Tags Posts tagged with "Vegan"


The pitfalls and perils of shopping and going out as a vegan

“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.

A guide to buying cruelty-free household cleaning products.

Housework probably isn’t the topic that first springs to mind when someone mentions veganism.

However, the desire to live a cruelty-free lifestyle does mean vegans pay close attention to the cruelty-free status of the products they use every day. People who are “vegan for the animals” do not wish to use products that are testing on animals or produced by companies that test on animals. Environmental concerns are also a big factor for many leading a compassionate lifestyle. Remember the Cowspiracy documentary focuses mainly on the environmental impact of animal farming and meat production. Therefore, isn’t it natural that vegans wish to do as much to lessen their environmental impact as they can?

The good news is that many companies realise that the environment and cruelty-free living are big business in our consumerist world and like to press home how “green” their products are in marketing them. This also means they are easy to find on the High Street and the virtual High Street.

My own personal favourites, are Astonish.

Astonish are a British company that holds both the Leaping Bunny (certification from Cruelty Free International that products are not tested on animals) and Vegan Society logos. They also have a cruelty free on their website. But, best of all, they are really, really cheap!!! In fact, the best place to find Astonish products seems to be your local pound shop. They have a full range of kitchen and bathroom cleaning products, as well as laundry, carpet cleaning lines and even a glass cleaning spray.

I can recommend Astonish personally, and anecdotal testimony in Vegan groups on social media is very positive too.

Faith In Nature also has a line of household cleaning products at a very reasonable price. They too carry the Vegan Society stamp as well as the Leaping Bunny. This ethical company has been flying the environmental flag for 40 years and their products are available in many independent health food shops as well as from their website.

Ecoleaf also carry the Vegan Society symbol and produce inexpensive plant-based household cleaning products. Bio-D is another independent, family-owned company that is both environmentally sound and which carries the all-important Vegan Society symbol.

EcoZone also have a vegan ethos and the statement on their website underlines their principles. They even sell light bulbs – as well as household cleaning and laundry products.

Method is a company I know little about, but their products state that they’re vegan and they do appear on supermarket shelves, so it’s another one to look out for.

Ecover use the slogan “get nature on your side”, and, indeed, their products are very popular among those in the vegan community – washing up liquid, laundry liquid, toilet cleaner and household cleaning products are all available and widely sold in supermarkets and health food shops.

Ecover’s vegan status is controversial, however, the Vegan Society has removed their Vegan Affiliation status due to the fact Ecover conduct tests using daphnia (water fleas) – they do, however, sport the Leaping Bunny symbol and EU animal testing directive don’t consider daphnia as animals as they don’t have a central nervous system. Ecover say they oppose animal testing, so the debate continues. Interestingly, if you search for “vegan” on their website, the only product that comes up is their kitchen rolls!

Many supermarkets are getting in on the green market and some even state which products are “vegan friendly”. The CO-OP is brilliant in that respect.

Aldi, Morrisons, Tesco and Waitrose also frequently appear on cruelty-free lists.

The Naturewatch Foundation produces a handy (and affordable – it’s £5) Compassionate Shopping Guide that I find invaluable to checking whether or not a company tests on animals (www.naturewatch.org).

Finally, you can make your own. Most are based around using white vinegar as the key ingredient. White vinegar is seen as an all-purpose cleaning product and can be mixed with essential oils or lemon juice. Simply Google “vinegar as a cleaner” to reveal an array of helpful suggestions.

Vegan answers for arguments against their lifestyle. Arguments they they hear too many times...

Vegans and vegetarians hear the same old criticism of their diet and lifestyle time and time again.

We’ve become quite apt at answering the points thrown at us, but here are a few of the answers I give when hearing the “usual arguments”.

“Stop forcing your views down my throat”

Stop forcing yours down the throat of the animal you’re eating, or the cow forced to give you milk for your cheese. It also has to be said that meat-eaters are very quick to tell vegetarians and vegans why they eat meat and why they should too. Quite often they come out with many of the “arguments on this list.

“We are built to eat meat – look at our teeth.”

Why are you a dentist? Most mammals have canine teeth and many herbivores have big canine teeth – look at a hippo’s gnashers – they’re huge – HUGE I tell you!

And look at Chinese water deer – these cute animals look like vampires – but I assure you, they won’t be drinking your blood – unless you’re a leaf!

“But bacon.”

But tofu. But avocados. But veggie burgers… Bacon stinks and it’s bad for you.

“What about your protein?”

