Posts by Karen_WY

Vegan blogger living with more cats than humans.

‘People get up upset about other cultures eating dogs, yet do not make the link with any other animal flesh’

Everyday Vegans
An occasional series in which ordinary people
talk about living a plant-based life


English chef Amy, the latest contributor to our series, explains how she went from being a meat eater to vegan overnight and what it means to her

Amy

I turned 30 this year; my immediate family is now just my brother and my mum. I was brought up in a very traditional family, in which we sat down at the table for meals, we helped cook, and we helped clear it all away. My dad was of the “meat, veg and bread and butter” generation, so meals were typically traditionally English – pies, oxtail, lamb shanks, etc. And I loved that food.

I also loved learning to cook from my mum, who, ironically, is now and was then a vegetarian. Mum was a vegetarian, however, because she didn’t like the taste of meat, so I never questioned the ethics of eating animals. It was genuinely something that I never came across until the last couple of years.

At 21 I fell into the world of chef-ing quite by accident, and it turned out I was pretty good at it. After my first year I was managing a kitchen, and two years into that I received my accreditation. I loved watching Masterchef, and would get really creative with food on my days off, spending all day making dinner.

Most recently I moved to work at a steakhouse. The induction into the job included visiting a slaughterhouse, the farm our cows are raised at, and the “cutting plant” (basically a massive industrial-scale butchers). I still never questioned it.

We all agreed on leaving the slaughterhouse that “it’s not nice to see, but it’s just the way it is, and at least they were calm and it was over quickly for them”. Writing those words now makes me feel cold.

A few of my friends had already gone vegan, and were sharing things on Facebook: videos of the atrocious conditions animals were being kept in; day-old calves being dragged away from their mothers and the mothers chasing after them; messages of “cows’ milk being for baby cows”; videos of male chicks being thrown live into macerators.

I would see them and it would break my heart, but I would think, “that’s awful but I don’t think what I buy comes from there”. It obviously played on my subconscious because my thoughts started to become, “I  would go vegan if I could, but I really like cheese”. Then I found out about vegan cheeses. I tried them and thought… hmmm they don’t taste the same, but they’re still good!

I don’t know if there was a eureka moment as such but I went from being a meat eater to vegan overnight about four months ago. The more I read about the myths of “free-range”, and about the unnatural animals we have created through selective, intensive and over-breeding the more I knew I had made the right decision. I mean, I wouldn’t treat my dog, or any dog, like that, so why did I think it was right to treat an animal with just as much sentience, intelligence, emotions, any differently? The hypocrisy of getting so outraged at cultures eating dog suddenly became very apparent.

I think I was more shocked at the egg and dairy industry than I was with the meat industry, although I find both as horrific now.

The fact that hens and dairy cows were going through prolonged suffering, and spending their unnaturally short lives being forced to create something they were not designed to produce so much of or so often, and then died so much earlier than they were meant to because their bodies were exhausted, all so we could eat something that we had been brought up to believe we needed, or something we liked the taste of just seemed ludicrous.

Based on the fact I have made this decision on moral grounds – that we cannot warrant causing harm to others, for sensory pleasure – I honestly cannot imagine a reason I would ever go back to being omnivore. When I see meat and dairy now, I just see everything that goes on behind the scenes to produce it.

When I first went vegan, I ate a lot of meat and dairy substitutes, which I think is quite normal when you’ve first made the decision, as you are still looking for the taste of meat. I would have a smoothie everyday with berries, spinach, and chia and flax seeds, just to make sure I was getting those in my diet at the start of my day.

Obviously you become more aware of what you need and where to get it from as you go, and over time I have realised that meat substitutes are not the best thing to live on, although they definitely have their place. I found my body was craving vegetables, and funnily I started to go off the taste of the vegan ‘meats’.

I am now much more into creating meals with vegetables, pulses, nuts, tofu etc. But being a chef at heart, I am big on flavours and textures so it is important these meals pack both of those in big quantities. Creamy, cheesy pastas, rich smoky mushroom and lentil mince, spicy tangy sticky sauces coating vegetables in Chinese steamed buns… I love cooking and eating things like that.

