2018 is the year that saw the word “vegan” appear in the media multiple times, particularly as a response to the climate chaos, which is scientifically proven to befall us. We will pass the point of no return in 12 years time. That’s really not that far away. It’s now the time of year in which we reflect on our lives and plan for the upcoming year, to make resolutions to be better versions of ourselves. And a better version of our home planet.
Since veganism has “blown up”, serious misconceptions about it have arisen. For example, many see it as a diet, or a fad, when in fact veganism is a movement against oppression. Someone who describes themselves as a vegan is a person who recognises that animals are individual sentient beings, that have emotional connections, and feelings, have fundamental rights, and can suffer, and are aware they can suffer. Therefore, vegans avoid participating in the exploitation of animals including food, entertainment, clothing, research, labour or any other use of an animal. Hence, it is impossible to be vegan for four days a week, a day a week, a month etc., as it is based on a code of ethics and ideals. It’s like saying you’re a feminist on weekdays. Those who adhere only to a vegan diet are plant-based but may not hold the same values as vegans. Their contribution certainly adds to the efforts to minimise our destruction of the earth and to end animal oppression.
As an animal rights activist and a social justice activist, I see a tenable link between human and animal justice and rights. For example, if the world went vegan, there would be significant achievements in the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Goal 2, Zero Hunger, as currently the majority of land is used to feed farmed animals which provides the worlds’ population with less food than crop farming can. Goal 3, Good Health and Well-being, as eating a diet of animal products is shown to lead to coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke and Alzheimers. 65% of the world’s population cannot digest cow’s milk yet it is still marketed as “good for us”. The other goals impacted are Goal 5, Gender Equality, Goal 6 Clean Water and Sanitation, Goal 8 Decent Work, Goal 10 Reduced Inequalities, Goal 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities, Goal 12 Responsible Consumption and Production, Goal 13 Climate Action, Goal 14 Life Below Water, Goal 15 Life on Land and, finally, Goal 16 Peace and Justice.
Being a global citizen is about making decisions that are good for the earth, for others, and our own lives as well. So, have you considered going vegan in 2019?
People do go vegan overnight, but normally its after months of reading, watching, listening, experiencing, cooking, talking, and stalking people you’re friends with on Instagram who happen to be vegan. It’s tough to know where to start, but trust me, there is a world of people out there who are vegan advocates and will support you through your journey of learning.
Below are a few resources that I personally found particularly informative, insightful and encouraging when I began my research on veganism in January 2016. We all say, “I could never be vegan” and “but cheese, though”. That was me...this is me right here!
This was the only vegetarian option in a diner in the North of France. Supposed to be a Welsh Rarebit...it was, in fact, a bowl of melted cheddar. I haven’t eaten non-vegan cheese in 17months.
I had never eaten fruit or veg until I was 19 (which led me to develop Irritable Bowel Syndrome...NOT fun). Once you see where your food comes from and what your cheese, hamburger, sausages ACTUALLY cost, you’ll be saying “I could only ever be vegan.”
I’m getting to the practicalities before the ethics. I remember a time when I was like, “But what do I eat?”, I quickly realised I could eat SO MUCH FOOD. The one thing people ask me is, “Is it not very restrictive?” and for me, as a single person, it is not. I cannot speak for a family. There are vegan families out there who can better speak to this experience. Nicole Matthews (@nicolemcelroy80 on IG) is a vegan parent and activist, as is Claire (@healthyfrenchwife) and the Happy Pear twins are parents as well. It requires a change in your relationship with food, challenging tradition and sometimes your own culture- the notion of meat and two veg in particular. My go to for dinner, lunch and brekkie ideas was YouTube. There are so many vegans in the world, in Ireland as well, who show you how to make either cheap, easy and simple dishes, or comforting, complex, time-consuming ones.
