Gloucestershire Vegan Group member Sahaya has been busy. A student at Stroud College, she took it upon herself to promote World Vegan Month by having a vegan stall for a week in the foyer at Stroud College. Helped by a team of volunteers, she did a great job of getting the word out there about veganism. They did this by having info leaflets, vegan-pledge forms, recipe cards, information about local vegan-friendly places to eat, as well as ever-popular free food samples. She also worked with the catering company at the college to ensure that during that week, there were several vegan options available for students in the canteens at all of South Gloucestershire & Stroud College campuses.
It’s really refreshing when places are accommodating to vegan needs, and Stroud’s independent artisan Pizza take-away Fat Toni’s have have been vegan-friendly from the moment they opened their doors only a year ago. From day one they offered non-dairy cheese on their menus, or extra veggies as an option, this means that their pizzas can be enjoyed by vegans or those who are lactose-intolerent.
This inspired us to organise a vegan pizza party – to allow us to try the full range of what they have to offer to hungry, pizza-loving vegans. So we arranged in advance to have the pizzas delivered to our door and piled into a Stroud household to eagerly await our pizza-fest.
We ordered 5 varieties – Sicilian Caponata (spiced aubergine caponata, toasted pine nuts and rocket), Vegesaurus (walnut & marinated artichokes), La Franca (artichokes, crushed garlic, olives and cherry tomatoes), Alice in Wonderland (wild mushroom & aspargus) and finally, a firey one – Dantes Inferno (heaps of red & green sliced chilli!). They offer a choice of two types of sourdough – San Franciso and Ischia, giving a variation in the sharpness in the base, we tried both.
The 20″ pizzas were huge and could easily feed 3 people (even hungry vegans!), especially is you make a salad to accompany. They were beautifully cooked – the bases are the perfect balance of chewy, sour dough, and crispy edges. The toppings were imaginative and tasty, my personal favourite was the La Franca, because it was extra garlicky, but they were all supremely tasty. The vegan cheese melts well, and adds a good salty, gooey element, but it’s not entirely necessary, as Fat Toni’s pizzas are equally tasty with extra veggies instead of cheese.
After pizza we played games, and sampled the puddings we’d all brought along to share.
One pudding that created quite a stir was a vegan version of Lemon Meringue Pie, with an authentic crispy top, the recipe can be found online here.
It was a lovely, warming winter social event and great to catch up with fellow local vegans.
Vegan Pizza Dough Recipe
Vegan Pizza is easy to make at home too. Here is my favourite pizza dough recipe.
1tsp dried active yeast
2 cups warm water
4 cups strong white flour
• Dissolve the yeast in the warm water using a whisk
• Add 1 tsp salt and stir
• Add the strong white flour 1 cup at a time, whisking between each cupful until a thick dough is formed
• Cover with a tea-towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 4 hours or more (If you do this in the morning, you have a lovely risen dough waiting for you to make pizzas from at tea-time.)
• Turn out onto a large oiled baking pan and stretch the dough to fit the pan (This recipe can make two pizzas, if you want thin-and-crispy)
• Top with your favourite toppings and bake for 20mins until the dough is golden and crispy, and your non-dairy cheese is melty.
Gloucestershire vegan group had a fantastic street stall on Saturday 2nd November at Stroud Farmer’s Market to celebrate World Vegan Month. I can’t think of a better way to promote veganism than creating an opportunity for people to have a taste of all of the scrumptious food we eat – and what a spread we put on for the market crowd. We had platters of truffles and chocolate balls, trays of towering cupcakes, indian jalebis, tapenade palmiers, lentil croquettes, seitan sausages, raw food bars and cakes - so much good food! As Stroud Farmer’s Market promotes local food we tried to make everything as local as possible, so we used local ingredients such as carrots, and raspberries to make cupcakes, and local shallots featured in savoury tarts. The response to our cooking from the public was overwhelmingly positive. So many people commented on how tasty the food was, and asked us for recipes. It makes me happy to think that many people’s first taste of vegan food was such a good one, and that hopefully we may have changed some people’s perception of what veganism is. It’s not all about denying yourself of taste - it is about all the wonderful food you can enjoy, that doesn’t come from animal cruelty and exploitation.