It has been great for me to experiment with flavours and ingredients, as I certainly could not just live on salads and vegetable curries.

That whole journey encouraged me to look at where I get protein, B12, Omegas and other nutrients from. It’s funny that one of the first things that crops up in discussions with non-vegans is a sudden concern for your wellbeing and where you are getting all your nutrients from, and ironic Continue reading →

‘What does science have to say about eating meat? Put simply, it’s not only unsustainable, it’s dangerous’

Everyday Vegans
An occasional series in which ordinary people
talk about living a plant-based life


Aaron McMurrayMy name is Aaron McMurray and I’m from Northern Ireland. I’m a 29-year-old theoretical physics graduate and PhD researcher studying laser driven ion acceleration, which basically means I shoot high intensity lasers at thin metallic targets to accelerate protons and carbon ions. The hope is that one day this technology might have applications in radiography and cancer radiotherapy. When I’m not writing my thesis I’m travelling, practising karate, scuba diving and writing music.

You’re vegan now, were you vegetarian before? What led to that? How long have you been vegan? What led to that choice?
Eating meat was something I didn’t question. It was “normal,” so I dismissed vegetarianism and veganism as hippy nonsense. Of course, I never seriously listened to what vegans and vegetarians actually had to say. My dismissal was a mental knee jerk reaction to something I saw as strange and different.

Eventually, I realised I was taking some of my beliefs as a given, simply because they had been culturally normalised to the point where I didn’t even notice that was what had happened. I came to realise that if I’m interested in believing things which are true and doing good, rather than believing things I like to believe because they make me feel good, then I should really hear vegans out.

I was lucky enough to witness an atheist vegan debate whether atheists should all be vegan at my university’s debate club. They made some good points, but I was left seriously disappointed by the counter arguments. I thought maybe I had witnessed a bad representation of the anti-vegan argument and the opposition was trying to win the crowd with arguments they knew were technically bad, but sounded convincing. I started researching the arguments for and against veganism and couldn’t any good argument against veganism. Nearly all were subject to basic errors leading to inconsistencies, hypocrisy or absurdity. The best I could find was an argument against veganism in survival situations but I’m not in a survival situation. It seemed clear that veganism was the better position.

As a STEM graduate I went to the scientific literature with a question: what did science have to say about eating meat? Turns out, it has a lot to say about it. Animal agriculture is a major contributor to antibiotic resistance (a serious threat to human health now and in the future); it’s a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions; it’s the leading cause of deforestation; it causes land degradation; it aids in the development of oceanic dead zones; and it’s a serious contributor to the loss of biodiversity on this planet. 15,000 scientists from more than 180 countries signed off on a declaratory paper (setting a record for most signatories) warning humanity that nearly all the problems identified above had been exacerbated. Put simply, the current model of feeding people is not only unsustainable, it’s dangerous.

From that point on I was a reluctant vegetarian – accepting veganism was the stronger position but not quite ready to take the plunge, mostly due to all the fearmongering articles written about it in the media.

Supposedly I wouldn’t get enough protein, vitamin D, omega 3, omega 6 or B12; I would suffer digestive issues within a year; I’d become lactose intolerant; I’d gain weight; I’d lose weight; my mental health would decline; and I’d get diabetes. The list of utterly nonsensical claims about living on a planned vegan diet was astounding but worrying to me, having never tried to change my lifestyle this drastically before, so I stuck to vegetarianism for a while.

Not only did I not suffer any adverse effects from vegetarianism, but I felt better physically. I wasn’t tired after big meals anymore, I wasn’t sleeping as much (which was good because before I overslept consistently) and I was able to be more active for longer. I had originally planned to do a year of vegetarianism but considering all the positives I cut it short and went vegan after six months.

