Being Vegan, Vegan Being: Karen Anna Solberg Sandholm – A Give Up Attitude Never Did Anything For Anyone!

I am Norwegian born and bred, I come from a small town with 20-25000 people. I have lived in Indonesia, Scotland, Australia, and Norway.

My degree is in illustration and graphic design, but after working in the so-called “creative” industries in Scotland for 2,5 yrs, where you don’t get to use your creativity in any way, and the money was awful, I moved back to Norway to just save up some money and work in a shop, whilst doing my own cartoons and illustrations part-time. I have my own cartoon character, Angry Duck, which I have been working on (less and more) since 2005. Angry Duck is my own braver (and ruder) alter ego that says and does all the things I don’t dare to do to all the bad guys in the world.

After having lived in a large Scottish city on and off for 10 years (Edinburgh is Scotland’s capital) it is very strange to live in the Norwegian countryside where I am one of max 5 vegan people, but I don’t plan on staying there forever. I would love to come and stay in California for a bit! My websites are www.argaankan.com and www.angryduckshop.com

What was the moment you realize that you wanted to go vegan?

There were no vegetarians or vegans that I know of in rural Norway in the 80s and early 90s!

When I was about 5, I stopped eating hot dogs because I remember being given a hot dog at my cousin’s 4th bday party and saw a blue vein inside it. I then looked down at my own wrist and saw the same blue vein and realized it was wrong and disgusting to eat what was in my hand!

I still ate meat as a child because I was raised in the way that I had to eat what was put in front of me, but when I turned 15 I completely stopped eating meat because I had never really liked it.

I then went on to eat fish and chicken from I was about 20 – 30, but never red meat or pork. January 2015 I completely stopped eating all meat, but still ate fish. I felt it was wrong to raise and look after animals, just to kill them and eat them later on. This feeling just came from inside me, at least as far as I am aware of!

I didn’t even know what a vegan was at this point until I met two vegans at the job I had at the time, as a packaging designer for a compostable packaging company. These two girls at the packaging company (I became friends with one of them) didn’t push veganism to me at all, and I still didn’t fully understand WHY they didn’t want to drink milk (it is so bad I know, I guess they didn’t want to come across as forceful vegans but that is what would have worked with me!) but that was the first I had ever heard of veganism and that was in 2015! In 2015 I stopped drinking dairy and switched to soy milk and almond milk in my tea, and I can’t for the life of me remember why I think about this a lot! It must have been something subconscious. I still ate eggs though.

Then in 2016, I started following this Facebook page called “I am Cecil, too” and I have no idea how that popped up as a recommendation because I couldn’t even look at RSPCA flyers coming through the mail with starved dogs on them before, without lying awake at night and crying. I watched some of the videos on “I am Cecil, too” to my own great surprise and that was it. I saw calves being taken from their mothers and chickens crushed and left for dead and had my mind made up in about 5 minutes. I thought I was going to feel awful and have no energy for the rest of my life and the truth is completely opposite!

How long have you been Vegan?

Since around the 15th of June 2016 (I just backtracked my facebook convo with my husband to confirm this haha!)

Why is being Vegan important to you?

I feel like it is the only fair way humans can treat other living creatures on this planet. It is also the most important thing we can do for the environment to try and repair the damage we already have done, even though the damage is immense. And it is the best way to live for ourselves! Never felt better or happier with my body all my life, and I used to do lots of sports growing up and still felt tired all the time.

Any recommended Vegan books?

The only vegan book I have read is Ruby Roth’s children’s book “We don’t eat animals” but I plan on reading the book about how to talk about veganism to people, “How to create a vegan world” because that is something I REALLY need to improve on, I am so emotional and always start crying when I talk about the animals to other people or get angry depending on how well I know them. I am getting better though, but this is my weakest area by far.

Any recommended social sites, Facebook Groups or other?

I think everyone is different, so different content and approaches will get through to various people. To me, showing me the gore and the animals suffering and being killed, was instantly working, because it got me feeling and thinking, so the guerilla way worked on me I guess. But most people don’t switch from that, at least that is the impression I have gotten. Videos of animals suffering that popped up on my facebook feed worked straight away on me. But I never loved meat in the first place, and never felt like what I wanted to eat was more important than someone losing their life over one meal for me. So “I am Cecil, too“, “Real Men are Kind to Animals”, “Best Video You will ever see”, “Animal Equality” plus a lot of anti-fox hunting pages from the UK and anti-fur pages from Norway. And all the food recipe pages of course! On Instagram, I have a mix of the Pig and Cow Save pages, Mercy for Animals, famous vegans official accounts plus all the vegan food.

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

I haven’t watched a lot of the movies because I get haunted by them for long afterward, but I have gotten a few people to watch Okja, Forks Over Knives and What The Health. I think different films will get to different people and I try to tailor the film I recommend to the person I recommend it to! But a lot of the time the people won’t watch the films even though they tell me they will. I think “Dairy is Scary” by Erin Janus is a great short film to show to people who don’t understand why it is bad to drink milk for so many reasons. My goal is to make everyone watch Earthlings!

