Here at Islamic Relief, we witness every day the effects of climate change on vulnerable communities. From droughts, increased flooding and resulting displacement and food shortages, lives and entire communities are at risk.
One of most-effective and impactful ways of tackling climate change is by looking at our personal consumption habits – and this includes our diet. Scientists have in fact stated that one of the biggest ways we can help the planet is by reducing our intake of meat.
With 1st November marking World Vegan Day, we spoke to two of our team who’ve decided to go vegan to find out more about their journey. Here are their stories, along with a tasty vegan recipe for all of us (whatever our eating habits) to try at home!
Emily Wight (Senior Media Officer)
Out of concern for the environment, I started making a conscious effort to cut down on meat four years ago, by shifting to what I call a ‘Weekday Vegetarian.’ In the week, if I craved chicken for example, denying myself wasn’t so bad as I knew I could look forward to it at the weekend. This inadvertently led to me cutting down the amount of meat and fish I ate in the long run for two reasons – cooking for one! It became such a pain to have to get through an entire pack of whatever I’d buy in one weekend that I gradually stopped buying meat to cook and just limited myself to meat when I was eating out – forcing me to see it as a treat.
The second reason was that I discovered new vegetarian recipes during the week – recipes I came to cherish and that reinforced to me that a satisfying meal doesn’t need to contain meat. After a couple of years as a Weekday Vegetarian, I realised that meat wasn’t particularly adding anything to my life and felt I was ready to cut it out altogether.
This was two years ago, and I’m now completely used to not eating meat. In January, I tested out how easy it would be to forgo dairy as well by partaking in ‘Veganuary’ – being vegan for the month. Finding it much easier than I feared, I decided to become a Weekday Vegan as I had done with vegetarianism.
Now, so much has evolved over the past year or so. It’s so much easier trying out veganism now than it used to be, particularly in cities like London where restaurants are offering an increasing number of vegan options when you eat out. Having not eaten meat for a long time, I don’t always feel the need to have an obvious substitute, but I made a delicious carbonara the other day using Vivera fake bacon pieces, a béchamel sauce made from almond milk and non-dairy margarine, along with miso paste, soy sauce and nutritional yeast to create a tasty cheesy flavour.
My go-to meals are spicy, flavoursome curries full of vegetables and pulses and I’ve got my two favourite chefs – Meera Sodha and Anna Jones – who’ve helped me experience veg(etari)anism as a fun journey, full of discovery!
Jonaid Jilani (Media Manager)
Earlier this year, I felt that I needed to play my part in reducing my carbon footprint. Climate change is a threat to all of us all and if we don’t act now, our children will be the ones to suffer.
As someone who would often travel to visit friends outside of London, having a car was crucial for me, but I soon decided that not having a vehicle would reduce costs and also be better for the environment. So I decided to sell my car and start using trains instead. Soon after joining Islamic Relief, I then began thinking about the huge impact meat farming was having on the environment. Having also worked for an animal welfare charity, I also was aware of the immense cruelty that farm animals endure. Chickens are often crammed together in small spaces and many become overweight and buckle under their weight in terrible conditions.
Eventually, I felt the only way to make a difference to the environment, animal welfare and my own health was to become vegan. I literally went from having a meat-based diet to becoming vegan overnight. After three months, I haven’t looked back. I did what is advised to everyone wanting to go vegan – consult my doctor – who explained the extra vitamin supplements I would need to make sure I wouldn’t be putting my health at risk.
The effects of going vegan are amazing. I often go running in the park and from day one, I felt I had more energy. I was focusing more on eating vegetables and salads and for the first time, I actually started to crave salads and vegetables. Now, the thought of meat doesn’t appeal to me at all. I feel a lot healthier and it does feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I feel like I am doing my bit for the environment, even if it is a small contribution.
When people become vegan, many often tend to buy processed vegan foods. However, I realised that cooking and preparing vegan meals is much more healthier and fun! With that in mind, here’s one of my favourite meals: vegan curry!
Top vegan recipe: Vegan curry
Serves: 2-3 people
- 3 tbsp. sunflower oil
- 1 ½ onions
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 4 tbsps. tomato purée
- 2 x 400g cans chickpeas
- 1 can chopped tomatoes
- Coconut milk (1 oz. cup)
- 1 tbsp. chilli powder
- 1 tbsp. ground coriander
- 2 tbsps. ground cumin
- 1 tbsps. ground ginger
- To season:
- Fresh coriander
- Lime wedge
How to make:
- Dice the onion and garlic, then put the oil on to heat
- Once the oil is hot, add the onion and garlic and cook until the mix is soft and browned
- Add the spices (chilli powder, ginger, cumin and coriander) to the mix and stir in, leaving to cook for around one minute
- Once the spices have infused, add the chickpeas and chopped tomatoes (both drained) to the mix
- Leave to simmer for around five minutes, then add the coconut milk and leave to simmer further
- Once ready, garnish with chopped fresh coriander, green chillies and a wedge of lime
Mmm, easy, healthy and tasty! If you make the curry, do send us a photo on Twitter and Instagram!
Find out more about our work tackling climate change here and take action today!