I’ve been vegan for several years now. I’m still active and healthy and I feel better than ever; I’m not protein deficient; I get my omega 3 and omega 6; I get plenty of B12; I haven’t suffered any digestive issues; I’ve no idea if I’ve become lactose intolerant or not and have no interest in finding out; my weight didn’t change; my mental health has marginally improved, rather than worsened; and I definitely didn’t get diabetes.
All in all, it has been pretty good.

Do you see yourself ever going back to being an omnivore?
No chance.

Are you a ‘healthy’ vegan? Often people assume we’re all fitness-obsessed, when the reality is that we come in many flavours and for many people life is an eternal hunt for vegan cake. What makes up your diet?
I’m not fitness obsessed but I am very active. I practice karate and sports karate (kumite) five times a week. I also go swimming once or twice a week and scuba diving once a week and somehow manage to find time to run.

My diet is pretty much what you would expect: a mix of fruit, seeds and nuts, vegetables, grains, beans and lentils and fortified foods.

When I ate meat I often thought it would be impossible to go vegan, I thought it would be too restrictive and that I’d end up eating broccoli feeling miserable. The truth was the opposite. When I went vegan, Continue reading →

‘If a child gets it, adults should surely more than understand the horrors behind eating meat and dairy’

Everyday Vegans
An occasional series in which ordinary people
talk about living a plant-based life


SudipThe next in our series is Sudip,right, a 36-year-old broker, who lives with his wife and two young daughters.

Bardo Burner: You’re vegan now; were you previously vegetarian?
Sudip: I have been vegetarian my whole life, and turned vegan a few months ago. I realised that being vegetarian wasn’t enough to stop cruelty to animals. A growing awareness of animal welfare made me feel this way and so I became vegan.

BB: How long have you been vegan?
Sudip: It’s been a few months now and I’m planning to be for rest of my life.

BB: Are you a ‘healthy’ vegan? Often people assume we’re all fitness-obsessed, when the reality is that we come in many flavours and for many people life is an eternal hunt for vegan cake. What makes up your diet?
Sudip: I am a very healthy vegan; in fact I have a passion for sports and fitness. I am more than fit at this time being vegan. I feel much better for my new diet. I don’t miss anything: I can get vegan pizza with vegan cheese; I can get vegan cake; I can get vegan chocolate and I can get vegan milk for my coffee.

BB: Where do you shop?
Sudip: In the same stores I always did… where meat eaters and other omnivores buy their food.

BB: Do you consciously think about where you get your protein, etc, from?
Sudip: Not at all. If need be I could take supplements but I don’t need to at the moment. There is enough vegan food which can give you enough protein.

BB: For many vegans, the initial realisation of facts that make us turn to a different lifestyle is pretty life-changing and alienating. We view things differently, from the supermarket shopping experience in a meat-eating world to the people around us. How was that change in mindset… the reality of being an outsider in many situations… for you?
Sudip: For me, it’s not been a big difference as I have always been vegetarian. I honestly feel sick and sad when I see people shopping meat in the store or go fishing or hunting. Veganism is not only about avoiding dairy or meat but also about not buying products where animals have been used – whether it’s cosmetics or clothes, anything really.

BB: Do you mix with many other vegans – does your lifestyle mean that you come into contact with people of a similar outlook regularly?
Sudip: Slowly I do feel people are realising the story behind the meat on their plates, and I hope to see the world vegetarian, if not vegan, in the next 25 years.

BB: Do you seek out vegan groups and forums online?
Sudip: Yes.

BB: Do you live in a meat/dairy eating household? And if so, how tricky is that?
Sudip: My family does have dairy but my wife is considering quitting. I explained to my five-year-old daughter the reasons why I am a vegan and at her age she is like daddy Continue reading →

‘I didn’t know how cruel the meat and dairy industries are… but it’s different now – the information is out there’

Everyday Vegans
An occasional series in which ordinary people
talk about living a plant-based life


Debby MontenegroI’m Debby Montenegro, I’m 53 and I was raised in Torbay in Devon. I’ve lived in a few places around the world but I always gravitate back to Devon; it’s the sea, I love living near the beach.