My favourites are below:
Cheap Lazy Vegan (does exactly what it says on the tin)
Hot For Food (comfort food)
The Edgy Veg (comfort food, various dishes, baked goods)
The Happy Pear (great if you live in Ireland or UK as you can easily find the ingredients they use.)
Mina Rome (great for meals for one or two people)
Two Market Girls (baked good, vegan take on foods)
The Vegan Zombie (entertaining, simple dishes)
It’s also very important to know what you need in your cupboards. It took me such a long time to realise what I needed to have on hand every day. But luckily for you, The Happy Pear just released a video on pantry essentials. Personally, I always have tins of chopped tomatoes, some kind of bean, brown pasta, rice, noodles, smoked paprika, herbs and spices, soy sauce/tamari, oat milk, oats, apple cider vinegar, nutritional yeast, maple syrup, flax seeds and lots of fresh veg. Always have fruit, nuts, raw bars with you if you’re a snacker like me! Meal prepping is also essential if you don’t have much time to cook in the evenings.
Nothing beats a visual. There are some great docs out there, mostly on Netflix, which will up your critical thinking of the meat and dairy industries. Cowspiracy is the first documentary I watched. It investigates the impact of animal agriculture on the environment and more. What the Health? is a must watch for those who want to know more about plant-based diets and the impact of animal products on health. Here, you will be introduced to Dr Michael Gregor and Dr Milton Mills, who are advocates of a plant-based diet to prevent diseases and illnesses. Finally, the must-watch documentary, is Dominion. This documentary investigates the lives and deaths of farmed animals in Australia. It is certainly a must watch as it shows us the oppression, exploitation and abuse that animals experience, and uncovers slaughterhouse practices which are used in Australia, and are also common practice in Ireland.
Other films you can watch are a mockumentary called Carnage directed and written by Simon Amstell, as well as Bong Joon-Ho's 2017 film Okja. My advice: watch them all. There are many reasons for being vegan, these cover the ethics, health and environmental aspects.
Facebook and Instagram are great places to learn about animal rights activism, vegan food events, new vegan products, restaurants etc. There are a certain few vegan IG accounts I follow, they are @veghuns @veghunks @naracampaigns @plantbasednews and of course all the YouTubers I mentioned above. Follow the GoVeganWorld Facebook page, Dublin and Cork Veg Fest who host vegan festivals in Cork and Dublin each year, the Irish Council Against Blood Sports, National Animal Rights Association. After following these groups you’ll be well connected for events being held in Ireland and Dublin. They will act as sources of information around Irish animal welfare and rights policies, and how you can become an activist if you so wish. GoVeganWorld is a great website for recipes, the ethics of veganism and for more information on veganism. The Vegan Sustainability Magazine Facebook page is a Cork-based publication and has regular updates regarding animals and the environment.
“Where do you get your protein?” SHOCK. HORROR. Plants have protein lads. Who knew, right?! The fact is we can live without animal products. Whether you’re plant-based, vegetarian, omnivore- you can have an unhealthy diet. I am far healthier on a plant-based vegan diet than I was as a vegetarian and as an omnivore. I am not a dietician. I will not tell you things that I am not qualified to tell you. But I will link you to GPs that advocate a plant-based diet and other doctors who research it thoroughly.
I will tell you this: Everyone should be taking B12 supplements. Irish people should be taking Vitamin D supplements year round. Eat 10+ fruit and veg per day. This is what your plate should look like: Vegansociety.com
I recommend checking out Dr Michael Gregor’s website nutritionfacts.org. I also recommend following Dr Ailis Brosnan on social media, as well as Mic the Vegan on YouTube. Mic researches questions on vegan health and reviews studies and condenses them into his videos. Dr Milton Mills, who was invited to Dublin Veg Fest in 2018, is the director of Preventative Medicine in the USA and is another person to watch on YouTube as well.
