Being Vegan, Vegan Being: Georgia Black – Whatever We’re Doing is Definitely Making a Difference.

Tell us about yourself

Hi, I’m Georgia! I’m from England but I’m currently studying in California for a year as part of my law degree. I would be lying if I told you vegan food played no part in the selecting of California for my year abroad… Last semester my studies included Environmental Law and Climate Change Law, and this semester I will also be taking International Environmental Law as well as Natural Resources Law – my interest in the environment, and subsequently environmental law, was initiated by my turn to veganism and learning about the astounding impacts animal agriculture has on the environment. It has been enlightening (although not unsurprising) to see how animal agriculture is largely left out of the conversation when it comes to protecting the environment and finding ways to tackle climate change in the legal field. I will always be vegan first and foremost for the animals, but I think the environmental impacts are equally as important, especially today. I started a vegan blog to talk about all the different aspects of veganism and to hopefully encourage others to transition to the lifestyle – I haven’t been able to post on it as much as I would like to because law school is particularly demanding, but I have every intention of carrying it on as veganism is the thing I am most passionate about and I would love to share that with people.

My socials:
Twitter – @thevgword
Instagram – @thevgword
Vegan Blog – www.thevgword.co.uk

What lead you to veganism? How long ago?

Just over three years ago I began the transition to veganism. I’d always considered myself someone who loves animals, but like many others, I dismissed arguments against eating animal products because subconsciously I didn’t want to face the fact that my actions were funding cruelty. Eventually, I couldn’t ignore the discourse between my actions and morals any longer so after watching a Freelee video, which had graphic clips of animal cruelty, I decided that night I was going to go vegan. A few months prior to this I think I’d had a mental shift from being in complete denial about the reality of my actions to wanting to do better and only being held back by convenience. For me it was a matter of forcing myself to see what I was funding because I knew if I did that, I wouldn’t be able to ignore it; thus I essentially forced myself into aligning with my morals.

When you first went vegan how did you phase out your non-vegan food, clothing and other items?

I skipped being vegetarian and adopted the vegan diet overnight; admittedly this wasn’t the best way to make the switch as I was not prepared at all, but 3 years later I still haven’t consciously eaten any animal products so it worked for me (this is why I think a proper connection with the moral basis of veganism is so important). It took a few months for me to gradually replace my make-up etc and thus become an actual vegan. When it came to make-up and other cosmetic products, I would switch to a vegan alternative every time one needed replacing. The damage – i.e. the funding of animal cruelty – is done when the product is bought, so there is no need to throw out all the products you already own when you go vegan. Similarly, I didn’t throw out my old clothes (most of which were vegan anyway), but whenever I buy new ones I am always conscious in ensuring they are vegan.

Do you make any exceptions for yourself or if you are married with kids – your family, when it comes to veganism?

I don’t really make any exceptions when it comes to veganism – I tend to avoid cooking anything non-vegan for anyone. Now and then I have agreed to make cups of tea for people for example, with cow’s milk in if it is already in the house and they would’ve had it anyway.  As far as possible I also don’t buy non-vegan products for other people – the only exception being If I owe someone money and paying for their meal, for instance, is a form of settling the debt. I don’t have children but if I did I would raise them vegan and ensure that other family members respect that and not feed them animal products.

Do you believe we should show children the process of how animals are turned into meats?

When it comes to children, they are naturally compassionate towards animals and only eat meat as a result of social conditioning. I, therefore, think if children are raised vegan they will have no need to see how animal products are made because their love for animals can be kept intact. If children switch to animal products as they grow up for any reason (aside from a medical condition that may necessitate it), I think it is then important for them to know how such products are made so they can make an informed decision. Of course, the reality is that most children are not raised vegan, and I think there is somewhat of a hard balance to be struck here: it is generally due to a child’s upbringing that they eat meat, and slaughterhouse footage may be traumatic to watch because children haven’t necessarily made the connection that the animals they love are the same animals ending up on their plate. This, however, doesn’t eradicate the suffering the animals’ experience so I think it’s important that children are made aware of the process, but I believe this can be done through explanation rather than traumatic footage.