Our stall had some beautiful cards created by a talented artist in our group – depicting farm animal sanctuary residents. The ones with Hosannah the Donkey on proved to be most popular. We also had a selection of vegan leaflets, plenty of recipe cards and vegan pledge forms for folks to take away.
We also sold tickets for a prize draw to win two hampers, full of goodies kindly donated by vegan-friendly companies – we had items donated by Goody-good stuff, V-bites, Clearspring, Meridian, Organica, Heavenly-Organics & Pulsin’ – which made up a most luxurious and enticing hamper. All of the proceeds from the stall went to Evesham Farm Animal Sanctuary – and we raised an amazing £300. Our hamper-winners were chuffed – one had three children who were eyeing-up the Goody Good stuff sweeties.
So a great day at the market, and some great work by all involved at Gloucestershire Vegan Group – we promoted veganism, raised the profile of our group locally, and created enough funds for Evesham Farm Animal Sanctuary to buy winter feed blocks for 200 sheep & 7 cows for two months. What a result.
I’m excited to announce that to celebrate World Vegan Month, to promote our group and to raise funds for Evesham Farm Animal Sanctuary, Gloucestershire Vegan Group will be hosting a street stall at Stroud Farmers Market, Cornhill, Stroud on Saturday 2nd November from 9-2pm.
Our stall will have free vegan food tasters – delicious goodies baked and crafted by the excellent cooks in our group. It’s a great chance to try out vegan food if you’re new to the idea of veganism. We will be selling cards depicting animals from the sanctuary, and have two amazing hampers, bursting with vegan goodies.
So if you’re local and interested in veganism, or want to help raise funds, why not pop by our stall and have a chat with some of the friendly folk from Gloucestershire Vegan Group. While you’re at it why not check out some of the other vegan-friendly stalls that are touting their goods at the market. There will be the Veggie Deli Stall, Niangs Thai Snacks, and Funky Falafel, all of whom sell vegan options.
We’d love to see you!
In the last few years Stroud Brewery has opened it’s doors on Friday & Saturday evenings to punters in search of a good pint. It has a bar with a laid-back ambiance and comfy seating, an outdoor covered decking area with benches, and a chance to sit amongst the brewing beer kept in towering, impeccably shiny barrels!
Seeing as Stroud Brewery currently has nine different kinds of bottled beers that are organic and Vegan Society certified, produced at it’s small brewery just outside of Stroud town centre, and we as a group are keen to support local vegan-friendly businesses, visiting was a not-to-be-missed event for Gloucestershire Vegan Group. Better still, there is an outdoor clay oven on site, where pizzas are baked by the masterful resident bakers – Velo Bakery. They are very open to vegan ways, and you can bring your own favourite vegan cheese sub, which they will add to any of the veggie option pizzas.
This all made for a great meet-up last Saturday 21st September. Many people had never been to the brewery before, and were surprised at how such an excellent venue could be hidden away on an industrial-looking trading estate. There were over 25 of us, which kept the pizza oven very busy, especially as many people decided the pizzas were too good to only have one. The dough was thin, crispy and perfectly baked. The high temperature of the clay oven blitzed even the most resistant-to-melting vegan cheese to a semi-liquid state. The beer selection down at the brewery is pretty extensive. I personally love the ‘Black Cat’ stout (a nod to the mythical big cat sightings in the area) which is rich, bitter and dark. Other folks were enjoying ‘Tom Long’ (named after the legendary local highwayman) which is light and aromatic, with hints of orange zest and coriander. Another great beer, which is sometimes less easy to find in local pubs and off-licences, but is always in stock at the brewery is Maris Otter – a singe malt, single hopped beer, so special it comes in smaller bottles so you can savour every drop. There is also organic cider, and a selection of non-alcholic drinks and organic bar snacks.
