10 Things I Do That Aren’t Vegan

  1. I wear leather boots and wool jumpers.

IMG_2683I sure as dammit wouldn’t purchase anything ever again that was made of cow hide, sheep skin, wool, or silk for that matter. But I do own items made from these materials that I still have from before I turned vegan. The reason I keep them is that I also don’t believe in waste. I will continue to wear them until they wear out. And then I will be replacing them with vegan alternatives instead. I do however, feel very odd about wearing them. I can feel a sense of betrayal laying heavily around my shoulders as I don my “old faithful” leather jacket. And I don’t therefore wear it very often and there may come a point where I simply don’t want to wear it any more and in that case, I’ll pass it on to a charity shop or something rather than just throwing it away. It doesn’t seem right to just toss it in the trash when an animal was murdered to make it. In fact, I appreciate these garments so much more and take extra care of them because it seems callous to treat them badly after an animal gave their life for them. Nowadays, I always check the labels on any garments to make sure that they don’t contain any animal-derived products. This goes for other things too, not just clothes. For example, we’ve recently replaced our leather sofa with a fabric alternative.

 

  1. I feed my dog meat.

IMG_6019There are vegans out there that will argue that this means I’m not truly vegan at all. It’s a bone of contention amongst vegans. They generally fight each other about the issue. There’s evidence to say that cats are obligate carnivores, that is, nature has determined that they’re physically unable to survive on a herbivorous diet. They’re basically born meat-eaters and there’s no getting away from it. However, there is evidence to say that dogs are not obligate carnivores and can not only survive, but thrive, on a plant-based diet. In fact, one of the dogs that held the title of oldest dog in the World, ate a purely vegan diet. However, I don’t feel that I have enough knowledge of the subject to put my dog on a vegan diet and I’m concerned that I’d do more harm than good. Especially as I know that some vegan foods can actually be bad for a dog. My dog also has a particularly sensitive stomach. I have found a food that suits him and I don’t want to upset things. However, if I ever had another dog in the future, it is something that I would want to further explore.

 

  1. I take iron tablets.

screen shot 2019-01-04 at 21.15.44I did a lot of research to find a brand whose ingredients did not contain animal products, but they are from a pharmaceutical company who do test on animals. There are iron supplements out there that are vegan AND cruelty-free, but the dosage is not enough for what I need. It’s generally accepted that medication is exempt from veganism. If your health is suffering and you need to take medication, don’t deny your body what it needs to feel better, in order to satisfy your conscience. Avoiding medicines that will bring you back to health because they contain animal products is beyond ridiculous. And just to clarify, my iron deficiency is not due to eating plant-based, I suffered with this long before I became vegan, even back when I ate meat. If you feel guilty, be consoled by this: you need to be fighting fit in order to better protect the animals. You’re no good to them if you’re too poorly to speak up for them.

I’ve also had someone ask me in the past why I took a course of antibiotics because I was killing bacteria and wasn’t all life equal in the eyes of a vegan, including bacteria? In short, the reason I took them was for self-preservation. To quote Gary Yurofsky; I love animals but if a bear jumped out and started attacking me, I wouldn’t just stand there and let it kill me. It’s the same with bacteria, if they’re threatening my health, I’m not gonna let them take over, I’m gonna fight them. You have to be practical and being vegan, to me, means avoiding animal products as much as is practically possible.

 

  1. I use Sensodyne toothpaste.

Not all the time. I buy vegan, cruelty-free beauty products with no exception… apart from toothpaste. I use a vegan and cruelty-free toothpaste that is specially formulated for sensitive teeth, but I’m reluctant to admit that it doesn’t work as well as Sensodyne, so I keep a tube handy in the bathroom cabinet. I only use it when my teeth start to become painful. Once it’s back under control, I switch back to the vegan toothpaste that the rest of the family use, until it happens again.

