US version), they have a specific vegan section which contains a printable list of all the vegan products in their range (which you can easily pop in  your handbag so you can always be sure you’re buying vegan) and a set of ‘Vegan looks’ you can create using these products. Check it out here.

It is also worth noting here that many people conscious of what they are spending their hard earned money on do not realise that companies routinely use animal hairs in their brushes. Good news though: Urban Decay are here to save the day, yet again, by creating a range of synthetic make-up brushes.

While you’re here why not check out our list of other cool, cruelty free companies here!

What does “may contain milk” mean?

SIDE NOTE: We are no longer active on this blog – to get in contact and follow us, head over to www.trueicon.co.uk.

 

As a vegan, I regularly pick up a product which is not clearly labelled, scan the ingredients and find that it is vegan, yet also notice that the product states that it ‘may contain milk’. This is a confusing term, as if a product has no apparent traces of milk in its ingredients then how come it ‘may contain’ it? This particularly confused me when I first went vegan, and tried to avoid all these products. Fear not, for generally when a product says this it’s merely to cover the manufacturers back, and the product itself is very very unlikely to contain any milk at all.

Generally, what this means is that the product has been created on an assembly line alongside other products which do contain milk, or perhaps created using the same machinery. This machinery is usually thoroughly washed before using it to create vegan products. This tends to be for the case of lactose intolerance – severe lactose intolerance may be triggered by the slightest trace of milk in a product, and the reaction could be fatal. As a result, you can be pretty confident that any product you buy which ‘may contain milk’ will rarely contain a trace of the stuff, and this is definitely good news for vegans. The manufacturer is merely stating that in case of an allergic reaction.

Nevertheless, some manufacturers choose not to label products which may contain milk as vegan. A key example which springs to mind is the Co-Op, and their own brand products. Co-Op clearly state which of their products are vegan, and there are many. However, there are actually a huge range of products (such as some cereals) which do not state that they are vegan, but upon inspection actually are. They just contain the usual ‘may contain milk’ statement near the ingredients. I suppose that I should be thanking the Co-Op for making it clear which of their products are vegan, and being so careful about it. After all, if a product contains even a trace of milk then it’s not technically vegan, and they’re steering me away from these products.

However, I am an ethical vegan. I am not lactose intolerant. Would it annoy me if I accidentally ate something with milk traces in it? Yes, it would. But, honestly, what annoys me more is that the Co-Op have gone to so much effort to label their vegan foods and yet I still have to suffer the boredom of scanning ingredients on those products which I’m confident will be vegan in order to be sure. If a product is 99.9% likely to be vegan, then I would call it a vegan product. As an ethical vegan, what’s important to me is where I place my money. I make every effort to avoid buying non-vegan products as I do not want to support the meat and dairy industries. By buying a vegan product which accidentally has the slightest trace of milk in it I do not believe I am supporting a negative industry. In fact, I am showing support for a vegan product. As Vegan Action puts it “Our motivation is working to end cruelty to animals and we don’t feel that avoiding trace amounts of animal products in vegan foods helps end animal suffering” (http://www.vegan.org/campaigns/certification/index.html). So, in my opinion, don’t take any notice when a product says ‘may contain milk’.

Perhaps you disagree though, in which case please do comment to let me know your feelings!

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