10 Questions Everyone Wants To Ask Vegans
With Christmas over and the New Year started, over 190,000 people have signed up for Veganuary. This means one month with no meat, eggs or dairy. While this may seem crazy to some people there are ethical, health and environmental issues which aren’t always known. I started my journey this time last year with Veganuary and since then, I’ve been asked every question in the book, so to you vegans in training out there, I’ve answered the 10 most common questions I’ve been asked. Those of you not trying it, keep reading as this will hopefully help you understand the reasons behind it!
Where do you get your protein?
According to the world health organisation, a well planned vegan diet is suitable for all stages of life, including pregnancy. I’ve never met anyone with a protein deficiency, yet this seems to be a commonly asked question, and only an issue when you decide to cut down on meat! Protein is in vegetables such as broccoli, watercress and spinach; as well as legumes such as Beans, chickpeas and lentils. As long as you are eating a balanced diet, which is the same when eating meat, you will be able to get all essential and non essential proteins.
What CAN you eat?
An innocent question from the person asking but flip it around and it can seem a little aggressive! A lot of ‘normal’ food is vegan and perfectly fine. The obvious being fruits, veggies, crisps, bread, peanut butter etc. Some that might surprise you; oreos, Fox’s party rings, hobnobs, Bisto original gravy, Doritos chilli heatwave and others. A quick google search can reveal that a lot of what you normally eat is suitable and for those that aren’t, there is often a vegan alternative or version! Just ask for that jacket potato and baked beans with no butter or a vegan alternative and you’re good to go.
Don’t plants have feelings?
The ethics of eating plants is something I was never asked until I went vegetarian. So after a lot of research, this is what I’ve learnt. Plants don’t have a brain, or a central nervous system like humans and animals. Their tropic (response to light and gravity) and nastic (response to touch) reactions are evolutionary advantages to have an optimal survival rate is not the same as the consciousness and sentience we share with animals. So the answer is no, they don’t have feelings in the sense that we have feelings, but animals do. Since we can empathise with those feelings of fear, pain and happiness, it’s easier to understand their emotions.
What about B12?
B12 is a vitamin that is not naturally made in the human body. It occurs naturally as a microorganism in untreated soils and water and is made in the organs of herbivorous animals that eat these. It is also the only vitamin you cannot get from a vegan diet without supplements and fortified foods. The reason for this is our inability to drink untreated water without getting sick. We don’t need very much of it to survive (3 micrograms) and we can be deficient for up to 5 years without knowing it. Vegetables grown in soil rich in B12 are shown to be sufficient, however over farming land has drained a lot of our soil of most nutrients. That being said, B12 is a concern in all diets and it is recommended that every adult takes a supplement or eats/drinks fortified food as deficiency is abundant regardless of diet. Breakfast cereals, plant milks and meat substitutes are usually fortified with B12 so this would be a good source for all diets.
Bacon tastes good. Very good. But personally, I don’t think my taste enjoyment is worth an animals life. It can be seen by some as depriving yourself or missing out on experiences. But if anything I think I’ve tried more things since going veggie/vegan than I did when I was a meat eater! It can seem daunting to someone who knows how to cook meat, but there is so much out there. Vegan cheesecakes made with cashews, pies, pastries, etc. A quick Pinterest or YouTube search will reveal you can ‘veganize ’ anything so you don’t need to miss out. And with mainstream supermarkets and restaurants getting on board, it’s never been easier to find something to your taste. (Vegan junk food is life!)
That’s in other countries though, here it’s fine.
When thinking about animal welfare conditions, it’s common to think all this bad treatment is in other countries and not the uk. The cows and sheep we see in fields in the uk is pretty misleading when it comes to the slaughterhouse and dairy industries. But have you ever seen inside a slaughterhouse? This is a pretty heavy topic so I won’t go into it too much here but I can tell you, the uk is the same. In 2017, the UK had over 800 US-style factory farms with Herefordshire housing more than 16 million factory farmed animals. And the rules for free range are not as strict as you’d like to think. This is the shocking reality of the rising demand for meat and dairy. If you’re interested in looking more into it, search EarthlingEd on YouTube and his videos will give you a little more insight to the uk dairy industries and slaughterhouses.
