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Vegans in Theatre and the Performing Arts | Veganuary

VeganThe Vegan Society stated that there were 600,000 vegans in Great Britain in 2018. The number of vegans continues to rise. Veganuary is a charity inspiring people to try vegan for January and beyond!

The Vegan Society was established 70 years ago but veganism has been around much longer. Evidence of people choosing to avoid animal products can be traced back over 2,000 years. As early as 500 BC, Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras promoted benevolence among all species.

From the Vegan Society
A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude – as far as is possible and practicable – all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.

Being vegan myself and it being Veganuary, I thought it an opportune moment to reach out to others in the performing arts to ask them about being a vegan. This is what they had to say – feel free to contribute in the comments…

CJ de Mooi
CJ de Mooi

CJ de Mooi
Why did you become vegan?
I’d been vegetarian for over 30 years but always thought veganism would be too difficult (and expensive).
I was performing a play in March 2018 and after the opening night, went out for a burger in Earls Court. I had a milkshake and it was truly the most revolting slime I’d ever had the misfortune to taste. Right there and then, I became vegan.

How easy is it to be a vegan in the performing arts industry?
Certainly not as difficult as other industries. We tend to be a forward thinking, inclusive and liberal community so animal welfare is a widespread concern. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the quality of the food is necessarily of the same standard or cost. Only when veganism is accepted into the mainstream will these factors become more equitable. We are the only animals able to make a conscious choice about what we eat and I just happen to have made mine.

Which are your favourite snacks?
If I snack (which is rare to be honest as I’m a competitive runner of high standard so control my diet pretty carefully) it tends to be options that are high in protein and fibre such brazil and cashew nuts. The occasional bag of banana chips doesn’t go amiss either.

Being in the performing arts can require a lot of energy – how do you keep your energy levels up?
As a performer and long distance runner, my diet is probably about 60-70% carbohydrates. I eat an awful lot of bread, pasta and potatoes but limiting myself to 2 large meals a day. This may sound unhealthy to a lot of people but I’m 49, have a 28” waist and regularly run sub 3-hour marathons. Incidentally, since becoming vegan, all my personal best times at every other distance have improved by 5-10%. Draw your own conclusions!

Which are your favourite food retail outlets?
I like the Whole Food Store but this is an indicative example of the problem (exploitation?) vegans face. A normal fruit muffin there is £1.20 but a vegan version is literally half the size yet double the price!
To be honest, most supermarkets are pretty good at providing vegan versions of dairy products, including egg but again, there’s a premium to pay.
I think my favourite store is actually a small Asian market on King Street in Hammersmith. They sell a large range of ‘mock meats’ in tins at £1 each. They’re full of protein, completely fat-free and utterly delicious.

What message to anyone thinking about becoming a vegan?
You, and other people will make mistakes. This is part of the learning process and human nature. Don’t blame yourself or get angry – just accept any upset you feel proves how passionate you are. This of course also applies to the constant rejection in the performing industry too!

https://twitter.com/cjdemooi
https://www.facebook.com/cjdemooi

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Katherine Mount
Katherine Mount

Katherine Mount
Why did you become vegan?
I have always felt strongly about animal welfare and was a vegetarian for many years though funnily enough, it was the health issues associated with dairy consumption that was the deciding factor for me. Once you look into it, it’s connected to lots of illnesses and the vast majority of people are to some extent lactose intolerant. We are so conditioned to accept that we drink and eat the breast milk of another mammal, something that no other species does, and of course, in reality, we are not designed to do that. Cow’s milk is for baby cows…

How easy is it to be a vegan in the performing arts industry?
What I find interesting in relation to performance is that we all know that dairy can affect our voices so going dairy free has been a thing, certainly within the singing world, for a long time.
I feel very lucky to have become a vegan at just the right time! From the start of my journey, 18 months ago, to now, options have increased hugely so it’s actually a very practical dietary choice. Teresa and I are both vegan and run our own production company. Veganism is important to us and we try to minimise supporting the meat and dairy industries, so whenever we provide food or drink for our cast and crew, it is always vegan. We even held an entirely vegan Gala event at The Leatherhead Theatre for the opening night of our November rep season last year with special guests and local businesses – everyone loved the food and they weren’t even aware that it was vegan!

Which are your favourite snacks?
Well, I’m extremely lucky that my sister runs a raw vegan ‘sweet treats’ company and makes them out of our kitchen. Her ‘rawreos’ with cocoa and salted caramel middles are AMAZING www.calmandkind.org In addition to that I am trying not to have a vegan Magnum a day…

Being in the performing arts can require a lot of energy – how do you keep your energy levels up?
Eating clean vegan is the most energising diet I have ever experienced. Whole foods, grains, beans, pea protein, soy, fruit and nuts are all fantastic energy foods. As with any diet under that kind of physical pressure it’s important to eat regularly and try to keep blood sugar levels as stable as possible.

Which are your favourite food retail outlets?
Sainsbury’s has a fantastic range of vegan food and were ahead of the game somewhat, though lots of outlets are now expanding their offerings. I’m yet to sample the M&S Plant Kitchen but hear it’s fabulous.

What message to anyone thinking about becoming a vegan?
It is far far easier than you think! I have never enjoyed food so much. Pretty much every mealtime now consists of “wow this food is incredible” comments coming from everyone involved. Far from being restrictive, it’s as though a whole new world of food opens up to you. And (touch wood) I haven’t had a cold for 18 months…

https://twitter.com/kat_mount

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Niall Phillips
Niall Phillips

Niall Phillips (Directing MINIATURISTS 71 at the Vault Festival 2019)
Why did you become vegan?
It was about 4 1/2 years ago, I was sitting on the sofa with my dog one side and the cat on the other, watching a documentary called EARTHLINGS. My best mate had suggested flippantly that I should watch it, he said this to me while we ate beef burgers. So, after about 20 minutes in, I was stunned, appalled and pretty emotional. That moment I swore I would never eat meat again! Then from that, any rational, honest human being makes the connection to go vegan.

How easy is it to be a vegan in the performing arts industry?
Tough one, for me personally, it’s very easy! I’m confident and speak my mind, I’m happy to make a fuss. I won’t just sit back and allow “a bit of cheese”. If I don’t agree, I’ll speak up! If you’re shy, and don’t want to make a big deal, it might be more challenging.

It’s more acceptable now, it’s more acknowledge on a wider scale! I feel people wouldn’t judge as much these days! As a director, I’m very open to everything, but when people are confrontational and ignorant, that’s when we have issues.

Which are your favourite snacks?
ALL OF THE SNACKS!! I swear I’ve packed on the pounds, if it’s vegan…. it’s going in. I eat all the bars, all the nibbles, all of it. I love the NAKD bars, especially the cheery vibe. My weekly food shop had doubled also, if I see the Vegan symbol, It goes in the basket.

Being in the performing arts can require a lot of energy – how do you keep your energy levels up?
Since a kid, I’ve always had too much energy. It’s never been a problem for me, I’m sure my mum would say differently though. My diet is full of nutrients, nuts and fruits. I’m never lacking energy. I work days and evenings so I’m eating on the go quite a lot, but London is so accommodating now!! It’s easy. Also, the energy is created by the people you surround yourself with. If I’m in a rehearsal room, with giving actors, supportive creative team and good vibes, it’s all I need. Negative energy mixed with tortured animals won’t work with my space!

Which are your favourite food retail outlets?
Food is such a big part of my life! Living in East London helps massively! All the big stores are getting so much better! But, places like HACKNEY FRESH is my main place, full of everything you need!! Also, for eating out, the one and only COOK DAILY in London Fields, I go once a week, nothing comes close!! TEMPLE, for fried ‘chicken’ is on point with super tasty food and ace service! MILDREDS for a more formal bash is a must. Basically, too many options that make me very happy and slightly plump!

What message to anyone thinking about becoming a vegan?
It’s getting too big to sit back and not notice. It’s on the news, on cooking shows, morning chat shows and podcasts. It’s too loud for people not to be aware!! Change is coming! Thousands of animals are being tortured and killed because you like a bacon butty! Fix up and make the move!! Love is powerful and can change anything, we just need to all pull together and make the shift!! Get out there, go to events, the weekly markets, the vegan vibe is getting bigger. It’s people with compassion for the voiceless who want to make it better. Why would you not join in and spread some positive energy and stop filling animals with fear and sadness. GO VEGAN!!

https://twitter.com/niallpxx
https://www.instagram.com/niallpxx/

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Christopher Marsh
Christopher Marsh

Christopher Marsh
Why did you become vegan?
I became vegan over time, and I am still getting used to the change, as of course, for some people it is hard to switch overnight (Editor’s note: many find switching  in one go the best way, although some transition over time) – I became vegan after becoming more informed and aware of the processes involved in our meat production, it’s cruelty to animals and its effects on our planet. As an animal lover, I had this feeling of guilt growing, and so I felt that enough was enough.

