Bearing Witness with Essex Pig Save – Why Being Vegan Isn’t Enough

In 2016, I took the step from vegan to vegan activist. It was a new year’s resolution of mine to become more involved in animal rights. I would watch videos of undercover investigations in factory farms, and I knew that my money was not paying for any of this cruelty…but this still didn’t make me feel any better. No fair! I did the research, watched the footage, I made the leap from vegetarian to vegan, surely I should feel at peace knowing that my money isn’t paying anybody to torture and kill animals?! Unfortunately, for many people like me, this isn’t enough. New investigations keep cropping up all the time, new disturbing pictures, and although you might not be contributing to it, are you doing enough to change this course of history? Or will you be burdened with the fear of future generations looking back and saying, ‘why didn’t they do more?’

My answer? Activism. Last summer, I joined Toronto Pig Save in a series of vigils in a short space of time, bearing witness to cows, pigs, lambs and chickens. I talked to Anita Krajnc about how her passion lead to her facing the possibility of going to prison for what she believed in (read more about Anita’s trial here). I talked to other activists, and eventually found that a lot of people felt the same as me. Since then I have attended regular save vigils, taking time out of my own little life to think about the suffering of others, and actually being there for them, instead of turning a blind eye. The quote that best sums up what I’m talking about here is:

‘Activism is my rent for living on the planet.’ – Alice Walker

Yesterday I joined other activists to say goodbye to innocent pigs about to enter Cheale Meats in Essex. This is one of the ‘nicer’ locations for a slaughterhouse, as strange as that is to say. The surrounding area here is very deceiving –  a beautiful countryside with birds singing and typical rural surroundings. The thing that ruins all this though? The screams of helpless pigs inside Cheale Meats, and today those screams were extra loud.

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We were able to bear witness to some of the pigs entering Cheale Meats. They were cramped, frightened, agitated and seemed to have an idea about where they were headed. Well, they are one of the world’s most intelligent animals (cleverer than dogs) let’s give them some credit, right? Take a moment to think about how you would feel if you were in this very same situation…

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We had two precious minutes with these animals. For two minutes, they were shown compassion. For two minutes, they were viewed as living beings instead of simply commodities. For two minutes, time spent with them was time we wanted to give, not because we were ‘doing our job’ to cause them pain and suffering. For us it was just two minutes, for them it was some of their last moments on earth.

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As the trucks pulled off into the gloom of Cheale Meats, we spent an extra two minutes remembering these animals silently. As the human race, we have let them down. But as individuals, there’s still a lot more we can do.

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In many situations in life, you can do something or you can do nothing. As sad as it is to say, the animals I met today were going to die regardless. We can either be there for them, and share their story, or we can let them suffer in silence. At the end of 2016, I wrote about some of my proudest moments of the year (check this out here)- it wasn’t losing weight, it wasn’t stopping biting my nails, it wasn’t spending less money on clothes – it was getting active for animals. Feeling overwhelmed and angry about a factory farming video you’ve just watched? Good! Use it. Use it to share their story, attend animal rights events, go to vigils and look into the eyes of animals bound for slaughter. Because this is happening whether you turn a blind eye or not. But I guarantee you will feel stronger and prouder as you find yourself part of some amazing milestones that will be happening for animals. Just this weekend, Ringling Brother’s Circus announced they will (finally) be closing this year, and no more animals will be suffering for our entertainment in their hands (read about this here). Imagine how awesome it feels to be a part of that? To have protested for a cause you felt so passionate about, and the world listened. It can happen, and it is happening! Make 2017 the year you actually did something about what you care about. And speak up! Because the world is listening, and things are changing, but please don’t forget those that won’t get to see this change.

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RIP to all the pigs I met today.

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The Save Movement

An excellent way to get active for animals is by attending Save vigils. These are now cropping up all over the place, so the chances are there will be one not too far from you. And if there isn’t? Start your own! I bet there will be plenty of other people in your area that want to get active for animals too. Check out the following links for more information:

List of Save Groups

Essex Pig Save

Toronto Pig Save

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Vegan Life Live – Alexandra Palace, London

So this weekend saw the first event by hugely popular magazine ‘Vegan Life’. Like a lot of people, I’m a huge fan of Vegan Life magazine – I’ve had a few of my articles about sanctuary visits published here, plus have had the opportunity to meet some of the people involved who have attended Essex Pig Save Vigils (read about my most recent experience at Essex Pig Save here). So I knew I was going to be in safe hands attending this event. Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed. Alexandra Palace was heaving with people eager to sample some tasty vegan food and maybe learn a thing or two. Here are a few of my highlights from Saturday 7th January.

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The Food Court

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Baking Bad

Baking Bad was my first stop earlier on in the day. I’d heard great things about their cupcakes (and also thought they had a pretty cool name). I was a little upset that my go-to cupcake favourite ‘Ms Cupcake’, based in Brixton (check out my blog about Ms Cupcake here) were not making an appearance, but this was something I thought made the event as a whole a little different to VegFest. There were a lot of new companies that VegFest regulars may not have visited before, so the awesome chance to check out a whole new range of vegan companies. The cupcakes from Baking Bad were beautifully decorated and incredibly tasty.

