Two sides of the vegan coin

AFTER attending World Vegan Day, Juliana Mare delves into the world of veganism, its perks and environmental impact. 

world vegan day melbourne

Photo: Supplied

I admit, being an omnivore at World Vegan Day (WVD) recently felt like being a fish out of water.

But as the promoters for this community-funded event said: “You don’t have to be vegan or vegetarian to enjoy the day”, so I attended with an open mind and an empty stomach.

The most surprising part was definitely the variety of food.

For all the skeptics out there, I’m going to bust a stereotype straight away: veganism isn’t all veggie patties and tofurkey.

I stumbled across stalls selling coconut and goji vegan chocolate, gluten free bircher, Bounty-flavoured gelato and even egg and dairy free red velvet cupcakes. Needless to say, I was spoilt for choice when it came to lunchtime.

Pana Chocolate's vegan friendly coconut and goji chocolate.

Pana Chocolate’s vegan friendly coconut and goji chocolate.

Everything I tasted at the market was positively scrumptious. It was hard not to go back for another pink lemonade cupcake! Not to mention – it was chock full of healthy ingredients.

Of all the food available, the standout stall for me was Fritz Gelato. Their entire sorbet range is vegan friendly and the fresh fruit is locally sourced.

I tried their bounty, passionfruit kick and raspberry rumble flavours, but it was a difficult choice from a range that also included blood orange, poached pears, mango and peach, and ruby grapefruit.

Each tub of sorbet contains one kilo of fresh fruit, water, sugar and guava gum, which helps with the smooth consistency.

While enjoying my sweet treat, I spoke to owner Ali Johnston who says it’s the churning process that gives the Fritz Gelato range its beautiful, creamy texture.

The sorbet range at Fritz. Image courtesy of Ali Johnston.

The sorbet range at Fritz. Image courtesy of Ali Johnston.

“When we first started out, we found some products did have some skim milk powder in them so we’ve actually had to change suppliers to ensure we’re 100 per cent vegan,” he said.

Fritz Gelato is celebrating its 10th anniversary next year and has a Richmond store, as well as stalls at the Prahran and South Melbourne markets.

Ali says word of mouth is the best way to let vegans know there are things like sorbet available to them, so be sure to head out to the markets soon to sample some of the tastiest sorbet in Melbourne.

Aside from the physical perks of a meat-free diet, veganism also has enormous environmental impacts and is at the forefront of the animal rights movement.

Phillip Wollen turned his back on his corporate lifestyle and is now one of Australia’s leading animal rights advocates. He says we’re entering a new Dark Ages and that the damage humans have inflicted on billions of animal species is “a crime of unimaginable proportions”.

“Seven billion people live today and yet we torture and kill two billion sentient living beings every week.”

“10,000 entire species are wiped out every year because of the actions of one species.”                                                                                                                   

Phillip isn’t a tie-dye t-shirt wearing, barefoot hippie. He’s a firm-looking businessman in a suit and commanding public speaker who knows the money he poured into slaughterhouses in Cairo to improve the treatment of Australian livestock was a complete waste.

As such, he is absolutely dead set on a 100 per cent vegan diet.

“Cutting out meat by only 10 per cent will feed a 100 million people. Eliminating meat from our diet will end malnutrition forever,” he says.

While these statistics are undoubtedly impressive, Mr Wollen’s go-big-or-go-home attitude and his claim that animal rights is the “greatest social issue since the abolition of slavery” were particularly off-putting because it seemed as though there was no middle-ground.

He actually said “sitting on the fence is for cowards and crows”, which was also very discouraging to hear because it sounded like an accusation against anyone who isn’t irrevocably dedicated to veganism, even if they support the animal rights movement. Someone like myself.

Luckily, I later spoke to Billy Simmonds, a vegan bodybuilding world champion and a real-life example of just how beneficial a plant-based diet can be. He was a lot more accommodating of non-vegans.

Billy won Mr Universe in 2009, holds two world records and says he owes it all to his “power plant” philosophy and training.