You mean that stuff I get from spinach, buckwheat, hummus, kale, peas and lentils?

Protein, like calcium and every vitamin on the nutritional balance sheet has never been a problem for vegans.

Isn’t it funny how people suddenly become concerned about your nutritional intake when you become vegan? Do you usually go around asking people if they get enough protein?

“Being vegan isn’t natural”

Neither is stealing milk from the baby cows it’s developed to nurture. Factory farming isn’t all that natural either I’m afraid.

“But we’re top of the food chain.”

No, we are not. Apex predators are top of the food chain I’m afraid – animals like tigers and Polar bears that have no natural predators. And what is the “food chain” anyway? It’s a man-made idea that gives no scientific reason for eating those animals below us in the chain.

“But it’s nature”

Taking the milk of another species isn’t nature. Factory farming isn’t nature and slaughterhouse aren’t nature. When we talk about “getting back to nature” we don’t generally talk about popping out for a burger, we talk about doing the gardening, going down the allotment or going on a wildlife walk – all very vegan activities.

“We’d be overrun with cows if we didn’t eat them”.

Absolute nonsense. We breed animals to eat, we breed animals to produce eggs and we breed animals to produce milk. If everybody went vegan then we wouldn’t breed these animals – it’s not rocket science. Much as we’d love everybody to go vegan, it isn’t going to happen overnight, so, gradually, as more and more people give up meat, less and less animals will be bred.

“Plants have feelings too.”

I’m afraid I’ve yet to meet a plant with a central nervous system. I’ve yet to see a plant bleed. I’ve never seen a plant cry out for her baby plants. This argument really is scraping the barrel.

Besides, we could all turn fruitarian and be perfectly healthy – but tofu…

Vegan food is often produced by companies with non-vegan ethics. Knowing which companies can and can't be trusted can get a bit confusing.

Are you a level nine vegan?

This means you must be a vigilant vegan, ready for the vegan police to pounce on your Facebook page if you like a company owned by another company that’s a bad company – and you should know that the company is owned by another company and you should also know that another company is a bad company.

It’s simple really.

The vegan police will be called if you like such a company and they will hound you until Facebook makes you go “arrrggghhh”. A lot.

We live in a corporate world. It’s a simple fact. We may not like it, but the truth is, corporate tentacles spread far and wide. They cross oceans, invade neighbouring boardrooms and terrify anarchists like an all-encompassing corporate Cthulhu, wrecking any independent boats that sail across its path.

This poses a huge problem for vegans – a problem beyond the vegan ethics of destroying a mythical sea God, albeit a very dangerous one.

The serious point is that it really is difficult to find out which company owns which company and who they’re owned by in turn. Yes, it really can be that confusing. This means that when you’re trying to be as vegan as possible, you may not know your soya milk is produced by a company, owned by another company, owned by a company that tests on animals.

If you did know, you would probably boycott said soya milk in favour of a more, well, vegan, alternative.

Most consumers simply don’t have enough time to walk around supermarkets in a paranoid daze wondering who owns what and what is, ultimately, safe to buy. The modern world of consumerism is much more complex than is necessary, therefore, having the vegan police on your back isn’t necessarily very productive.

If you’re a busy, working, single vegan mum or dad, you want to run in the supermarket, grab a few things and then run out – although paying for them before you run out is generally a good idea. People often don’t have the time to check who is owned by whom and so forth.

In some respects, the rise in veganism hasn’t helped the cause of the level nine vegans, because as consumer demand for vegan products increases, so does the number of companies producing “vegan-friendly” lines – even some companies you’d avoid like Cthulhu with the plague.

My general advice, is that you can only do your best. Price is always going to be a factor, as is the wants and needs of any children you may have – vegan or otherwise. Independent vegan companies are always a good place to start. I, personally, think we should be promoting independent companies anyway. They are often more approachable for one thing.

But, even independent companies want to sell their products in as many outlets as possible – so is the very shop which is selling the product also ethical?

Remember, busy people often use supermarkets, or online services to get the shopping delivered and supermarkets are often not the most ethical places to shop.

Maybe you prefer the local market? But you have to be able to get to the local market in that short window of free time you have while little Veggie Vernon is screaming out for vegan ice cream.

The vigilance of those who do know who owns who and who do actively boycott companies and spread the word about corporate ownership should be applauded, but it can put new vegans off if we automatically go into attack dog mode when they post a picture of a particular product online.

