Challenging Choices

Don’t do Nothing because you can’t do Everything. Do Something – Anything

Colleen Patrick-Goudreu

Meet & Veg has been given a great mention in the latest edition of “The Vegan” which is very exciting and will hopefully encourage some new members along especially with what seems to be a sea change in public attitudes taking place as people question their morals and beliefs about where their food comes from and how it gets to their plates. Meet & Veg aims to build on this momentum and encourage our local community to wake up to the harm done by consuming animal products and to show that switching to a plant based diet is kinder to animals, our health and to the environment.

In 2012, The Vegan Society estimated that there were 150,000 vegans living in the UK. I can’t find a more recent estimate, but I would reckon that number to be much higher now just by judging from the number of Vegans I know or have met.  Veganism is not a fringe philosophy, it is a moral baseline that is consistent with beliefs that most of us already hold true. Veganism is a simple matter of refraining from participating in unnecessary and harmful use of sentient beings. As most people are naturally opposed to unnecessary violence, becoming and staying vegan is not a matter of changing any of our basic moral beliefs. It simply requires us to be willing to change the habits we have developed that prevent us from living according to our principles. By making changes that do not involve any great sacrifices, we can make the decision to live consistently with our values and the rewards are great: A healthy body, a clearer mind and a more peaceful conscience. Our deepest ethics become reflected in our daily choices.

We are part of a growing movement which is not scared to challenge and act against the dominant social norm.

“The path of the norm is the path of least resistance; it is the route we take when we’re on auto-pilot and don’t even realize we’re following a course of action that we haven’t consciously chosen. Most people who eat meat have no idea that they’re behaving in accordance with the tenets of a system that has defined many of their values, preferences, and behaviours. What they call ‘free choice’ is, in fact, the result of a narrowly obstructed set of options that have been chosen for them. They don’t realize, for instance, that they have been taught to value human life so far above certain forms of nonhuman life that it seems appropriate for their taste preferences to supersede other species’ preference for survival.”

Quote by Melanie Joy in “Why we love dogs, eat pigs and wear cows

Evidence that the Vegan movement is indeed growing is the publication of “Vegan Life”, an actual paper magazine that you can buy on the high street and hold in your hands! There are so many blogs, websites and virtual magazines that it is good to finally see “veganism hitting the high street”! In her own words, the editor says “The doors are wide open for everybody to get involved in making this magazine a great resource for readers – creating a mag that will encourage more people to go vegan”. Thumbs up to that!

The September issue has a feature on Louise Fields and Emma Billington who I wrote about in the last post, those amazing women who saved so many hens, who, having endured a life of misery, had been packed onto a truck destined for slaughter, and then went through the trauma of being on the lorry when it crashed.  The issue also features an article on another remarkable woman, Fiona Oakes, the Vegan Endurance runner. I love this quote by her:

I am vegan to help the animals – pure and simple – and I have been since I was 6 years old. It was at that time that I realised animals are our friends and you don’t hurt your friends.

It is truly satisfying to see that more people are making the connection between their food and their values.  Compassion for animals is a key motivator for people to go vegan and stay vegan and it is through groups such as Meet & Veg that we can plant the seeds of change. It can be difficult for Vegans to understand some of the values that non Vegans hold. However, if we are able to recognise how each and every person is a unique product of their own life experience, we can help them to challenge their existing beliefs and views.  A Love for animals is the key opportunity to engage people. Helping them make the connection between that baby lamb, cute piglet and beautiful calf and the sense of empathy and concern that they feel.  When people get defensive, we must try not to be judgemental.  Remember that their attitudes come from social conditioning and misleading nutritional information. Keep the faith, You CAN have a positive impact on your family and friends. It just requires patience and time and choosing your platforms wisely. (By that I mean the right place and timing to talk gently about reasons for being Vegan).

I have been vegan for just over 3 years now, having been vegetarian since I was allowed to make my own food choices. I, like many vegetarians, feel angry about my part in supporting the animal farming industry while believing I was doing the right thing for the animals by being vegetarian. I had my awakening while at a friend’s birthday party; a rather drunk meat eater confronted me about my reasons for being vegetarian. I was prepared for this confrontation as I was aware of her views. I put my reasons forward and she called me a hypocrite (!)  Of all the people to tell me about the dairy industry, it was a staunch meat –eater! I went Vegan overnight and have never looked back.

Since then, I have experienced the resistance of family and friends to understand my reasons for being Vegan. In the beginning, no one understood or respected my decision. Looking back I can see that their attitudes were solely based on ignorance and what they believed to be the social norm. However, as I have gradually informed and educated myself about the issues surrounding Animal suffering and exploitation, I have better equipped myself to answer questions with confidence and passion and to be able to gently find a way of getting people to think about the choices they are making.

I have now gained respect and understanding from family and friends. They can see how important being Vegan is to me. I am living my life aligned with my values and beliefs and I believe that shines through and gets others to think. I have learnt when to talk about my principles and when not to. I grab opportunities when I can and when it is appropriate. Through these short, sharp bursts that people get of my feelings towards something, and the concrete knowledge that I have to back up my statements, I can see change happening within my social circle and beyond! It is refreshing and exciting and I can honestly say I feel validated!

A friend of mine who would no way have been swayed to consider a vegetarian diet for herself or her family, now cooks vegetarian meals for her 13 year old son who went vegetarian because he enjoyed the food I cooked when they came round for meals! When I went to an Indian restaurant with friends and ordered a vegetable curry, everyone looked at mine seemingly wishing they had also chosen my choice! When we went back several months later, Everyone DID order the veggie curry! When I could only offer my friend soy milk in her tea, she turned up her nose, but had it anyway. Within seconds, she declared that it was actually very nice! When another friend couldn’t believe that I wouldn’t eat a cereal bar because it contained honey, I informed her that a honey bee will only make one twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in his lifetime and that’s why I refuse to steal that honey from him.  That is his lifetimes work. My friend couldn’t find an argument with me and has started buying maple syrup instead!

These are all my little victories and I know I am having an impact on my friends and family and in turn they are recounting what I tell them to their own family and friends! So my victories are snowballing! Vegan Belief is Friendly and Non Judgemental. I am not asking anyone to adopt some radical world view, only to consider the benefits to themselves, Our non -human friends and the planet that come from following an Vegan lifestyle.

Don’t underestimate the effect we Vegans can have on other people. Keep chipping away, gently, slowly and appropriately. Transformations can happen when we break down assumptions and belief systems and encourage people to follow their hearts and listen to their inner voice.

Now to share another recipie from Meet & Veg. This time it is Kay’s Pesto and Tomato Tart, Thanks Kay! Yum!

Pesto and tomato tart

1 x puff pastry ready rolled Jus Roll sheet

20 cherry tomatoes

Pine nuts

Tofutti garlic and herb spread

Pesto sauce

 For pesto sauce:

2 tbsp. pine nuts

2 cloves of garlic

salt to taste

50g vegan cheese

25 basil leaves

olive oil

 Make the pesto sauce by combining all the ingredients in a hand blender and blending until smooth.  Add as much olive oil as needed to get the right consistency.

Score around the sheet of puff pastry about 2 centimetres from the edge all the way round.  Spread the Tofutti spread on the rectangle inside the edge and then place halved cherry tomatoes face up all across the surface, not including the edge.  Drizzle pesto across the whole surface (not around the edge) and sprinkle pine nuts over.

 Bake for around 20 mins as per instructions on Jus Roll packet.

That’s it for the 2nd post Folks! Thanks for reading!

I have this theory that if 1 person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go.

quote by Rachel Joy Scott



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