“To actually adopt a full vegan diet was quite challenging but once I got my head around it, the next step was to optimise it, to make it something that could really work for me,” he said.

A typical day in Billy’s diet includes a smoothie for breakfast with frozen banana and berries, plant-based protein powder and coconut cream with flaxseed meal and green tea on the side.

Throughout the day, he has high vibrational raw meals, so things like cucumbers, fruits and green veggies – basically foods that grow high above ground and facing the sun.

His mantra “Beans, seeds and greens” is an easy combination to follow and opting for different seed varieties over any type of rice is a healthier option because it minimises your carbohydrate intake.

For those thinking about switching to veganism, here are Billy’s essential tips

  • Visit farmers markets to buy fresh produce like high vibrational and raw foods. This is also a good way to support local businesses.
  • Learn to read labels so you’re aware of exactly what’s on your plate.
  • “Make one, prep one” to save time in the kitchen.
  • Control your environment. Try eating at vegan cafes and set a good example for those around you.
  • Keep a positive mindset and you’ll succeed in no time!

Are you an omnivore, vegetarian or vegan? Do you have any tips? Let us know in the comment section below!

There are 22 comments

  1. Stacey Bradly

    Sorry that you find this mans passion for a kind world ‘off putting’ and ‘discouraging’.

    There is no middle ground between right and wrong.

    1. Bianca

      I agree with you Stacey!
      and I hate when people get offended when people who are vegan discuss the importance of it with them – if they feel guilty it’s because they ARE guilty.

      1. vegan girl

        Agreed 100%. I have found that since becoming vegan I get invited out for dinner a whole lot less: (a) because people couldn’t be bothered ‘upsetting’ their lives to accommodate me by going to a restaurant with vegan options and (b) they get edgy and weird when eating meat in front of me. Yes, I may be judging them for their poor uninformed choices but only ever in my head – these are family and friends we are talking about – but I find that they usually dont like me around because they are guilty in themselves. It has nothing to do with me making them feel guilty, they just know they are wrong and are indulging in these foods for pure satisfaction only (as lets face it, meat and dairy aren’t exactly good for our bodies so dont tell me they eat it for their health). If you want to feel guilty dont take it out on me – make a change!

      2. Stacey Bradly

        Yes, you can’t take it out on people for indirectly making you feel bad about your choices. Hurting peoples feelings isn’t really a consideration when it comes to educating people on what really is the greatest social issue since the abolition of slavery.

        Philip Wollen is a very compassionate and generous man, an great ambassador of vegan-kind.

        1. Stacey Bradly

          Being vegan is about that go-hard-or-go-home attitude – it’s about giving a shit about others and making kind choices accordingly, and that is a great thing – not something to judge people on.

          1. Epps

            What bothers me is the attitude of comparing a lifestyle choice with what was and still is the most shameful chapter of human history (because, y’know, slavery is still a thing). Comparing the personal choice of what and what not to eat with complete disregard of basic human rights seems disrespectful and out-of-touch.

            I realise that this is an issue I have with the attitude of a marginal group of hardliner vegans, rather than discounting the movement as a whole, but the ‘go hard or go home’ approach does come across as unwelcoming, and serves to discredit the majority of reasonable arguments for veganism, as it would with any other group or social issue.

            I’m (failing at) not trying to make this into an argument of ‘that’s not an issue, THIS is an issue’, and I realise that there are challenges of adapting to the vegan lifestyle (which is more than just dietary needs), but a viewpoint of “you’re not living up to my meat-and-dairy standards, therefore, burn in hell’s deep-fryers” is not the encouragement someone wants to hear when choosing what they eat.

            TL;DR: comparing eating chicken nuggets to slavery is not a class act.