If you were on a desert island....?
If you were on a desert island, would you eat meat? If there were a desert island with no other option, and this pig or cow or sheep was my only option, I would eat whatever they were eating! In all seriousness, I would respond to that person with another question. If you lived in a country where you could cause no harm to another being, would you? Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose. Every time we eat or buy something, we make a choice. So going back to the question, I don’t know but I’d try my best to live by my belief.
What’s wrong with milk?
As I said previously in another question, this is a pretty heavy discussion point so I won’t delve too deep into it in this family friendly magazine! But a brief summary; like humans, to produce milk, a cow must be pregnant. She produces that milk for her baby. When the baby is born, the calf must be taken away from the mother before it drinks all that valuable milk. It’s a truly heartbreaking moment to watch. Cows form strong bond with their offspring and can be heard crying for them for days, even weeks after they’ve been taken away. Then the gender of the calf determines its fate. If it’s female, she will be brought up to have the same fate as her mother. Constantly pregnant by artificial insemination and producing milk. If it’s a male, he will either be killed straight away or, more likely, raised for veal. Aside from that, milk is full of hormones designed to grow baby cows into big cows!
I don’t like vegans
Ah this was a nice comment I had over Christmas! I responded with a simple ‘why?’. This question came from not understanding why and after a short discussion, we agreed that my reasons were sound and we both went on our way. There is a lot of stigma attached to the ‘vegan’ label. Stereotypes and preconceptions of preachy hippies that don’t wash or shave their armpits. Not one vegan I know is like that! Don’t believe all the negative press you see. But also don’t blindly like a group just because this article is telling you to! Everyone is their own person and each will have their own reasons for going vegan. Before you make a judgement, try finding out a bit more about their motives. I’m sure they’d be happy to discuss it!
Don’t you think it’s a bit extreme
One thing I said when I was a meat eater was ‘I could probably go vegetarian, but not vegan!’ And here I am 2 years later! It does sound extreme to stop eating things that once seems normal to you but once I learned about these industries, it flipped and became extreme to exploit animals for my gain. The health benefits speak for themselves with a statistically lower average BMI for vegans and lower numbers of heart disease and diabetes. Going vegan has an amazing impact on the environment aswell. Raising animals for food and dairy generates more carbon emissions than the whole transportation industry, in the world, combined!
Stuck for ideas on where to find Vegan food in Kent? Here are out top picks:
Havet Restaurant - Tonbridge & Bromley - Turkish food is about fresh flavours of the Mediterranean that you find in coastal regions, combined with cooking techniques and spices from the Middle East. It’s richly diverse and always super, super fresh. Have offer a selection of Vegetarian and Vegan options on their menu. https://havetrestaurant.com
The Monument - Canterbury Kents only 100% Vegan Pub!!!! The Monument is Canterbury's only plant based public house. Serving a selection of local ales, craft beers, cocktails and pub classics. https://www.monumentcanterbury.co.uk
Zorba - Tunbridge Wells. A passion for Turkish cuisine Zorba offer a selection of Vegan Food. Having recently expanded their premises make sure you book to avoid disappointment http://www.zorbamezegrill.com/index.php
Vegan Antics 100% Vegan Bakery based in Gravesend offering a wide selection of cakes, and cupcakes https://veganantics.co.uk
Revival Whitstable. They have a packed vegetarian menu which is all freshly prepared and an impressive ice cream range with sundaes, knickerbockerglory’s and more. They also have an extensive range of vegan ice creams and desserts!
If you’re interested in learning more, there is loads of information on the ethical, health and environmental benefits of veganism on the following resources:
EarthlingEd - compassion
MicTheVegan - scientific
JoeyCarbstrong - compassion
HealthyCrazyCool - nutrition
What the health - health benefits
Cowspiricy - environmental benefits
(Both available on Netflix)
Article by Megan Carmichael