Is it just us, or does it sometimes seem like the whole world is going vegan?!
There’s so much chatter about it at the moment. But this is probably a good thing if it helps us all re-evaluate what and how we eat, plus encourages producers and retailers to communicate better and offer greater choice.
It may also help fight climate change. Research indicates that avoiding meat or dairy products is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact.
65 billion farm animals are needed to feed the world’s meat demand annually, taking up 30% of the world’s ice-free land, and global food demand is predicted to rise 70% by 2050.
According to The Vegan Society:
‘Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.’
In practical terms, this means a plant-based diet avoiding all animal foods including meat and fish. But also all dairy, eggs, honey and things like leather or cosmetics that have been tested on animals. In reality, there are different gradations of veganism and approaches can be personal, as are the reasons for being vegan – from health to ethics to sustainability.
The wording of the opening definition is important. When we contacted The Vegan Society to ask about specific wine issues regarding veganism, their spokesperson said:
‘Being vegan is about trying to do your best to minimise animal suffering. It’s not about being perfect but about doing the best you can. As we live in a non-vegan world, animal products are sadly used in almost all areas of life.’
That’s why the phrase ‘as far as is possible and practicable’ is important here. Animal manures, for example, can be used in the production of fruit and veg. Animals are often used as agricultural labour and transport, especially in the developing world. And ‘all agriculture will have involved unintentionally causing harm to animals as part of the process and it’s impossible to avoid.’
So veganism is an aim. Some might call it a journey.
Many drinks are vegan. But they tend not to be labelled or marketed as such, making life difficult for those keen to know what’s what.
It’s mainly wine and beer that can stray into non-vegan territory, most obviously when certain processing agentsare used, eg for swift clarification. While little or no trace may remain of these products in the final drink, they can still be non-vegan. These include fining and stabilising agents from albumin or lysozyme (in egg white) to casein (from milk), isinglass (from fish bladders) or animal-derived gelatin. Chitosan from shellfish can also crop up.
Then there’s the issue of biodynamics. Animals are encouraged as part of the biodynamic farming ecosystem and preparations to keep vines healthy can be buried in cow horns over winter. Horses are often used to plough the vineyard, and manure compost is used.
Elsewhere, beeswaxcan crop up – for example in sealing bottles or as an emulsion in some agglomerate corks(eg Diam’s Origine). Some gluesused in labelling or packaging may also be animal-derived.
It’s easy to make good drinks the vegan way. Producers, retailers and everyone in between need to get better at cleaning up their game and communicating these facts as demand and interest is clearly growing.
We’ll be completely honest. We struggled to strike the jackpot when it came to vegan food.
The milk-alternatives made our morning cuppa taste like cardboard. We couldn’t get on with tofu. Our insides…grumbled. And the food – was so often just disappointing.
‘It’s good – for vegan’ was a phrase we often trotted out. But that’s not living.
Truth be told, we are going to keep working on it. It needs time, patience, experience, help (thank you everyone!) and then more time. We’re starting to find some exceptional recipes – and so here is a growing list of our favourite vegan recipes.
Many good drinks – indeed, some of the most famous, iconic names in the drinks world – are vegan. But they don’t make that clear.
It should really be the ones that aren’t vegan who should have to make that clear. Perhaps when ingredient listing is mandatory this will be the end result?
In the meantime, it would be GREAT if retailers could let us know what’s vegan (and what’s not) easily and clearly. Some already do – but usually via their websites. Same goes for restaurant wine lists – especially those venues that already make the effort on the food front.
Anyway, some great drinks options are available, right across wine, beer, cider, spirits and of course soft options. We’ll be posting more details in due course. In the meantime, fill your boots.