It is January, and many of you vegetarians and perhaps some meat eaters too, will take the leap and try to go vegan, giving up all animal products for a month. Perhaps you’ll do it for health reasons, or in an attempt to shift a few of those Christmas pounds, or following a New Year’s resolution to try to live more consciously. Either way, as a vegan I can tell you from experience that you’ll need to be prepared for the barrage of stupid things people will probably say to you every time you sit down for a peaceful lunch and try to dig into your falafel wrap.
“Doesn’t a vegan diet make you unhealthy and weak?”
No, I am very healthy, thank you very much. I ran a marathon a few months ago. Vegans typically have lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, lower body mass indexes, a lower risk of death from heart disease, and lower overall cancer rates than meat eaters. The Mayo Clinic in the US recently reported that a plant-based diet could add four years to your life.
In fact, leading athletes, including weightlifters, sprinters, ultra-marathon runners and boxers, are vegan. Venus and Serena Williams adopted a plant-based diet in 2012. Since then, Serena has won the US Open three times. Scott Jurek, widely regarded as the greatest ultra-runner of all time, eats vegan. The only US male weightlifter to qualify for last summer’s Olympic Games, Kendrick Farris is – guess what – a vegan.
“But where do you get your protein?”
The same places that cows, gorillas and elephants get theirs – and have you seen the size of an elephant? I am fine. Go worry about something serious like, say, global warming.
Which brings me neatly to the next stupid question…
“It’s a shame you don’t care about humans as much as you care about animals.”
Veganism is kind to humans because animal agriculture is the most destructive industry on the planet. The meat industry emits more greenhouse gases than all transportation in the world combined. A vegan diet will cut your carbon footprint by 50 per cent. The livestock industry also diverts grain from the mouths of the planet’s one billion starving people. Of those countries experiencing famine, 82 per cent use vast proportions of their grain to feed cows and pigs that will be eaten in Britain and other first-world countries. But hey, seeing as you raised the issue, let’s have a look at all the Nobel Peace Prizes you’ve won for your human rights work.
Celebrity vegan and vegetarians
Celebrity vegan and vegetarians
1/24 Ariana Grande, pop star
"I love animals more than I love most people, not kidding. But I am a firm believer in eating a full plant-based, whole food diet that can expand your life length and make you an all-round happier person."
2/24 Paul McCartney, musician
"I've been a vegetarian for a long time now and over the years I've seen how the attitudes have changed around the world, so I'm not surprised when I see new research that shows more and more people are increasingly adopting 'meat free eating'."
3/24 Ellen DeGeneres, TV Host
"It doesn't make [Thanksgiving] harder at all. It makes it easier on the turkeys, too. They get to live."
4/24 Morrissey, musician
"I see no difference between eating animals and paedophilia."
5/24 Bill Clinton, former president of the US
Dr Dean Ornish, Clinton's doctor, said: "I asked him, 'Why do you want to live longer?' and he said, 'I want to live long enough to walk my daughter down the aisle and to see my grandkids born and grow up.'"
6/24 Peter Dinklage, actor
Dinklage has been a vegetarian since childhood and featured in PETA's 'Face Your Food' film.
7/24 Russell Brand, comedian
"I'm now vegan, goodbye eggs, hello Ellen."
8/24 Ellie Goulding, singer
"I've got taxidermy, I've got animals.... deer and all sorts. But weirdly, I'm a vegetarian and I don't eat meat. I'm a walking contradiction."
9/24 Ellen Page, actor
Page was named as one of PETA's 'Sexiest Vegetarian Celebrities' in 2014.
10/24 Al Gore, American politician
"There are 10 vegan restaurants in Nashville now." Speaking about how he maintains his vegan diet in the city.
11/24 Tobey Maguire, actor
Maguire said he was a vegan and "stopped consuming any mind-altering substances" when he was 19.
12/24 Stella McCartney
On her website, McCartney said that "the decision not to use leather or fur is not just because I don’t eat animals or that I think that millions of animals each year shouldn’t be killed for the sake of fashion. It’s because I also believe in the connection between fur and leather and the environment. There’s a huge connection."
