I have been vegan for animal welfare reasons since October 2005. Ethical veganism differs from dietary veganism in that ethical vegans also avoid non-dietary animal products such as wool and silk, as well as products that have been tested on animals. I also choose not to support companies who have a bad track record on the environment or animal welfare, even if they offer a vegan product. For example, you won’t find me eating a Nando’s or McDonald’s vegan burger or using Procter & Gamble toiletries.
I don’t claim to be a “perfect” vegan. From time to time I accept a cup of tea with dairy milk in it from a friend or eat a flapjack containing butter if I’m caught short and there isn’t a vegan option. I also sometimes choose to purchase second-hand wool and second-hand leather products over new, plastic based vegan alternatives for environmental reasons.
From time to time I share recipes and advice on the theme of veganism, from the skincare routine I follow to the materials I use for my work and hobbies. I hope that they help you in your pursuit of a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. Remember, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing to make a big difference both for animals and for the wider environment.
Ethical veganism for me is about reducing my demand for and support of products and companies that cause harm to animals rather than an exercise in point scoring and “purity”.
Today I celebrate fifteen years of veganism. I turned vegan in the autumn of 2005 when I was nineteen and in my second year at university. Before turning vegan I ate a normal diet including meat, fish and dairy, and I didn’t pay too much attention to the non-food items I used either, other than to buy cruelty free cosmetics. The only thing I didn’t eat was beef which I stopped eating in the mid 1990s as a result of the BSE / CJD crisis in the UK. It was my decision to stop eating beef when I was ten, and I made that decision because I was so horrified by what I was seeing in the news and the knowledge that BSE was caused by feeding cows – herbivores – low quality food containing the remains of other animals. I was probably more aware of the BSE and CJD crisis than most children and teenagers would have been at the time because, after leaving midwifery in the late 1990s, my mum worked as a nurse and provided nursing home care for a young woman just a few years older than my brother and sister were who was dying from CJD. Knowing what I did, giving up beef was easy.
Saturday is treat day, and so yesterday afternoon I made a strawberry cheesecake. I’ve made a raw vegan strawberry cheesecake before, but I couldn’t find the recipe for it and so I looked online for some ideas. I found this recipe on the Sainsbury’s website, and loosely followed it to get an idea for proportions. The final cheesecake is very different to the Sainsbury’s recipe though, so I thought I would write it down and share it here on my blog so that I can remember the changes I made next time I want to make one. It’s a very simple recipe and you can’t go too far wrong. I’ve also included suggestions for ingredient swaps if you don’t have something on the list. The basic idea for this cake is a smoothie poured over a pressed almond and date base, and then frozen to set. You don’t have to use strawberries, you could also make it with blueberries, peaches, blackberries, or any other soft fruit you have to hand.
Here are a few photos of my first attempt at bookbinding. I wanted to make a sketchbook with paper that would be suitable for watercolour painting, but I couldn’t find a vegan watercolour sketchbook that I liked. It might sound like a funny thing to worry about being vegan, but quite often watercolour paper is coated – ‘sized’ – with gelatine. Gelatine helps reduce absorbency and allow you to rework wet paint on the surface of the paper, but it’s a by-product of animal husbandry and something vegetarians and vegans avoid. I thought it would just be easier to make my own sketchbook so that I could have full control over the paper, the binding, the covers and the size.
I thought I’d share my skincare routine because every time I tried searching for a minimalist skincare routine for normal skin I found routines with ten steps and twenty products, and to me that’s not very simple! If it’s not simple then I know I won’t bother with it for long. I’ve put together my own routine and I’m sharing it in case it’s helpful for anyone else who is looking for a simple, minimalist skincare routine.
I’m relatively new to watercolour painting. I’ve been teaching myself to draw and to paint since last September, and as it’s completely new to me and I knew nothing about art supplies to begin with, it’s been a steep learning curve. I have been vegan since October 2005 and my veganism influences not just what I eat, but what I wear, the cosmetics and household products I buy and use, and any products I use for work and my hobbies. Whilst the environmental benefits of being vegan are important to me I am vegan for animal welfare reasons first and foremost.
I thought at first that it wouldn’t be too complicated to find vegan watercolour supplies. I assumed I’d have to be wary over certain red pigments (because of cochineal) and black pigments (because of bone char) but what I didn’t realise was that many of the artist grade paints contain a substance called ox gall which (correct me if I’m wrong) influences viscosity and the way paint holds together in suspension as well as on paper.