Q & A
1. Please tell me a little more about yourself and your social media.
I founded Veeg, which launched in Brighton 6 months ago. It’s a plant-based pass that goes in your phone’s wallet and gets you discounts, deals and special treatment from the best places in town. @veegcard showcases the food, places, offers you can get with Veeg, along with other plant-based gems.I worked in financial services tech for 10 years and launched 4 start-ups, all with other people’s money. Over that time, I picked up loads of different skills, met some seriously amazing people and travelled as far as China and India (where I lived and worked for 2 years) before deciding it was time to apply my experience to something I loved. Working in that industry often felt like I was selling my soul: I enjoyed my life but I wasn’t truly ‘into’ what I was doing. That’s important to me.
2. I’ve always been pretty much plant-based: meat wasn’t a big part of our meals when I was growing up and my first foray into full vegetarianism was when I went backpacking at 18 but I swung back and forth a lot over the years. I made a conscious decision to go vegan around 3 years ago.
3. Ethics. At the top of my ‘hierarchy’ is the environment, but health and animal rights also feature heavily in my thinking. I worked with a friend who is a PT and nutritionist to help me in the first three months (@integrum_nutrition). I wanted to be sure that I didn’t have nutritional reasons to switch back. He’s not vegan, but he was interested in how it would work, so we both got something out of it. It worked. I built muscle at the same time.
4. The biggest thing that has changed for me is really my understanding of sentience. I’ve always been aware of environmental and health benefits but was pretty unaware of the impact farming has on animals. Having a dog really switched me onto it – the way you can communicate without using words. It made me more sensitive to the fact that other animals have that level of emotion and intelligence.I bought into the whole ‘cows don’t die when you milk them, so it’s fine’/ ‘free-range eggs are ok because chickens can run around’ story. The documentaries that have come out over the last few years and the live footage that gets shared on social has been really instrumental in showing the general public that our perception of what happens on farms isn’t what it seems to many, unless you actively look into it. Cows have to have babies to produce milk. They cry for days when their calves are taken away. In the UK, it’s OK to use the word ‘free-range’ to describe an environment they very much isn’t free. Luckily all this information is more readily available but there is still a lot of propaganda going on to protect these industries. There was an article in the Daily Mail on the 5th Aug written from the fake perspective of a dairy cow, basically saying that the dairy industry needs to exist to keep cows alive. It’s a pile of crap and really frustrating that this kind of writing goes out en masse. Fine for people like you and me to read it and know it’s rubbish, but there are people out there who just aren’t exposed to what we are, so would have read that and found it very convincing.From this, I’ve lately been looking into ‘What would happen to the food industry if everyone went vegan.’ Of course, voting with our pounds and making change where we can as individuals is the best place to start, but I don’t believe big shifts will happen until industry makes changes. There are some interesting alternatives being put forward for farmers who actually want to transition away from animal farming.
5. I really don’t find it hard now, especially not in Brighton. But generally being ‘caught short’ without any decent options for food can be annoying eg eating fruit for dessert at a wedding when everyone else is eating cake and feeling like the chef hasn’t got the memo yet. But it’s not like you’re in a live or die situation there is it?
6. Burgers. I love the Plant Burger at Honest so much, I think about it at breakfast the day after. I do think they could do with adding some new varieties on it though. We are really spoiled for choice in Brighton, it’s one of the best places to be vegan and is what inspired me to start Veeg. I’d been working on a contract in Leeds and had to nip out for desk food a lot. The only place for vegan food nearby was Tesco Express so I ended up eating falafel wraps twice a day. When I set up Veeg, I went straight to a lot of my favourite places to eat. The Roundhill’s faux meat innovation is unreal, they are (humanely) killing it. Same with BeFries’ banana blossom fish and what the guys at Two Wolves Kitchen at the Foundry are doing.When I eat at home, I eat pretty simple whole food and add my own flavours. I’m not the best at cooking so I keep the ad-lib action to when I’m cooking for myself only. I really enjoy making the lasagnes out of the BOSH books and they taste so good. I take ages though and trash the kitchen, so it’s not a weekly activity for me.
7. The final big nail in the craving coffin for me was donuts when a friend introduced me to Glazed donuts when I moved down here. I used to have a penchant for Krispy Kreme (‘penchant’ used lightly: my sister and I once completed a 24 box of donuts between us as a treat after moving her stuff across Manchester).The other one is decent seafood. It wasn’t something I’d indulge in a lot, but was something I’d appreciate. That’s less of a craving and now more of an appreciation that I can steer towards really well-delivered food in general. (As you know) on my last holiday (where I would have once indulged in seafood) I got really excited about some amazing almond-based stringy melted cheese I found at a food truck in Tulum…still thinking about it.
8. A few of my friends from back home have gone vegan and more have started reducing their animal produce consumption. I get sent a lot of proud pics (which I absolutely love) when they find new products or when a meat eating friend goes for a vegan option.
9. My friend Terry basically battered me into becoming vegan – he made me question my so-called ethical standpoint at the time. I have to say, none of it resonated until he stopped bullyng me 😉 I find most people don’t respond well to being shouted at (love you, Terry). @naturallystefanie was great for demonstrating that becoming emaciated isn’t a necessary part of a vegan lifestyle (she’s FIT)…but generally there isn’t just once source of inspo out there for me. I really enjoy chatting with different people about how they aproach the vegan diet / life and why and I find that interesting and inspiring.
I think the creativity from chefs, content creators etc is pretty inspiring. I just buzz when I get a taste of something new and amazing and know that it’s not tied up in a load of cruelty.
10. I was going to write ‘just try it’, but I think a lot of people try a strict approach then get put off by a big change so revert back.The main thing for me was making sure I was getting all the nutrients / macros (protein, carbs etc) that I would have normally. Although, let’s face it, a lot of non-vegans don’t get a balanced diet either.A vegan diet can totally give you everything you need, but if you’ve been used to a different way of eating, as with any change in eating habit, the first and most important thing is to figure out where you’re going to get all your core nutrients from. Otherwise it just won’t work.I used MyFitnessPal (app) with my trainer for 3 months to give me an idea of what a balanced day would look like. The benefits are that you can track core protein, carb, sugar intake along with fats (which we all need!) and vitamins. You can scan barcodes of most foods.I didn’t do it all the time and obviously didn’t count all the burger days, but it gives you a good idea of what an ideal day looks like.There are lots of sources online that are much simpler.We know that many GP’S haven’t had much training on diet to date, but that’s changing and your doc could point you in the right direction.The other thing I’d say is to not get put off if you ‘slip up’. Some people go vegan over night, my guess is that the majority of people don’t. Who cares whether you do or not, the point is about making a sustainable change in the right direction. Everyone is different.Finally I’d say to remind yourself why you want to do it and why you might not want to. What’s holding you back? If you know it’s the right thing to do, you can look at what you think is a barrier and find a way around it that works for you.If it’s a case of feeling like you’re missing out on certain foods, try all the alternatives. It’s fun. Get an opinion on what you like and what you don’t and get recommendations from other people. You might be pleasantly surprised at what you find.
"The biggest thing that has changed for me is really my understanding of sentience. I've always been aware of environmental and health benefits but was pretty switched off to the impact farming has on animals. Having a dog really switched me onto it - the way you can communicate without using words. It made me more sensitive to the fact that other animals have that level of emotion and intelligence."
If it’s a case of feeling like you’re missing out on certain foods, try all the alternatives. It’s fun. Get an opinion on what you like and what you don’t and get recommendations from other people. You might be pleasantly surprised at what you find.