There is also the argument that raising the profile of vegan products and persuading more companies to produce vegan lines is a good thing – after all, people go vegan for many different reasons and there is gold in them there vegans! And this means, that sometimes, companies which we may not like will start churning out vegan lines. Some people will buy them, some people won’t.

The whole vegan police thing can get a bit ridiculous if I’m honest. So please, if you’re online, play nice with other vegans – after all, being vegan is better than not being vegan after all.

"How will you survive if you get stranded on a desert island?" is a question vegans are often asked. I have the answers - sort of!

There are many things that can happen unexpectedly in our daily lives – lottery win, car crash, puncture, TV going wrong – but we vegans have an extra peril to face every day – we might end up alone on a desert island!

To be fair, sending vegans to desert islands isn’t merely a social media phenomenon; people in pubs, work mates and even family members all suddenly become curious about our survival options should we be stranded on one of the few uninhabited desert islands left in the world. Not only that, but there will be no phone signal, no 3 or 4G and no radar tracking the area in which we vanished.

I really was totally unaware of how dangerous being a vegan could be when I ditched the dairy. If you’re not vegan, never get on a plane or boat with us, it will sink or crash and everybody else will die leaving the sole vegan stranded in the middle of nowhere. It happens all the time.

But a vegan can’t be stranded on just any remote, unpopulated desert island, oh no! In order to be a vegan stranding-friendly desert island, it can have no edible plants or vegetables and be populated only by animals – edible animals of course, or the scenario won’t work.

You see, if there is the option of eating vegetation, then we can’t be forced to hunt animals in order to survive on said desert island. The fact that there needs to be some kind of food chain in place so that carnivores survive goes out of the boat window when it comes to random vegan strandings. You see, carnivores have to prey on animals that are, in general herbivores and herbivores need vegetation to survive, so the whole desert island eco system needs to be totally messed up in order to accommodate vegan strandings.

There will be fresh water on the island of course – the carnivorous beasts need it to survive too, and there will be trees – there has to be something with which to make fire, so said carnivores’ flesh is edible. However, this trees cannot be the type of trees that produce fruit, oh no, or else stranded vegan will become fruitarian and mess up the whole hypothetical stranding horror.

Another issue for the stranded vegan is that, generally humans don’t eat carnivores. Why this is so is down to speculation really – the smell, evolution meaning we haven’t developed a taste for them and that they are harder to catch. Also, said carnivores are often dangerous, so our poor stranded vegan would probably die while trying to break his or her moral code. Don’t forget, most people are stranded without a gun (especially if they’re vegan), so they will probably be hunting with a home-made bow and arrow.

I used to make bows and arrows as a kid, and I wasn’t very good at hitting my brother with them, so I’m sure I’d be useless when it came down to trying to kill a mountain lion.

But, fish are carnivores. So it seems, the desolated desert island would have to be surrounded by an abundance of sea life – no edible seaweed though – to give our hapless, soon to be lapsed vegan any chance of survival. Of course there will be a tree (without edible fruit) to provide the necessary weapon for catching the poor fish which will provide 100 per cent of your balanced diet.

The message to all vegans is, unless you want to become a seal, avoid getting stranded on desert islands at all costs. When going to work, to the pub, to a vegan fair, or down the shops, take a route that avoids any desert islands on which you can become accidentally stranded.

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Veganism is a message of positivity and equality.

When it comes to equality, “isms” are usually our enemy -sexism, racism, fascism, but to counter the negatives, we have the shining light of veganism.

Dazzling all with its positivity and its message of love and compassion, veganism is the ultimate in equality.

Veganism can be viewed as the opposite of speciesism, in that vegans view all living beings as equal. Yes, every creature with a central nervous system has an equal role to play on this rock of ours and, therefore, we have no right to exploit any living thing.

Welcome to Utopia.

Except, it isn’t.

The above is all fine is theory. Indeed, it’s the philosophy by which I live my life. However, for this to be true, equality has to apply to the human animal and different groups within this species.

In short, that means no sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia or any other form of bullying. That includes bullying in vegan Facebook groups, on Twitter and in the office/playground/common room/pub. And so forth.

My argument is; how can we fight for animal rights when we don’t recognise human rights?

To some in the animal rights movement, only animal rights matter. They dismiss the battle for human rights, because, they say, animals have had it worse. Try telling that to somebody facing the firing squad in Saudi Arabia, a refugee family fleeing Syria or a starving child in way too many nations.

If you want to fight for animal rights, fight for the rights of all animals – including the human animal – it’s not rocket science. If we can’t care for our own species, what hope is there for other species? I don’t say this lightly. I simply can’t understand how people can be racist/sexist and vegan – it doesn’t make sense.

