Victoria Martindale: It takes strength to be vegan in today's meat-mad society
WHAT do Bill Clinton and certain cupcakes have in common? They are both vegan. A man who used to be the most powerful person in the world and the winners of cupcake wars 2012 – neither exactly fit the stereotypical images that vegans are wimps and vegan baking is dry and dense, do they?
Admittedly, veganism has had a bad name over the years, conjuring up images of pale hirsute hippies who zip about on their bikes to spread the love. I remember the only vegan on my course (and quite probably in the whole university) turned up at our graduation ball dressed in sackcloth and sandals. He munched the night away on trail mix.
We would wait patiently for him to deliberate over every item on the menu, until eventually he ordered some unappetising item like cashew nut puff (oven baked rather than deep fried) without the honey glazing and no sauce. Doesn't exactly do the vegan label any favours, does it?
That was then. Since I've been vegan it couldn't be easier. It shouldn't come as any revelation that a meat-free diet is one of the healthiest around, we are reminded of its planet-nurturing virtues on a daily basis and who can deny that skinning an animal for its fur while it is alive and struggling isn't just sickeningly cruel but vanity at this expense is a vile faux pas?
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And unless you've lived on another planet for the past few decades, the appalling conditions of intensively reared billions of animals for meat and dairy produce cannot have escaped you.
But you may have missed that vegan food has undergone something of a culinary revolution of late. That dreary pot of hummus with a few raw carrot batons that used to be synonymous with vegan food has transformed into rich, gooey decadence as tempting and satisfying as any other.
The days when vegan food was less appealing than reconstituted wood shavings are truly over and so, too, is the delusion that only real men eat meat.
There are enough vegan bodybuilders around to prove you can be cut and ribbed with guns of steel on a non-animal diet.
If, however, it's the texture, smell and bite of dead animals that you find hard to resist, there are now vegan versions of just about everything from roast "tofurkey" and streaky "fakon" rashers to hot dog style "not dogs" and fake chicken nuggets.
Other well-known people who have chosen a vegan lifestyle include Carl Lewis, Mike Tyson and Bryan Adams. Vegans don't have to look puny and sickly any more than meat-eaters aren't all obese and ruddy faced with sky-high cholesterol levels.
But as a rule, vegans are healthier, fitter and live longer. Veganism is for the strong because it takes strength to live and eat that way in a crazy world that propels us in the opposite direction.
It's World Vegan Month and time to move over, carnivores, and let the real machos stand up.
Since writing this, the coroner's inquest into the death of Stephen Newton has been completed and I wish to express my deepest condolences to his family.