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Jade: As Green As Her Name

Jade Birkby. Bringing flair to the kitchen and the courtroom.


Having grown up in Hong Kong, Jade first moved back to England to study Law at Durham University. 5 years on, with a Masters in Chinese Law, Jade now lives in Bristol, working as a paralegal.


A sporty individual with a natural flair in the kitchen, as well as the courtroom, Jade shares what it's like being vegan, dispels a few misconceptions, and we even discuss the 'veganness' (or lack) of printed meat and eating eggs from your own chickens.



So let's start with where it began:


Jade readily admits that being vegan is not realistic for everybody, and instead that any small change is important: even offering tips for current meat-eaters to 'start small'. However, her own journey into veganism was somewhat less slow and controlled.


I went cold turkey (pardon the pun!). My last meal I had was a burger, I thought ‘this is going to be the last burger I ever have in my life, let’s make it a good one’, and then I went vegan the next day.


At the time, Jade had begun a month-long vegan challenge with her Dad, but 5 years on and both are still going strong. Jade has now expanded her ideals to incorporate more than just the food she is eating.


I’ve transitioned now to all my cosmetics being vegan, and cruelty-free: shampoo, all my toiletries, washing up products, cleaning products… you don’t realise a lot of that isn’t technically vegan. Other things like clothes, wool, leather; I haven’t bought leather since being vegan. Those are things you have to think about a lot more.


But what actually encouraged you to go vegan in the first place?


I watched CowSpiracy which I think is a documentary that a lot of people watch and then a few others, and I got into it through that route. But now it is very much all 3 of the main reasons, which are the Environment, Animal Welfare and Health.


The environment is still probably the number 1 for me, animal welfare I obviously care about a lot, and then health sort of, but I also eat a lot of vegan junk food, and I don’t really track what I eat for health reasons.



While I didn't know the extent of some of the facts above, I was always aware that being vegan was significantly better for the environment, and yet I continued (and do continue - though for how long, I'm not sure) to eat meat. In fact, we all tend to know that being Vegan is better for the environment, and yet it still creates a lot of contention when discussed. Vegans are often labelled as 'preachers' and jokes are often thrown around at their expense.


Jade admits to some of these things happening around her too, but that actually we are slowly realising the importance of reducing, if not eliminating, the amount of meat we're eating. Meat-free options are now more diverse, and available in mainstream supermarkets.


When I first went vegan, I do remember getting the piss taken out of me for it sometimes (in a joking way!). You just have be comfortable with telling people your choices, and being able to back yourself when people question you.


5 years ago, Vegan wasn’t as talked about as it is now. All the chain restaurants now have full Vegan menus, I can’t remember that when I was at Durham. I can’t remember Tesco having a dedicated plant-based range, that just wasn’t a thing.


It’s definitely a lot easier now than it was. There’s a lot of support online too.


So eating out as a Vegan is becoming easier and easier. You can now go to almost any restaurant and find vegan options on the menu, or even a specific Vege / Vegan menu in restaurants such as Wagamamas. And of course there remain specifically Vegan restaurants. Jade highly recommends Oowee Vegan for those in London, Bristol and Brighton; with her meat-eating brothers claiming it's as good as a meat burger!


But it still feels a bit like you're missing out, the focus is still on what you can't eat as a Vegan (meat, dairy, fish etc) rather than what you can eat. But Jade disagrees with this, and even has some advice for individuals attempting to go Vegan for the first time.


Being vegan has increased my appreciation for food, and allowed me to be creative and come up with new foods. My favourite thing is making something for someone who is not vegan and them enjoying it.


Get creative, think about your favourite meal that has meat and dairy in it, and try a vegan version, either at a restaurant or make it for yourself. It’s important to recognise that even the best meat and cheese alternatives, aren’t going to taste exactly the same, they aren’t trying to be them, they’re just trying to give another option.


I have to admit here though, Jade is somewhat of a whizz in the kitchen. To the extent that as part of a 40-day lent challenge set by Jade's university rugby team, Jade was convinced to start up an Instagram vegan cooking page ‘Jadeygreen’. Though the talk of the club at the time (Check out some of the dishes throughout this post) when asked why she no longer continued it, Jade jokingly admits “that influencer life just isn’t for me”. Hopefully we can convince her otherwise!



So what are the barriers that keep many of us electing for an omnivorous diet? Perhaps the fact it's still the norm, we don't see eating meat as a choice, only the choice not to eat it. We choose to ignore the facts, and instead of criticising ourselves or doing something about it, it's easier to criticise Vegans for 'acting like they're above us'. Perhaps for some of us it's just unrealistic, or too difficult because we rely on other people for our food sources. Or simply we believe it's just not the way humans are meant to be, we're meant to eat meat, so we're going to eat it. How else will we get all the nutrients we need to thrive?


Jade and I spoke about the role of schools in this regard, and the importance of education not necessarily around Veganism, but rather around options.

I went to school in HK, ‘international life!' (Jade jokes). But I don’t remember having any form of nutritional education at school. We didn’t do Food Tech either, but it just wasn’t spoken about. It may be more now, but schools could put it on the curriculum in any sort of form. Just talk about it.


At school we had meat-free Mondays, but it wasn’t that regular, or really advertised and it wasn’t explained to us why it was a thing. Having a more in-depth conversation about why they were implementing it would be important. Initiatives like that, which increase awareness would be really good.


While Jade didn't have Food Tech lessons herself, these are quite common across the UK, and present a good opportunity to introduce children to new food ideas. Rather than the more traditional concept above, or practising common items like Pizza or Lasagne, we could discuss other sources of protein, amino acids and vitamins. The importance of understanding the food you're eating, where it's coming from and the impact it's having both on your body and on the environment. If school is not for learning new things, then what is?


We rounded off our chat with a few curve balls: talk of chickens and printed meat. I was keen to understand if Jade had her own chickens, would she eat those eggs?


My auntie has chickens, they’re very well treated ex-battery hens, and they produce really nice-looking eggs. I’ve been very tempted, when I’ve stayed there.


If you are going to eat animal products that is the best way to do it, you can see the full life of the animal you are taking food from. I don’t have a problem with that. I just haven’t done it, because if I’m going to call myself a vegan, I’m going to be a vegan.


I have thought 'would I do it? When I’m older, and I have a house, and have space for animals. And I’m undecided, sometimes I think I would.


And finally, there is a relatively new concept of printed meat. Companies such as Redefined Meat and Novameat recreate meat in a lab using a 3D printer. Some companies use plant-based proteins, while others use cultivated meats that are grown in labs using cells extracted from animals. A strange but certainly intriguing concept.


I think it’s a really cool concept, as it’s a more creative solution to climate change. I have no problems in admitting I loved meat, and really used to enjoy eating meat. If it becomes readily available and is shown to not be detrimental to the environment in any way, then I would probably consider it.


It was fabulous chatting to Jade about her experiences being Vegan, and seeing how things have already changed, but how much more can still be done. And it all starts with the individual. Just a small change to your lifestyle can have a big impact.


“Being vegan is a huge step in being more environmentally conscious and helping with climate change and animal welfare. But each individual could make a small change and collectively that would make a big difference. That also applies with not going fully vegan, not going fully plastic free.”

 

If you are thinking of going Vegan, and feel you don't have the support around you, want to learn more, or just looking for a bit of inspiration Jade spoke of an abundance of online groups that you can join. Here are a few I've found, to get you started.

Vegans United

My Vegan Dreams

Aquafaba

Vegan Cheese Lovers Clubs

My Vegucation

Vegan Humour

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