Do you actively promote veganism?

I always cook vegan dinners for my friends and make cakes, buns, cupcakes etc. and I try to make it as amazing as possible to make people realize that we just eat normal, delicious food and not weird special ingredients stuff. I always ask for vegan options when I eat out, I always try to talk to my friends about veganism and recommend vegan documentaries and films, but I think everyone is too scared to watch them. My mum and sister are always cooking cakes and dinners for us that are vegan, and my mum has gotten lots of her friends to try vegan recipes that she loves. We were interviewed by the local newspaper last year for being vegan and had to give out recipes what we were eating for Xmas. People in my town were laughing at us because no one even understands why someone would be vegan, or not use wool or eat honey. But people are asking us more and more questions that we can reply to and inform them about animal welfare and veganism. I also never buy non-vegan gifts for people anymore. If I get a coffee for someone else, I will get it with soy milk without telling them. It isn’t promoting veganism but at least I’m not contributing to the dairy industry. I always try to share information with people when I can.

I went to my first vigil in LA at Manning Beef on the 19th of Nov, I was dreading it so much, and didn’t sleep the night before and cried before going, no cows turned up in the end but we saw the facilities they were kept in, and I watched the live stream from the Pig vigil at Farmer John’s, and cried so much so long, so loud, and then I read all the stupid comments underneath and got really angry and decided that I need to do something. I want to think of something that can reach different groups of people, something completely new. I have so many ideas and don’t know where to start! We also had a 100% vegan wedding for 126 people including ourselves at a Scottish castle in September this year. Only 2 of our guests were vegan but we wanted to show all those meat-loving uncles how delicious the food could be. We then went on our vegan honeymoon in California to eat our way through the state, and we went to Farm Sanctuary in Acton to cuddle the wonderful animals there, and we went to Circle V fest, which was out of this world!

What is your favorite Vegan meme?

I actually have a folder on the desktop on my computer called “vegan memes” haha. I am attaching some of my favorites, take your pick! Plus pretty much everything by @vegansidekick, he is a genius and I admire how funny but accurate his cartoons are. And also @mememelinda is good at making memes and art.

What is the vegan stereotype you hear the most and how do you respond to it?

I think most people in my close circles are scared to argue with me, so no one has actually said something to my face. The comment I hear most often is “poor you vegans, you don’t know what you are missing out on” which is really stupid because we really do know, since most of us were born into eating meat :/ People will think that we eat twigs and grass though, which is oh so ignorant and ridiculous.

What’s your favorite Vegan restaurant?

We almost base our holidays and getaways on where there are many and good vegan restaurants now, but I have to say Souls in Copenhagen, Denmark is absolutely amazing. We did a detour into Copenhagen this Summer when driving through Europe just so we could eat at Souls again! Souls are 100% vegan, but because of their customers, they offer cow’s milk in tea/coffee if the customers pay extra for it. The standard is soy/almond/coconut/oat milk, so opposite of many other restaurants where you have to pay extra for anything else than cow’s milk. Everything else is 100% vegan. I will also say Dolores Burrito in Berlin, Germany, which is not 100% vegan, but they have so many good vegan options and their burrito is worth traveling to Berlin for! Berlin has vegan options almost everywhere you go and the food is reasonable and fantastic.

Please share your favorite vegan recipe?

This is from a great Norwegian vegan recipe blog called vegetarbloggen.no, but all the recipes are 100% vegan. We eat this tofu bacon pasta salad at least once a week!

For 2-3 people depending on how hungry you are:

Approx. 250g pasta of your choice
A little bit of veg. oil for cooking
2 cloves garlic
1 bell pepper (whatever color you prefer, or half and half of the various colors) diced
2 tbs nut. yeast
2 tbs soy sour cream or oat creme fraiche (we got delicious Oatly Creme Fraiche in Scandinavia)
100ml oat or soy double cream
A little bit of salt
Fresh parsley if you like

Tofu bacon:

250g firm tofu (press for a few hours first)
veg. oil for cooking
2 tbs soy sauce
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 tbs maple syrup
2 tbs nut. yeast
A little bit of salt

Boil the pasta to desired consistency and drain.

Finely chop/press garlic, heat up oil in a saute pan or saucepan, and saute garlic till it’s fragrant. Add diced bell peppers, for a couple of more minutes. Add sour cream/creme fraiche and nutritional yeast whilst gradually adding the cream whilst stirring. Bring to the boil, add salt till it’s your preferred taste and set aside.

Dice pressed tofu into desired sized cubes, add to medium to a hot frying pan with a little bit of oil and simmer until tofu is a little bit golden. In a small bowl combine soy sauce, liquid smoke, maple syrup and nutritional yeast. Add to the frying pan and cook until tofu is crispy. This takes a little bit of time but is worth the patience! Drain the oil from the tofu on some kitchen roll if you need to, add salt if you want.

Mix pasta with sauce in a serving bowl, add tofu bacon on top and sprinkle some chopped parsley on top if you are into parsley. Super easy and SO good!

