How easy is it being vegan in South Tyneside? And why veganism is not about being perfect

Welcome to the first of what I hope will be a long running column on all things plants and animals!

It's easy to find vegan products in South Tyneside's shopping areas.
It's easy to find vegan products in South Tyneside's shopping areas.

I want to talk about how easy it is to live a cruelty free lifestyle. In future articles we will look at specific areas of animals, their (and our environment) and how we can all make our world a better place.

But for now I thought it would be good to look at what veganism is about.

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So I have said it – the V word! The word that seems to make everyone pull away – but what does it actually mean?

There is a fuller definition of the term used by The Vegan Society, however, for me it means not exploiting animals and doing the best we can not to cause harm.

It doesn’t mean I am perfect – I am not – by any stretch of the imagination, but it encompasses all aspects like plant based eating, cruelty free products, not wearing their skins, not supporting zoos or hunting among others.

But by not causing harm to animals, we all benefit.

We have all seen the issues around climate change on our social media and even on the news now, as more organisations wake up to what we are doing to our world and its inhabitants, but the biggest causes of damage to the environment are greenhouse gas emissions caused by fossil fuels, animal agriculture and commercial fishing.

The biggest polluters through fossil fuels are the US, China, Russia and Australia but the UK contributes massively through animal agriculture and commercial fishing. If everyone around the world consumed in the way the population of the UK does currently, we would need 2.6 planet Earths to sustain them!

Now everyone will have seen the words ‘plant-based’ in the supermarkets and restaurants.

Businesses know that the number of people who are eating plant based has increased dramatically over the past five years alone.

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When I first became vegan 12 years ago, I had to scrutinise products in the shops to check they were suitable, but now all of the bigger brands have marketing which is shouting out about their plant based ranges.

And for those who think that buying plant based food is expensive, it really isn’t – there are as many budget brands out there as there are premium.

It is exactly the same with cruelty free products – one well-known brand which makes cleaning products is available in our bargain shops in and around King Street.

And another well-established drugstore on King Street and Jarrow town centre have several own-brand cruelty free ranges.

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You really don’t have to travel far to buy the foods and products you need.

Plant-based food products will either have a Vegan Society logo on or the store’s own version and cosmetics and toiletries will have either a ‘leaping bunny’ logo or their own version.

So given it is so easy, inexpensive and healthy to live a kinder life now, what is stopping you from living kindly?

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