‘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!

12,000 march in London to highlight cruelty – and environmental destruction – of industrial farming

Did your food scream?

I’m not a great one for being in a crowd; not much of a “joiner”, full stop. And yet yesterday I happily found myself joining the 12,000-odd vegans walking through London for this year’s Animal Rights March.

I went along out of interest, as a way of getting out of my comfort zone, and ended up loving it. It felt like the right thing to do, being part of this big transient community made up of people from many walks of life but with this one thing in common: a desire to end the industrial-scale slaughter of sentient beings to satisfy the taste buds of people socialised to believe that the flesh and secretions of animals are essential to their health.

But what’s the point of a march like this? It’s not as if the government and its paymasters in the highly subsidised agriculture industry are going to say, yes, of course, it’s madness, how could we not see, let’s stop it. And it’s not as if people are going to turn vegan en masse. This is a long haul.

Animal Rights March London 2019

The point is simply to highlight the cruelty of the meat and dairy industries in public, demonstrating in our thousands that this vegan thing is not some trendy, passing bullshit peddled by an irrelevant minority of hipsters and freaks.

We march down the streets of the city centre, a colourful, noisy spectacle, from toddlers to the very old, and people on the pavements whip their phones out and film and take photos and wonder what the hell’s going on. Some mock, but not many. And some appear to be discussing what they see.

And if just one of those people is inspired to find out a little more about why a few thousand get off their backsides on a Saturday afternoon to call for an end to the barbarism of industrial farming, and perhaps even ends up living a plant-based life, I’d say that’s enough, job done.

Animal Rights March London 2019, Trafalgar Square

But I suspect the seed gets planted in more than just one mind. I certainly hope so. Because this is not just about cruelty and the hope of a more compassionate world. It’s increasingly about our ravaged planet; the big business of industrial farming is making a significant contribution to global warming, and giving up meat and dairy is one of the easiest ways to help do something about that, if only it could be done on a large enough scale.

So yes, for this natural loner, helping to plant maybe one little mind seed is a good enough reason to get up and join in for a change.

If you’re not a vegan, I’d encourage you to investigate a bit. Maybe check out this article  and Google out from it, exploring some of the questions it might provoke in you. The films Cowspiracy (it costs a small amount to download but is available on Netflix if you use that service) and Dominion (free to stream) are also worth a watch, as is this five-minute look at the dairy industry.

Animal Rights March London 2019, Trafalgar Square

Of course, for all the pro-vegan information out there, you’ll find plenty from the other side, particularly with the well-funded meat and dairy industries feeling beleaguered with the growth of veganism and fighting for their lives. Consider it all. Absorb lots of information. And most of all, think for yourself as you assess it.

If you have pets, it’s interesting to meditate on what the difference between a dog, say, and a cow is. It’s hard to break free from the cultural programming to which each of us is subjected from birth on, but there’s a certain liberation to be had in at least trying.

And even if you end up dismissing veganism, no worries. The most important thing is that you base your decision on consideration of facts, not simply what you’ve been brought up to believe.

Animal Rights March London 2019

If you’re interested in participating in direct action, the next wave of climate-change protests in London will involve a blockade of the UK’s largest meat market; more information here.

‘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 →

‘Not only are you eating rotting flesh, you are also consuming the suffering and pain the animal experienced’

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


Our latest contributor is Tash, an Australian surfer who believes vegans have a moral obligation to bear witness to the cruelty of the meat industry – and speak up

Everyday Vegan Tash

I’m from Perth, Western Australia, and have completed 25 orbits around the sun. I have been a swimming instructor and lifeguard since I finished high school in 2010. I have a bachelor degree in outdoor recreation, which I have not yet used for a career, due to the fact that I have been travelling the world since I finished studying in 2016. I have travelled to 35 countries in the past few years and stay overseas each year for about three to five months at a time. I love to travel alone and explore the world freely doing whatever I wish, whenever I wish.

I grew up in the great outdoors and a majority of my childhood consisted of numerous camping trips in the remote regions of Western Australia, swimming with dolphins, going boating to islands, surfing and many other wild adventures. I am an experienced surfer and have travelled to Indonesia on 13 occasions to surf some of the best waves in the world. I also surfed the world’s longest wave in Peru last year – it was incredible!

From a very young age, I dreamt of being a marine biologist because I was intrigued by the big blue ocean and the animals that coexisted within it. I owned endless amounts of marine science books and I would spend hours reading them and drawing marine animals. I could name just about every dolphin and whale species that existed. I was also a huge environmental advocate – I remember always telling my younger brother off for using too much water or leaving the lights on.

Everyday Vegan TashI became vegan on February 1 2017, and decided to make the change overnight from carnist to vegan. I had watched a documentary called Food Choices on Netflix and it immediately made me want to change my lifestyle. The documentary covered the health benefits of a plant-based diet, the health risks of animal products, animal cruelty in the meat, dairy and egg industries, and the environmental devastation that these industries cause upon the planet.

My mind was completely opened and I knew from that day onwards, I would be vegan for life. I had always been so conscious of my health, loved animals, and cared significantly about the planet. I had just never realised that animal products were so harmful to one’s health, that you can’t love animals and eat them and that animal agriculture was the primary cause of climate change as well as so many other environmental issues.

My diet consists predominantly of whole foods as I love being healthy, energetic and want my life to be the highest quality as possible. Everyday I have a banana, kale and blueberry smoothie and a big fresh quinoa and chickpea salad. I still love indulging in vegan burritos, ice cream and brownies though.

Many people think that you have to be careful about getting enough nutrients on a vegan diet, but I’ve never had to worry thanks to whole plant-based foods. After all, I am eating the only diet on this planet that is known to prevent and even reverse disease.

I have honestly never been healthier in my life; I love the quote “my body is a garden, not a graveyard”, because it is so true. If you consume animal flesh and secretions, you are not only eating rotting flesh and secretions that are not designed to be consumed by humans, but you are also consuming the suffering and pain that an animal experienced throughout its whole life, including its brutal murder.

In a non-vegan world, it is definitely difficult living in everyday life because your eyes are completely opened to the enormous amount of cruelty that our species inflicts upon millions of innocent animals each day. Seeing “meat” on someone’s plate is a dead animal and it is seriously confronting and can take an emotional toll. I am a passionate animal rights activist, so I often bear witness to animals before they are killed at the slaughterhouse, which makes everyday life even more difficult.

But in the end, it is important to stay as positive as possible and remember that the real ones who are suffering are the animals, and vegan activists are the only voice that they have. Spreading awareness is the only thing that is making the vegan movement grow. Yes, of coarse it is fantastic to become vegan and not participate in animal cruelty, but as a vegan, we have a moral obligation to stand up for these animals and make the word realise how unjust it is. As Martin Luther King Junior said, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.

I am involved with an amazing vegan community here in Perth. We have really stepped up our game recently and many of our actions have been making it into mainstream media Continue reading →