I’m on a mission to save the planet – by being a terrible vegan

In a former life I may well have been as angry about a Greggs vegan sausage roll as Piers Morgan pretends to be (Photo: Getty/ PA)

About seven years ago I gave up meat. I was a relatively happy pescatarian for five years. Then, after spending a lot of time with friends who were vegan I went the whole hog (for want of a better phrase).

I think most people have a nagging doubt about whether it’s right to eat certain things, or things that are produced in a certain way, and it’s up to us how long we ignore that voice.

I continue to flush wet wipes whilst being opposed to fatbergs, I bemoan companies who fill the ocean with plastic whilst forgetting my reuseable cup for the tenth effing day in an effing row.

But I could ignore the vegan voice no longer; I read the articles, watched the documentaries, and cemented a new found disgust at the unnecessary harm we inflict on animals.

Then, after about six months, I started slipping up out of convenience, politeness or necessity. My ethics hadn’t changed, but my habits had. I was gutted.

When I was done berating myself for the odd blind eye turned to cheese sauce at a friend’s house or realising halfway through a vegetable curry that it probably contained ghee, I realised that even though I had slipped up, I was still making a difference.

Even if my diet was only 90 per cent vegan, that was something. If everybody on Earth went 90 per cent vegan then the majority of my concerns about animal welfare would be null and void, and so it was that I became, what I like to call ‘broadly vegan’.

I’m totally vegan at home (aside from some Quorn and if my girlfriend has bought Dairy Milk) and I’m mostly vegan outside the house, unless I’m A) hungover or B) having a curry (sorry prawns!)

People get quite angry about ethical diets, what constitutes one or not, how strict you are, having one in the first place. But all ethics is, is drawing a line – a personal, subjective line. We all do it.

You’d eat a steak but not a cat. That’s an ethical line, a personal and subjective decision that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. And you have every right to it.

How excited I was, therefore, to hear that a team of 37 scientists decided that my diet, which I invented by accident, was mankind’s only hope of survival. YOU’RE WELCOME!

The Planetary Health Diet devised by the EAT-Lancet Commission reduces meat, fish and dairy in order to feed a growing population, avoid the extinction of more species, preserve water, cut deaths by 11,000,000 people a year and reduce land used by farming. And all I had to do was give in to a prawn madras!

The diet they outlined would restrict us to one portion of red meat a week (about the size of a burger), two each of chicken and fish, and equivalent to one glass of milk a day of dairy.

This may seem a little daunting, but the United States alone kills 9billion chickens a year, and around 29million cows. When the world population rises to 10billion people, we may not have a choice.

I still don’t eat meat, but I worshiped it for many years. In a former life I may well have been as angry about a Greggs vegan sausage roll as Piers Morgan pretends to be.

But my experience since has given me some insight into how easy it is to reduce meat and dairy intake without the world falling down around your ears.

I’d assumed all vegan and veggie food was somehow worthy, healthy and a chore. The truth couldn’t be more different.

The cheaper, more processed meats are the most successfully replicated so chicken nuggets, sausages and burgers are basically identical. The cheaper the meat, the more harm that can be avoided by switching to a meat-free alternative.

I also had a revelation: most of what I fantasised about my favourite meat dishes weren’t to do with meat at all – it’s the condiments, stupid! Imagine your dream burger. Go on… treat yourself. Now take out the ketchup/mustard/hot sauce/mayo.

Still appetising? How about without the onions/gherkins/jalapenos?

All are either vegan or, in the case of mayo, easily replaced.

Mayo and salad cream are two real success stories, and both are available as inexpensive own brand products in your local supermarket.

Milk for me was easy to cut out. Not only are we the only species on earth that drinks milk past infanthood, we drink another species’ milk! It’s actually quite disgusting when you dwell on it. Just ask this guy!

Because I’m great fun, I conducted a test on all non-dairy milk alternatives and came to the following conclusion: the best for coffee was hazelnut, for tea it was cashew or hemp and on its own, sweetened almond (in fact sweetened almond milk ticks all the boxes as an all rounder).

They keep for AGES – the UHT stuff lasts even longer – and though it’s more expensive than cows’ milk, you won’t be chucking it away when it goes off, and cheap milk is a bad deal for everyone, farmers and cows.

Eggs went a similar way (another animal’s unfertalised foetus! Super, super odd!). There’s still traces of egg in some of the things I eat (mainly Quorn) but surely it’s not really necessary for Britain to consume 12.5billion eggs a year!

Then there was cheese. People are insane about cheese. There’s no escaping that cheese tastes great, and it was the only thing I really worried about leaving behind. But I honestly didn’t miss it for the six months I was a hardcore vegan. The secret? Don’t have it in the house.

For vegetarians it’s easy to replace meat with cheese, if not at all healthy. I use yeast flakes if I want a cheese flavour in sauces or pasta but straight up vegan cheese alternatives are a real mixed bag, from the perverse to the exceptional. Really good ones can be hard to get hold of and pricey.

This may sound obvious, but this was another revelation to me: so much of our diet is already vegan. No one looks at a loaf of bread and thinks, ‘urgh! Not vegan food!’

Cornflakes, baked beans, Guinness, Smoky Bacon Hula Hoops, Oreos, Weetabix, Bisto Best Onion Gravy Granules, Skittles, Marmite, Beef and Tomato Pot Noodle… the list goes on and on (and on).

So much of what’s nice about a fry up or roast – potatoes, parsnips, beans, hash browns, tomatoes, ketchup – is all vegan!

There are three potential reactions to change our habits for the world: 1. fear 2. anger 3. chilling-out-and-having-a-go.

There’s also pretending-you’re-angry-about-a-vegan-sausage-roll-because-your-career-is-based-solely-on-you-being-outraged, but that’s more pathetic than actually being angry about a vegan sausage roll.

It can seem scary, though. When cutting out meat comes to mind, we imagine a perfect bacon sandwich from the picture on a Hovis truck.

But how much of the meat you actually consume is seriously mouth-watering?

How much is gristle in mince, undercooked sausages in a hotel buffet, slimy chicken, grey chicken, tough lamb, silvery-bluey-green bacon under a heat lamp or those insane, cheap ham slices that have the most disgusting texture of anything on Earth and weird hard bits in them? I’ve never craved any of that.

So why not try something, anything, even one thing, for a week? I’ll see you and 10billion others for falafel in 2050.

If you find this kind of thing as annoying as a Gregg’s vegan sausage roll, don’t worry, I used to, too. It brought me close to that nagging doubt I’d tried to ignore, so I got defensive.

I’ve now tried the Greggs vegan sausage roll. It’s delicious, and I suspect Piers Morgan secretly thinks so, too.

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