What does it mean to be vegan?

Being vegan to me means doing everything in my power to ensure that I do not contribute to animal exploitation and cruelty, and inspiring/making it easier for other people to do the same. This extends to bugs and bees because they are living beings that deserve to live a life free from suffering just as much as any other species. Whilst I am generally terrified of bugs, I never intentionally harm any – I have always made my dad remove any spiders from my room using a cup and paper… I do however understand the need to deal with bug infestations and I think this fits under the “practicable” part of the vegan definition.

I think it’s important that we support non-vegan brands that bring out vegan products because it makes veganism more easy and accessible, and I think it’s important to show these companies the demand so that overtime they switch to selling a greater proportion of vegan products (in my opinion this is much more likely to happen than non-vegan companies being wiped out altogether). I therefore also support vegan companies owned by non-vegan parent companies; not doing so would require boycotting supermarkets which is definitely not practicable for the majority of people. In my eyes it isn’t about perfection in the sense that we only support 100% vegan brands – it’s about doing what we can that will result in the most expedient positive outcomes for the animals. The impacts on the animal product industries are already being witnessed – the struggles of the dairy industry for instance – so whatever we’re doing is definitely making a difference.

To me veganism also embodies compassion towards other humans: I think this is important to remind people that this is a movement against cruelty and violence. I believe animal liberation is at the heart of the movement, and keeping this central is needed to ensure that the movement does not lose its meaning and become widely perceived as a diet. I think this is a current problem that mandates reinforcing that veganism is a lifestyle based upon compassion; being kind towards other humans is a part of this, plus it is much more likely to get them on board.

Is it every vegan’s duty to become an activist?

I don’t think it’s every vegan’s duty to become an activist in the traditional sense of protests and street activism, because I believe setting a positive example by just living vegan and remaining compassionate towards people who have not made the transition can do wonders. However, I do think all forms of activism are important and the array of methods vegans currently employ are effective in reaching all different types of people: social media activism is just as important as exposing the inhumane conditions in slaughterhouses. The more activists we have, whatever their preferred type of activism, the better.

How compassionate or empathetic are you towards non-vegans?

When it comes to non-vegans, I have admittedly lost my temper on numerous occasions and thus engaged in a lot of arguments (and unintentionally continue to do so…) As the years have gone by I do believe I’ve improved at communicating with non-vegans and will continue to try and improve because calm, substantive discussions do a lot to open people up to veganism. I do think that a lot of the time the anger towards many non-vegans is justified, but it is generally ineffective: in these situations, we need to remember what’s more likely to help the animals rather than whatever anger some people may deserve. As such I try to remain empathetic towards non-vegans as this leads to so many more productive conversations – in doing so I always remind myself of the 17 years I spent eating animal products and the times I argued against veganism, and yet I eventually came around. Asking people to go vegan involves deeming their everyday choices to be cruel; people don’t like to acknowledge that they have been funding animal abuse, and maybe even less like to acknowledge that it is a result of social conditioning because this insinuates that they can’t think for themselves. Remembering that understanding veganism requires dismantling many of the ‘truths’ that have been fed to us by the animal product industries can help in remaining calm when faced with the repetitive “but protein!” type arguments.

Any recommended vegan books?

I don’t really read vegan books aside from recipe books. I would hugely recommend the BOSH cookbooks – they have all sorts of amazing vegan recipes, including replicas of non-vegan dishes, that are definitely worth investing in if you want food inspiration. If you want quick recipes I would recommend the 15 Minute Vegan cookbook by Katy Beskow.

Any recommended social sites, blogs or pages?

