The Birds is a perfect nest for peckish vegans in Leytonstone

Vegan meal, The Birds, Leytonstone

What a glorious find The Birds pub on Leytonstone High Road is. The menu is mainly vegan and it’s ridiculously cheap to craft a good meal.

Between two of us we had the chickenish popcorn with garlic mayo, salt and pepper tempura cauliflower, and a macncheese each, all for under £15, plus two pints of lime and soda and a vegan ‘Snickers’ to share, which came in at less than a fiver.

Vegan dessert, The Birds, Leytonstone

We went earlyish on a Thursday night, and this E11 pub – the name of which is a nod to Leytonstone’s most famous son, Alfred Hitchcock – was quiet, though I’m guessing weekends are a different story.

Loved the food, but, honestly my favourite bit was the gentle birdsong piped into the ladies toilet.

 

The highs and lows of afternoon tea and cake at Shakespeare’s Globe

Vegan cake stand at the Swan, Shakespeare's Globe, London

When I can, I steer clear of omnivore eating establishments, but something about an afternoon at the Swan, a pub and restaurant attached to the Globe theatre in London, appealed to my latent luvvie.

Having booked a vegan tea, there was no problem when I arrived, and even the included cocktail, which normally contains honey, had been changed to accommodate me.

Cocktail at the Swan, Shakespeare's Globe, LondonThe initial waiter bent over backwards to make me feel special, which was appreciated; to me, afternoon tea is always as much about the gloss as about the taste. No disappointments on that front as my food arrived, along with my pot of oolong, looking suitable pretty and colourful. Mine looked every bit as well prepared as my omnivore companions’ cake stand.

It felt as though a lot of thought had gone into the sandwiches, which were dainty and filled with combinations of roasted peppers, vegan mayo and cheese, smidgens of cress and thinly chopped cucumber.

After that, it went downhill. The scones were dry and actually quite unpleasant to eat, and, though two of the chocolate-based cakes were delicious, the small glass containing a hefty blob of jam sprinkled with muesli was a real lowlight.

I’m going to give this experience a silver star for effort but, at £40, they really do need to try harder with the sweet stuff.

2,500 to 10,000 in two years: growth of veganism reflected in annual march

Karen was one of the estimated 10,000 protesters at this year’s Animal Rights March in London. Here, she reflects on its growth over the past two years and its contribution to highlighting the cruelty of killing animals to gratify human consumption

Animal Rights March, London 2018

Last year I joined 5,000 vegans on the Animal Rights March across London, an emotive annual event founded by the UK animal rights organisation Surge. At the first such event in 2016, the number of people protesting against animal cruelty of all kinds had been half that, at 2,500.

As a vegan for three years, and vegetarian for more than 40, last year’s march was a powerful and uplifting experience for me. I’d gone alone, I didn’t make new friends or spend time chatting, and I was anxious as hell before the event, with no idea what to expect. But from the moment I arrived I was part of something impassioned and heart-warming that simply felt right.

What overcame my nervous, lazy side was the notion of being a voice for the voiceless, and once there I was swept along and inspired by the slogans, banners and chants; and as a result of the speeches at the end, I left determined to become part of a wider vegan community.

And so it seemed inevitable that I’d be there again this year, and all the positive changes I’d seen over the past 12 months – a rapidly growing acceptance of veganism as a way of life, articles in the mainstream media, plus tons of cash being pumped into plant-based merchandise – made me suspect it’d be a much bigger affair.

As we gathered at Millbank on Saturday (August 25) I was aware that the crowd – people of all ages – felt bigger, but it was only as the march rolled out on to the streets near Westminster that it became obvious just how many of us there were. Later that night the figures were confirmed: 10,000 people had taken part, and once again participant numbers had doubled.

I’m delighted, humbled and honoured to have been part of the protest, but added to this is the shame that I live in a society that condones horrific acts of violence against millions of our fellow Earth creatures every day.  The posters and placards around me on the rally reminded powerfully me of the enormity of this brutality – I often forget the details. as I come from and live with a family for whom eating dead animals was never really an option.

