With less than a week to go before my Vegan Month is over, the cravings are starting to kick in. However, I am still yet to really start craving meat. Perhaps because my alternatives have been so delicious (Linda McCartney you are an angel) and because, despite not having watched documentaries showing slaughter, the idea of meat now seems so, well, sickening. Its very odd for me, as a previously beloved meat eater, to suddenly distance myself from it, but whenever I now see my flatmates prepare chicken breast, I’ve become suddenly aware that these were, in fact, living and breathing animals.
However, this feeling only seems to occur when the meat is in their most “original” forms. For example, seeing bacon being fried or chicken nuggets being cooked, does not have the same effect. This has made start to think about how we present meat. Naturally, dishes are formulated from a variety of cultures and recipes and, therefore, how our meat is presented in shops often coincides with those popular meals – burgers, hotdogs, fish fingers etc. But I also wonder, surely I cannot be the only one who seems to forget that sausage meat was actually once a pig, or that a fish finger was once a whole fish swimming around, fins, gills and everything? Are we subconsciously dressing up our food in different forms to detach ourselves from the reality of it being an animal? I’ve never really been a huge fan of ribs or lobster and crab, you know, meat you have to work for, meat that is still very much an animal. Yet I’m more than happy to chow down on a burger or battered cod. Perhaps, having stopped eating meat, I’m starting to consider the concept of consuming it more. But I do feel there is an element of denial when it comes to the whole process of the rearing and consumption of meat and its something we are definitely overlooking on a daily basis.
The problems I am actually having with cravings is dairy. Well, mainly just cheese and eggs – I have officially been put of milk, and anything that remotely resembles it (yoghurt, cream, creme fraiche etc.), having recently become aware of the actual process of getting milk. But cheese I cannot stop thinking about. I can make the most delicious Vegan pizza, or the loveliest Vegan pasta dish, and yet I’m always left with an overwhelming need to say “but it could do with a little bit of cheese though, couldn’t it?” As with the meat, the difference in the form of cheese, compared to milk, makes me detach myself from the fact that cheese is still very much milk. I also think this is partly to do with the lack of alternatives for cheese. Yes there are Vegan cheeses, but even Vegans admit they’re just not very nice and, if anything, will only worsen the frustration of wanting dairy cheese. And so, of all the difficulties I have faced this month, cheese has been my biggest hurdle by far.
Another frustration I have dealt with recently is eggs. Like most people, I have a nostalgic association with boiled eggs and soldiers from childhood. But growing up, my desire for eggs seems to have fizzled out. Well, until Instagram told me my life was meaningless unless I have smashed avocado on sourdough bread with a poached egg on top everyday and post it on social media as much as possible. But are eggs really a problem? They seem to be in everything. Even foods I deemed Vegan-friendly, like Quorn, uses eggs as a binding ingredient. My frustration stems from the fact I don’t really see a problem with using eggs, providing they’re from the right source, surely? Yes, battery farming – where hens are crushed in tight little cages and forced to produce a huge amount of eggs and gathering infections and diseases – is just plain wrong. But what about free-range? Well PETA state that actually we shouldn’t be mislead by the packaging of happy, roaming chickens. Yes, the animals are allowed to roam around, but there are not strict regulations on it, and therefore there are no specifications as to how much space they’re allowed or how much time outdoors. Often they are, in fact, still kept indoors.
But what about keeping your own hens? Having grown up in the countryside, it was pretty normal for many of my friends and their parents to have a few chickens in their back garden, and to use the eggs their hens made. I then started to query whether home-grown eggs are therefore more ethical? The answer being in some ways, yes, in others, not really. Chickens lay their eggs to make their nests full so, by removing them, we are forcing them to keep producing eggs – a process that is incredibly straining on the hen. The hens also consume their eggs for the calcium (which the shell is very high in) which they have lost in the production of eggs. The only “loophole” seems to be the leftover remaining eggs that the hens have not already consumed for their own nutritional benefit. But realistically, this would be almost impossible to regulate on such a large scale, so, once again, I face a battle between ethics and my own personal ease. The first time I’ve started to feel the difficulties of Veganism.