    2. Stacey Bradly

      I feel bad for hating on your article, sorry if it seems mean, but you’ve shown a nice man in a bad light because you felt confronted (by something you pay people to do, by the way, if you’re omni) – that’s just not fair and I don’t like that. But I’m glad you enjoy vegan food and have shown that with positivity 🙂

  2. Bianca

    I think when animals are being enslaved it is indeed reasonable to use the word slavery.
    When we consume the by-products of cruelty, we are supporting the actions that lead to the production of what we consume.
    The same would be valid if I didn’t support human slavery but then paid for a product that a slave produced, directly funding the perpetrator.
    That’s what it comes down to for me.
    Every action we take, every personal choice we make, however small, that helps free animals from cruelty is a step in the right direction, even if we are not doing every little thing we can…
    But in saying that, if we cared enough for the cause we would do all that we can. Which includes being vegan.

    1. Stacey Bradly

      Exactly right Bianca.

      Epps.. Is/was not participating in human slavery considered a ‘lifestyle choice’? Suggesting enslavement of animals is not comparable to human slavery, that is what’s disrespectful and out of touch. And that is the speciest attitude.

      How does one educate people about the atrocities of factory farming etc and make people think about their involvement in that, in a way that makes people feel warm and fuzzy?

      It is a case of ‘if you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem’ – it’s just a simple fact and its up to you if you take that offensively and resent people for telling you. Its not about living up to anyone elses standards or needing encouragement – it’s about educating yourself, then taking your own morals and beliefs – rejecting cruelty, violence, oppression, prejudice and being happier and healthier for it. So you can take that as “burn in hell’s deep-fryers” if you want – but just some food for thought there.

      1. Epps

        I agree with you on the importance to educate people, and being such a contentious issue there isn’t a way to be warm and fuzzy about it without being completely ineffective. Yes for animal rights – shut down puppy farms, stop live exports, free range and fair trade all the way, no arguments there.
        However – still definitely side-eyeing anyone who would dismiss slavery in such a flippant way by comparing it to eating animal products. Speciest, really? Like I’m supposed to dodge ants on the footpath?
        Again, my problem is with the take it or leave it, black-and-white attitude that doesn’t help any side of an argument – you have to admit, there’s shades of grey here. No doubt humans will choose to consume animals and animal products, even if they have the facts in front of them. Would you not agree though that a less dramatic approach would encourage more people to reconsider their behaviour and potentially change the way they live? Even if they don’t become wholly vegan, any change is positive, right? The all-or-nothing approach would discourage some of taking veganism seriously or even listening at all, is what I’m saying.

        On another note, may I ask fellow readers how you personally became aware of veganism, and what was the hardest part of becoming vegan?

  3. Stacey Bradly

    The thing is though.. you can’t really say you’re against animal cruelty while supporting cruel industries (by buying animal products) thats pretty black and white – its just plain hypocrisy. What ‘go hard or go home’ means to me, you choose to live cruelty free or you don’t, there just isn’t a middle ground. And there may be many many reasons why it’s hard for someone to make that choice, traditions, religion, convenience.. all that, its understandable if it just takes people a while.

    Speciest – yes, really. However unintentional it is, it is speciest to disregard the suffering of non humans or suggest its not important, or not as important as human suffering or exploitation, basically the thinking that humans are superior. Dodging ants on the footpath isn’t as necessary as just trying to do the least amount of harm in your life.. I’ve heard that one before, I’ve actually heard this all before.. lol

    I can’t imagine any vegan or non vegan person dismissing human slavery – especially not Phillip, you know he supports human rights also right? He supports childrens charities, orphanages, schools, hospitals, health initiatives, all over the world – so to suggest he doesn’t care about humans is just so far from the truth.

    I’m an abolisionist, not a welfarist: I don’t believe in ‘kind explotation’, ‘happy exploitation’, ‘humane slaughter’. I think free range concept just makes people feel better about making cruel choices and I don’t believe people want to make cruel choices, they are being mislead into thinking they are doing a good thing.

    I think the approach to make people think is different for everyone. Some people need a Phillip approach.. some the health benefits approach.. Any change is positive yes, but being vegan is the best change.