 Mex It Up

This was another newbie for me. With so much choice in the food court, options from all over the world, and firm favourites like ‘What the Pitta’ with a never-ending queue, I decided to try the vegan world’s answer to Mexican street food – ‘Mex It Up’. Thoroughly recommended! The loaded nachos were great, accompanied by jackfruit and some vegan nacho cheese – what’s not to love?! I also had the New York Cheesecake, a vegan version of the world renowned desert – amazing!

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Vita Coco Kitchen

There seemed to be lots of interesting stuff going on here. I watched ‘Quick and Easy Weekday Dinners’ by Chef Day Radley where she made an interesting combination of butter bean mash and tempeh. You can find the recipe for this and a whole host of other quick, healthy vegan recipes on her website here.

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Palace Suite

Another special mention has to go to Toni Shephard – Executive Director at Animal Equality – who spoke about the realities for animals living on factory farms. Animal Equality are one of my favourite organisations and I really admire the work they are doing. Essex Pig Save teamed up with Animal Equality’s iAnimal campaign – showing people virtual reality footage inside factory farms – earlier this year (read about it here).

Cruelty-Free Shopping

  1. Love Libby X Necklace – I love this brand! I already have a few of their necklaces and bracelets, each one hand-made and unique. Check out their website here.
  2. Wear Your Voice ‘Vegan Power’ Vest – As designed by vegan marathon runner and all round superhero for animals Fiona Oakes (read about when I met Fiona and the animals at Tower Hill sanctuary here). £5.00 from the sale of every vest goes directly to the Fiona Oakes Foundation. Wear Your Voice also have a whole host of different animal rights clothing – check out their website here.

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3. Create & Case ‘Kiss of a Panda’ Clutch Bag – This was another brand new vegan company for me, and I’m so glad I found them! This 100% PETA approved clutch bag is one of many unique and ultra-cool vegan bags and purses. This design was one of my favourites, you can buy one for yourself here.

Overall, I think most people will agree that the first Vegan Life Live event was a great success, and the perfect way to kick off 2017! Taking their own spin on vegan exhibitions that we have grown to love such as Vegfest, I was really impressed with how the event was organised. I’m so pleased that more events like this seem to be popping up all over the place, showing that the demand for vegan products is higher than ever!  I hope to see this event back in London next year.

If you aren’t already familiar with Vegan Life magazine, be sure to check out their website here.

Travel: Best Vegan Food Spots in Glasgow, Scotland

Happy new year everybody! I hope you all had a great Christmas break. I find the new year the perfect time to get focused and set out goals to achieve for the next twelve months. In my previous blog, I picked out some of my highlights from 2016 (view here), but unfortunately the world of animal rights still has a long way to come, so I plan to achieve much more in 2017!

I spent my New Year’s in Glasgow with one of my best friends and photographer Lottie, check out her awesome photography website here. It’s no wonder she decided to move to Scotland, it really does have spectacular views. We drove to Glen Coe and were greeted by mountains, snow, and plenty of sheep! If you’re staying in Glasgow, Glen Coe is about a two hour drive, and perfect for a day out escaping the city and appreciating the natural world.

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Now…on to the food! To be honest, Scotland really did surprise me. An area known for traditional dishes such as haggis (which you can find the vegan version of at the restaurants I’m about to talk about), I didn’t hold out much hope for vegan food. I was so, so wrong. Not only is the vegan scene thriving in Glasgow with an aray of different vegan pubs and restaurants, these just happen to be the coolest places in town too. My first stop was The Flying Duck which I had heard about prior to visiting, this was just next to the city centre, so easy to find for yummy vegan goodness.

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I absolutely loved everything about this venue; the artwork, the food, the music, the vibe. It reminded me a little of my favourite vegan pub back home in Essex called The Railway Hotel (check out my write up of Mother’s Day at The Railway here). Extra points for the amusing menu with a section named ‘Dawgs’.

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We ordered burgers and mac ‘n’ cheese, which was a little optimistic but its easy to get carried away with vegan food. Everything was delicious. It’s definitely worth checking out The Flying Duck website to see which bands are playing too.

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I also visited Stereo which was another vegan pub/restaurant/gig venue, with a similar vibe to The Flying Duck. I’d heard good things about Stereo, and it’s safe to say I wasn’t disappointed. I think this photograph says it all.

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So good! A special mention goes to the battered cauliflower which was amazing. I also had a hot dog with pretty much everything, and brownie for desert. Everything on the menu looked great! After visiting both places, I was reminded of just how relaxing it is going to a restaurant that is 100% vegan. No worrying about specifically ordering soya milk, or making sure the margarine on the bread is plant-based…Glasgow has you covered with these 100% vegan food spots!

I had also planned to visit Mono which I have heard great things about, however this was closed on New Year’s Day (my last day)… so I guess I’m just going to have to make another trip to Glasgow soon! It definitely looks worth checking out, and all these restaurants are within walking distance from Glasgow city centre…bonus!

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So if you’re travelling to Glasgow for whatever reason, you’re pretty much sorted for vegan food. Are there any other hidden gems in Glasgow I haven’t mentioned? I just hope the rest of Scotland is this vegan-friendly!