“Is that vegan?”
You can hear the mind whir in every vegan’s head as they manoeuvre their way through the armed and dangerous minefield of the local supermarket.
With many products failing to scream out “suitable for vegans”, the paranoid vegan can be seen closely reading labels in shops up and down the country.
And then come even more complications. “Does it contain palm oil?”
“Is the palm oil sustainable?”
“Is the company that produced the product ethical? Do they fund animal testing?”
The vegan screams of frustration rattle the minds of the compassionate across the world – they only want to go shopping.
Of course, there are health food shops and online suppliers who sell only vegan products, there are products that are clearly marked and there are groups on social media that will point you in the right direction, but that is of little reassurance to the confused new vegan with no mobile phone to hand looking at a jar of curry sauce in a supermarket.
Even seasoned vegans make mistakes. I have come home with a can of Vegetarian Spicy Tomato and Rice with Sweetcorn Soup (catchy name that), only to discover the word “honey” lurking in the ingredients list.
“Honey? In soup? Why?” My frustration was audible as I searched for something else to eat for lunch.
There are apps for that. Just search in your app store or do an online search (Ecosia is a nice ethical search engine incidentally). There are even apps that check if your booze is vegan-friendly. When it comes to enjoying nights out, the “is that vegan?” question often arises at the bar. It is impossible to memorise every brand of beer, and it gets even more confusing as some products vary from country to country and some companies vary from product to product. For example, Stella Artois lager is vegan, but Stella’s Cidre is not.
We also have the issue of cross contamination. You want your food to be prepared separately from meat dishes and you want your chefs to not handle your salad after handling pork, for instance. This isn’t as big an ask as it sounds, as with the rise in allergies, restaurants have to be especially careful when it comes to contamination. If they accidentally bring you a dish containing a dairy product, it is totally reasonable for you to ask them to bring a completely new dish that has not come into contact with the product in question.
Many vegans do not even want to look at meat. So, non-vegans, please be mindful that your vegan friends don’t like the sight, or smell of non-vegan food and may very well not wish to eat at the same table where meat is served. Indeed, many will refuse to enter a restaurant at all when non-vegetarian dishes are on the menu. This is a perfectly reasonable attitude to take and friends, colleagues, or family members should not take offence. Is it so difficult to give up meat for the one meal a week you share with vegans? It could mean so much to your friend, especially if they are a new vegan struggling with the pitfalls of finding vegan products.