 

  1. I buy my children vegetarian food at restaurants.

53243792_501678983694545_7231372836399480832_n.jpgMy kids are vegan at home. I will not allow any non-vegan food in the house at all. When we’re out, I’ll order vegan for them where possible, but sometimes it’s too difficult (like at a children’s party), especially for a threenager who really doesn’t “get” veganism yet and who I don’t feel ready to explain the gory details to. So I allow them to follow a vegetarian diet sometimes when we’re out.

My youngest is still at nursery and the nursery are under strict instructions to only allow him to eat vegetarian food. However, I allow my eldest (6 years old) to choose his own meals at school, which means that inevitably, occasionally he will eat meat. He’s quite enthusiastic about veganism and if he knows the dish contains meat, he chooses not to eat it, but sometimes, he won’t realise (take Shepherd’s Pie for example, he probably wouldn’t realise that it contained meat because there’s not an obvious enough clue in the title).

This is where I get it in the neck from both sides.

It really bugs me when people discover that I’m vegan and their next question, asked with a disapproving tone, is “are your children vegan?”. They believe that it isn’t fair for me to “force my views” on to them and that I shouldn’t make that decision for them, they should be allowed to choose for themselves when they’re older. Wait a minute, who said that an omnivorous diet should be the default? When you’re weaning a baby, you’re making the decision on their behalf of what they should eat. So you could equally say that a non-vegan is FORCING an omnivorous diet on to their child… Surely it’s better to allow them to eat a scientifically proven healthier diet containing no animal products while they are too young to make the decision and then let them make their own choices when they’re older? I’ve heard loads of times people say that it’s cruel to deny them and that if I let them have the choice, they’d probably choose non-vegan food. Firstly, there are vegan alternatives to everything so they’re not missing out and secondly, just because a child would choose non-vegan food over vegan food doesn’t mean that we should let them. If we all let children choose their own diet, they’d be eating pizza and ice cream for breakfast!

Conversely, vegans tell me that I’m not trying hard enough, that I should tell the nursery/school to feed them a vegan diet. But the truth is, I care about their mental wellbeing and I don’t want the other children to think that they’re “odd”. Right or wrong, that’s the decision that we’ve made as parents.

My plan is to allow them to make their own choices outside of the home where it is beyond my control, and although I might not always like the decision that they’ve made, what I can do is continue to educate them about the virtues of eating plant-based and hope that they make the right decisions as they grow. Sometimes when we’re out, they’ll see something that is non-vegan and ask if they can have it. I explain, factually, that it isn’t vegan and how it harms the animals, then I leave them to make an informed decision. More often than not, they’ll choose something different instead. But if they stick with their decision, I don’t make a fuss or make them feel guilty.

 

  1. I use a fridge, a laptop and drive a car.

54516654_412730789297871_765441782933618688_n.jpgThe issue here lies with the plastics and the glues, they contain minute amounts of animal derivatives and even the process in which some of the minerals are obtained can cause harm to animals. I have to drive a car. It has a leather steering wheel and animal-derived stearic acid in the tyres. There’s little I can do until I’ve earned enough money to buy me a vegan leather, electric Tesla. Which leads on nicely to my next point…

 

  1. I spend money.

In the UK, £5 and £10 notes contain tallow, an animal byproduct. There’s no getting away from it. Does the fact that I have a fiver in my purse make me non-vegan? I don’t think so.

 

  1. I use the hand wash in public bathrooms.

IMG_6170Most soap contains animal fats or other animal byproducts such as milk and honey and might be tested on animals too. I use it because well, it’s just basic hygiene. Whichever way you look at it, by using that soap, I’m contributing to animal cruelty. Had I not used a squirt, it wouldn’t have run out as quickly, it wouldn’t be replaced as quickly, they wouldn’t have had to purchase as much, so the companies that either put animal products into the handwash or that test on animals wouldn’t sell as much, they’d produce less, and fewer animals would be harmed. So although I haven’t bought the soap, I’ve still contributed to animal cruelty. I could avoid this by carrying my own with me, I suppose, but it’s things like this that make vegans sound ridiculous and veganism unattainable and this is what puts people off even trying, they think it’s too difficult.

