It’s January, some people give up alcohol, others chocolate and in some cases people give up meat and dairy products. They go vegan! Also known as Veganuary.

We caught up with some Midland vegans/vegetarians to find out their thinking about being a vegan/vegetarian and the impact it has on their life styles.

Alex gives an insight about being vegan

Name: Alex Kapil

Profession: Actor

What does it mean to you to be a vegan?

I identify with the definition based on the thoughts of Donald Watson who coined the term vegan in the 1940s “… a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose…”.

How long have you been vegan?

12 years

Why are you vegan is it to do with any religion?

My road to veganism began when I read the novel “Enemies, a Love Story” by Isaac Bashevis Singer. Singer was a Jewish writer whose family fled Europe before the outbreak of the Second World War and this particular novel follows the character of Herman Broder who is a Holocaust survivor. It was this quote that helped me make the connection: “As often as Herman had witnessed the slaughter of animals and fish, he always had the same thought: in their behaviour toward creatures, all men were Nazis. The smugness with which man could do with other species as he pleased exemplified the most extreme racist theories, the principle that might is right.” It made me realise that although I believed that discrimination, bullying and cruelty were wrong, everytime I paid for a burger, a bar of dairy chocolate, a wool jumper or an omelette, I was doing all those things.

Do you wear leather products? No

Should people be allowed to have a choice to eat meat or be vegan/vegetarian or should meat and dairy products be banned?

I am all for personal choice so long as that personal choice doesn’t make a victim of another sentient being, so yes I would be in favour of a ban.

At the moment many people are turning vegetarian and vegan, is this a fad or do do you think it’s something that will continue?

I think it will continue. The media and politicians are finally starting to talk about the link between animal agriculture and climate change and more and more studies are coming out which are demonstrating the benefits of a vegan diet (eg reversal of diabetes). What I find most encouraging however are the individuals and grassroots movements who are embracing veganism for ethical reasons – people fighting for the rights of women, racial, religious or LGBTQIA equality, who are inclusive of non-human animals in their fights for justice.

Is it healthier being vegan?

I certainly feel my health has improved and I think the fact that so many successful athletes – Lewis Hamilton, David Haye and Venus Williams etc – are eating plant-based diets shows is helping to dispel a lot of myths about vegan diets and health.

Veganism is a movement do you encourage any type of activism against non-vegans?

I encourage the promotion of veganism and animal rights in the same way that I encourage the promotion of any human social justice movement. I like some other vegans have sometimes come across accusations of being judgemental and preachy, but I would ask anyone who has thought that way to consider if they would use the same terminology if I was talking about cruelty against humans or even cats and dogs? Although there is unfortunately a long way to go, we have come so far in recognising that it is the similarities not the differences that matter – we are all human. We are starting to extend that thinking and remember that we are all also animals and start to see what we share with our fellow sentient beings

One where we value compassion, justice and responsibility for others over individual rights and choice and where we treat other sentient beings as we wished to be treated.

Have you ever eaten meat?

I grew up eating meat. I genuinely don’t miss any animal products, it really is the opposite as all I can see now when I see or smell meat is the footage I’ve witnessed of animals in slaughterhouses. Additionally, there are so many vegan options now, there isn’t time to miss meat even if I wanted to!

Are you a fan of  fake meat substitutes – fakecon , vegan sausage rolls?

I do eat them and I think they are particularly good for helping people who are looking to transition to a vegan diet.

Are there more restaurants that cater for vegans?

The growth in mainstream restaurants catering for vegans and vegan restaurants is quite something! Now I am surprised if a restaurant doesn’t cater for vegans, rather than if it does. The quality and variety of offers has really improved since I went vegan too. It always used to be salad, risotto or falafel if you were lucky – now I almost feel spoilt for choice when I eat out.

What’s your current favourite vegetarian/vegan restaurant?

Lots to choose from: 1847 is great for special occasions, 3 Three’s Coffee Lounge is great for vegan cakes and treats. Fressh offers a great healthy and tasty menu. I’d encourage anyone to explore the wide range of vegan food available in Birmingham.

What’s your favourite vegan dish? Mushroom and spinach gnocchi in an aubergine pesto.

What do you think of Piers Morgan?

I do my best not to think of Piers Morgan!

Kashav Sehra

Name: Kashav Sehra

Profession: Electronics Engineer

How long have you been vegan/vegetarian?

I’m a lacto vegetarian from birth i.e. a vegetarian plus no egg. This was due to religious reasons during childhood but since I started to understand things I realized the ethical reasons too.

Do you think it’s okay for vegan owners of pets to feed them meat?