13/24 Woody Harrelson, actor
"I've always been relatively healthy except for my vices."
14/24 Jared Leto, actor and musician
"I'm pretty healthy... I've been that way for a long time - 20 solid years of eating vegetarian/vegan and taking care of myself. That probably helps the preservation process."
15/24 Jessica Chastain, actor
It was reported that the vegan actor bought her mother a vegan food truck.
AP Photo/Sony - Columbia Pictures, Jonathan Olley
16/24 Joaquin Phoenix, actor
Featuring a PETA advert to promote vegetarianism for Thanksgiving, he said: "Holidays can be murder on turkeys. Let's make this one for the birds."
17/24 Beyonce and Jay-Z
Beyonce announced her vegan diet in a heavily-promoted segment for Good Morning American in June 2015.
18/24 Kate Mara, actor
Mara told E! Online that she stayed fit and healthy by being a vegan.
19/24 Alanis Morissette, musician
"I'm predominantly vegan, which my friends hate because it's not monogamous; 80% is vegan; the other 20% is following what my body needs."
20/24 Alicia Silverstone, actor
Silverston has a blog called The Kind Life which discusses vegan and vegetarian food.
21/24 Kate Nash
"I became a vegetarian last September - I used to suffer from OCD and it got stuck in my head that if I didn't eat meat then my bunny rabbit, Fluffy, would survive a dangerous operation she had to have."
22/24 Jennifer Lopez, singer and actor
Lopez said that she recommended a vegan diet "because you wake up and feel great".
23/24 Mark Hoppus, member of Blink 182
Hoppus announced he was a vegan on Twitter.
24/24 Olivia Wilde, actor
"[Being vegan] is not always easy and accessible. But it's a way of life and makes me as a person feel really good and physically look better."
“It’s normal to eat meat, we’ve always done it.”
Meat-eating has indeed been going on a long time. So have lots of other crimes against humanity. Does their longevity legitimise them?
“Animals can’t feel pain.”
Many animals have nervous systems very similar to our own; when they are harmed, their bodies react much like our own would. They scream, writhe and try to escape. That’s why abattoirs invest so much money in horrific machinery to stop animals destined for slaughter from fleeing.
“Wasn’t Hitler a vegetarian?”
That’s a myth, but seeing as you feel we can extrapolate from information about historical vegetarians, it’s worth saying that Buddha, Pythagoras, Plato, Voltaire, Einstein and Gandhi were veggies too.
“Plants feel pain, too.”
Plants have no central nervous systems, nerve endings or brains (much like people who say plants feel pain).
“I make sure I only eat meat from humane sources”
Countless apparently “humane” producers have been exposed as hideously cruel ventures, merely playing to consumers’ vanity. For instance, Hillside Animal Sanctuary investigated farms that sign up to the RSPCA’s Freedom Food scheme and reportedly discovered worrying conditions. Also, you make sure? You perform spot-checks at the farms that your meat comes from? You ask for objective evidence when you eat at friends’ houses and restaurants? Really? Or are you telling – no pun intended – porkies?
“I understand vegetarianism, but why be vegan?”
Many reasons, the biggest one is that dairy is scary.
“Are you still vegan?”
Yes. And I see that you are still passive-aggressive.
“What would happen to animals if we all stopped eating meat?”
In the short term, animals being kept for meat and dairy could be rehomed or moved to sanctuaries. In the longer term, we would no longer bring innocent individual creatures into this world merely to enslave and then kill them.
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
“Isn’t it boring being a vegan?”
It’s good you think pigs are special, because they are: they’re smarter than cats and dogs, capable of solving problems, learning words and phrases, and playing computer games. But did you know that clipping piglets’ teeth and cutting off their tails without pain relief is standard practice in the meat industry, and that many male piglets are castrated without anaesthetic? Piglets who grow too slowly are killed by being slammed headfirst onto concrete floors. This standard industry practice is called “thumping”.
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