I have a daughter who’s also vegan and she’s at uni studying nutrition. I’m currently single, and this is the hardest part of being vegan – finding a compatible vegan Tom Hardy lookalike… I live in hope (lol).

I started my vegan journey in August 2017. It wasn’t a difficult decision to make. Prior to going vegan I had periods in my life where I was a vegetarian and then due to pressure from various people – my partner, parents, friends and health professionals – when I was pregnant I would start eating meat or fish again.

It was also lack of understanding as to why I was a vegetarian; I didn’t know just how cruel the meat and especially the dairy industry was and still is. There was no internet at this time and I was just ignorant and afraid to practise my beliefs. I didn’t know any other vegetarians but what I did know is I never enjoyed eating animals; I always had a deep-rooted guilt that I couldn’t explain.

The world is a different place now and the information is out there. My daughter sat me down and asked me to watch Cowspiracy, What the Health and Forks over Knives, and instantly my eyes were opened. I practically made the decision to go vegan overnight.

I feel more different as a vegan than I ever did as a vegetarian. It’s difficult to explain, but I now feel an overwhelming compassion towards all life, which is constantly growing on a daily basis.

I always laugh about vegan jokes where the punchline suggests we let people know about it within five minutes of meeting them. I always tell people I’m a vegan: I’m vegan and proud and people usually know it within three minutes, never mind the five minutes that all the jokes refer to.

My work colleagues have days when they like to insult my way of life. I just come back with “Yes, I’m saving the animals and just look how healthy I am, I haven’t had a cold, a sniffy nose or any days off work since turning vegan”.

I’m a health-conscious vegan and a great cook, but I do have the odd chickpea burger and chips. I work out five mornings a week at 6am before I start my 8-5 job as an administrator.

I am aware of the horror show videos on social media and the reality of what happens. Some are really brutal, but this is what happens and people need to see what is going on. I do share some of those videos, but not all.

What I really can’t get my head around is when people believe that there is such a thing as humane slaughter, or they say something like animals are here for us to eat, and then I want to slap them and show them what really happens. Then we have the so-called meat-eating animal lovers, who just love their pets!

On the plus side, veganism is here to stay; it’s not a fad, it’s a reality, and more and people are changing their habits and seeing the world through the eyes of all living beings.

I have a dream of opening up a vegan cooperative cafe in the near future, with which I hope to make enough profits to support and fund an animal sanctuary/rescue centre.

You can see more of Debby here at Instagram.

If you are interested in sharing your thoughts in our Everyday Vegans slot, please get in touch and we’ll let you know what to do.

A new series in which the ordinary people driving the rise of plant-based living tell us how it is for them

Everyday Vegans


This is the first post in an occasional series – to which we would welcome any contributions – about everyday vegans; the ordinary people driving the current wave of enthusiasm for a plant-based diet.

What leads people to choose this path and what are their experiences of living in an omnivore world?

For many of us, going vegan changes the way we look at the world and the people around us. I vividly remember the total disconnection from society that I felt during my first shopping trips after changing from a lifetime of vegetarianism to a vegan diet. As I wandered round looking at the lists of ingredients on potential purchases, it sometimes seemed like everything contained whey or milk powder. I suddently felt like a stranger in the shops I’d spent my life buying from.

So how is it for other vegans? Is there always a eureka moment, or for some people is it a gentle drift into a plant-based diet? What’s it like living in a non-vegan household – not something I’ve had to face, but for some people this can be a massive issue? Do we naturally have more in common with fellow herbivores? Do we really try and convert everyone we meet, or blurt out the word “vegan” within the first five minutes of encountering anyone new?

Alex Williams

Artist Alex, above, was the first to respond to my internet plea for volunteers to kick off our new series. Here’s his take on being an everday vegan.

I’m a 36 years old male, born in Jamaica. I’ve lived in Barbados and the Bahamas and am currently living in south Florida.

In my work I mainly paint colourful pictures of fish; I’m a surfer and love the sea.