Thanks to everyone who came along, and to the Brewery & Velo Bakery for being our hosts for the evening – we will be back!
You may be surprised to learn that beer is not always vegan. It’s unfortunate but most cask conditioned beers contain finings – wikipedia tells us:
“Finings are substances that are usually added at or near the completion of the processing of brewing wine, beer and various non-alcoholic juice beverages. Their purpose is for removal of organic compounds…historically, various substances such as egg whites, blood, milk, fish swim bladder derivatives have been used as finings.”
It strikes me as rather ridiculous that the only reason to add these products, that come from causing suffering and/or death to animals, is for the visual appearance of the beer – to make it look less cloudy.
Bottle conditioned beers more often than not don’t contain finings, but unless the label on your beer says “suitable for vegans” or is Vegan Society certified – as is the case with Stroud Brewery bottled (but not cask) beers, it is impossible to know. Unlike most other food and drink alcohol has very poor labelling, without ingredient listings.
Fortunately there is a fantastic online resource for vegetarians and vegans called Barnivore where information on wine, beer and spirits that don’t contain animal products is compiled. You can even download their phone app so that you can check out what you can drink while out and about.
There are also a few UK based breweries who do produce vegan draft beer as well as bottled, these include:
Why not ask your local pub to get a cask from one of these breweries as a guest ale?
For more information on vegan drinks – look up this page on the Campaign for Real Ale’s website
Gloucestershire Vegan Group members are currently united in a sense of outrage over the pilot cull of badgers that is happening locally.
Most vegans I know choose not to consume products of animal origin because of a deeply-held ethical belief that it is wrong to cause pain, death or suffering to other beings, simply for culinary gratification. It is therefore doubly distressing for us that gun-toting farmers, are blasting one animal – the badger – to near-extinction so that they can continue to perpetuate the suffering of another – dairy cows.
The pilot cull itself is a shambolic affair. It’s aim is supposedly to establish the humaneness of free-shooting badgers. The badgers shot in Gloucestershire will not even be tested to see if they are TB positive. Aside from the obvious irony of assessing how “humane” shooting a sentient being is, (especially in the dark using untrained marksmen) a leaked letter from the Government’s own Chief Vet Nigel Gibbons to the Humane Society International revealed that there is “no definitive criteria” for measuring how humane the cull is.
The Government hopes to roll the cull out nationally, once this pilot cull has taken place, despite there being some very good alternatives to culling Badgers. The Wildlife Trusts, and other pro-badger organisations are advocating badger vaccination, something that is currently underway in neighbouring Wales. The Environment Secretary Owen Paterson dismissed vaccination as “pointless” suggesting that already infected badgers would continue to spread TB to livestock. If everyone took this simplistic view on vaccination, we clearly wouldn’t have rid the world of smallpox.
Other strategies that could be used to reduce bovine TB include; developing a vaccine for cattle, better livestock bio-security practice on farms and at markets (see this video to see how livestock bio-security rules are flagrantly ignored in nearby Welsh markets) and more effective testing methods for bovine TB in cattle.
There are huge doubts about the effectiveness of culling badgers to prevent Tuberculosis in cattle. Even the Government’s best estimate for reduction in Bovine TB using culling badgers as a method to control the disease is only a 12-16% reduction after nine years of culling. Evidence suggests that badger movements may increase due to the cull, causing a spread rather than a reduction in Bovine TB. (See the diagram on this page under the title: “How could a badger cull make the bovine TB problem worse” for more details)
To add to the plethora of reasons why the badger cull is a farce, the risk of humans getting TB from consuming the milk from infected cattle is presently very low – in the 1940′s there were 50,000 new cases every year in the UK – because now milk is pasteurised and this kills off the M. Bovis bacteria.
So for all of these reasons and many more, some of us found ourselves wandering the footpaths through the woodlands and fields of Gloucestershire in the small hours of the morning, armed with a flashlight and sporting a Wounded Badger Patrol high-vis vest. The Wounded Badger Patrol was set up by the campaign group Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting to work peacefully and within the law to patrol the footpaths of the Gloucestershire looking for any injured badgers or cubs whose mothers may have been shot. We form part of a team of volunteers, many from Gloucestershire but also from further afield. People are angry about the cull, and there is so little information on something that is secretively taking place in darkened fields, being out there to bear witness to the events that are unfolding seems like one of the most productive things we can do at the moment.