I don’t have pets, but appreciate that many animals do not have the understanding that we humans have, to make an informed choice of choosing ‘ahimsa’ (non violence) over the unnecessary killings on animals.

At the moment many people are turning vegetarian and vegan, is this a fad or do you think it’s something that will continue?

I think the current increase in veganism isn’t just a fad but more of a realisation of what is involved in the eating of dead animals and people are starting to thing out of the box.

Is it healthier being vegan, where do you get your protein from?

Plenty of vegan foods are high in protein such as Soya, Tofu, and most lentils, chick peas etc.

Are you a fan of  fake meat substitutes – fakecon , vegan sausage rolls?

I think the fake meat substitute is an excellent way for existing meat eaters to be more ethical in their way of eating. Personally I would prefer my food not to imitate the look of raw meat, such as bleeding burgers etc although I would be happy with fake sausages or mock Nuggets…

Are more restaurants catering for vegans/vegetarians?

Definitely this trend will increase and more restaurants will cater for the need.

What’s your favourite vegan/vegetarian restaurant?

My favourite vegetarian restaurant is Warehouse Cafe in Digbeth, but my favourite vegetarian food is the ‘super mince works’ available in Veggie Hut in Oldbury.

Craig Fisher

Name: Craig Fisher

Profession: Power electrical engineer

How long have you been vegan?

I’ve been consciously avoiding animal-based products since April 2017 – I made this transition at the same time as my girlfriend after we both watched the film-documentary ‘Cowspiracy’. The biggest part of veganism for me is maintaining a plant-based diet and using vegan products in the home;

Do you wear leather products?

I still wear leather. That said, I now avoid purchasing animal-based clothing, and more actively look to alternatives that are available.

Do you have any meat eating pets?

We don’t own any meat-eating pets; though, due to their physiology, I can understand (vegan) dog or cat owners feeding their pets meat products because of this. It is a contradiction in my opinion and does go against the principles of veganism, clearly it is a trade off.

At the moment many people are turning vegetarian and vegan, is this a fad or do you think it’s something that will continue?

I strongly feel that the trend will continue as more and more people are made aware of the atrocities committed by the dairy and meat industries; in addition, with the UK’s exit from the EU and the (at least in my case) concern that the UK could soon be sourcing the chlorine-washed chicken products and hormone-injected beef products that the USA produce and sell, this could drive further people towards a plant-based diet.

Veganism is a movement do you encourage activism against non-vegans?

I don’t personally partake in activism against non-vegans, though I think to promote the ideals of veganism and highlight our concerns is a good thing. At a lower level I share such ideas with friends and family, and have noticed a change in attitudes so this is positive for me.

What would an ideal vegan world be to you?

An ideal vegan world – no unnecessary suffering or exploitation of any sentient being – we are fortunate living in a fully developed economy with plant-based food products sufficient to sustain us readily available, and should strive to eliminate this exploitation as much as possible.

Is it healthier being vegan?

I think a plant-based diet should be healthier than one that includes meat – my protein mainly comes from soy-based products and nuts. A bigger concern that I have is getting sufficient iron and vitamin B12 in my diet, so I’m mindful of this and plan meals accordingly. I haven’t eaten meat since transitioning to a plant-based diet, though admittedly have consumed cheese when on a skiing holiday in the Alps – it is a struggle maintaining my dietary ideals when off the beaten track in Austria. However, for future similar holidays I plan on taking more provisions with me to help with this.

Are you a fan of fake meat substitutes – fakecon , vegan sausage rolls?

Typically I’m OK with vegan meat substitutes, I think there are some delicious and nutritious products out there, and if they appeal to meat-eaters then that cannot be a bad thing in my opinion.

Do you have a favourite vegan dish?

It’s difficult to say my favourite vegan dish as I like so many – though I had a recipe card for sweet and sour tofu from a packet of Tofoo recently and this was definitely the best sweet and sour I’ve ever had – and my girlfriend agreed with this!

Are there more restaurants catering for vegans/vegetarians?

I have definitely noticed in the past 18 months an upsurge in vegan restaurants or pubs / restaurants that now offer a substantial vegan menu, which makes it easier to eat out with friends and family.

What’s your favourite vegan restaurant?

I think my favourite vegetarian / vegan restaurant is Mildreds in Soho – they have a great menu that changes often, and the atmosphere is always buzzing (relatively speaking, for a restaurant).

What do you think of Piers Morgan?

Piers Morgan – haha – I think surely he says what he does just to incite a negative reaction – and by doing so comes across as someone fairly infantile.

Luanda Yasmin
‘If it was natural for humans to eat meat we would have claws!’