The two marches I’ve attended have been deeply emotional experiences for me – on the one hand, there is pride and a sense of belonging at being in so like-minded a crowd; on the other, crushing sadness at the reality of the wider society around me and the practices it accepts as normal when it comes to taste buds. These issues are highlighted when the march passes eating establishments that serve carcasses of dead creatures as a matter of course.

You need to experience the uplifting vibe of the marches to truly appreciate their power, but here are a few shots I took on the day in the hope of conveying something of what it feels like to be there.

The Feel Good Café, dedicated to saving animals and healthy eating

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Good plant-based food is often found in the strangest of places and the Feel Good Café in north-east London is an example of this. A small underused Chingford arcade, tucked neatly between a pet grooming salon and a photography studio, is where owner Idan, pictured above right, started up his vegan café three years ago.

With a constantly updated menu filled with good wholesome vegan fare – at the point of writing it includes the most delicious buckwheat pancakes with chia seeds, potato bagels and pink love porridge made with beetroot powder – the Feel Good Café is passionate about both the food they serve and the cause they are helping to promote.

So what is the driving force behind this venture? Idan answered the questions we put to him.

I know you came to veganism initially for health reasons – what specifically was the condition that led to this diet?

I suffer with ME/CFS, an autoimmune condition that until five years ago kept me housebound for years. Living with ME is like living with a flu that doesn’t go away.

Having being diagnosed, what led you to a plant-based diet? I have heard you talk at points about raw veganism… is that a diet you’ve tried yourself?

Over the years in my desperation to get better I’ve tried many diets. Eventually I realised that we share a common ancestor with the great apes. And that the great apes are still living not only in the same environment that we evolved from, but also eating the very same food that our species originally evolved to eat.

From there I learned that we have the hands to murder a banana, fig, spinach leaf, apple and so on but certainly not a living animal. Furthermore, looking at our digestive tract, teeth and jaw movement it is clear as day that we are herbivores/frugivores.

Morally we do not possess the excitement and hunger associated with killing an animal for food ourselves. Blood puts us off, where it excites a carnivore.

My diet consists of: fruits, vegetables, lentils, beans, grains, nuts and seeds. I try to eat them as nature presents them, so no frying, no salt, oil or sugars added. I tend to eat more raw foods in summer and more cooked in winter.

How much research do you think people should do before starting a vegan diet?

Animals are getting killed by the thousands as we speak; there’s no time to be wasted, first go vegan. Eat fresh and natural foods. Then read the book How Not To Die by Dr Michael Greger. This will set you on an amazing path that offers higher morals and health.

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I know you are passionate about veganism being for the animals. Where does this fit in with your choice to go vegan? Were you vegetarian before your diagnosis?

I too, regrettably, was a meat eater once, but films such as Earthlings, Cowspiracy or Dominion have inspired many of us to become passionate about our commitment to animals – veganism is a logical consequence.

You strike me as an excellent front man for the cause. When you started your cafe in that little, often deserted, arcade, I was delighted. But I couldn’t help wondering how anyone starting a vegan café in that venue could make it work. You have though – how on earth have you achieved that?

It was hard to attract people at first and still is much harder to get customers compared to a High Street shop. However, word of mouth soon started spreading and so did our social media channels. But yes, being tucked away, it’s always a working process.

You’ve achieved what I have to say is an amazing feat. What was this journey like? How have you made it work? Were they times when you felt like you’d made the wrong decision, starting this venture? And who are your customers?

The Feel Good Café is made up from different teams. I may be the face, but Izabela is constantly hitting on the social media, while other people are making sure the shop runs smoothly each day. We have an amazing accountant and business consultant who’s vegan too.

But most importantly it’s the local people, community and online community. All of whom are extremely dedicated to the cause of saving animals and eating healthily. The people of Chingford and the wider area are incredible and extremely supportive to their local vegan café.

Life is not perfect; we make mistakes regularly but also small landmarks. We’re still young, only going for three years. And over time the path gets clearer and easier to walk on.