How easy is it to be a vegan in the performing arts industry?
I wouldn’t say that it’s easy, but nor is it hard. As long as those that you work with are informed, when appropriate, then I don’t see any issue. Our diets don’t require animal products all the time. But of course, there can be situations where vegan isn’t an option, so you must be prepared. 

Which are your favourite snacks?
This can range from fruit, to sandwiches (e.g. with vegan chicken or sausage), quinoa, rice, or pasta. Anything with peanut butter is a bonus. A snack may also be accompanied with a hot drink like tea or coffee, where I would use soya milk as an alternative to cow’s milk, but other non-dairy alternatives are available such as oat or almond.

Being in the performing arts can require a lot of energy – how do you keep your energy levels up?
Same as the previous question, except with more emphasis on fruit, and peanut butter snacks are a great boost, especially when paired with banana.

Which are your favourite food retail outlets?
I have no preference, but the bigger the store, the more vegan options available.

What message to anyone thinking about becoming a vegan?
Don’t be fooled into thinking that it can happen overnight, remember that this is a matter of health too. It’s a process that can take time, and it is a commitment. However, I could not recommend it more. Becoming vegan means not just a healthier diet, but a healthier planet that can be cruelty-free if it chooses to be such. If a vegan diet does not appeal to you or suit you, then my say would be to just think more about your food ethically. Being vegan isn’t compulsory, and nor should it be dictated as such, but it can be hugely beneficial done rightly.

https://twitter.com/chrismjmarsh

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Katherine Picar
Katherine Picar

Katherine Picar
How easy is it to be a vegan in the performing arts industry?
I mean to be honest, in this day and age and especially in London.. Being vegan is way more accessible than it’s ever been, and it’s continuing to grow. For me it’s about making sure I get enough nutrients energy wise for rehearsals or a show. So in a way you just really have to discipline yourself. And if you’re good at that, then it’s easy.

Which are your favourite snacks?
The classic carrot and hummus duo, always. Almonds I could eat all day, and satsumas. Rice cakes. Peanut butter. But the one thing I couldn’t give up is crisps! Unfortunately, most crisp brands have quite a lot of milk powder in them but just trust me on this one. Bacon Rashers. From any supermarket! Tesco ones I know personally are suitable for vegans. I’ve eaten a pack in a good five minutes once, if that. I’m all about balance!

How do you keep your energy levels up?
I always try to drink a lot of water, but that’s a given when it comes to energy. A pint glass in the morning with lemon. When it comes to an actual meal for lunch/dinner, something like quinoa with lentils or chickpeas, and a massive serving of spinach. All great for energy. Snack wise: I could eat a few satsumas/clementines throughout the day. The natural sugars in them give you energy, and at least it’s not refined sugar. I’d have almonds to snack on too. And sleep, again an obvious one but I need enough to be able to function at all let alone on stage or in a rehearsal room.

Which are your favourite food retail outlets?
I could talk about this all day. Being such a foodie, I LOVE to try out places that have vegan options or are purely vegan restaurants. Firstly, Wagamama. They have their own vegan menu. Starter: mushroom & aubergine buns. Mushrooms are great for energy, and for the people that miss meat, they have a great texture that is ‘meat-like’. But to be honest I don’t care, I just love that starter. Main: my ultimate favourite. It’s called ‘Kare Burosu”. It’s basically this gorgeous soup with udon noodles, tofu, vegetables etc etc. IT’S THE BEST. Leon 1000%, that vegan burger is to die for. The Real Greek restaurant has great vegan options. Wahaca, for the Mexican lovers.

