Oh God, so I have mentally signed myself up to Animal Aid's 'March is Vegan Month'!!! Well, it's actually Veggie Month, but I need to up my pace a bit if I'm to save the world. Incidentally, if you're not a veg, it's well worth giving a go: we're nearly at the 3rd month - most diets and many gym memberships have fallen by the wayside, and summer skin will be on show before we know it. A veggie or vegan diet will do wonders for your beach body - promise.
Animal Aid is on side to provide support - both mental and . . . physical? Dietry I suppose. With animal friendly recipes, local restaurants, and meat-free alteratives, Animal Aid will smooth the way. Now, the Veggie Month will be relatively easy; and I can say this in all truth, without meaning to be smug. Not eating animals is a piece of cake; I turned veggie when I was 2 (and no, my parents were actually both meat eaters), and I haven't looked back once. My Mum made me eat fish until I was 4 years old, for health reasons. At this age I then stopped eating fish - they have a nervous system just as we do, and feel pain and trauma just the same. My Mum took me to see 3 dieticians, for obvious reasons. Interestingly enough, 2 of these dieticians were actually vegan, and we were told that turning veggie was the best thing I could ever do for my health.
From that moment on, Animal Aid have been my guide, from helping me learn about where to find mad animal ingredients such as cochineal, gelatine, whey powder and glycerine (some chocolate bars, cheese, ice creams, cakes, biscuits and sweets), to learning which brands used veggie alternatives to the above ingredients, such as veggie whey powder (and no, it isn't always labelled as such - but usually is on cheese), pectin (instead of gelatine), various friendly alternatives to cochineal, such as beetroot, and glycerine from plant extraction.
The major baddies
Whey/ whey powder = made from the lining of a calves stomach. Think 'curds and whey'.
Gelatine = crushed up bones, horns, hooves and teeth that are then jellified.
Cochineal = a food colouring made from the blood of bugs.
Glycerine = fats and oils, used in cooking and the preservation of products, keeping them moist and in tact.
Cadbury's tend to be pretty good and label products if they're veggie. Foxes biscuits tend to use veggie whey powder and other veg alternatives. Nestle don't label anything, the sods. Lion bars are sadly a no go for me. The best thing is to ring or email Nestle, and they will happily send out a product guide to what is good and what is, frankly bad.
It was a very good moment for me when Skittles stopped using gelatine. It was a pretty bad moment when I discovered that Smarties still use bug blood to colour their reds and pinks. I have never got over the fact that Iced Fancies also use cochineal in the pink ones. But in all seriousness, the hardest part of being a veggie is not being able to eat the majority of 1p jelly sweets. Go screw yourself Haribo. I do miss those fried eggs.
However, I shan't mope. There is a huge range of soya and Quorn alternatives to meat; from mince and chicken pieces, to amazing pies, sausages, 'steaks' - sorry though if you love it rare - turkey slices, bacon etc. Even fish fingers and scampi. It is a simple case of finding what you like - there are some excellent alternatives, and some not so good, so it is worth shopping around. Holland and Barrett are good, as are many health food shops, also you can find veggie alternatives such as Quorn Mince in almost every supermarket. Sainsbury's tend to have a decent range - and, they have finally signed up to only buy from meat suppliers who install CCTV in their abattoirs!!! Huzzah!!!
That said, getting cameras inside the slaughterhouses is just a tenth of the battle. Ensuring that they are well placed, maintained and monitored is another story. But, this is a victory nonetheless. Better still; don't let it get to that stage. Don't put your money into slaughterhouses. Simples. I believe that 6 out of the 7 slaughterhouses investigated recently were found to be breaking the slaughter legislations in place to ensure some degree of protection for the animals – and even this really is minimal. In addition to these breaches, some horrendous abuse from staff was discovered.
Check out http://www.animalaid.org.uk/h/n/NEWS/news_slaughter/ALL/2422// for more info on this campaign. And if you decide to give it a go – good luck! It will be one of the best things you can do for the planet, animals and yourself. Even if you only last the month, be assured that you have done some real good for the world. Perhaps after March you will decide to have one or two vegetarian days a week, a la Paul McCartney. If you do, well done, and enjoy - it really is one of the best decisions you will ever make.