Name: Luanda Yasmin

Profession: Actor

What does it mean to you to be a vegan?

Being vegan to me means changing the world by halting a mass slaughter, reversing global warming and living forever.

How long have you been vegan? 

I’ve been vegan for 2 and a half years

Why are you vegan is it to do with any religion?

It’s not to do with religion it’s more to do with compassion and my personal health.

Do you have any pets?

No. Taking animals from their siblings or parents and burning their genitalia for  convenience seems weird to me.

Do you think it’s okay for vegan owners of pets to feed them meat?

Animals have different diets to us. We do not need meat to survive whereas they do. I believe that humans are naturally herbivores.

Everyone is vegan for different reasons. A lot of vegans view humans’ consumption of meat as unnecessary and cruel. Animals naturally eat other animals. If it was natural for humans to eat animals, we would have claws!

At the moment many people are turning vegetarian and vegan, is this a fad or do do you think it’s something that will continue?

People think that everyone is turning vegan for a fashion trend. But the truth is it’s because of access to information. We are learning things about the meat and dairy industry we didn’t know before and we are now sharing that information.

Veganism is a movement do you encourage activism against non-vegans?

I encourage activism in general. I believe that people should stand up for what they believe in. But demonstrations on a busy street on Earth day are more affective than shouting at your co-worker trying to eat their hot dog in peace. People will find their own way to veganism.

What would an ideal vegan world be to you?

No waste. Everything is organic. Everything that is alive is free.

Is it healthier being vegan, where do you get your protein from?

If I had a dime for every time I was asked that question… did you know that one cup of spinach equals five grams of protein? Eat your greens!

Are you a fan of fake meat substitutes?

It’s important to eat more naturally and have less of the meat substitutes. My New Years resolution is to cut out processed food!

What’s your favourite vegan dish?

All vegan food.

Are there more restaurants that cater for vegans?

Yes, 100%. There’s a market for it.

What’s your current favourite vegetarian/vegan restaurant?

I love Café Soya in Birmingham when I’m treating myself and Planet Organic in London on a healthier day.

What do you think of Piers Morgan?

I think he’s an out of touch [email protected] who has built an empire reflecting the worst version of Britain.

Vimal Korpal

Name: Vijay Rana

Profession: Electronic engineer

How long have you been a vegan?

Whilst I am not fully vegan, I am what is commonly known as as Hindu-vegetarian where I am vegetarian but I do not eat eggs and certainly never fish.

Have you ever eaten meat?

I grew up in a meat eating family but became a vegetarian at the age of twenty and have flipped between vegan and vegetarian. Once you know what it takes to kill an animal, the longing for meat wanes very quickly

Does your religion play a part in you being vegetarian?

Whilst it was initially an ethical decision to give up eating meat, my Hindu religion has been a strong guide on the ethics of animal welfare and I find great strength in my religion when I am confronted with the pressure to have a ‘normal’ diet. I have never missed eating meat.

Do you use animal products?

I avoid leather products as much as possible but I appreciate that not everyone will go beyond being a dietary vegan, for instance most shampoos are made with additives taken from sheep so it’s difficult to be truly vegan. Every little change makes a difference so I wouldn’t judge people for not being able to avoid all animal products.

At the moment many people are turning vegetarian and vegan, is this a fad or do you think it’s something that will continue?

Whilst being vegan is a current trend, I am sure it is not a fad. It is very difficult to go back to eating a cruel diet once you have had your eyes opened. It is definitely part of a long term trend that will be better for society as well as the instagram gym-bunnies.

Veganism is a movement do you encourage activism against non-vegans?

I know its a cliche to say vegans always tell you that they are vegan at every opportunity, you have to remember that the meat industry spends every minute of the day telling you to eat animals so talking about veganism to meat eaters is only fighting back against the meat industry. I don’t advocate (physical) activism against non-vegans but I will always ‘sell’ veganism if someone asks me about it.

What’s your favourite vegan dish?

My favourite vegan dish is tadka dhal (using oil rather than ghee). Luckily the majority of traditional Indian food is vegan or can be easily adapted to be vegan so I am spoilt for choice.

Favourite restaurant?

My favourite vegetarian restaurant is Jyotis on Stratford Road. Again, it is Indian so the flavours will make you forget that you are eating vegetarian food. Vegan food isnt always the healthiest but there is no lack of choice. For those worried about the protein, lentils, pulse and nuts are a staple food in my house but I dont make an effort to boost my protein intake. Lets not forget that cows get all of their protein from grass so it cant be that difficult to get enough from my diet. I know my diet is definitely healthier than if I was eating big macs and fried chicken.

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