 

  1. I dye my hair.

54437249_2160648247361365_7174762654882332672_n.jpgVegan and cruelty-free hairdressers are hard to come by and can be expensive. There are several vegan and cruelty free companies that produce home-dye kits, but the issue is that I’d have to do it myself and I know I’d do a horrible job of it. You could argue that in that case, I should stop dying my hair. So yeh, I’m not perfect. But… What I have done is chatted with my usual hairdresser and she’s agreed to still do my hair and charge the regular price, but use the vegan alternatives that I will supply.

 

  1. I’ve decorated my house

IMG_6029We recently updated the décor in our living room and opted for Farrow and Ball paint. I didn’t even think about it at the time, but a lot of paints use animal-derived products as binders such as beeswax and milk protein. It was only after reading the news that Meghan Markle had used vegan paint from the Organic and Natural Paint Co. that I gave it a second thought.

 

The reason for writing this blog post was to show that nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes, but the point is that just because we don’t always get it right doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try. I hate when people call vegans hypocrites. We’re not hypocrites. I’ve had people say to me in the past “but what about all the insects that are killed when harvesting the crops that you eat?” Avoiding harm to animals is not, unfortunately, in our non-vegan world ever going to happen 100%. But just because some insects are killed in harvesting vegetables doesn’t justify bringing animals into the world just to kill and eat them. The whole definition of veganism is that you strive to avoid harming animals as much as is practicable and possible, so yes, some insects will be harmed, it’s unavoidable and incidental, not deliberate. We’re trying our best.

There are loads of things that I know other vegans do that Level 10 Vegan Police would be after them for. I say let’s stop tearing down those that classify themselves as vegan, they’ve already taken giant leaps and have made a big impact. Why don’t we instead focus on educating and converting those that are not yet vegan and don’t yet recognise the global need to reduce the use and exploitation of animals. We need to be united and in support of each other in order to better spread the vegan message, not fight amongst ourselves and put off other would-be vegans because they think it would be too difficult because they’ve got to stop sitting on leather sofas!

What do you think? Is there anything that you do that isn’t vegan that you think the Vegan Police would call you out on? Leave a comment below.

 

Comments containing abuse or profanities will be removed.

Interview with a vegan: Introducing Nutritional Natasa

I first heard about Nutritional Natasa after following her Instagram account and reading her vegan lifestyle blog. Natasa has already led a varied life. She grew up in Cyprus, went to University in Exeter and now resides in sunny Manchester, where I first met up with her.

IMG_0341

@nutritionalnatasa modelling the Costa Clutch bag by Paguro Upcycle. Available in multiple colours. Click HERE to shop.

I was so lucky as to get to spend the afternoon with her as we collaborated on a promo for a fashion brand whose ethics are second to none; Paguro Upcycle. If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll already have read about this company. If you want to check out why they’re so awesome, please see my previous blog post HERE. The general gist is that they’re a vegan company with ethical values. They have scoured the globe to put together a collection of the best artistic creations using sustainable materials. Their products are all made from recycled truck tyres, inner tube, discarded barrels, army tents, and even skateboards! They source raw materials close to their workshop in Indonesia to reduce their Carbon footprint. They are breathing life into small communities giving opportunities to locals and follow fair trade principles. Their product packaging is also 100% recycleable. And their design pieces are exquisite. What more could you ask for?

10779493984_IMG_3011 2

Products include wallets, rucksacks, belts, clutch bags and shoulder bags. Check out some of their range on Amazon HERE.

I met up with Natasa so that we could showcase some of their products using her as a model. We met up for coffee first, where I got to interview her…

NN15

The beautiful Natasa modelling the Becca shoulder bag by Paguro Upcycle. Click HERE to shop.

What was it that made you decide to become vegan?

Transitioning to a vegan lifestyle has definitely been a process over time and I’ve only recently managed to pinpoint the root of my transition. As with most beliefs that we have and decisions we make in life, there’s usually a deeper reasoning behind it, that’s not always obvious.

