Veganism is often misunderstood in the stratum of vegetarianism. Whereas vegetarians typically do not eat meat, poultry or fish but might include eggs and dairy, vegans do not eat anything that derives from animals. And most vegans go as far as not wearing any animal-derived materials, such as leather, or using any cosmetic products that have animal derivatives.
Dave Denyer, an employee at the record label Ninja Tune, has been a vegetarian for over 10 years, and went entirely vegan about four years ago. His choice to stop eating meat stemmed from a childhood of over-consumption.
“The only thing we ate for maybe a year or two was ground beef and potatoes. It was a nightmare. Eating that shit imprinted me, so once I got to the age where I could choose what I could eat, I just couldn’t eat meat anymore,” he said.
Denyer began to think more seriously about his lifestyle when he left his family home to attend school.
“It got to the point where I thought – hey, maybe I should do this full time. I started to look into it, to see if I could actually pull it off. The more I read, the more I was convinced that it was the right thing to do. Then it became more of a moral, ethical stance,” he said.
And of course, being a student requires you to watch your budget. So learning to cook cheap meals was another benefit for Denyer.
“That is one of the best things about vegan cooking, that it is so cheap,” he said. “It is a challenge to mix it up every day more than anything, really. But I think that is a challenge for everybody, even if you are a steak-and-potatoes kind of person.”
Denyer says the perception that vegetarianism, and veganism in particular, makes it more difficult to balance one’s diet in a healthy way is a myth.
“If you are talking strictly vegetarianism, then there is not much to worry about. I think the idea of getting protein in your diet is a bit of a misconception; we don’t need to have that much protein, well as much as the meat and dairy industry tells you. It’s a fallacy,” he said. “But for the vegan side of things I definitely look out. I take supplements for vitamins, like B12 and things like that. There is also flax oil that I take to get essential oils.”
Once he went strictly vegan, Denyer said he was often told that without animal protein his energy levels would subside and it would lead to anemia, a deficiency of red blood cells, resulting in chronic fatigue.
“People were saying that I’d feel tired all the time, that I’d have less energy. But, in fact, it was the exact opposite. I felt more energized, more aware,” he said.
When asked if veganism has permeated his belief system to the point where he would not eat honey, Denyer said, “I still eat honey, but I don’t wear leather and I don’t buy hair products, soaps or things like that that have been tested on animals. I look specifically for things that don’t test on animals. I don’t support any industry that is cruel to animals.”
Obviously, Denyer has a sense of ethical responsibility with regards to his choice to be vegan, though he points out that it is a personal choice, and that he never tries to force it on anyone. He does, however, carry some frustration over the lack of information on the meat industry and the ills of over-consumption and farming practices.
“To be honest, I find it frustrating that people are so convinced by the meat and dairy industries. For me honestly, to think that there aren’t people that are willing to just do a little bit of research, and do a little bit of thinking and figure [the options] out, is frustrating,” he said.
“Other than that, I am not like some militant that gets pissed off at people. I mean I would prefer it if everyone was [vegetarian], because of some of the things I know, but it is a personal cause.”
However, Denyer believes that attitudes are changing and that society is becoming more tolerant, and accepting of his lifestyle.
“Ten years ago I couldn’t even find a veggie dog. If you wanted to eat-out vegetarian, it was like a salad and that’s it. But now it is becoming more and more acceptable, people are getting into it,” he said.
“I also think there is a shift in peoples’ understanding, especially from 10 or 15 years ago. They know that meat [can be] physically bad for you, with things like heart disease, high cholesterol etc. And then there is the industrial nature of how meat is processed [such as] factory farming. I think that that’s sort of under the radar still, but I think as more and more people become aware of it, people will start to realize that it is kind of a brutal way to live,” he continued.
“And not just for the animals, I think that there is more to it. I can’t remember who said it, but there was a philosopher who said you could judge a society by the way it treats its animals. That is how I feel. I can’t really justify being a decent person when I support an industry that is brutal.”
A favourite recipe of the Ninja Vegan himself, courtesy of www.vegetarian.allrecipes.com.
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 onions, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. ginger root chopped
6 whole cloves
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. ground turmeric
2 (15 ounce) cans chickpeas
Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat, and fry onions until tender. Stir in garlic, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, salt, cayenne, and turmeric. Cook for one minute over medium heat, stirring constantly. Mix in chickpeas and their liquid. Continue to cook and stir until all ingredients are well blended and heated through. Remove from heat. Stir in cilantro just before serving, reserving one tablespoon for garnish.