What about all those nasty protests, that’s hardly a message of love is it?

Well actually, it is. Love provokes passion and passion is what drives life – and vegans are passionate about the lives of others – that, to me, is the ultimate sign of love. We are the ultimate “do-gooders” – and don’t take that as an insult, a “do-gooder” is someone who does good – how can that be an insult?

Seriously, I have spent my adult life having to defend my beliefs – and every single time you tell somebody you’re a vegan, they ram their meat-eating agenda down your throat; “but bacon”, “if animals weren’t meant to be eaten, they wouldn’t be made of meat” and, the best of all, “don’t force your opinions down my throat” – well don’t force yours down a cow’s throat then – and slash said throat as an indirect consequence. You see, us vegan have an answer for everything – annoying aren’t we?

Passion is something I think should be encouraged in all. If it’s the driving force for veganism, then it leads to so many wonderful things; a love of cooking, a desire to spread the word, a greater bond with the world around us and a greater awareness of what we eat.

Since the advent of social media and the rise of the keyboard warrior, being an activist has never been so easy and this means the average vegan’s Facebook newsfeed is bombarded with animal rights petitions. Good. It means one can be a vegan activist while drinking tea and eating vegan cake. Just remember to be polite and respectful in your debates, after all, this is a message of love we are spreading.

Coconut oil is the latest vegan superfood, but how do you eat it and what good does it do you?

Recently, coconut oil has become the must-have superfood that every vegan likes to have in their cupboard. The fact that, more often than not, it costs a tenner a jar doesn’t seem to put people off.

It must be said, that many other oils have wallet-busting price tags too – not least the top of the range olive oils. So, being healthy can be a costly business.

When I was a kid, a coconut was that hard thing you won at the fair. You could crack it open and drink the, what I thought at the time was yukky, milk and, if you had the patience, scape away the coconut flesh and devour it.

As the years progressed and my hairline regressed I came to see coconut as a curry ingredient. Coconut milk has always been the must-use liquid for me when making home-made veg curries. But, I must admit, I was a bit caught out by the rising popularity of the oil, I was also a bit confused as to how I was supposed to use it!

Firstly, let’s look at why it’s classed as a “superfood” Obviously it doesn’t wear a cape and recue cats stuck up trees! However, coconut oil has been linked with weight loss (it helps you burn more fat and it also reduces hunger as it makes you feel fuller) and, studies are beginning to show it can reduce seizure rates in children with epilepsy (findings indicate the MCTs in coconut oil can increase blood concentration of ketone bodies, which can help reduce seizures in epileptic kids).

Coconut oil has also been linked with improving blood cholesterol levels, which can, in turn, lower the risk of heart disease. The fatty acids contained within the nutty elixir are said to improve brain functions too.

You can also take it out of the kitchen and use it in other ways – it makes a great pre-shave for men with sensitive skin – remember, we vegans are a sensitive bunch after all. It also doubles as a sunscreen – it’s around factor 4, a moisturiser, massage oil, lubricant during sex (but not with latex condoms), make-up remover (I haven’t tried it myself), tattoo healing lotion, toothpaste (mix with baking soda) and an insect repellent (mix with peppermint oil)

In other words, it has uses in the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom – and if you love it that much, you can indeed have sex with it, so it seems!

But how can I eat it Paul? Well, if you’re that way inclined, you can simply eat a teaspoonful – see it as a health supplement. You can add it to your smoothies, which is another healthy way of taking it. You can add it to tea or coffee – I already use coconut milk, so it would just enhance the flavour I guess, I have yet to try it this way and you can bake with it. It can also be used for frying – it’s an oil remember.

Why not use coconut oil instead of olive or vegetable oil to drizzle over your kale chips before you bake them? As kale is already a fellow superfood, this match made in heaven will produce a super super food offspring for your late night snacking delight.

People seem to constantly worry about our nutrient intake as soon as we turn vegan. The truth is, many vegans are more in tune with health foods and superfoods than our non-vegan friends, so if anyone asks about your health, just show them a jar of coconut oil.

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As the number of vegans increase, so does the number of plant-based alternatives to dairy milks.

Take a walk down any isle of a UK supermarket and you’ll be confronted with rows of dairy-free “milks”. There are so many to choose from that vegans just want to try them all!

