Archive for April, 2013

22/04/2013

Earth Day

How many people think, actually think about the planet that we all live on. How is sustains us, where their food comes from, how all of the ‘stuff’ they have came into being, and where ‘away’ is when you throw stuff away.
If you do nothing else today just spend 5 minutes looking around and thinking about ‘stuff’ – the earth is amazing, but it is a finite resource and we really need to slow down – especially us in the ‘west’ – and think about how we live and what will happen in the future.

15/04/2013

The Vegan Society. A wish fulfilled.

I became a vegetarian, for the second time, when my youngest daughter was born. We live in a society where eating meat is the casual, unthinking norm. Being different is hard – and sometimes a person caves. I caved when I was 22 after being veggie for about 5 years for reasons personal and numerous. I’m not proud of it so let’s move on to things more recent and relevant.

So, my youngest daughter was born, now aged 18, and I decided I wanted to commit to being a vegetarian for environmental reasons, and that I wanted my children to be raised as vegetarians. A lot of this was prompted by a Greenpeace leaflet that I saw. I joined and I’m still a member. I suddenly started to become aware of a lot of things that were occurring around the world that I had never seen, heard, or been aware of before. Unfortunately I would say that there is even more selective information passing today than there was then.

I had some false starts, I had challenges and I found myself being invited out by friends less as no-one seemed to know how to cook food anymore – there is still so much fear and trepidation when you tell people you don’t eat animal products; people who normally eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, people who can cook well, people who know how to use the internet or cookbooks – just the word vegetarian seems to send them into a panic.

I carried on quite happily for quite a few years thinking that I was doing a good thing, living healthily and helping the planet and preventing the worst cruelty to animals. Then one day I decided to give up any animal related items from my diet just for a few weeks. I’m not religious, but I do try to have a period of reflection and self-sacrifice once a year – we live in such a relatively wealthy and comfortable society that I feel it is good to challenge ourselves to live less comfortably occasionally. I decided to go ‘vegan’ for a month. No dairy, no eggs, no milk chocolate, no milky coffees or cups of tea, no quiches, no pizzas and no cheese sandwiches!
The first thing I noticed was my knees! I used to have terribly painful knees – 30 something and coming down stairs in the morning like an 80-year-old – tests at the doctors had revealed ‘markers for inflammation’ but no real solution – but here I was almost skipping downstairs in the morning – this was very interesting!

So, I tried a range of soya milks until I found one I really liked in tea (Sunrise unsweetened just in case you’re interested!), I bought a couple of vegan cookbooks and rifled through my beloved Rose Elliot cookbook for the more vegan friendly recipes. What I didn’t do was immediately rush out and start buying the expensive, and for me, not particularly enjoyable, like for like replacements for items like cheese and eggs – I just cooked a lot more with vegetables, beans and eventually nuts (which I really should have been doing from the start – but we’ve all been made so wary of them, which we really don’t need to be – just avoid peanuts has been my general feeling as they’re not particularly healthful anyway). So – I just got on with life – it has made eating out pretty difficult (especially when I was also diagnosed gluten intolerant) – but I can’t afford it anyway and I’d rather cook a meal for friends than go somewhere and pay large sums of money for rotten food prepared by people who don’t care and often can’t cook anyway (how many ‘eateries’ nowadays just have bulk frozen meals delivered – I’m not giving them my money!) but I feel well in myself and the longer I’ve been vegan, and the more I’ve learnt about how to shop and cook vegan, but also about the terrible environmental damage that dairy-farming causes and the cruelty of egg and dairy production systems (including organic) the more glad I am that I challenged myself 5 years ago to try it for just a month.

Just before Christmas last year I happened to walk past my daughter’s computer – I spotted The Vegan Society logo scrolling down the side of the screen and clicked on it to see what the post said. ‘Do you want to work for The Vegan Society?’ is what it said!

So – to cut this rambling story far shorter than it could be, and yep I know I waffle ( yep it is vegan waffle!) – it’s a fault, one of many, I do have them and I acknowledge that – I got a job, different to the one I applied for, but still it’s a job. Pretty much my dream job. Ever since I started working in the charity sector, helping to set up SENSIS and then setting up the NAS branch I have wanted to work in the charity and voluntary sector for, hopefully, the rest of my working life. I cannot imagine ever being able to work somewhere that I know huge profits are being used to cause misery and suffering and destroy the planet – it would break my heart and I don’t think a broken-hearted employee is a good employee!

I have worked at The Vegan Society now for nearly 6 weeks. It is an amazing place to work, incredibly busy, requiring multi-tasking, multi-skills, a frenetic work pace and adaptability – but I also work with the most amazing people in a really friendly, supportive environment doing what I love doing, for a cause that is really special and important. How many people can say that about their jobs?