I find the Vegan Society website is great for finding quick facts (which are sourced) to help equip yourself for the inevitable arguments against non-vegans. I also love Nutritionfacts.org for learning about the health benefits associated with a plant-based diet; the website has very clear sections which makes it easy to find information on whatever health aspects you’re curious about. Nutritionfacts.org was founded by Dr Michael Greger who also posts short YouTube videos covering the health implications (the YouTube channel is also Nutritionfacts.org) – these are also great if you prefer learning in video format.

I may be biased but in my opinion, Twitter is the best social media site for vegans – I have connected with many vegans over twitter. Instagram is also great for recipe inspiration. Some good Instagram pages to follow are @eatwithclarity, @rabbitandwolves and decadent.vegan.

There are also some other YouTube accounts I enjoy watching. I find that That Vegan Couple is great for picking up activism techniques as they are excellent at articulating their arguments. I would also recommend Amyythevegan if you’re looking for cheap and easy vegan recipes.

Do you have a favourite movie or videos or your own media that you want to share?

My favourite vegan movies are: What the Health (for highlighting how industries have misled consumers and manipulated the truth), The Game Changers (for demonstrating the success in terms of health that people can experience on a plant-based diet), Cowspiracy (for exposing the environmental impacts of animal products), Dominion (for bringing to the forefront all the ethical implications of consuming animal products) and Okja (for providing a metaphorical depiction of the barbarity of these industries without specifically showing them).

What’s your favourite vegan restaurant?

I’ve recently had the pleasure of being able to visit a VeggieGrill on my trip to LA and it was vegan HEAVEN – it’s an all-vegan fast-food restaurant that has everything ranging from mac and cheese to plant-based burgers to brownies.

I also went to another all-vegan fast-food restaurant in San Francisco called Next Level Burger and let me tell you that burger really was next level (plus they had vegan milkshakes which were to die for).

In the UK I have numerous favourite restaurants: Ask Italian has an amazing vegan menu, Pizza Hut is now great for vegan takeaway and Wagamamas also has an amazing vegan selection if you fancy trying some Japanese food. I am also currently in love with the Greggs vegan sausage roll (which is perfect for students because it is only £1).

Favourite vegan recipe?

My favourite vegan recipe is by far my mac n’ cheese; I can’t promise that it tastes like non-vegan mac n’ cheese but it is relatively healthy whilst tasting indulgent (in my opinion).

I’m more of an eyeball it kind-of-person when it comes to cooking so I’ll give you a rough overview of the recipe

  • Soak some cashew nuts at least 2 hours prior (strain once ready to use) – I use roughly a large handful.
  • Steam some potato and carrot (the amount of these combined should roughly equal the number of cashews).
  • Fry some onion and garlic in vegan butter.
  • Add all of this to a blender, as well as: plant-based milk (I tend to use oat), a little extra vegan butter, a load of nutritional yeast, some garlic powder, paprika, chilli flakes, salt and pepper. Blend and keep tasting it to see whether you need to adjust the spices, or add more milk to reach your desired consistency.
  • Add it to some cooked pasta (obviously).

I also like to eat it with broccoli, peas, Linda McCartney sausages and garlic bread.

Some encouraging words for new vegans?

Going vegan can feel alienating, especially if you don’t know any other vegans, but always remember that whilst you may not be able to physically see it, you are making a huge difference for the animals. If you find it hard to maintain hope, look at all the vegan options that are appearing around us – this signals that we are making a lot of progress. Also, keep in mind how amazing it is that you are fighting for justice in the face of a society that prioritizes money and convenience: you’re not ‘pathetic’ or a ‘snowflake’ for not wanting to eat animal products, you’re strong-minded for doing so despite the inevitable grief that comes with it. Always remember that there are huge communities of vegans online, on twitter for example, that you can connect with and thus find like-minded people (feel free to message me on twitter if you need any help or just want a vegan to talk to).

What is the vegan scene like in your city?

