Last Sunday, I was wandering through the maze of bottles at Dan Murphy feeling totally lost. Bottle shops can be intimidating when you are not a connoisseur—let alone a drinker. Eventually, I spotted a shop assistant stacking beer bottles on the shelf. I asked him where I could find vegan red wine. His lips parted and he gave me a stare like I was an apparition from another planet. “Never heard of vegan wine,” he replied, perhaps thinking that I was joking, everyone knows that wine comes from grapes not animals, right?
Yes, that’s right but as I enter the third week in my plant-based food reformation, a lesson learnt: people don’t really know what goes on into their food (and drinks). Even if you are diligent and read the labels in the packaged food you buy, sometimes the manufacturer does not list all ingredients used, even though this is required by law. In the case of wine, maybe knowing that the drink has been clarified with casein (milk protein), albumin (egg white), gelatine (animal protein) or isinglass (fish bladder protein) would put many customers off.
I read the labels of most food I buy but it never occurred to me to check the label of a wine bottle. I always assumed that certain foods are just in their packs on their own. I only learned about wine ingredients because I bought a vegan cooking book that covered this topic. Now I’m taking a closer look at the foods I buy and getting really surprised with what I’m finding. Fresh grapes contain sulfur dioxide and lightly dried organic herbs contain oil and ascorbic acid. These are just two examples of foods I thought I was eating without any added ingredients. Unfortunately, when we dig deeper we are likely to find hidden ingredients certain to raise an eyebrow. Think of ‘extra virgin’ olive oil mixed with seed oil. Knowledge can sometimes be difficult to digest.
Back to the bottle shop, the shop assistant directed me to the organic section, saying that I might find something I liked there. Indeed, the organic section was stacked with many vegan friendly options, which now I know, are clarified with clay based fining agents (bentonite) and activated charcoal. Although this information was not listed in the wine labels (at least I couldn’t in my recent bottle shop visit) there were words like “suitable for vegans.” Another lesson learned, if you are looking for a wine that has not been made with animal products you should ensure the label contains the words to that effect.
Disclosure: I don’t drink, this wine was purchased to cook a delicious lentil dish.
This was my post-marathon meal two weeks ago. I cannot say it wasn’t delicious but I’m entering a new phase now, toward a more ethical, less cruel eating habits. Looking at that cholesterol charged plate now it does not look as appetising. I think when you let your moral principals guide you, your taste buds change.
This morning I went out for breakfast at a new cafe. The menu was challenging. There were no plant-based meal options. I ended up having a vegan cookie (‘vegan warrior’ it was called, I get the gist it will be a battle to find vegan food at restaurants) and a soy cappuccino. Luckily I wasn’t too hungry-or I would have had eggs.
The inconvenience that comes with not following a mainstream diet is what put me off from sticking to a vegetarian diet in the past. I’m now recommitting and trying again. This time I feel more mentally prepared after reading and listening to podcasts about the philosophy or ethics and morality and the truth behind factory farming. I believe that most people have good intentions and want to do good but like me, they don’t always question the status quo and need a push to move outside of their comfort zones. Thankfully, knowledge and facts can be a force that propels us to change.
It’s worked for me. The plant-based lifestyle I aspire to has moved the goal post far beyond known borders but I’m feeling energised to pursue it. It just feels like it’s the right thing to do.
We all think we are fair beings, that we can logically justify our actions. We can easily put two and two together but it feels like that once we enter the supermarket and head to the meat department, we are no longer logical creatures. As we put the neatly packed pieces of dead animals in our shopping cart, we shut our minds and our hearts to the voiceless creatures – we ignore the blatant fact that we are sponsoring the barbaric norms of the livestock industry with our actions and our money.
I’m guilty as charged. Although I don’t eat large amounts and I buy free-range, still, I do contribute. Or used to, until last week. I’ve been reading about animal farming and cruelty and I cannot ignore the reality anymore. I tried to become a vegetarian a couple of times in the past and I failed. It wasn’t hard but there were some inconveniences that made me give up. But I can no longer brush off the fact that there is no moral justification for eating meat, full stop.
When we grow up in a meat-eating society, this is just the normal thing to do. Meat and animal products are everywhere, everyone’s been doing it since the caveman, it tastes good, that’s what animals are for. But just because it’s an accepted practice, it does not mean it is right. Slavery was once accepted, women until a recent past could not vote, etc. Besides, the caveman ate wild animals or scavenged meat, fat and organs from dead animals left behind by their predators. They were not eating animals raised in overcrowded farm factories as are most cattle, chicken and pigs today. For those unfamiliar to what happens in those factories, please don’t turn the blind eye. Do your research. It’s “hell on earth”.
Humans have evolved since the stone age. Our large brains tell us that it’s wrong to inflict suffering and death on 56 billion animals a year because they taste good or for the convenience of having animal products readily available. I truly believe that most people think this way but find it hard to resist the temptation, break away from the norm and live up to their own moral beliefs.
But I also believe that the more individuals talk about these ethical issues, the more people will be confronted with their own personal beliefs about how animals should be treated and act accordingly. Collectively we can pressure governments to reform legislation and corporations to change practices to reduce the suffering of animals.
My journey toward an animal free diet began this week, I’m not turning vegan overnight but I’m removing as much animal products from my diet as possible because cruelty is wrong and eating a plant-based diet is the logical thing to do.