    I’ve not been vegan long, only 3 years or so, I was a dairy addict and a fussy eater (still am a fussy eater). I had the same beliefs as most people were raised on – ‘farm animals are for eating, pets are for loving’. I thought cows NEEDED to be milked – I thought farmers do them a favor, I’M doing them a favour, buy buying it and drinking it. I didn’t know I was drinking stolen milk from a greiving mother – I was horrified! I thought animals are meant to be eaten, everyone does it, everyone can’t be wrong. But I was wrong. I had no idea. I wasn’t a cruel person, I was just making cruel choices and thats what I believe to be the case with most non vegans.

    I was volunteering with a campaign to abolish puppy factories, very passionate about it – I was given a chicken toy from animals australia by a friend that came with a card with the address for a website about cruelty to chickens. So I looked at the website and I just felt like such a hypocrit, to care so much about the dogs suffering on puppy factories and not giving a single thought to other animals – so it was easy, as easy as not buying a puppy from a pet shop. The first time I went food shopping it took me like 2 hours, a lot of label reading.. but it was easy. My big-mac-loving meat eating husband, he went vegan the day after I did when I made him watch earthlings, and I don’t mean he ate what I cooked, he’s the guy in subway telling people to change their gloves and knives before touching his food and won’t go into bunnings when theres bbqs on because he hates the smell.

    Just consider this, saying yes to animal rights but picking and choosing which animals and which rights.. thats not really animal rights is it? thats some animals rights.. or some rights of some animal. So do you really support ‘animal’ rights? and if so how are you actually ‘supporting’ animal rights.

    1. Epps

      Hmm, yeah, ok, please state verbatim where I claim Mr Wollen doesn’t care about humans. Let’s stick to the main debate, yes? I’m sure he’s a great guy, let’s not start a smear campaign.
      Being a speciest – how seriously do you take that, how far do you take that? As far as it’s convenient? If your house became infested with mice, or rats, would you bring in an exterminator? Would you do the same if you had a termite problem? Or do bugs not count?
      Regarding animal rights – yes, I believe you can support animal rights and still use animal products, preferably if they are made without needlessly abusing the animals. Should I stop taking the train to work, because bone ash is used in the brakes? Or taking photos, because bone gelatine is used in camera film? Thank god we are communicating online, because paper contains pig gelatine, as does washing powder, and wine, and shampoo, and paint, and bread (hopefully not Subway), and fabric softener, and tattoo ink, and toothpaste. Some would argue, “Well just don’t buy those products!” What about people who need a new heart valve, should they decline surgery because it came from a pig? Or eye surgery to prevent retina decay, which involves pig blood? Or medication to prevent blood clotting, which uses mucus taken from animal intestines? Would you tell me I’m a hypocrite by supporting animal rights, while using insulin (still taken from pigs and cows!) to treat my diabetes? Or does necessity negate hypocrisy?

      1. Anonymous

        There is no debate here – you’re. wrong. 🙂

        The flaw with your ridiculous examples and scenarios is: there is an abundance of vegan products, including those you mentioned, cheap and readily available (seriously if you want to stop washing your hair in pig gellatin, natures organics from woolworths, $2). All animal products come from use and abuse and they are needless for that very fact. Why didn’t you ask what I’d eat if I was stuck on a deserted island? haven’t heard that one in a while.

        New heart valves and diabetic medication is not usually something people on a vegan diet should need.. of course people can have issues like that genetically – but some are actually caused by high fat, high sugar, high cholesterol, meat eating diets. Having a healthy vegan diet can give people less dependence on medications and definitely improve their overall health, maybe you should look into that?

        I said before with your ant comment: trying to do the least amount of harm – call that necessity negating hypocrisy if you will, but trying to do the least amount of harm means exhausting all other options and when it comes to health issues – still some people would decline animal products on the basis their life is no more important than anyone elses. Theres catch and release mouse traps (you can get them from bunnings) and lots of other humane ‘pest control’ options and also here in the 21st century we have digital cameras, no one uses film anymore.

