24-year-old Nicole Brownlie is a Glasgow based computing graduate with a passion for animal rights, health, well-being and fitness. This year Nicole founded The Cruelty Free Dining Club as a small project to express her love of animal rights as well as eating well and found it to be very successful. With almost 50 members now, it’s likely Nicole is going to have to start booking out entire restaurants rather than tables for large groups soon. I spoke to Nicole about the growth of cruelty free eating and why she started the community in the first place.
What led you to start the Cruelty Free Diners Club?
We have so many amazing vegan restaurants and restaurants with vegan options in Glasgow and I wanted to find a way to encourage people to try them. A vegan lifestyle is important for the animals, our environment and our society and it’s important to me to get that across. CFDC is just one of the ways I’ve chosen to be an activist for this movement by getting different people together, encouraging non-judgemental discussion and eating delicious vegan food.
A lot of Brits are cutting down on the amount of meat they consume – how do you feel about the rise of cruelty free eating?
I’m excited! It could mean so much for our society and the way we live. I believe that a shift to a vegan lifestyle would solve so many of our problems. We know a vegan movement is necessary if we want to fight against climate change, we’re destroying our own home. A lot of people watched the recent BBC documentary ‘How to look young’ that shows animal protein speeds up the aging process. There is research after research that shows a vegan diet is the healthiest diet and helps to reduce the risk of so many diseases like cancer and heart disease. We know all this, the facts are there. A friend recently introduced me to a David Icke video filmed 25 years ago in which he states ‘We cannot divorce the values that abuse animals and those that abuse people’, and I’ve been saying this for a while now. If we can show compassion to animals, who many people consider lesser beings, then we will surely show more compassion to those we see as equals. In turn we’ll learn to see every person and every species as our equals and deserving of the right to be treated the way we would expect to be treated. I think that is so important to consider. There’s no place for speciesism in our modern world.
Where are your favourite vegan spots in Scotland and anywhere else you’ve travelled and discovered?
Pretty much every vegan restaurant in Glasgow! Saramago is my favourite but I also love Mono (mac and cheese!), 13th Note, Stereo and The Flying Duck. I had a mac and cheese pie at their vegan fete from Cool Jerk Vegan Pies & Street Food and the happiness it brought me transcended a few days. Usha’s have an entire vegan/veggie menu, I order from there all the time and we had CFDC’s April dinner there. The best tofu I’ve had was at Hanoi Bike Shop and I need to mention Nanakusa for their vegan options. You’ll find lots of little gems in larger chain restaurants too: Las Iguanas’ vegan mushroom fajitas are one of my favourite things to eat. I’ve not done much travelling in the time I’ve been vegan (nearing a year) but I did go to Berlin in February and had some incredible vegan food there. They have a vegan supermarket called Veganz, ready-made pizzas, meals, all the chocolate and sweets and vegan essentials you can think of, it’s perfect. I wish we had one in Glasgow!
What’s your favourite vegan meal to cook?
I have favourites! The most simple one I make probably 2/3’s of the week is soba noodles (they take 5 minutes to cook, come pre-portioned and have 10g of protein), I stir fry mushrooms and grated carrot in 1tbsp of sesame oil and 3-4 tbsp of soy sauce and toss in the noodles. I add spring onions and sesame seeds on top when I’m feeling fancy. It’s my staple, but if you haven’t already, you need to buy Tesco’s Mexican bean burgers, they’re really cheap and they’re the best vegan burgers I’ve tried.
I wasn’t really into meat and dairy replacements but I love Linda McCartney sausages. I’ve recently discovered VioLife cheese and I’ve been making my own pizzas/adding it to everything. Nearly done… Lentil dahl and tofu katsu curry!
A lot of people think eating vegan means sticking to a strict diet – what’s your favourite cruelty free snack?
Feel free to eat all meals listed above as a snack, I certainly do. I don’t feel restricted in any way when it comes to snacking, I still eat most of the same things like crisps, chips and biscuits like Oreos and Tesco’s bourbon biscuits. I think Reese’s have changed the recipe recently but if you can find Reese’s Pieces in Poundland, they’re still vegan! Popcorn. There’s lots of dairy free chocolate too, Vego bars seem to be a favourite of everyone. The best thing ever is the Swedish Glace non-dairy ice cream, I’ve seen it in Tesco and Sainsbury’s and it’s better than real ice cream.
Instagram is great for discovering new food, if you follow accounts like ‘accidentallyveganuk’ you’ll find out, like I just did, that Tesco’s Lentil & bacon flavour soup in a mug is vegan. What! You’ll find that lots of things are incidentally cruelty free. My favourite sweetie ever is vegan – Parma Violets!
Why should people join the Cruelty Free Diners Cub – give us your pitch!
It’s fun and it’s for everyone! You don’t have to be vegan, you just need to be curious about trying a vegan restaurant and it’s as simple as that. You get to make new friends and stuff your face! It’s a great opportunity to speak to people who are vegan/veggie and find out from them (if you want to) about how to live a more cruelty free life. It’s a great support network too. If you’re making the decision to go vegan it will be easier to have people you can talk to, cook with, get tips from, support from etc. Everyone is super fun and welcoming, we’re all in our element eating food, no one is hangry, everyone’s happy and we get to support local business at the same time. All those good things!
I know that going out to restaurants isn’t always a possibility for people. It’s important to make veganism more accessible which is why I’ve started a campaign/project called Cruelty Free Glasgow. It’s very provisional right now but the website will soon be finished, I have some really great, talented people helping with graphics and logos and photos. But there’s plenty of opportunity to get involved. I have lots of plans for the project. I’d like to start a ‘ten day vegan challenge’ where participants will get a box of goodies and a ten day meal plan with the proviso that they document it in some way, Facebook/Instagram or whatever they like. I’m still looking into funding and I’ll be reaching out to get donations for the boxes but I feel really excited about it. I want everyone to feel that a vegan lifestyle is within their realm. In the future there will be ‘how to go vegan’ information packs, heading out to the streets with information, merchandise, cooking classes, events and talks. The project is not-for-profit so I will be desperately seeking the help of generous individuals who would like to offer their time and talents, if you’d like to get involved please email me at email@example.com and keep a look out for our website with info on going vegan, recipes, events and projects.
Join or find out even more about the Cruelty Free Diners Club here!