The growing realisation that the dairy industry is just as cruel as the meat industry and dairy products really aren’t that healthy or natural, has fuelled an astonishing industry of plant-based milks. The number of new brands that constantly appear on the market astounds even me – given the fact they are so easy to make, I cannot understand why dairy farmers don’t just give up and start producing almond milk to be honest.

When I first became vegetarian more than 25 years ago, there was one brand of rather tasteless soya milk available from the local health food shop. It actually took me a while to get to grips with the taste of soya milk when I first became vegan, but I certainly found the sweetened variety much more palatable.

I did make my own soya milk a few times. All you need is soya beans, muslin, water and some vanilla extract to sweeten. However, it is very messy and to be truly economical, you need to use the leftover soya mush in a stew as soon as you’ve made your “milk”. You can make your own almond milk if you have a blender too I’m told. Basically, all you are doing when you’re making these “milks” is producing bean or nut juice by boiling (soya) or soaking then blending (almond). A quick Google will provide you with plenty of ideas if you fancy going down the DIY route.

So now we have such a huge choice, the question is which one? Well, if you’re just going to use it in drinks and on cereal, it’s a question of taste really. I personally, go for coconut milk in tea and coffee and as I prefer savoury breakfasts the cereal issue doesn’t arise.

I don’t like rice milk, however. I find it thin and think it tastes like dishwater – although generally I try to avoid tasting dishwater too! But it is sweet, for those with a sweeter tooth than me and it’s very low in fat.

It has to be said that soya is the cheaper option and many supermarkets have their own budget versions now. Again, this is a sign of the times and shows the rocketing popularity of dairy alternatives.

If you’re after protein, then oat milk is your best bet – it’s rammed full of the stuff – in fact, it has more protein than taste. So I guess it’s good for athletes. Although, the dishwater option is good for carbohydrates if you want to bulk up with those carbs!

You might also want to check if a particular “milk” has been fortified. Many have calcium or B12 added and vegans sometimes seek this out – of course, all nutrients are available in a balanced diet, but this can be another weight on the right side of the seesaw.

Hazelnut milk is good in coffee, it foams better than soya or almond milk, doesn’t curdle and compliments the flavour well. Cashew is another entry to the market – and again it has a sweet taste I’m told. I haven’t tried it – but I have made a Parmesan alternative and a “cheese” sauce alternative using cashews, and they were both delicious.

Hemp milk is another favourite of mine, but it is generally more expensive than its rivals. However, it is very creamy, full of calcium and contains all 10 essential amino acids. Remember, hemp seeds are a “super food”, and the milk is made from said seeds.

Finally, another dairy alternative is no milk at all! Many people enjoy black tea and coffee, or don’t drink either at all. Others – like me – aren’t cereal fans, and if they are, well, porridge can be made with water and I here muesli works just fine with orange juice. In fact, most cereals will work with water or juice.

Vegans often have to meet animals destined for the slaughterhouse while walking in the countryside - this can be heartbreaking.

Inevitably, vegans who live anywhere near the countryside are going to come into contact with animals destined for the slaughter house. Armed with this knowledge, how do we cope during a walk through the great outdoors?

Obviously, we’d prefer the cows, sheep and pigs we see to be safe in an animal sanctuary, or living naturally wild. All domesticated animals descended from wild animals at some point in the linage, but the Chillingham wild cattle in Northumberland are the last bastions of free cows in England. Totally untouched by man, these 90 odd animals are a stark reminder of how things should be.

As far as pigs go, wild boar have been successfully reintroduced to the Forest of Dean – so much so that they are now culled – and opposed by the Forest of Dean Wild Boar Cull Hunt Saboteurs. I doubt there are many vegans who would support killing animals for being successful, although I could be wrong. I guess if this were to be the case, a human cull would be on the cards very soon – I’m sure that would be quite controversial too!

Wild sheep and goats still roam free in the UK, but as with all wild animals, they are understandably weary of humans. Who can blame them, we kill and eat their mates, shoot fellow wild creatures and build houses or roads right through their homes. Homosapians are a selfish breed of creatures really.

There are also a number of wild chickens scratching a living around the British countryside, but these are thought to be relatives of escaped domestic birds. Sadly, if they do encroach on human habitations, people seem to complain about the noise they make. Animals don’t have the same redress when it comes to the disturbances humans create for them.

It has to be said, that it’s better to see farm animals wandering around fields than it is to observe them cramped together in vast concrete sheds. And, most vegans will go and say “hello” and stroke any animals they come across during their own wanderings – domesticated animals anyway, I don’t recommend stroking an adder! But the point is, it still makes us sad.

