Waging war on steretypes
The Australian Vegan Magazine | ISSUE 2 – May/June 2017
Gone are the days of the pasty white greenie with tie-dyed t-shirts. Veganism is becoming mainstream and breaking down stereotypes.
For many years, vegans and veganism have almost been considered swear words. To hear that someone had actually gone vegan would conjure
up images of the pasty white greenie, replete with tie-dyed t-shirt and unflattering shoes. Anti-vegan memes are a constant source of entertainment for omnivores on social media platforms, with many being downright hateful. Regardless, times have changed and veganism is sweeping the world.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Australia now has the third-fastest growing vegan market in the world, and the vegan packaged food industry in Australia is currently worth almost $136 million. The growth has been projected to reach $215 million by 2020. Those figures are nothing to scoff at, and it is clear to see why savvy businesses are getting on board.
Sheila Hart is a 28-year-old parachute rigger (a person who is trained or licensed to pack, maintain or repair parachutes) in the army. She is beautiful, smart, tattooed, hysterically funny, and there is nothing stereotypical about her. Sheila initially went vegan for her health and fitness. She explains, “I was training hard with the army and switched to vegan protein. I felt so good it sparked an ultimate google about all things vegetarian and plant-based.”
Sheila initially began her vegan journey because of health concerns, and as time went on, her eyes were opened to animal ethics. “I watched Earthlings, I cried, I understood. That was the day. I used to hunt, fish and kill lots of animals, so it was a big change for me and I have never been happier.”
But like many other vegans, once they make that ethical connection, their veganism develops a life of its own. For Sheila, cooking and writing had always been passions, as was her ’67 Chrysler Valiant she’s named Ruby. Sheila pulled all three passions together and started a vegan blog called Valiant Vegan. She uses the space to share amazing recipes, stories, photos, and her general love for life.
When asked why she chose to blog about her veganism, she thoughtfully replies, “When I made the ethical connection, I felt this need to do something more. I found that when you are truly a vegan, it becomes part of you. It changes you. I wanted to express that to everyone, to show that I was still the old Sheila everyone knew, just veganised”.
She describes her blog as a way for her to understand the new and exciting world of veganism, and for the reader, it’s a great way to feel connected to other people on the same journey. Sheila shares her stories and recipes as a way to inspire and encourage others, and with her down-to-earth humour (and bad language), she also provides a really good laugh.
Veganism encapsulates many things. It’s about animal ethics, health, vitality, the environment, politics and a myriad of other things. People have differing reasons for why they initially go vegan, and whilst the main reason we stay vegan is because of animals, the one common theme ties all the rest together; food.
Reece Thomas-Meredith, owner of A Peace of Reece, has been cooking since he was six years old and it’s always been a passion. At 21, he has been vegan for three years and has used this time to develop a range of vegan handmade, pre-packaged food that is so good, he now sells them in Charlie’s Vegan Pantry in Everton Park, Brisbane.
Reece has had a similar background to many of us — he grew up eating meat in every meal and had no understanding of how the meat actually ended up on his plate. When his girlfriend went vegan he watched her transition, and learned how horrific the industry is. He confesses, “I could no longer live a lie that it’s normal to consume animal products... I came to a realisation that it was cruel and inhumane.” Once Reece made the commitment to veganism, he transformed all of his favourite recipes. He claims that being vegan has broadened his creativity so much that “I’m constantly creating new recipes with methods that I didn’t even know could work”.
Reece’s food is so delicious that when non-vegans try it they can’t believe it’s vegan. He says excitedly, “Vegan food has so much more flavour and is loaded with 100 per cent more nutrients”. His Facebook page is loaded with photos of the most decadent looking food; chocolate cakes, apple scrolls with ‘butter’ caramel sauce, pancakes, pepperonis, ‘sausage’ rolls and more. He’s even practising the art of cooking the good old Aussie
classic - the Dagwood Dog. Reece is proof that veganism is not the end of dreams, but just the beginning.
Both Reece and Sheila are typical of today’s vegans. Times have changed a great deal, especially in the last five to 10 years, and veganism is becoming more mainstream. It doesn’t carry the stigma that used to be
associated with it, and the pasty, white, undernourished person is no longer the pin-up child for veganism. Australian vegans are from all walks of lives, all ages, and are very serious in their quest to raise awareness and to show that veganism is not only sustainable, but something to be treasured. Whilst saving the animals, the environment, and inspiring good health, it’s changing lives and tearing down negative stereotypes.
By Annelise Stephenson
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