Ironically, for my 16th birthday, I really wanted to visit a dairy farm to milk a cow – the “traditional way.” My Grandad found a firm that permitted me go along for a visit. Little did I know that I wouldn’t be sat on a stool, in the middle of a field, milking a cow from her udder. Instead, I walked into a confined room, where cows were stacked up next to each-other, being milked from an electronically controlled device.

The factory was relatively small compared to what you’d see on animal rights documentaries, but it still portrayed the commodification and mistreatment of living beings. I remember leaving feeling quite disgusted and disappointed. All non-vegans know that when they’re eating a burger or a steak, it’s derived from an animal. But, visually seeing how different my perception of animal farming was, compared to the reality, was definitely another level of consciousness.

Despite not going vegan or cutting out any animal products immediately, I think the whole experience must’ve had a long term effect. About half a year later, I became quite passionate about human rights, which paralleled my support for the equal treatment of all living beings.

I came across Melanie Joy’s TedX talk one day: “Why we Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows” and decided to adopt a vegan lifestyle immediately! 17-year-old me didn’t anticipate the controversy that this would bring, but after having countless discussions with family members, friends, teachers, coworkers, waitresses, even strangers on the internet… I’ve managed to help so many friends go vegan.

What has been the most positive effect of veganism for you, personally?

Compassion.

I truly believe that as human beings, we’re all capable of being compassionate, empathetic, and loving towards other sentient beings. Following a vegan lifestyle though is more of an explicit reminder of how important this compassion is and how positive it makes you feel. At the start, it felt amazing knowing that my dinner plate didn’t have any negative consequences on another being’s life, but over time, it’s just become second nature. I’ve been vegan for nearly 4 years now, and I think that over time I’ve definitely allowed myself to be more ‘in touch’ with my emotions and to be more kind towards others. We live in a society filled with stereotypes and preconceived ideas of who people are, but being vegan has helped me break through these social constructs as I’ve adopted a mindset that views others as kind and pure at heart.

Additionally, veganism has helped me to develop a more positive relationship with food. My diet consists of more whole foods, such as greens, fruits, and grains that keep me nurtured and energised. Anyone who follows my Instagram and who views my stories knows that I love a good #veganjunkfood feast, so it feels amazing knowing that I can have delicious meals without harming others.

What would you say were the most positive effects overall for the planet?

When I first went vegan, people around me would try to discourage me from following a vegan lifestyle by saying things like “you’re not going to change the world,” or “you’re just one person, you can’t change how animals are treated.” For the most part, they were, and still are, right. I am one person. I won’t single-handedly change how animals are treated. I can’t reverse the damaging effects animal agriculture has had on the environment. But, what I can do, is lead a life that’s kind to others and to the environment. Animal agriculture alone, is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than the combined exhaust from all transportation. As a society, we’ve taken our consumerist habits to the extreme and we’ve quite literally ended up destroying the very land that gave us life. We can’t continue harming voiceless animals without taking responsibility of the consequences it has on our planet. Animals are crammed into confined farms all around the world and the volume of food required to feed animals that will end up being slaughtered to become food themselves, seems counter productive.

Do you think veganism ends at what’s on your dinner plate?

NN13Veganism STARTS at what’s on your dinner plate. Food is something that we eat every day, at least three times a day; so by default, a vegan diet is usually the first (and the easiest) step towards a more ethical way of living. Choosing to not eat animal products is definitely crucial because food is so prominent in our daily routine. But, other purchases we make are just as important when seeking to reduce the overall harm we cause to animals. The fashion industry is a main contributor to animal cruelty, most of us buy new clothes a few times a year. With affordable, high street shops surrounding us, buying non-ethical clothing is an easy option, but it definitely isn’t the the only option, or the right one.

Additionally, veganism encompasses a love and protection towards the planet, which translates into an environmentally conscious outlook. Whether it’s walking instead of deriving, or taking public transport, or using reusable shopping bags when going to the supermarket, every little helps. As a vegan, I’m always on the lookout for how I can best reduce my Carbon footprint, whilst simultaneously being kind towards human and nonhuman beings.