The phrase “friends not food” is a popular social media meme, and it sums up how we feel when we see a field of cows or sheep. You see, we have made the connection, we know what the future has in store for these gentle animals. In fact, their only reason for existence is to become meat, gelatine, leather and black pudding.

For exhausted dairy cattle, the future is just as bleak; it’s no better for pigs and sheep.

However, the meat, dairy and egg industries are so vast, that it’s impossible to avoid their victims when taking a stroll outside of a city. And most vegans do feel extremely sad to meet the victims of industries they campaign so passionately against – even for those who merely campaign through dietary choice. Yet, we are often torn, because it’s always a joy to spend time in the company of these fellow beings, and when we do spend time with them, we realise that they are all individuals with their own personalities – just like dogs and cats.

We know, for many, the countryside is a workshop, an office, a warehouse, or a factory, and that makes it all the more difficult for us to enjoy in many ways. But farmers grow vegetables and cereals too – many exclusively so, and we’d be pretty stuck without that side of the farming industry – but is little compensation for knowing what the future hold when looking a cow in the eyes. Because, being vegans, we quite like to connect with nature every now and then with a walk on the wild side.

Here we consider the best milk alternatives for vegans and those trying to reduce their dairy consumption.

Being vegan or vegetarian has never been easier. With so many vegan alternatives to milk and other dairy products, it is now simpler than ever to find an alternative that suits you.

Why is it important?

Many people can accept why vegans don’t want to eat animal meat itself, but eschewing all animal products is a little harder to understand.

The dairy industry faces heavy criticism for its treatment of animals. The image of a traditional, small farm with a few dairy cows and a farming family is a nice one, but it doesn’t usually match up with the commercial reality.

Many cows in factory dairy farms live in confined conditions with limited space to roam. Cows are regularly impregnated to ensure the best milk yields, but their calves are taken away, sometimes being sold to the veal industry. The cows’ young are usually taken away very quickly before stronger bonds develop. However, many organisations suggest that this early separation still causes distress for both mother and calf. Some calves will be fed with milk, while others will be fed milk replacer instead to save even more money.

Despite the ability of cows to live 20 years or more, most are not considered economically viable after a few years, and can be slaughtered anywhere from the age of four to eight. Mastitis, a painful infection in the udder, is common among dairy cows and – if severe enough – will lead to the animal being slaughtered.

Other issues include the impact on farmers from intense competition from the very economical factory farms, with many farmers going out of business. The environmental impact from animal waste is another key problem. If we stop to think about it, we can also seriously question the bizarre (to put it politely) habit of drinking the milk produced by another animal for its young.

What are the alternatives?

Of course, this is not to say that all dairy farms are the same. If you dislike the idea of your milk coming from cows living in unpleasant conditions but are not sure about dairy-free milk, why not do some research and see if you can find local, organic dairy farms which adopt a more ethical framework.

Luckily, we also have a host of vegan alternatives readily available at supermarkets and wholefood retailers.

(1) Soy milk
Soy is commonly used in dairy-free alternatives and is high in protein. Its creaminess and its ability to foam make it a popular choice for baristas as a good milk alternative in lattes and other milky coffees. Soy milk is pretty well established, so it’s quite easy to find unsweetened, sweetened, vanilla or even chocolate soy milk.

(2) Almond milk
Arguably one of the best all-round milk alternatives, and particularly good in baking, almond milk boasts vitamin E along with various other nutrients. Apart from being delicious (assuming that you like the taste of almonds, of course) it is also a very healthy option so long as you opt for the unsweetened option.

(3) Coconut milk
Coconuts get a lot of positive press these days, and for good reason. Full of minerals, they are also lower in sugar than your average fruit. If you’re a fan of granola in the mornings, try swapping your regular milk for coconut milk; the combination is perfect.

(4) Rice milk
This is a great milk to start with as it has a fairly neutral taste. Health-wise, it is a great option, with lower fat then many nut milks. It’s a popular one and is therefore easy to find, and tends to be cheaper than milks derived from slightly more exotic foods.

(5) Hazelnut milk
Another delicious nutty milk alternative, hazelnut milk contains vitamin E and several other vitamins. Tasty in cereal, smoothies and baking, it is a great one to try out.

As is evident, there are a whole host of options available to vegans and people who are growing more conscious of the ethical and environmental issues with the dairy industry. Plenty of other alternatives exist beyond this list and can be experimented with as well. As usual, the best advice is to do some research, try out some different alternatives, and see which one works best for you.