        It’s really absurd you believe you support animal rights while you try to justify making cruel choices instead of just making better ones.. lol, oh well I’ll leave it at that, nothing has sunk in, I’m done here 🙂

  4. Vegan

    I became vegan because I realised it was wrong to use animals. I was vegetarian before I was vegan and when I found out male baby chickens get crushed because they aren’t useful for the industry I stopped eating eggs and when I found out about the bobby calves being taken from their mothers cheese suddenly wasn’t tasty anymore. It wasn’t hard at all to go vegan. As you stated in the article, the food is very tasty, so I miss nothing.

    Btw slavery is slavery, no matter the species.

    1. Jess

      Everything that I have read in the comments is exactly what I hate about vegans. I am a vegan myself and that was my choice. I am not going to condemn someone for not having the same view points as myself. I hate when people try and push their personal view points on you. Most of us that are vegan were not born vegan. You have at some point of your life consumed an animal product and that does not make you a bad person. People that think if you’re not a vegan you are the devil and are terrible. My best friend has had huge health issues her whole life. She is one multiple wait lists to receive multiple organ donations. Because of this she has to be very careful what she eats. She, at the same time as me, decided she wanted to become a vegan. We were both always huge animal lovers and hated harm done to the animals. She managed to stick to a vegan diet for 3 weeks before she was hospitalised. Her body was not getting enough iron and protein. After she was realised (2 weeks later) she meet with her doctor to discuss what she can do to make sure her body doesn’t shut down. He told her to eat more red meat. She explained that she wishes to be vegan so he went through all the food and supplement options for her. However he did say there was a chance she would still be back in. The next time she lasted 6 weeks before she got rushed but to hospital. The second time her liver had started to shut down. She was lucky to survive it. She was flat out told she would not survive on a vegan diet. She required red meat. As a vegan I don’t think she is a bad person because of this. She tried and it almost killed her. She still hates what is done to a lot of animals and so does not buy her meat from a supermarket. She has found someone similar to her (who for health reasons needs meat but hates how they are treated) he raises animal himself and makes sure they have the best life possible. He even let a lamb sleep in his bed when it was ill and he slept on the floor, nursing it better. She travels an hour and a half (one way) to get meat from him because she knows that while it isn’t the same as not having to have an animal die, it is the nicest thing she can do to make sure she is not supporting animal cruelty. She has been doing this for 6 years now and a few months back I went with her to collect it. To my shock, after receiving the meat and beginning the drive home she started crying. When I asked her what was wrong she said that it just upsets her so much knowing that an animal had just died for her. Even knowing the animal would have died anyway for the owner and she was just taking a small amount of it didn’t make her feel any better. She told me that she has cried on the drive home every time in the 6 years she has been doing this. I would never for a second think she is a bad person. She has been given a bad body and is doing her best to help animals with what she has been given.
      And as for Mr Wollen’s comment, I am disgusted. Animal rights and animal cruelty are a huge social issue but to say it is the worst since the abolition of slavery is a joke. He a) makes it seem that slavery is over and no longer exists and b) that there are no other social issues. What about woman’s rights? Or the rights of LGBT community. I’m not saying animals rights isn’t a huge deal but it isn’t the only huge issue we as a society are dealing with.
      At the end of the day vegans are a minority and I believe that as long as we vegans have the mind set its all or nothing then we will get nowhere. One small step at a time and we can get there. And people would be more willing to listen. I think what this journalist has done is wonderful. She has stepped outside of her comfort zone and attended one of our days. In doing this she has learnt that not all vegan food is boring and we do have fun with it. Maybe next time she’s out she won’t order a steak and may go for a vegan option. And then we are one step closer. So thank you Miss Juliana Mare for being willing to do this and look at life on our side.