Some encouraging words for new Vegans?

The most difficult time is in the beginning, but after that, it gets easier day by day! Make sure you try to connect with other vegans either in real life or online to exchange tips and recipes and support etc. I found the worst was telling my extended family when I was over at their houses and they had cooked for me. I was really apologetic and explained that I was so sorry, but I no longer wanted to eat eggs or dairy or meat. It was awkward in the beginning, but once everyone knew, I was lucky enough that they respected my choices and didn’t want to argue.

For me, nothing was too difficult because I knew WHY I was choosing this lifestyle, and nothing that was convenient for me was more important than what we do to exploit the animals in the world right now. For me, watching videos of animals being tortured and killed for eggs, meat and dairy didn’t only make me turn vegan, it also made me stay vegan and they stopped me from giving up when something was challenging or difficult. I think a key is knowing why you are doing this, and please know that after a while you even stop thinking about what you can’t eat because there are so many new thngs you will try instead!

What does living cruelty-free mean to you?

It means that I am trying to carefully consider all my actions, so that they have as little negative impact on the environment and animal suffering as I can. I have sold or given away a few leather items (I never owned many but it doesn’t feel right) and I have stopped buying sneakers which was my obsession before! I recently purchased vegan Doc Martens and I can now chuck out my worn out pair of DMs from 1997! In Norway it gets really cold, so most people wear wool. I won’t throw out any wool products I have because that is just stupid and wasteful, but I buy bamboo thermals for snowboarding. In Norway we are lucky to be good with recycling, we have had bottle deposits since around 1902 and the government legislated on composting food waste since the early 1990s. I cycle or walk most places and got my first car this year, but I share it with my husband. We try to keep our plastic usage to a minimum because all waste and pollution also affects wildlife and nature. People keep saying to me that no one can do everything but everyone can do something, but I like to try to do as much as I can because a give up attitude never did anything for anyone.

What are you favorite Vegan non-food products or companies?

I love the deodorants and shower gels and perfumes from Herban Cowboy. I love the Kale Fix moisturizer from Nip + Fab (not all their products are vegan but this one is). My favorite mascara from Ciate is vegan, I love their nail polishes too, and I love Pacifica’s and Hugo Naturals products. I also love companies who dare to go for products made with for example Pinatex – pineapple leaves leather. I love products from Lush, they smell so good! In the UK they also have really affordable shower gels and scrubs from a company called Original Source, their products have always been 100% vegan and they smell really good as well.

Kat Von D’s make up is fantastic – I love everything I have tried from her range, and that is quite a lot. I knew who Kat von D was before I went vegan, but I didn’t know she was a vegan until after I went vegan myself and when her products became available in the UK, I was so excited to try all the vegan makeup and I was not disappointed! I think was she does is amazing – because she isn’t focusing on just earning big money like most people are – she seems to be genuinely concerned with making the world a better place and making people think, and most celebrities do not seem to be like that. To be able to focus more on animal welfare than your own popularity shows that you are a truly good person and I wish more influential people were like her!

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

I struggled for a long time to find a vegan perfume that I liked, but now Kat von D and Herban Cowboy have covered that. I don’t really need perfume though, but it is definitely nice to have the option to get one that is vegan! I can’t really think of anything that was hard to find – if you search long enough on Google or in Facebook groups, you can find answers to everything and even find products that can be ordered to you. There are always ways of getting hold of things you want if you try! 🙂 iHerb has most things you need in life 😊

Talk about a time when you struggled with your Veganism?

I am trying to think about this and I can’t think of a time that I have. I always try to plan ahead and bring snacks or food items if I know it will be a while until I can get vegan food, I bring food myself to get-togethers instead of expecting (or even trusting it is cooked vegan by someone who doesn’t really care haha) others to cook vegan for me. You get served some weird stuff sometimes because people don’t understand that vegan food is also just normal food with normal ingredients so it is better to bring something amazing yourself and wow everyone. The only times are maybe if someone has gotten you a special treat that you used to love before going vegan but is not vegan and you have to tell them you’re not going to eat it without sounding like a spoiled ungrateful brat. But that is not a real struggle I reckon!

What is one question you would ask other Vegans? Please answer it.

I would always want to hear other vegans top recipes – I love cooking and cook a lot since there is nowhere to eat vegan at restaurants where I live. Also favorite vegan non-food products tips. It is also always interesting to hear about other people’s journey and experiences with friends and family after going vegan!

Sorry for writing so long!! The pics attached is me at Farm Sanctuary, then one of the tables from our wedding: the table names were symbols of animals typically exploited by humans, the favours where white and dark vegan chocolate Scotty dogs that I made myself plus vegan almond milk Bailey’s liquor and the wines were vegan and I designed my own labels on them. Then one from our wedding and one of our wedding menu by the amazing FacePlant Foods who did our catering. Then me creating an Angry Duck sculpture.

Tastemaker Supply – 100% Vegan Footwear – Pictured – Women’s Taste Artistry (Red)

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