I became vegan 12 years ago and am the only vegan in my family. I do activist work with Anonymous for the Voiceless and also I also participate in protests.

I think the best way to help someone become a vegan is to share the horrific videos of the meat industry. I know that having seen these films myself, I will never go back to eating meat.

I think everyone will be vegan in the future – maybe in the next 30 years from now that will happen. I eat very healthily – mostly non-GMO and organic foods, and I shop at a place called Nutrition Smart. Avocados, quinoa and lentils form the basis of my diet.

I live with my girlfriend, who is also vegan; she became vegan after meeting me. I became vegan after watching the horrific videos on YouTube of the meat industry.

I believe that most people don’t see a problem with eating meat because they are conditioned to eat meat because of society and all of the meat commercials on TV making it look okay. But it’s not.

You can find more about Alex at his website.

If you are interested in sharing your thoughts in our Everyday Vegans slot, please get in touch and we’ll let you know what to do.

An interview with Dr Anthony Hadj: why a whole-food, plant-based diet is best for our health and the planet

Dr Anthony HadjThe food we eat has long been used to prevent and manage health problems, and now there is a growing movement of medical people who believe wholefood, plant-based diets not only prevent but can sometimes reverse a lot of the chronic illnesses associated with western lifestyles. They believe a change of diet can treat ailments such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease as well as, if not better than, daily drugs that control symptoms rather than offer a cure.

We spoke to Dr Anthony Hadj, pictured, a vegan GP with a special interest in management of chronic diseases (eg obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease) using a combination of modern medicine and nutrition/education. The Australian medic is passionate about the subject and spends some of his time promoting veganism as the best choice for a healthy lifestyle.

You’re clearly 100 per cent sold on the benefits of plant-based diets. I’m interested in your own path as a medical practitioner to that conclusion; at what point in your practise/training did the power of a vegan diet start to become clear to you?
I have always had a strong interest in animal welfare and, like many, loved animals. In 2013 I began to realise the horrific practices that occur in the animal agriculture industry and I made the conscious decision to be vegan from then on. There was a video that Paul McCartney made called Glass Walls, which had a strong impact on me. As I explored veganism, I was made aware of medical practitioners like Dr John McDougall, Dr Caldwell Esselstyn and Neal Barnard and the work they were doing with nutrition and disease. I was amazed that diet could play such a large role in not only the causation but cure of disease. From then on, I chose to include it in my practice and encourage many people to pursue this.

Did the notion of a strong link between nutrition and illness always make sense to you?
It didn’t become clear until I researched and understood the science. That was in 2013/14. Once I started to read the pioneering studies from people like Dean Ornish who were able to reverse our number one killer, heart disease, I was sold on the power of plant-based nutrition.

What we put into our bodies has always been linked to certain ailments. Having seen the benefits first hand in your patients over a number of years, you now have your own experience to draw on when it comes to using nutrition to cure western society ailments like diabetes type 2 and hypertension. What research/studies did you initially consult to guide you into your current thinking?
I read the book The Starch Solution, by John McDougall. He brilliantly covers the science of plant-based health and references many papers through his book. The pioneering studies from Dean Ornish and Caldwell Esselstyn that showed a radiographical reversal of heart disease were very convincing. The Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine website also has a great deal of links to studies that have shown the impact plant-based health has in treating type 2 diabetes.

Do your patients always follow your ‘go to the fruit and veg section of the supermarket’ prescription? Would some just prefer to take the tablet and eat the cheese?
Many patients of mine are very keen to follow the prescription. They are often seeing me because they have had a ‘wake-up call’ or a diagnosis that is life changing – heart disease, mini heart attack/stroke, diabetes etc. It’s at this point that many feel incapacitated but also energised to do whatever they can. When you are able to showcase the power of plant-based nutrition to them, it is very enticing. Many patients are prepared to do whatever it takes to live longer. Some people do just prefer a tablet and cheese; however, even with these patients, I have noticed that they do come around eventually.

