Like 3 per cent of the UK population, I’m a smelly, tie-dye wearing lentil-muncher; an underweight, pallid weakling; a patchouli-scented carnivore-hater.
What I’m trying to say is that I don’t eat meat. It’s no secret that, with the world’s population expected to surpass 9bn by 2050, we all need to reduce our meat intake, yet ridicule of vegetarians and vegans is still par for the course.
Abstaining from meat is a personal preference. It doesn’t directly affect the health of those around you in the way that smoking can, yet it’s sometimes treated with a similar level of hostility.
The co-owner of an Australian burger bar recently came under fire for mocking a vegan diner who was “wearing a tie-dye t-shirt”, labelling her “single minded” and “Nazi-like” on the restaurant’s Facebook page. In an exercise in customer relations that Ryanair would have been proud of, his comment went on to say that veganism “was inspired by some tragic childhood event, or a divorce, or a car accident or some crap” before securing his seat as Vegan Basher General by adding: “They lack physical strength because of zero red meat in their diet!”
These stereotypes are all too familiar. They would take pride of place in a round of defensive omnivore bingo alongside "but don’t you miss bacon?" and "I don’t trust anyone who lives off rabbit food". But the supposedly archetypal militant, sickly, non-meat-eater is just a caricature. Like most stereotyping, it’s part of a defence mechanism that protects a person’s – or in this case, meat-eater’s – belief system from being challenged and attempts to project a superior place in society.
But recent decades have seen the meat consumption of rich countries increase, sending grain prices and obesity levels spiralling, causing widespread deforestation and adding unnecessary pressure to already strained resources. We have reached the point where beliefs need to be challenged.
10 best vegan foods
10 best vegan foods
1/10 Provamel Organic Almond Original
This almond drink is a milk alternative that works for your coffee, muesli or baking. Although it won’t froth up as well as the regular white stuff, it makes up for its textural shortcomings with a delicious nutty taste. £2.59, goodnessdirect.co.uk
2/10 Marigold Engevita Nutritional Yeast Flakes
Going vegan means there are vitamins, especially B12, normally found in meat, that you’ll have to get from elsewhere. Put this in anything from stews to salads to add a cheesy, nutty flavour to your cooking. £2.80, ocado.com
3/10 Bute Island Foods garlic & herb Creamy sheese
Bute Island Foods makes a range of dairy-free “sheeses”. Ignore the silly name, they are a good substitute for the real thing, particularly this spreadable alternative. With a creamy texture and a rich, garlicky flavour it goes very well on a piece of toast. £2.48, goodnessdirect.co.uk
4/10 Clif Chocolate Almond Fudge Bar
Active types will like this rich, sweet treat made from oats, rice syrup, soybeans and almond purée, among other goodies. It tops up energy levels fast, making it ideal for runners, cyclists or hikers. A delicious chocolaty vegan-alternative to a brownie. £1.25, thehealthbay.com
5/10 Macsween Vegetarian Haggis
Just because you’re meat- and dairy-free doesn’t mean you have to opt out of Sunday roasts. This family-run business, famous for its traditional haggis, also makes a vegan/vegetarian alternative. It’s surprisingly rich in flavour, with the mushrooms, lentils and oatmeal providing a good chunky texture. And it’s lighter than the meaty alternative. £3.55, waitrose.com
6/10 Soulful Food OnePot Butternut, Lentil & Spinach hotpot
This low-fat, tasty hotpot is ideal if you need something quick and easy for dinner. With hints of Indian spices, and chunks of cauliflower and butternut squash, it’s good as it is, or you can beef it up with some extra veggies. £3.49, ocado.com
7/10 Pudology Gluten- and Dairy-Free Chocolate Puds
It’s hard to believe this rich chocolate pudding is completely dairy-free. Made with coconut milk chocolate ganache and Madagascan vanilla, it is our favourite from the Pudology range, which also features banoffee and strawberry desserts if chocolate’s not your thing. £2.76 (2 x 85g), ocado.com
8/10 Yu! Jus Fruit Blueberry Pieces
Sweet treats can be healthy. These bite-size blueberry pieces are free from added sugar, and with a similar texture to wine gums, kids will be fooled into thinking they’re the real deal. 67p, tesco.com
9/10 Rude Health Spelt Oaty
This small company prides itself on using natural ingredients that aren’t over-processed. Its high-fibre biscuits made from Scottish oatmeal, spelt flour and extra-virgin olive oil are a tasty addition to a packed lunch. £1.99 (4 x 50g), waitrose.com
10/10 Alara Into the Garden Organic active Muesli
This light, crisp breakfast offering made from a mix of amaranth, quinoa, finely chopped seeds and nuts and naturally sweetened with dried apple pieces, is just as tasty as your regular cereal. Try it with almond milk. £4.66, goodnessdirect.co.uk
Organisations such as PETA are no help in the matter. Their recent London "die in" – which saw naked protesters lie on the floor of Trafalgar Square in a blood-smeared jumble in order to promote veganism – did little to highlight the important health and environmental issues connected to meat consumption, and everything to confirm suspicions that meat-free also means sanity-free. So although I’m not full-vegan, I’d like to address a few of these myths. I have voluntarily forgone the consumption of dead flesh for the best part of my life and eat little dairy.
For starters, while I was probably still very young the last time I allowed a chunk of red meat to pass my lips, my physical strength is enough that I ran the London marathon this year (although it’s perhaps best if we don’t discuss run-times). I don’t hate carnivores, in fact, my boyfriend is a one and is free to practice that as he chooses – my home is not the scene of a fascist dictatorship. Not with regards to meat, anyway. I rarely eat lentils, have never, ever worn tie-dye and often cook Sunday roasts for my meat-loving friends. And you might be shocked to hear that I can’t stand Morrissey either. You see, veggies really are just normal people.
Until now, I’ve not preached to anyone about eating meat either. My choice not to eat it was born not from a tragic childhood event, but a genuine dislike of the stuff (yes, even bacon). But this month is World Vegan Month and what better way to celebrate than by trying to go without consuming animal products for just one day? You won’t turn into a hippy, I promise.Reuse content