What message to anyone thinking about becoming a vegan?
Just stick to it. Whether it’s for personal, ethical reasons or both.. You’re doing an incredible thing for your body and the planet. Don’t listen to anyone trying find reasons to catch you out. And start slow, no one can give up that much all in one go. Don’t be hard on yourself, it takes time. Man if I can do it, anyone can.

https://twitter.com/katherinepicar

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Lucy Morris
Lucy Morris

Lucy Morris
How easy is it to be vegan in the PA industry?
This highly depends on the type of work I’m doing. If I’m doing theatre work then it is very easy just to bring in my own food, which I would most likely do anyway, even if it was provided as I like to be healthy and know exactly what I’m putting into my body. For TV/radio it can be slightly more difficult. This is because food is usually provided on set and you never know what’s going to be there until you turn up on the day so this makes it more difficult. I recently had an experience whereby I was recording a voice-over and we went for lunch with the cast at a local pub and the pub did no vegan options whatsoever so I went without food for quite a number of hours. I’ve learned from this lesson now and always carry around some fruit or an energy bar to fill the gap!

Favourite snacks?
This is a hard one as I’m not the biggest snacker and if I do, it tends to be fruit! But I do love Simply 7’s Sea Salt Lentil Chips which you can get from Waitrose and Ocado. These are a source of protein so pretty filling and very moreish! I also love Deliciously Ella Energy Balls. These are so quick to grab and eat if you need a boost of energy and come in loads of flavours! Also, my favourite naughty treat is a Booja Booja chocolate! They are the best vegan chocolates around and you only need one to satisfy your chocolate cravings.

Energy Levels?
As above, I’ve mentioned the Deliciously Ella Energy Balls which work a treat. I always make sure I eat a substantial breakfast in the morning. I usually make oat, banana and blueberry muffins which are very filling and so tasty; if I know I have a very busy day, I’ll have some Alpro soya yoghurt with them. I have a mid-morning snack which usually consists of fruit, such as pineapple as the high sugar content gives me a boost, and then for lunch (providing there is a microwave wherever I am) I will have made some food for the week. I like to bulk cook my lunches for the week ahead on a Sunday and this could consist of something simple like a tofu stirfry or spinach (great source of protein) and courgette pasta, or a lentil stew. Lunch is usually my bigger meal as I find my energy levels can drop in the afternoons so as long as I have a substantial meal at lunch, I know I’ll survive the afternoon. I also have an afternoon snack which is usually a Deliciously Ella Energy Ball or some nuts and then I’ll eat dinner at around 6/7pm. I religiously stick to this strict food schedule as I know it works for me and my energy levels won’t drop. I always make sure I have at least one source of protein in my meal as this is my predominant source of energy and what keeps me going. Also, water intake is massively important! Keep this up during the day and it will keep you feeling refreshed, hydrated and fuller for longer!

Favourite food outlets?
For a quick bite, I absolutely love Pret! Their range of vegan soups is extensive and they are super healthy and very filling! For a more sit-down meal, I love Tell Your Friends in Fulham. It’s a vegan bar and kitchen and does an amazing vegan Sunday roast – it’s a must-try! For supermarkets, Waitrose is my favourite go-to. They’ve recently just updated their vegan range and it’s really big now with something for everyone! They do great ‘ready’ meals that you just need to pop in the oven which are so tasty and their vegan pizza is to die for.

A message to others!
Going vegan has completely changed my life. My mental health has dramatically improved and I feel like a completely different person. The health benefits are endless and it is a lot easier than you think. Even if you started by cutting down your intake of animal products and not necessarily cutting them out completely, I guarantee you’ll notice a huge difference. If you are wanting to take the leap, sign-up to Veganuary.com (not just for January!) which will send you recipe ideas/food lists with foods you can eat on and lots of other inspiring and informative stuff via email. You will also be doing an amazing thing for the animals too so it’s a win/win!

https://twitter.com/LucyVictoria01

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#Veganuary
#TheatreVegans
#Vegan

Related websites
https://www.vegansociety.com
https://veganuary.com/eating-out/
https://www.happycow.net
https://www.plantbasednews.org
https://www.standard.co.uk/go/london/restaurants/best-vegan-food-in-london-a3977831.html
https://www.timeout.com/london/restaurants/the-best-vegan-restaurants-in-london
https://www.carnism.org/
https://www.veganshoponline.co.uk/
http://www.amrutha.co.uk/

Suggested reading: The China Study
Suggested watching: Earthlings, Cowspiracy

Author

  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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