Being a vegan isn't always easy, in fact one could say that it is often "difficult, difficult, lemon difficult". I've come across a few issues recently that I thought I'd write about. The first, being a milkshake bar that has opened in Dublin city centre.
Quite a few people have been getting excited about this new place on Dame Street. It is Dublin's first and only milkshake bar and it offers soya milk and soya ice cream alternatives on its menu. So yesterday I went into the bar with a friend who is doing an experiment for her end of year Journalism course - she went vegan for a week and blogged about it here: A History of Dieting. We queued for over 10 minutes to eventually be told "sorry, we ran out of soya milk, we'll definitely have some in tomorrow". I know of someone else who was told the same thing that day AND a couple of days previously. Since our visit I've heard of even more people being turned away on different days! I was pretty disappointed (and confused) at how a milkshake bar could run out of two rather important ingredients for such a long duration of time. Then the more I thought about it, the more I realised just how wrong going to a place like this was, for a vegan. Do I really want to patronise a company that makes most of its money from dairy milkshakes? Do I really want to give them my money and help them to thrive? There are only a couple of things on the menu vegans can choose from - peanut butter, bourbon biscuits and jelly tots being among the few. Absolutely everything else they stock is a vegan's nightmare: Oreos, Kit Kats, Kelloggs' Cereals, Galaxy, all manner of Dairy Milk chocolates, Nestlé products, Toblerones, Jaffa Cakes, Custard Creams, Wine Gums, Hersheys.... anything and everything we vegans choose to avoid! People have been telling me that I should feel "greatful" that this store is recognising the needs of vegans and the dairy intolerant amongst us. However, I beg to differ, seeing as most places you go to eat will have at least something edible on the menu, whether it is a salad or a veggie fry up, it doesn't mean we should feel so greatful that we should support these places! Just because MacDonalds have a veggie burger, fries, onion rings and an apple pie that vegans can eat, does that mean we should support them? Most vegans would feel uncomfortable purchasing something from a joint such as Maccy D's, and I find it equally disturbing supporting a bar that dishes out dairy products by the gallon every day. So I've come to the conclusion that I should probably avoid this place like the plague. I can make my own milkshakes at home, thank you very much, then I can know exactly what goes into them and also not waste my time or money getting to your store only to find out I can't even have anything!
My friend Orna and I came across another challenge while out at Dublin's "Africa Day" in the Iveagh Gardens on Sunday. We really wanted to try some authentic African food but they didn't seem to have any Ethiopean stalls - I tried some of this food from a stall out in Dun Laoghaire last year and it was totally vegan friendly and absolutely delish! So we located the stall which looked the most veggie/vegan friendly and on trying to ask what was in a certain item, we found the language barrier to be quite a hurdle. After asking the first time and getting "potato" as the answer, we tried to press the chef into elaborating a little further, upon where she just started shouting "POTATO! POTATO!" at us. There was quite a queue forming behind so we opted for some of this "potato" concoction and a plateful of spicy rice. It was very tasty, but I'm not at all sure if the potato dish was actually vegan. We couldn't quite work it out - it had a hint of cheese and the colour was yellowy, but it definitely didn't have the texture or consistency of cheese and the colour could easily have been from the sweet potato or the spices.
On talking to the daughter of a Nigerian friend today I mentioned what we'd had and she told me "oh that would be Pan da Diam" (apologies, but I have no idea how to spell this, therefore it was impossible to Google) and when I asked if it was made with cheese or dairy I got laughed at as if I was stupid. However, as we all know, just because some people think it's dairy free doesn't mean it is dairy free - they just don't think to check the label. Apparently it's made with some kind of powder, so it's possible that there could be cheese or milk in it, we just don't know! However, it was an enjoyable afternoon and it was nice to get to try some traditional food, experience a different culture and listen to some African music.
Another issue would be: Pets! Is it ok for a vegan to have a pet? I have kept dwarf hamsters for a while now and love them so much (my first dwarfie, Bump, is pictured above). I'd ideally love a dog or a cat, but at the moment our lifestyle just wouldn't suit owning a larger pet that requires more responsibility. Rescue animals are obviously the main choice for vegans wanting pets, but then questions such as whether to feed it a diet of meat or not are raised (no problem there with my vegan hammies!), and whether you should be the "owner" of an animal like it is an object.
I have no idea what to think about this as I originally went vegan for health reasons alone. I am relatively new to the whole ethical side of veganism. What does everyone else here think about animals as pets?