Spirits are high despite the heavy rain and chill night air. We are encouraged by news from earlier in the day that the other pilot cull, in Somerset is proceeding very slowly, with fewer than 100 Badgers shot over a two week period (the target for the Somerset Cull zone is to shoot over 50 badgers each night). The shooters lack of success has been attributed in part to the amount of pro-badger people out patrolling at night, with excellent work being done both by the Wounded Badger Patrols and Hunt Saboteur groups.
We spend the night on patrol, listening and observing for any signs of wounded badgers or shooting. What unites us is that everyone is passionately pro-badger. As the evening draws on we chat about our personal motivations for being involved. One group member tells us movingly of an occasion when he and his teenage son went out badger-watching; they didn’t see any badgers that evening, so eventually they left for home early. When he and his son returned the next night, they realise to their despair that if they’d stuck around longer they could have perhaps prevented a terrible wildlife crime. The sett had been savaged and destroyed by badger killers. He tells us there was badger blood everywhere. They then heard a scratching noise from inside the caved-in sett, and they dug down as fast as they could. Inside the destroyed sett they discover a badger, who is barely alive, his head caved in from blows and skull fractured, but still digging, trying to free itself. They rush the injured badger to a local wildlife hospital who operate on the badger, and miraculously he survives. “This is why I owe a debt to the badgers” the patroller tells us. We continue our patrol with a renewed sense that what we are doing is right, in a way we all owe a debt to the badgers, they are unique and a wonderful part of the local landscape, and unfortunately humans have persecuted and hunted them throughout history.
On a previous patrol we we’re joined by Queen Guitarist Brian May who has been outspoken in his criticism of the cull and has supported many anti-cull organisations in their work. We meet him briefly in a local pub where he was busy debating with a group of pro-cull farmers.
Gloucestershire Vegan Group members will continue to go on Wounded Badger Patrol for as long as the cull is in place. If anyone would like to join us, we welcome you. To get involved you can contact Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting on: email@example.com. You can also join our local Hunt Saboteur Group – Three Counties Sabs – in their efforts to stop the cull, details on their facebook page. Alternatively, if walking the fields at night doesn’t sound like your kind of fun, groups such as Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting, and Three Counties Sabs welcome any financial donations to help cover the cost of their work, details of how to donate are on their respective webpages/facebook pages.
Gloucestershire Vegan Group’s latest get-together was a relaxing sunday afternoon BBQ in a beautiful garden in Woodchester. You can’t beat sharing vegan food with friends. Everyone brought something, and we ended up with an huge array of BBQ food – cutlets, sausages, and burgers. There were no less than two types of home-made burger: nut cutlets coated in herby breadcrumbs with added olives for a intensely savoury flavour, and a tasty green-lentil patty. There were some gorgeous rainbow kebabs, with home-grown veg, fresh salads and an wonderfully creamy aubergine dip. There was such a selection, and as usual all of it was vegan. Rather than doing the thing that happens at omnivorous social occasions where most of the time is spent thinking “Now… what can I actually eat here?” there is a joyous moment of realisation that we can eat everything!
It was great to have several new people join us, and plenty of regulars. We’re a varied group of vegans of all ages and backgrounds, united by the fact we have made the choice to live more compassionately, or are interested in making the leap into veganism. I hope that, as a group, we’re open and welcoming to everyone – creating a friendly, inclusive and supportive space, free from judgement or discrimination.
One of the things we chatted about was raising funds for Evesham Farm Animal Sanctuary, and have started to make plans, so watch this space!
Last but not least, there was quite a fervor at Gina’s Peppermint & Chocolate Cheesecake, which went so fast we only managed to get a snap of the very last slice! Everyone implored me to get the recipe from her, which obligingly is below: