Posts by Karen_WY

Vegan blogger living with more cats than humans.

How I went from one (dreaded) vegan day a week to being fully committed to respecting the lives of sentient beings

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


Having been a committed vegetarian, Talya Lewis went back to eating meat when she was pregnant – but it was through the inspiration of one of her daughters that she ultimately ended up a vegan

Talya LewisThere is an uncanny human phenomenon of promoting the rampant suffering of other sentient beings. Our species considers itself worthier than all the others with widespread abuse not only justified but condoned by the majority of people, and no consideration for the physical and emotional pain of the animals, whom they regard as insignificant.

I entered my teen years before the existence of drones that would catch footage of barbaric animal mistreatment and before the internet where the horrors could be shared for the world to see. It was in that world that I became a vegetarian.

I flitted between strict adherence and lapses into succumbing to the smells that wafted from my mother’s kitchen, settling on my olfactory receptors, then targeting my salivary glands, sparking cravings in to which I would cave. It was in this cycle that I was firmly entrenched until my early twenties when I joined the Anti-Vivisection Society, participated in demonstrations from the 1986 Fur Expo in Madison Square Garden, New York, to Milan, Italy, protesting against animal experimentation, and became exposed to some of the truths that were stealthily camouflaged from public view.

Through my twenties and thirties I remained a devout vegetarian, still blind, however, to the depths of the ruthless and sadistic means to which man could go. I was embedded in the illusion that the meat industry was brutal, but that the dairy industry looked like the cows on the milk cartons and the egg industry housed happy hens clucking about as they joyfully relinquished their offspring by the dozen. I thought I knew it all. I knew nothing.

Time passed; I married and had children. Pregnant for the third time, I experienced cravings I had not encountered in more than 20 years. My hormone-ravaged body screamed out daily words I never thought I would hear my mind utter, “Meat, give me meat!” I resisted and resisted and resisted… until I succumbed.

With shame and guilt as my constant companions, I found my way back to cheeseburgers, steaks, sausages and bacon, of course. The smells that travelled to my nose from my mother’s kitchen now found themselves travelling through my own home to the noses of my two young vegetarian daughters. My four-year-old succumbed. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Navigating a world while raising your kids as vegetarian was frustrating. Nannies in the park wanted to give them pieces of salami and hot dogs. Moms, while in charge of my children on play dates, wanted to take them to McDonald’s where they could rejoice in succulent juices of the dead animals that were neatly chopped and placed between two buns before being topped with cheese, mustard and ketchup.

But the worst came from family, where the expectation of respecting my choices should have been granted without fear of betrayal.

My husband and I were at his company Christmas party, entrusting the care of our veggie kids to my parents, sister and brother-in-law. My then youngest child (my third was yet to come) was just shy of two years old. The family was scarfing down steak while my oldest, then four, was eating whatever non-meat items were available.

My almost two-year-old, as the story goes, was toddling about when she approached my brother-in-law pointing to her mouth. Naturally his assumption (remember what happens when we ass-u-me) Continue reading →

‘We need to avoid having cult figures in the vegan community and to acknowledge the work of women’

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


The latest contributor to our series is Zack Polanski, 36, a London Assembly candidate for the Green Party whose veganism is closely aligned to his environmental activism

Zack Polanski

How long have you been vegan?
I’ve been vegan for four years and was vegetarian for ten years before that.

What led to the change from vegetarian to vegan?
I was making a documentary for a production company – which they never completed – but whilst I was preparing questions for vegan activists, I realised I already instinctively knew the answers.

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

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?
Not at all. Fast-paced London lifestyle fuelled by Huel, vegan fast food and the occasional cooked vegetable.

Do you consciously think about where you get your protein, etc, from?
I used to, but as you get in a groove, I think your body lets you know when it’s time for the healthy option.

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?
That’s absolutely right. Being vegan meant I spent much more time around environmentalists and people who were fighting to save the planet. I went vegan for the animals – and then realised there are so many more other crucial reasons to do it too.

Do you mix with many other vegans – does your lifestyle mean that you come into contact with people of a similar outlook regularly?
A fair few. I’d say a large part of my friendship group is vegan. Including my partner, Richie!

Do you seek out vegan groups and forums online?
I did initially to get grounded in the community and for people to digitally hold my hand. Now I’m more than happy to be involved but schedules a little too busy to actively seek it out.

Do you live in a meat/dairy eating household? And if so, how is that?
I do. I live in a shared building with 18 people; I reckon the veggie/vegan – omnivore split is about 50/50. It’s fine though. We have some really good discussions and slowly people are coming around!

Where do you like to eat out?
I love Black Cat Café, Yorica, Temple of Seitan  and my favourite of all is actually a Chinese vegan restaurant in Archway (Loving Hut).

Do you feel you have more in common with vegans than the majority of other people who don’t believe plant-based is the way forward?
I think there’s a mutual understanding that you potentially both have a love of animals and a desire to save the planet. That’s a good grounding for any friendship I think.

Do you, as most of us have to, eat out with non-vegans often and how do you feel about their eating choices?
A lot. I feel their choices are their choices. I don’t believe in preaching or being angry at people. We all have to come to these decisions in our own time and I’m a great believer in being a demonstrator of your values rather than just talking about them.

Zack PolanskiAre you involved in any form of activism?
Lots. Political obviously. Also regularly go to Critical Mass, which is all about cycling. I’m involved with XR, and was arrested this year during the Spring Rebellion. I’m currently awaiting my court date.

Even more crucially though, I’m a spokesperson for Make Votes Matter (the campaign for Proportional Representation). That might sound like a long stretch from veganism, but actually one of the biggest flaws in society right now is that our rules are made by the current unfair voting system. The Green Party would look to change that to have much healthier and well-balanced debates about everything in our democracy. Undoubtedly within that, animal rights and the environment would get a much better hearing.

How do you feel about the vegan jokes… you know, that vegans can’t go five minut­es without mentioning the fact or they explode?
Next…

Do you believe that the meat and dairy industries have a future?
If they do, ultimately our planet doesn’t. We need to move away to plant based options and make it all considerably easier, cheaper and more accessible – I’m open to whether that includes meat and dairy replacements.

How do you think we best ‘convert’ omnivores to a plant-based lifestyle? And do you actively try to do this?
I wouldn’t necessarily say convert. Educate, inform and persuade. And I do it by not actively doing it – by living a busy, happy, healthy lifestyle and demonstrating that being vegan is the future.

How do you feel about the horror-show videos of the reality of meat? Do you share them? Do you feel they have a positive place in changing people’s understanding of the meat and da­iry industry?
I don’t like them. I think they’ve got their place but I can’t face watching them and in fact I’ve never seen them. I think positive conversation is much more likely to create sustainable change rather than shock factors.

Are you positive about the future of veganism?
Absolutely. The one slight caveat is that I’m cautious about the vegan celebrities that are cropping up on YouTube… (usually white and male). We massively need to avoid having cult figures in the community, and also to acknowledge the work of a lot of women for the past few decades that wasn’t about getting popularity hits but about maintaining a principled and ethical argument for the environment – and for our animals.

What does being vegan mean to you?
Ultimately it can only mean love!

‘It is possible to live a life where you do not hire people to abuse and kill animals (after all, we are animals, too)’

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


Our latest contributor, a blogger who writes as ‘M’ known as Butterflies Katz, 61, from Florida in the US, became a vegan at a time when even vegetarians were few and far between. It’s been a long journey

‘M’ known as Butterflies KatzI have been an unwavering strict vegan for 40 years. I was a vegetarian for 10 years prior to that, because I didn’t realise back then (before the internet) that the least stance we can take not to participate in animal exploitation is veganism, not vegetarianism.

I was 12 years of age when my brother told me that ‘meat’ was a dead animal, and that was the last time a morsel of meat entered my mouth, even disguised. (I never did get the mind-set that eating a corpse is delicious!). Early on I started preparing my own food, as my family was not vegan or vegetarian.

When I was 21, a clerk at a health shop handed me a magazine published by the American Vegan Society. I was specifically moved by the information that humans steal new-born calves away from their bellowing mothers so they can steal their milk. The name of the magazine was Ahimsa, which means nonviolence in Sanskrit.

I immediately rid my closet of leather, and became a staunch vegan, for the animals, and for nonviolence, as per the literal definition of veganism.

Veganism extends beyond diet to all products and practices, and is a way of life that seeks non-participation with animal exploitation – for any purpose – as much as is reasonably possible. While there may be rewards or benefits of vegan living for personal or planetary health, the actual reason/definition pertains to not exploiting animals.

I am, so far, a healthy vegan. I am not a super athlete, but I don’t have any diseases, take no meds, don’t go to doctors. At age 61, I have plenty of energy to propel me through the days. Of course I will never go back to being an omnivore: once you ‘get it, there’s no going back.

I eat what I want, though I choose to eat healthier ingredients and foods that contain the nutrients that vegans may lack. I have chosen my food choices scientifically. For example, I would include tempeh in my diet because it is the highest vegan food source of L-carnitine. I drink carrot juice because it’s the best source of beta carotene, which converts to Vitamin A. I eat salads with baby kale, as opposed to lettuce, as there is much more nutrition in the kale. Greens are a staple food and I avoid greens with oxalic acid. I drink coffee, so to combat the acidity, I eat a lot of watermelon; medicinally. I use food as my medicine. Because pharmaceuticals are tested on animals, I have rarely taken them.

I should also mention that I eat plenty of junk food. But I try to lean towards the healthier ingredient junk food, as in whole spelt flour instead of wheat flour, organic canola oil, organic sugar and no white refined sugar. When I lived in northern New Zealand for 17 years, I could not get vegan junk foods, and rarely ate processed vegan foods/junk food. I was not able to enjoy So Delicious cashew ice cream, Vegenaise, or vegan cheese – but I did enjoy being 20 pounds thinner!

I don’t worry about protein. Never have. It’s in many foods and I eat foods that contain complete protein such as buckwheat, quinoa, and hemp seeds. I also eat tofu, tempeh, beans, lentils… not a lot, but I fit it into my diet to be sure that I am receiving ample protein.

I went vegan at a time when basically no one was vegan. I was very alone; I never heard of or met another vegan (or even vegetarian in those years). Obviously, I walk this path not caring if I’m different. I’m different in a good way. I am exemplifying to the human race that we can live a vegan life and not hire people to abuse and kill animals (after all, we are animals, too).

I lived in a vegan community for 35 years – most of my adult life – so I had plenty of like-minded friends. I was a volunteer who taught the public about the lifestyle. I grew large vegan organic gardens, Continue reading →

One of the classiest places to get superb vegan food in Munich

Max Pett meal

Fluffy and full of flavour: the chickpea omelette at Max Pett in Munich

Restaurant review: Max Pett, Munich

For a really laid-back atmosphere and delightful plant-based food in Munich, Germany, Max Pett  is a first-rate bet.

I truly loved this place. We went for brunch on a Saturday morning, shortly after opening time, as seems to be our habit. Me, I had the chickpea omelette, which was so full of taste, fluffy and light that I’ve been trying to recreate it in my own kitchen (with little success) ever since.

In fairness, I made the better choice. My companion plumped for the white sausage with brezl, which when it arrived – two pale sausages paddling in a bowl of boiling water and a large pretzel on the side – confused us both so much that for the first time in my life I had absolutely no idea how he should approach it.

Max Pett meal

Baffling: Max Pett’s white sausage and brezl should come with eating instructions

There was no spoon, so we figured it wasn’t a soup, and the sausages came in what seemed like an inedible skin from which they required freeing. Listen, he did the best he could; after a bit of squeezing, the flayed little blighters plopped out onto the saucer next to the provided mustard, and he assures me that the bread was good. Before we left, we spotted the young woman next to us ordering the same meal, which she greeted with equal perplexity.

There was no confusion, however, surrounding the Kaiserschmarrn, an ample portion for two huge appetites of warm fruity cosy stodginess served with apple sauce, plus a creamy hot chocolate and a chai latte to drink.

The whole experience – we sat outside on the quiet street surrounded by greenery, but inside also looked like a place it’d be good to settle into and spend some time – was super-relaxing. Busy, but somehow still the vibe was very calm.

I was left with the feeling that I’d like to explore the rest of the menu. A little pricey perhaps, but friendly service and wholesome food makes it worth it.

Max Pett meal

Sweet perfection: the Kaiserschmarrn at Max Pett is truly special

Forget the overpriced hotel breakfast – here’s one of the tastiest ways to start a day in Vienna

Veggiez meal

Hot stuff: Gyros wrap and chips with wasabi mayonnaise at Veggiez, Vienna

Restaurant review: Veggiez, Vienna

Another burgeoning Austrian ‘chain’ of vegan restaurants is Veggiez, which began in 2015, currently has two branches in Vienna, and is on the lookout for potential franchise investors.

Veggiez  has a large menu, including a lot of gluten-free choices, from soups and toast options, through salads to a range of burgers, wraps and bowls. It bills itself as ‘your vegan dining rooms’ and takes pride in the quality of flavour and good quality organics ingredients. It caters for what it claims are the 13% of Austrians and 16% of Germans who lead a vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian lifestyle; the numbers are growing, it says.

Desperate for breakfast, and staying at a hotel virtually opposite the Opernring branch, where the €30 breakfast offered us little more than dry bread and a banana, we were pretty much standing outside the doors when it opened at 11 o’clock on a Friday morning.

Although we were the first people there, it quickly filled up. This didn’t affect our seat by the window, but meant things got a smidgen tight for some of the diners. That said, there are plenty of seats at this place, both inside and out.

Between us we ate the smokey burger and the gyros wrap, both served with absolutely amazing chips and a superb wasabi mayonnaise. The coffee was also great tasting: I had a latte with almond milk, my companion had a black Americano. Having read various reviews before going in, neither of us could resist the chocolate muffin with a crumble topping and cherry filling for dessert. We weren’t disappointed.

Add good service and decent prices to the equation and visiting Veggiez was an excellent experience.

Vegan food that sure means a thing (and it’s definitely got that swing)

Schillinger's Swing Kitchen meal

Fast and tasty: Swiss wrap and Vienna burger with fries at Schillinger’s Swing Kitchen in Vienna

Restaurant review: Schillinger’s Swing Kitchen

Schillinger’s Swing Kitchen was a consistently good source of top-notch vegan food during a recent European train trip, with a sufficiently varied menu to ensure that we returned to refuel on several occasions across a couple of different Austrian cities.

Started in January 2015, Schillinger’s Swing Kitchen  now has six Austrian branches, plus two in Berlin, Germany, and one in Bern, Switzerland, all with the same well-produced menu of fast food wraps and burgers, salads, and desserts. If ever a vegan chain were set to rival similar omnivore businesses, this place would be it.

The company is owned by the Schillinger family. Charly, whose family background is in the restaurant trade, worked for years in the financial industry, and turned vegan 20 years ago, and his wife Irene had a vision to recreate the flavours of traditional Austrian dishes in a plant-based menu, and this is reflected, for example, in their Schnitzel burger, and in an almond cake with chocolate-pudding cream topped with a nougat-icing and decorated with chocolate and almond-nougat balls. After the existing family business, the Gasthaus Schillinger established in 1793, successfully turned vegan, they began their Swing Kitchen, hoping to present environmentally-friendly burgers and other fast food to the masses.

And that’s exactly what they are doing. We visited the Opernring branch in Vienna, and later became serial customers at the newly-opened franchise in Graz. Between us we tried four of the seven types of burgers – honestly, they were all good and a preference would purely be based on individual taste – the Swiss wrap, which was my personal go-to meal almost every time, with its mix of hash browns and hot cauliflower, and, when we were in need of more vegetables and less fried food, the Nugget salad. The garlic dip was amazing, especially with the French fries. The meal deals worked out at around 10 Euros each and included a drink.

And all this delicious food was served in a crisp clean environment to a soundtrack of 1930s and 40s jazz/swing. Branches all have a live display above the counter of resources saved compared to a similar meat burger restaurant. Not sure how that works, but maybe it simply shows a heart in the right place, for a company that uses no plastics, Fairtrade ingredients only, and boasts that its foods all have 0% cholesterol.

We’ll be back.

Schillinger's Swing Kitchen Graz

Eat with a beat: Schillinger’s Swing Kitchen in Graz, Austria

‘People are naturally kind – we just need to show that animal agriculture doesn’t align with this’

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


Our latest contributor is Ekaterina, a Russian physics student who believes that veganism is a cornerstone of sustainable living

Everyday Vegan EkaterinaTell us a little about yourself…
I’m 24 and currently finishing my master’s degree in physics in Moscow, Russia. I moved away from home two years ago and now I live with my boyfriend. In my free time I like to volunteer at various events, mostly focused on being more sustainable; my favourite is helping out with recycling at a vegan market every month. I also really enjoy vegan activism and recently I tried drawing chalk messages, which I’ll keep doing from time to time.

You’re vegan now; were you vegetarian before?
No, but I guess I was a flexitarian for a few months. What I mean is I knew I was going vegan, that it was the right thing to do, but I needed some time to adjust and learn to stand up for my decisions. During that time I never bought anything non-vegan myself, but I ate animal products at parties and other people’s places a few times. I tried to justify it by telling myself that I wasn’t creating demand in these situations, but I stopped doing that as soon as I realised how messed up what we do to animals is. I can’t consume products of violence, it doesn’t matter who paid for them.

What led to that?
I’ve been trying to live as sustainably as I can for about four years now. I seek out new eco-friendly habits, and look at what I can improve in my lifestyle, and this was how I came across the zero-waste movement. I started watching some videos about it and one of the vloggers kept mentioning that she was vegan because she cared about the environment, and that you couldn’t be zero-waste if you consumed animal products. I looked up how bad animal agriculture was in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, water and land use, and energy consumption, and felt I couldn’t consciously contribute to something so terrible.

I knew that the end goal for me was being vegan, but, sadly, I couldn’t switch overnight. During that time the environmental arguments were the most important to me and I didn’t really think about ethics.When I finally let the ethical side of things sink in, I couldn’t possibly delay going vegan any longer. If you only care about the environment, an occasional piece of non-vegan cake is not that big a deal I think, but when you know of all the suffering that went into making it, you can’t possibly eat it.

How long have you been vegan?
It will be a year soon! About nine months at this point.

Do you see yourself ever going back to being an omnivore?
No, absolutely not. I cannot imagine what would have to happen to make me stop caring. How could I consume animal products being aware what it means? How could I consciously choose to contribute to animal abuse?

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?
It depends. When I’m not too lazy and cook for myself at home, it’s usually very healthy. I never liked using a lot of oil, and, because I strive to live without producing any waste, I cook mostly wholefoods – that’s all you can buy without packaging. But when I go out to eat I don’t really care how healthy it is. I like an occasional greasy vegan burger or some vegan cake.

Where do you shop?
I go to regular shops for bulk fruits and vegetables, and vegan junk food once in a while. I buy my grains and legumes at a zero-waste shop, sometimes I get spices there, too. And when I want something special like vegan cheese or yoghurt I have to go to a vegan shop – regular supermarkets either don’t carry them over here, or they are ridiculously overpriced.

Do you consciously think about where you get your protein, etc, from?
Not really. I used to track what I eat in Cronometer, but after I was sure my diet is balanced enough I stopped doing it. Now I only check it maybe once a month, just for fun.

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?
Yes, it was shocking. Sometimes it feels surreal when I accidentally go into the meat aisle in a supermarket – there are literally corpses lying in the fridges and people are buying them. That’s just so weird. And there are live fish right next to the produce section in one shop I sometimes go to – it makes me feel so bad. It’s frustrating that they are still alive but I can’t help them. I’m used to being an outsider – Continue reading →