Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Vegan Week

2.14- Vegan Week going very well so far. I have not had to change my diet at all. Being a vegan is easy.

9.32- I am very hungry but can't have toast or cereal because no butter or milk.

11.00- Just got back from Tesco. I bought oat milk and rice milk in the hope that one of them is nicer than soya milk, tofu, falafels, olive-oil based spread, peanuts, pringels (didn't appear to have any animal products in the ingredients), bread, tea bags, oven chips, cream crackers (which apparently contain no cream) and some Frusli cereal bars. On a Monday I'm out from 12.00 to about 21.00ish and usually I get snacks at the union shop, but today it's going to have to be a packed lunch.

22.33- Just got in. Today I have eaten mostly pringels. I also discovered that I cannot eat my Frusli bars because they contain honey. Less than 0.5%, but it's still honey. A jar of chocolate spread on my desk is looking at me. Lucky I'm not subject to feeble human desires. I had jam on toast in stead, although my flatmate, Joe, did suggest that a bee may have shat on one of the berries. I guess it's never possible to eliminate ALL animal produce from your diet.
I also just tested rice and oat milk. Both taste of pretty much nothing, kind of like milk, and are nicer than soya milk which is now reserved for tea. The oat milk has a rather unpleasant yellow tinge to it but tastes like watered down milk so is ok. The rice milk looks like skimmed milk and tastes good. In fact, if I didn't know I might think it was real milk.

1.58-So far today I have eaten just peanuts.

11.22- It has come to my attention that the olive spread I was eating contains milk, so I will no longer be eating it.

16.11- I am extremely weak. I discovered half way through my second tube of pringles a 'tick' thing on the side next to 'vegetarian' but not one next to 'vegan'. A closer look at the ingredients revealed 'lactose from milk' in the sub-ingredients of 'salt and vinegar flavour'. In stead of immediately ceasing to eat them I gorged the whole tube, due to being extremely hungry and at a loss as to what to eat. I will be eating no more pringles this week. The list of foods I can eat grows shorter.

16.19- Pancake Day. Not a great day to be a vegan. Ironically I am behaving more in the spirit of the Christian tradition by giving something up than the millions of Christians who will eat pancakes until they feel sick and give nothing up.

Why be Vegan?
Strangely enough, I have come this far without really asking this question. The challenge was enough reason for me.

The Vegan society (http://www.vegansociety.com/become-a-vegan/why.aspx) says it's better for you, listing a whole load of nasty stuff you get less of in a vegan diet, although I can't help but think that this is just from eating less food, and to be honest, the health benefits would have to be massive compared to vegetarianism to make me consider a vegan diet full-time. I think a lot of the unpleasant diseases they list as being less likely are also less likely if you're a vegetarian, such as various digestive cancers.

The animal welfare arguments are a lot stronger. It is true that we don't need to consume animals at all to survive. And the conditions and treatment of animals in egg and milk production is arguably just as bad as animals killed for their meat.

The environmental arguments are also good ones. The greenhouse gas emissions from meat and animal product production are significant, and cutting animal products out reduces your carbon footprint significantly.

The final point, that it's 'delicious' seems a bad one, although is perhaps there to persuade people concerned abut the sacrifice they would have to make based on the previous arguments. The problem is, a lot of meat eaters say this about their diet and vegetarians and vegans have to argue that this should not be the main consideration when choosing a diet, so using the argument the other way appears hypocritical.

17.25-Just had falafels. Was going to have ketchup, but guess what? It has lactose in it. It is getting very tempting to not look at ingredients and assume they're vegan.

Why being vegan is harder than being vegetarian
Obvious. Yes. There are fewer things you can eat. But I think veganism is disproportionately difficult. Setting aside desiring to eat certain foods, for vegetarians it is quite clear what you can't eat. There's the occasional tricky one like Haribo, but generally it's clear what constitutes meat. However, for vegas, animal products are in so many things you wouldn't expect, like ketchup. Animal products like eggs and milk are often not foods in themselves the way meat is, they are often used as ingredients in the most unlikely places. This means that the vegan has to be extremely vigilant in checking ingredients.
Secondly, a hell of a lot of sweet things, like chocolate and desserts, involve animal products, and these things are often the most pleasurable to eat. I don't think I eat much chocolate, but weirdly I'm craving it after two days.
A vegan diet has to impact your every food choice. If it was simply not eating an area of food, like bread, it would be easier. As much as bread is a staple food, it is not often a sneaky ingredient in things so is easier to avoid.

20.09-Had chips and peas. Tried making vegan ketchup based on the ingredients on the bottle. It didn't taste very nice.

14.56-Just had my first food of the day. Marmite on toast. I discovered some vegan margarine so I used that. Going to make curry later. It will be my first proper meal of the week, more because of business than anything else.

18.16-This is the first time this week I have been really really full up. Just had a massive vegan curry, pretty much identical to my usual vegetarian curry.

13.34-Quite an uneventful day so far from a vegan perspective. Had falafel, peas, beans and chips (minus ketchup) for lunch so hopefully won't be hungry again for another few hours.

2.56-Thursday evening I had beans on toast then chips later, then some milkless rice crispies (just cos I like the like that) and then some toast. I should add this was over about a nine hour period.

2.09-[writing about Friday] It was very easy being vegan today because I hardly ate anything. 2 bowls of cereal, 2 sandwiches, some nibbles and chips.

16.11-The last two days have been a bit of a fail because I haven't really eaten anything. Yesterday I had Kettle Chips and Bourbons, today I've had a bean wrap. Going to have the rest of the other day's curry later.

What have I learnt?
A week is probably much to short-a time to properly experience the vegan diet. It is often easier to not eat than put all the extra effort into finding something you can eat, and I think I would have to do it for a least a month before I got hungry enough to put adequate thought into my meals and snacks. However, it was long enough to realise that being a vegan is bloody difficult and I have every respect for people who have such a high level of moral commitment as to sacrifice so much. Veganism is much harder than vegetarianism for the reasons explained above, although perhaps over time it's possible to get used to.

I was surprised how much I wanted chocolate. I don't think I eat much chocolate but after about two days I was craving it.

Will I continue with it? No. It is too difficult and the moral arguments, while significant and valid, are not strong enough to demand such a change. As long as we consume animal products reasonably, by buying free-range eggs for example, I can't see the problem. Having said that, I have developed a taste for rice milk, and while I will continue consuming cows' milk, I will try and take vegan options where possible and cut down my consumption of animal products. Aside from veganism, I also have a lot of ground to make up in terms of ethical consumption, such as buying things with less packaging, although I already buy fair trade where possible and don't waste any food. To focus solely on animals is, I think, to miss the point.

Would I recommend it? Yes. Even if I didn't particularly enjoy being vegan, I think it's definitely worth trying. You may be a more creative cook than me or find it easier to adapt to the diet. In fact, I intend to try it again too, on a week when I'm not out all the time and can put effort into making good, vegan food.


  1. This sounds like a nightmare to me
    You're a very brave man!

  2. I am Morgan Spurlock in reverse.