For those who are active, sporty and athletic, there are indeed vegan athletes! Veg Fest in Ireland has a panel of vegan athletes every year who discuss their training, nutrition and benefits of plant-based diets for their careers. Such athletes are Michael Donohoe, Leo Venus, Heather Gordon, Fiona Oakes, Patrik Baboumian and Hulda B. Waage. All of whom can be followed on Instagram and post about their nutrition and training. Definitely worth booking tickets to Veg Fest to ask your own questions! Also, check out the Running For Good Documentary on Fiona Oakes run of the Marathon des Sables.
Whether or not you decide to take this route it is good to know what organisations are out there advocating for veganism. Irish organisations like the National Animal Rights Association (NARA) are currently working on banning fur farming in Ireland. Their website is also an excellent source of information for new vegans. The Irish Council Against Bloodsports is also actively involved in this campaign and host regular protests outside greyhound racing tracks. There is also the Vegan Information Project which has a stall in Templebar on Thursdays where members talk about veganism with the public. In Galway, there is Connaught Animal Save who host vigils outside slaughterhouses. There are many organisations which host vigils, but it is entirely your decision whether or not to attend and whether that is your type of activism.
As with all kinds of activism, investigate the organisation you intend to join. Veganism is about justice for humans and animals. Vegans are against all oppression of peoples and animals. I translate that to non-violence and intersectionalism. Veganism is part of the global battle to end exploitation and oppression, and to end oppressions to allow people to embrace veganism. Oppressing others, be it in the form of racism, sexism and so on, is not what the vegan movement is.
This is just a small taster of your journey to come. I will leave the rest up to you. Our world is facing a radical problem which can only be solved with a radical solution. We need to change to save our planet, its inhabitant and ourselves. 2019 is said to be the year of the vegan. Let’s make it so.
Aoife Kirk is an MA student Public Advocacy and Activism at NUI Galway. She is an animal rights activist with Kildare Action Against Fur Farming, a member of Kildare Feminist Network, and was co-creator of the SDG Challenge with Development Perspectives. For more information on veganism you can contact her via in fact, @s.c.o.o.b.i or on Facebook, Eefa Kirk.
We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN: https://bit.ly/2E7MhED
Sustainable Development Goals: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/
Cutting Back On Meat Consumption Could Help End Hunger By 2030: Experts: https://bit.ly/2GRpfmJ
Nutrition 2018: New data confirm health benefits of a plant-based diet: https://bit.ly/2JOyjci
Should humans drink cow’s milk?: https://bit.ly/2GVxwpR
Feminism, veganism, and capitalism: https://bit.ly/2Lqncom
Water Sustainability and Animal Agriculture: https://bit.ly/2F3I5p7
There’s a Christmas crisis going on: no one wants to kill your dinner: https://bit.ly/2TtDalb
Dismantling White Veganism: https://bit.ly/2GSI2hM
How to eat your way to a sustainable lifestyle: https://bit.ly/2qFPwtk
10 Negative Effects The Meat Industry Has On The World: https://bit.ly/2VqaTwS
Avoiding meat and dairy is ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth: https://bit.ly/2xvx25d
Veganuary - Why Fish?: https://veganuary.com/why/animals/fish/
WWF: 60% of Global Biodiversity Loss Due to Land Cleared for Meat-Based Diets: https://bit.ly/2RwM0AA
An Effective Veganism Must Be Consistently Anti-Oppression: https://bit.ly/2CL6UDY
Vegan Kitchen Essentials | #Veganuary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jcqsrRbn2o
What the Health: www.whatthehealthfilm.com/
Go Vegan World: https://goveganworld.com/
Vegfest - Dublin: https://www.facebook.com/DublinVegfest/
Irish Council Against Blood Sports: www.banbloodsports.com/
National Animal Rights Association: https://www.naracampaigns.org/
The Vegan Sustainability Magazine: https://www.facebook.com/VeganSustainability/
Nutrition Facts: https://nutritionfacts.org/
Dr Ailis Brosnan: https://www.facebook.com/ailisbrosnan
Vegan Information Project: https://www.facebook.com/theveganinformationproject