A label worth reading.
Like all good average people, this January I went on a diet that lasted about month. But this was no failed resolution, this was ‘Veganuary’. The latest (to my mind) themed month designed to do some good and arbitrarily selected because its name sort of fits with the month’s name eg Movember.
So how was my vegan-tourism (veganurism didn’t sound quite right)?
Let me tell you this, non-vegan friendly ingredients turn up in some unexpected places. The fish guts, known as finings, used in purifying a lot of beers and wines was a particular surprise. You’ll be pleased to know that the excellent, and Scottish, beers made by Pilot and Williams Brothers are amongst those that are vegan friendly. Yes even the ubiquitous Joker IPA!
And what goes well with beer? Well lots of things but for the purpose of this piece it’s crisps. Finding that I’d spiked myself with lactose by eating a pack of “Real” salt & vinegar crisps was a shock but Haggis crisps, surprisingly vegan!
It’s also been interesting to see how attitudes towards veganism vary. From the excitement of the staff at the somewhat confusingly named café Milk about their multiple vegan cake offerings to the void of imagination of some caterers show. Salad sandwiches were a particular low-point. Imagine the low-grade ‘cheese and salad’ type sandwiches you may well be acquainted with and then remove the cheese. A hungry afternoon indeed. I also managed to cross off the ‘it’s not a meal without meat’ conversation that is on any vegan’s bingo card. Maybe most of the people I came across are forward thinking when it comes what people eat, so I wasn’t faced with a great deal of the weird and wonderful questions and misconceptions some people have about vegan diets.
I ate some great things through the month, the aforementioned café Milk’s delicious apricot biscuit thing a prime example. All manner of delicious curries, wraps, dark chocolates, coconut-milk chocolate, even pancakes! In my own cooking one thing I discovered that was pretty mind-blowing was the egg-like quality of ground linseeds, aka flaxseed, when mixed with a bit of water. I now also hear rumour, and see web-based evidence, that one particularly famous pair of ice cream making chaps are about to launch a vegan range!
Being the kind of “I don’t need to look at instructions” type of person I am I was rather fool-hardy in my veganism and didn’t take any vitamin B12 up until the last day of the diet. As it turns out, a pretty important part of a diet and something you’ll need to get from somewhere.
The label of vegan is no doubt a conversation starter and going forward I’m going to keep being ‘mostly vegan’ especially when asked for dietary requirements or eating out. I’ve also introduced vegan and vegetarian policy for catering for any lunches I organise at work. How much we consume animal products is just one aspect of the food system which needs work for a sustainable future but unlike some other areas it comes with a handy and definitive label.
So what does veganism mean in the context of climate change? A vegan diet has been shown to create the least greenhouse gases of any diet, less than half that of a meat heavy diet. Considering that more greenhouse gas emissions (estimated at 14.5% of all human-induced emissions) are generated by farming livestock than by all forms of transport the diets we choose really can have a big impact.