I’m from York (England) and I don’t really know many vegans from York, but like the rest of the UK, we have a lot of chain restaurants that have vegan menus and supermarkets with huge vegan ranges so it is incredibly easy to be vegan here (and very enjoyable). I also go to University in Newcastle and the same can be said for there; there are quite a few vegan/vegetarian restaurants in Newcastle too.

I’m currently in Northern California and here I find there are a lot fewer restaurants with vegan menus, but it is easy to adapt dishes (especially since everyone here tends to know what vegan means). I spend a lot of time (arguably too much time) in Chipotle and Taco Bell here which are great fast-food chains for eating vegan in. The supermarkets here have a lot of vegan options, including brands such as Kitehill that as far as I’m aware we don’t have in the UK (the only downside is that they’re quite expensive).

What personal recommendations can you make for people to meet other people?

I don’t know that many vegans in real life so I’m not sure what to recommend for physically meeting other vegans aside from attending events such as the vegan campout or veg fests. If you go to University, it may be worth seeing if there is a vegan society – you could even start one yourself. Meeting online vegans, however, is very easy – I would highly recommend making a vegan twitter account if you don’t have one already.

What does living cruelty-free mean to you? Does it extend to the way you as a vegan treat other humans too?

It’s impossible for any human to be alive without harming any living creature, that’s just an unfortunate fact of our existence. Living cruelty-free therefore to me means living in a way where we can exclude this harm as much as practicably possible, which is essentially the definition of veganism. To me living cruelty-free and being vegan is largely the same thing, but I would argue that living cruelty-free extends to areas such as supporting companies with fair working conditions – areas which veganism doesn’t necessarily extend to because they’re not animal-centered. The legal “cruelty-free” label is obviously very important in ensuring we’re buying vegan cosmetics etc, but I think it is a drastic oversimplification and an inaccurate representation of what cruelty-free does/should mean (hence why something being labelled “cruelty-free” doesn’t necessarily mean it is vegan).

Favourite vegan non-food products or companies?

I tend to mostly buy from non-vegan companies that sell vegan products, so I find this question somewhat difficult to answer. One that does come to mind is elf cosmetics. The company isn’t entirely vegan but it has a huge amount of vegan cosmetics all of which are very cheap, so this is a very good company in helping people transition to vegan cosmetics. I also love Too Faced which has a lot of vegan products for when I want some more high-end make-up. Since I have some bleached hair, my favourite shampoo is the Silver Shampoo by Bleach London which is vegan (of course) and as an added bonus the bottle is made out of recycled plastic – this shampoo does wonder for keeping bleached hair toned. BarryM is my favourite brand for nail polish as it is cheap and the items which are vegan are labelled on the website.

What is the toughest vegan item to find that you need?

I find vegan hair products to be quite difficult to find, especially ones that are actually good quality yet affordable and accessible products. Aside from the Bleach London shampoo that I use, I also use Superdrug’s own brand of shampoo and conditioner more generally because it’s cheap and easy to find (and I don’t want to consistently use a toning shampoo) – I’m not the best at judging general hair products but I would guess these Superdrug products are not the best shampoo and conditioner ever… Whenever I’ve searched for vegan shampoo/conditioner online though I’ve always found it very hard to find ones I can just buy in a supermarket (in the UK at least).

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Talk about a time when you struggled with your veganism?

I’ve never really had any struggles with sticking to it in a mental sense because I am so aligned with my morals. Any time I have felt even slightly discouraged by the world around me I watch videos of animal cruelty: this may seem drastic but it is a sure way to re-affirm what you’re doing. Times I have physically struggled have been when I’ve gone on holiday to places where waiters don’t necessarily speak the best English and menus are not thorough with ingredients or don’t have vegan labels (for example I went to Croatia, Iceland and Greece) – as far as I’m aware I managed to uphold my veganism in these places, it just takes good knowledge on what certain dishes may contain and a willingness to ask the questions until you’ve got a sure answer.

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