” I went vegan for the animals but the health benefits have been huge. My chronic eczema has disappeared and my running has gotten stronger – faster race times and longer endurance ultra races. I’m also so much happier and more at peace with my life choices – I don’t have that niggling conflict of ‘ I love animals but…’ while buying a sandwich made with animal flesh. Best decision I ever made. “
I am fortunate to have many vegans in my life and particularly in my family, but I know this isn’t the case for all of us. For some, being vegan can be a bit isolating if no-one close to you shares your values. Who is there to share your latest vegan finds with? Societies perceptions of what or who vegans are can also be wide off the mark. This is why I think it’s important that we see and hear from real life vegans and how they live. Social media has been an important tool to spread the word about veganism. With this in mind, I have decided to introduce a new section of my blog, Vegan People, where I interview fellow vegans and ask them not only what veganism means to them, but also uncover some of their favourite recipes, foods and other handy vegan finds.
My first interviewee is my dear friend Martha. Martha and I met over 10 years ago in a gym, both very active and health conscious people. Back then I was plant based, but not fully vegan, but I remember when I did transition Martha would tease me about milking nuts! Fast forward a few years and we were having vegan cheese making lessons and both her and her now husband became vegan soon after. Martha is a particularly interesting vegan to interview as she is an ultra runner, so her body needs really good fuel- and lots of it! I am so delighted she agreed to be my first interview subject.
1. Can you tell us what the most significant contributing factor was in your decision to go vegan?
The documentary Vegucated. I’d be passively interested in eating more plant-based food but mostly from a health perspective. I hadn’t, until watching Vegucated, really thought about how animals were used in the food industry (it makes me feel ill just saying that and reminding myself that I was so happily blinkered and unquestioning!) Vegucated isn’t even particularly graphic – but the small snippets and conversations on the treatment of animals were such a shock to me. I went from lifelong omni to veggie by the end of the doc.
2. How long have you been vegan? Did you transition slowly or fairly quickly?
I’ve now been vegan for 3.5 years (hooray!) After watching Vegucated I started obsessively researching treatment of animals raised for human use. I went from omni- veggie – vegan within two weeks and have never looked back. Having intelligent, honest, approachable vegan people like you, April, made the transition so much easier!! ( Thanks Martha! )
3. Whats your current favourite vegan dish?
Ooh, aubergine, sweet potato and parsnip tagine with couscous, dried apricots and toasted almonds. I’m having it about once a week at the moment.
4. Best vegan restaurant/cafe where you live?
Has to be Holy Cow in Edinburgh – they are purely vegan, have seasonal changes to their menu, amazing food and coffee – and are very very dog friendly (Maggie gets her own bowl of carrots!)
5. Best vegan restaurant/cafe you’ve ever been to?
A tie between Holy Cow and the inimitable Mildreds in Soho, London.
6. Where do you get things like shoes and bags? Is it difficult?
It’s not difficult at all and new vegan brands are appearing all the time. I buy mostly online – Wills Vegan Shoes, Bourgeois Boheme and Mat & Nat are my favourites for shoes and bags. The Third Estate in Camden, London is brilliant as a real life, ‘I wanna try things on before I buy them’ vegan store – they have a great selection of shoes, bags, clothes and accessories and they also are really ethically focussed and have very knowledgable people working there.
7. Are you on a tight food budget? Is a vegan lifestyle affordable for you personally?
We are on a relatively tight budget but eating plant-based vegan is much more affordable than eating omni. I order a veg box from a local organic producer once a fortnight and that pretty much does us for the 2 weeks – I’ll adapt our meals around what’s available in that and combine with cupboard staples like lentils. I buy my fruit separately and try and keep it as seasonal as possible (for cost as well as environmental impact) – I also buy some frozen fruit for smoothies. My luxury buys are rye bread, tofu, peanut butter, vegan cheese from Tyne Chease and Nutcrafter as well as a bottle of kombucha about once a week – all of the above from our lovely local healthfood store, Hanover Health, where Wee Maggie (our companion dog) is welcome too.
8. What is your favourite post-run meal?
Scrambled tofu with spinach on rye bread – a decent shake of ‘nooch’ on top and it’s a winner!
9. What do you tend to eat as staples on a daily basis and why?
Green smoothies in the morning (kale/ broccolli/ whatever is in the veg box or needs eaten combined with fruit) – I want get as much raw goodness into my body early in the day.
Raw nuts and seeds for snacking – protein, low GI and filling.
Lentils and quinoa – both great for protein and there are so many ways to eat them (curried, in salads, made into burgers, pancakes, soups….)
10. What are you favourite vegan make-up brands?
I love Inika (inikaorganic.com) – for organic, vegan, cruelty free makeup. Everything is clearly labelled on their site so you know exactly what you are buying and what you are putting on your skin. Kudos to Lush too for clear labelling of vegan products – it’s all about transparency so consumers can make choices.
11. Favourite vegan wardrobe item?
Has to be my Wills Vegan Shoes aviator boots. They were the first vegan boots/ shoes I bought and they have worn in so well – 3 years on, they look funkier than ever and go with pretty much everything.
12. Have you convinced any friends or family to join you yet, and have those around you been generally supportive of your veganism?
Most friends & family have been both interested and supportive, for others it took a wee while to get used to (was probably a real shock as I was a committed omni) and just one or two have been unpleasant/ nasty about it. It can be really upsetting to have something you care about so deeply stamped all over or mocked, however, those experiences are so few in comparison to the kindness, thoughtfulness and respect most people have approached it with. My husband is vegan (we went through the transition together which was brilliant for support) and now my sister-in-law is vegan (which is amazing!!) and we have a few friends and colleagues who are cautiously interested and trying it out/ asking for advice – we’ll get ’em in the end!! (joking… sort of… )
Social media, in particular Instagram, has been such a good resource and has really helped me connect with a network of local vegan people and businesses.
13. You have a companion animal. What do you feel she teaches you about animals, their place in the world and how humans view animals?
Wee Maggie has played a huge part in our transition to veganism. Having such a deep connection with an animal, seeing the breadth of emotions she experiences and wanting to protect her from any pain and discomfort has hugely affected both of us. I work from home and she’s my pal – we hang out together, play together (she loves being chased around the house – the neighbours must think we’re mental!) and chill together. The way society is structured means that I have to take the reins with regards to her safety, health and happiness. However, having her has taught me that animals are feeling, sentient beings that should be seen as our equals – not ever as something to be used by us for food or clothing or anything.
14. Do you see a vegan world in the future?
There is so much more awareness of veganism and there are so many vegan cafes, clothing brands and bars popping up, it does feel like the movement towards a vegan world is happening – it is really exciting and gives me hope. However, I’m also aware (from being so blinkered to animal suffering and environmental and health impact myself for so many years) that it may take a long time and until governments acknowledge it as the only really sustainable future for the world and create policies based on this. Sadly animal agriculture is big business in the UK and most developed countries and governments seem set on propping up these industries and on misinforming people so they will continue to buy and consume animal products. A vegan world will happen eventually – I just wish, for the sake of the animals, it was now.
15. Finally, can you sum up in one sentence why you don’t think we should use animals?
They aren’t ours to use!!
You can find Martha on Instagram at: oh_aye_shes_vegan