How could I, a layperson, explain simply to a fellow layperson what the health benefits of a plant-based diet are?
Consuming plants is our natural diet. We are designed to eat plants and specifically carbohydrates. Many large civilizations have spread and prospered because of starchy (high complex carbohydrate) foods. We have a lot of evidence that populations who are mostly plant based live the longest and happiest of all. It is now beyond doubt that consuming a whole foods, plant-based diet lowers blood pressure, heart disease risk and keeps us trim and healthy looking. Websites like the John MacDougall’s, plus the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and NutritionFacts.org provide a great place for people to start.

Do you believe that the meat and dairy industries are now involved in a collusion to keep the health benefits of not eating their produce quiet which rivals that of, for example, the tobacco industry in the 1960s (and potentially the alcohol industry, though that’s another story entirely)?
I don’t think there is a collusion or conspiracy. I do believe that it is just about money. They are seeing a movement like veganism take root and thrive, and it is a threat to their bottom line. They will always be able to find a study that supports their work; however, it is almost impossible to suppress the benefits of this programme. They use mass marketing to try and keep the public confused.

You’ve been vegan for three years. Before that what was your own diet like?
My diet was very poor, with a preference for high-fat foods of an animal nature.

How would you counter the suggestion that plant-based is the current fad. I grew up in the 70s and saw my mother try high fibre, low fat, high fat and highly restrictive calorie-controlled diets among others, all in the space of a decade. What makes this different?
It is a very sustainable diet. We will feel full when we consume a vegan diet (generally) because it is high in fibre. We thrive and feel better because it is a diet focused around antioxidants, macro/micro nutrients that helps to keep our body healthy and well. Many fad diets in the past have failed Continue reading →

It’s only by speaking up that we’ll drag companies into the vegan future

virgin train

What started life as an article ranting about a recent train trip from London to Edinburgh, and the different attitudes of the two train companies I travelled with – Virgin and CrossCountry – has become a piece about the power of the vegan voice, and why we must not just speak up, but positively yell.

I’m at an age and a stage where I can unapologetically afford the odd treat, so I went first class, which comes with complimentary food service for all passengers. Let’s face it, at the price we are talking about, complimentary really means ‘included in the cost’.

I’m the kind of vegan who really appreciates effort. I get that I live in a world in which I am currently in the extreme minority and I really value the efforts of others to accommodate me – often to the point where intention and thought matter more to me than results. I really appreciate it, for example, when I go to dinner with omnivore friends and they choose a place that is, at the very least, vegan friendly, rather than a steakhouse. The actual taste, the quality, the food on offer is secondary to me; what matters most is knowing that I’m included.

And so the Virgin experience from London to York is a delight: a bit of thought is applied to its snacks, the menu when I travelled featured both a vegan breakfast hash (sautéed potato with mushrooms, greens and slices of tomato, bean and pesto sausage) and a Mexican burrito (mixed roasted peppers and onions, with beans, rice, salsa and vegan mozzarella cheese, served warm in a tortilla wrap).

Cross Country vegan meals tweetBy contrast, CrossCountry, with which I travelled the remaining distance, was not so accommodating. There was nothing for me at all on its trolley apart from a bag of ready-salted crisps. There wasn’t even a piece of fruit, and so I tweeted to find out the thinking behind this. The response was a pleasant enough brush-off, saying my comments would be passed on. I heard nothing further, so emailed the company directly. Again, I received what I perceived as a brush-off response.

In finding links to accompany this article, I checked the CrossCountry website

And there it is, just three weeks later – Vegetable Biryani is on the hot meals menu: an Indian speciality of light vegetables in a fragrant curry sauce, topped with rice and served with a chickpea ratatouille. Suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

So hats off to CrossCountry for listening. I’m not suggesting my voice alone did the job, but it was a pleasant coincidence that this change happened so soon after I’d spoken up.

In an age where plane menus – often the topic of vegan chats on Facebook, Instagram and the like – are increasingly tailored towards all of their customers, including vegans, it’s time for other transport companies to follow suit. And it’s up to us to pester them into doing so.