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The Best Black British Vegans You Need To Follow

Black, British and Vegan!

With meat and dairy being big food groups in Black and POC communities, veganism doesn't always get showcased very much. However, veganism has long been part of these communities, with more and more Black vegans championing the lifestyle and smashing stereotypes along the way. I spoke to four Black vegans about their journey into veganism, and how they aim to inspire others in their community...

Name Tomi Makanjuola.

How Long Have You Been Vegan? I’ve been vegan for 8 years.

What made you turn vegan? I was initially drawn to veganism as a way to improve my health and energy levels, but what truly kept me vegan was my desire to take a stand against all forms of animal exploitation. After some research, I saw the clear link between the way we consume and the impact on animals, the planet, our health and the lives of others. Making the switch was a no-brainer.

What's your favourite vegan food to make? I love making veganised versions of classic Nigerian meals, such as egusi soup, pepper soup and efo riro. All savoury, spicy, and packed with tons of flavour.

Do you think there’s a stigma around being vegan and Black? Veganism has been practiced by various Black communities for several years and now that it is becoming more mainstream, there is definitely a greater understanding of what the lifestyle is all about. Those who still think it is weird to be Black and vegan are simply uninformed.

Any tips for someone thinking about going vegan? Take your time and do your research. Making such a significant lifestyle change and sticking to it requires knowledge and effort at the start. When it comes to switching up your diet, have fun and experiment with different vegan-friendly cuisines. Delve into cookbooks, blogs and other online content for ideas. For anyone who wants to explore West African cuisine in particular, I hope my upcoming cookbook will provide lots of inspiration and show how easy and enjoyable it can be to go vegan!

Name: Amy HG

How long have you been vegan? About 1.5 years.

What made you turn vegan? I get asked this question a lot, and I always find it challenging to answer because people often take it as a judgement on their personal choice, which it isn’t. So I’m still figuring out how to put it. 

For me, choosing to go vegan is more than just what I eat; it’s my values. Before I would say that I loved animals, was extremely against animal cruelty, and cared about the environment, but my actions weren’t lining up with my words. I was signing petitions to Save The Whales at 2pm... but at 6pm I was Eating The Cows.

I personally was responsible for the exploitation and death of many animals and contributed to the damage that farming has on the environment. I felt like a hypocrite. I adored my cat, she was treated like the queen of my house, but I’d have no problem eating a chicken who’d existed only in a cramped cage for it’s sad short life, before being chopped to bits, seasoned (well-seasoned, no less, but that’s not the point…) and fried, so that I could have 5 minutes of satisfaction. I was disconnected from my food, and who it was. I thought of my cat and realised; cat, chicken, dog, horse, pig, lamb, cow, rabbit… they’re all the same. How can one animal's life be worth so much and another worth £5.99 for a Bargain Bucket? It didn’t make any sense. I couldn’t see the justice in it.

What’s your favourite vegan food to make? I love pies. Jus Rol is animal-free, so I’ll use the puff pastry to make a big creamy mushroom tarragon pie or little individual leek and chorizo (Plant Pioneers) pies and serve them with buttery mash potato. I’ll use the shortcrust to make a pear and berry pie for dessert and serve it with Booja Booja caramel pecan praline ice cream.

Do you think there’s a stigma around being vegan and Black? Veganism is often associated with being white and privileged. The stereotypical vegan is a white hippy, right? So being a vegan POC puts me as a minority inside a minority; people are confused by it sometimes. I think being vegan and Black is stigmatised because of the lack of representation in the space. But it’s changing now due to vegans with a big platform like Rachel Ama and Lizzo to name a few!

Any tips for someone thinking about going vegan? 

Find good alternatives! Some of my favourites are:

Butter — Naturli Vegan Block 

Mayonnaise — Follow Your Heart Vegenaise

Froth—able milk for hot drinks — Oatly Barista

Milk for cereal — Rude Health Hazelnut Milk

Burgers — Moving Mountains, Beyond Burger, Future Farm

Sausages — Plant Pioneers

Kebab pieces — Oumph

Meatballs — Green Cuisine

Fish Fingers — Quorn, Squeaky Bean, Moving Mountains

Fish Fillets — Plant Pioneers

Chicken Nuggets — Squeaky Bean

Cheese — Strictly Roots Vegan, I Am Nut Ok, Sheeze, Applewood, La Fauxmagerie

Chocolate — OmBar, Love Raw, 

Ham/Sandwich Slices — Tofurky, Squeaky Bean

Ice Cream — Booja Booja, Little Moons (Passionfruit & Mango and Belgian Chocolate are VE)

Name: Jacob King

How Long Have You Been Vegan: I've been vegan for almost 6 years now.

What made you turn vegan? I made the connection that animals are living things that are deserving of as much love, care and compassion as humans.

What’s your favourite vegan food to make? I can’t pick one 😂 but my top two dishes to make are jerk tofu with rice and peas and Trinidad doubles.

Do you think there’s a stigma around being vegan and Black? Being vegan in the west is seen as a white, middle class approach to living and that does mean that Black/POC can be excluded in the community BUT veganism has been prevalent in MANY other cultures prior to its popularity in the west.

Any tips for someone thinking about going vegan? Take small steps and don’t be too hard on yourself. Try and cut things out slowly, find substitutes you enjoy, and remember that incremental progress leads to long term success!

Name Ebenezer Odeniyi 

How long have you been vegan? Nearly three years!

What made you turn vegan? Lost my late aunty to cancer. Having lost both of my parents already to cancer and speaking with family, there was a conversation about looking after ourselves, and vegan, plant-based, vegetarian and pescatarian lifestyles came up. I did my research and decided to go with plant-based, later going vegan after a few weeks.

What’s your favourite vegan food to make?  It has to be pasta mixed with different flavours and vegetables. I mean who doesn’t love pasta!

Do you think there’s a stigma around being vegan and Black? At first, yes. There weren't a lot of Black vegans showcasing their skills, meals, and heritage, but as time has gone along there are more and more of us showing what we eat!

Any tips for someone thinking about going vegan? Take your time, do some research, and start by cutting out bits and finding the right replacement for them if you crave them. Over time you will find what you like and what you don’t – but get ready for the excitement of a whole different type of flavour pallet that you will enjoy! Don't just stick to what you know, go out of your comfort zone as I have, and you may just be surprised! Remember, no one is perfect, if you fall just pick yourself back up and continue. Just enjoy the journey ☺️