  5. Epps

    To: Stacey Bradly (hi, by the way, I never said hi)
    Re: Dec 1st

    Good call on the vegan alternatives from Woolies, always happy to buy the cruelty-free and humane (ah! I mean sentient being, apologies to the non-sapiens reading) choice. Looking forward to that comprehensive list giving options for things that: we’re not in complete control of/are viable & affordable/exist (eg. those darned train brakes, paper at work, mum’s cooking!). In the meantime I won’t use public transport, do my job, or eat food at home. I’ll just sigh and complain about cruelty, eschewing reasonable alternatives, and proclaiming myself the authority on other’s opinions. Eagerly awaiting your word! Please include a paragraph about hypocrisy, except when it’s not, because when vegans do it’s different, and how it’s either a black-and-white choice, except when it’s not, and there are no shades of grey, except when there is. Write soon!

    But let’s stick to the medical side of things, as I think this is where your argument falls apart. On one hand, yes, I totally agree with you. Some medical conditions are caused, or worsened by dietary conditions – intolerance or overabundance of certain foods, I mean. Anything in excess (key word excess); sugar, salt, meat (yes!) is bad. Good point there, but you should have stopped. In my instance, for example, because I’m very confident in saying this: in the nine years I’ve had a disease that has no proven causes, do you really believe I, or anyone else, has been told by a (certified, haha) medical professional “you know, if you cut back on the meat and dairy, your pancreas will regenerate destroyed cells and work again? No need to use those meds that are proven to stop you from becoming comatose. Vegans don’t usually suffer from autoimmune or genetic diseases.” Do you see how that argument would be laughed out of town by anybody relying on medicine or surgery that stops them from dying? If someone with, say, chronic pain (let’s keep it generic/not ridiculous) declined meds because the pills had a glycerine shell, and they didn’t want to be speciest (new favourite tumblr accusation), would you not wonder about their priorities? And, maybe, I dunno, write them off as someone whose radical opinions you’d discount (shout-outs to Nov 27th post, ye-yeah!). In summary, thanks for your well-meaning advice, but I’ll listen to a doctor, not VeganWebMD.

    It’s been fun debating this with you while the correspondence was logical and coherent, not so sure it’s heading this way now. So yeah, let’s call it a day. Apologies to the writer’s email inbox, and happy holidays everyone, enjoy the tofurkey!

    (Also, if you were stuck on a deserted island, you would eat the coconuts, everyone knows that! 😉

    1. Stacey Bradly

      Hi! 🙂

      You’re so funny, you say oh I agree with x BUT.. and then go off on a tangent suggesting stupid things like I think vegan diet can cure rare diseases (be nice if it did though!) or that vegans don’t usually have autoimmune or genetic disease, haha :p all I meant is what I said, which is: it’s healthy and it can be helpful for some conditions.

      I think that trying to do the least amount of harm/reasonable alternatives (which I mentioned a bunch of times) isn’t hypocritical. And I personally think if you’re faced with a situation where you have to do something which doesn’t line up with your beliefs, you can have peace in the fact you tried – like Jess, the welfarists, friend, I think this friend of hers is a good example of necessity not being hypocrisy because I’m sure that if the option was available to her – she’d take it, right?

      I think what you keep trying to get at is the view that the vegan status quo is a mean corporation forcing you to live like a neanderthal. But demand for alternatives will continue to grow! Because like you said ‘always happy to buy the cruelty-free and humane’ option, I think most people would too (if they knew it was an option and knew it as the right choice to make). And no one would disagree we need more, cheaper, readily available options (for food, clothes, transport, medicine, everything!). So, we can make do with what we’ve got and make the most ethical choices as possible 🙂

      Having options available to you and not taking them, thats definitely hypocritical.

  6. Had Enough

    Sigh, we’ve been hearing this hippy bullshit for decades. Look, good on you for jumping on the fad, it’s RUBBISH. Proper land management is what will feed the masses – that and genetic engineering which, by the way, feeds everybody today.

  7. Sofia V

    This has been a great thread to read. There is nothing I can say, that Stacey Bradly hasn’t already so eloquently said. Stacey Bradly, you represent all I love about veganism. I agree with Bianca; you rock.

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