What do you look for in a fashion brand?

Fast Fashion is becoming more exposed for its unethical practices in recent years. In light of numerous animal welfare campaigns from organisations such as PETA and FURFORANIMALS, the “luxurious fashion” statement of wearing fur has faded over the years. However, we still seem to see people wearing clothing made from fur in less explicit ways, such as Canada Goose coats and UGG boots, which are just as horrific. Similarly, the leather industry doesn’t seem to face half as much controversy as it should and people still seem to take pride in their ‘authentic’ leather boots, belts, bags, and so on. There is nothing luxurious about wearing an animal’s skin on your body, if anything, it’s rather barbaric. Whilst I’m in no way perfect and admittedly do own a handful of leather products myself that I purchased before going vegan, I am also pragmatic in acknowledging that we live in a predominantly non vegan world. I always try to make the most ethical choices  when I’m equipped with the necessary knowledge and have the funds for it. However, I think it’s also important to remember that every little helps and that ethical fashion is more of a long term transition, compared to a vegan diet.

Similarly, as well as supporting brands that are kind to animals and to the environment, I find it just as important to support brands that have a fair wage policy. It’s not just about what products are made from, but how workers manufacturing the products are treated and what conditions they’re working under.

What is it about Paguro as a company that you like?

NN16

Shop Paguro’s range HERE.

I absolutely love their drive for recycled materials, it’s
environmentally friendly and always an ideal way of not using up more resources. I always like hearing a company’s story and what inspired them to start off, and I absolutely loved reading up on Paguro’s humble beginnings. I’m confident in saying that our society is facing a serious backlash of over consumerism and excessive production, so the best way to combat that is to utilise materials that have already been created and to repurpose them as alternatives. I wouldn’t consider myself as the biggest ‘fashionista’ out there, but I must admit, I love how sleek and simple the Paguro handbag range is. With such versatility in design and endurance, It’s refreshing to see a brand that creates long lasting fashion statements that are representative of an ethical and kind message.

What advice would you give to fashionistas looking to shop more ethically?

I know I’m stating the obvious here, but educating yourself on the fashion industry is undoubtedly the first step towards making more ethical choices. Do some research on your favourite brands and find out if their pretty clothes are concealing an ugly manufacturing. I’m really happy to see that fast fashion is being exposed more in mainstream media and documentaries as its definitely making it easier for everyone to become more aware of what the consequences of their purchases are. Whilst vegan food is so readily available recently, I know that ethical clothing isn’t as easily accessible on the high street. However, by supporting brands that have a more ethical agenda, shopping from them, and raising awareness around the topic, we can hopefully bring ethical fashion brands to the forefront. On a similar note, cruelty-free makeup has gained much more momentum and by looking out for the little bunny, its so easy to know what makeup brands are vegan friendly.

What do you see for the future of veganism as a whole?

Call me over-ambitious, but I can only hope that the future of our society is veganism. I genuinely believe that deep down, we’re all kind, loving and compassionate; a combination of emotions that will drive us in that direction. Animal rights campaigns and activism are being taken more seriously each and every time, which gives me so much hope towards a more vegan future. We can’t blame people around us for following a non-vegan lifestyle, as most of us have been brought up on an ideology that we need meat, fish, dairy, eggs, and other animal products to survive. However, we’re breaking through these misconceptions thanks to the rise of scientific information, exposing the health effects of consuming animal products; and the rise of animal welfare activity, exposing the unethical side of consuming animal products.

NN14

If you want to learn more about Nutritional Natasa, follow her on Instagram @nutritionalnatasa or take a look at her blog HERE.

If you would like to purchase ethical, vegan, cruelty-free items from the Paguro Upcycle range, they’re available on Amazon HERE.

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links and if you purchase via these links, both Natasa and I will earn a small commission. So thank you if you choose to purchase through these links.