Animal Aid

CHRISTMAS CHOMPING - Cruelty-free style

Posted 10 December 2010

If you want to make your festive celebrations full of goodwill to all living creatures, then please give turkey (and other animals) a miss and choose meat-free meals.

What's wrong with eating turkey? Most turkeys are intensively farmed inside large, overcrowded and dirty sheds. The birds suffer from painful degenerative hip disorders. Ammonia in the urine-soaked litter causes ulcerated feet and hock burns and can burn away their breast feathers. Aggression amongst the stressed birds can lead them to peck each other, causing injuries or even death.

The truth is that most farmed animals, not just turkeys, endure lives of boredom, frustration, physical pain and misery.

In the UK alone, around 15 million turkeys are slaughtered each year. About three quarters of that total are killed purely for the Yuletide season. It's ironic, at a time of 'peace on earth and goodwill', that slaughter is so central to the Christmas ritual. Fortunately, it is completely unnecessary to eat any animal products, as we can be healthy on a plant-based diet. There are plenty of other compassionate ways to celebrate the season with your friends and relatives. Here are some suggestions.

It's traditional folks but not as we know it!

Redwood FoodsCheatin' Celebration Roast by vegan company Redwood Foods is ideal for all those who like the idea of something similar to a traditional Christmas dinner and who don't want to spend lots of time cooking. Or perhaps you are the only veggie in a family where there is no sympathy for your principles and little space in the kitchen.

Celebration Roast is available from all good health food shops and has a recommended retail price of £5.68. For your money you receive a turkey-style roast with gravy and veggie sausages wrapped in veggie bacon. The roast without the trimmings will cost you £4.54rrp. Both are easy to prepare and ready in no time. Redwood and Fry's also offer plenty of other convenient options if you want to go for something a bit less traditional.

And now for something completely different

Alternatively, why not break away from tradition altogether by serving a modern and imaginative Yuletide feast?

Cook up lots of Indian, Turkish and Lebanese starter dishes such as samosas, stuffed vine leaves, houmous, baba ganouj and other dips; tabouli salad, broad beans with lemon juice and olive oil, etc. to make a colourful 'meze' style spread. You can serve the food either hot or cold as a buffet, or sit on the floor in a big circle and have an indoor picnic!

Roasted vegetables on their own can also make a hearty festive meal. Chop a selection, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, onions, carrots, peppers, tomatoes, parsnips and aubergines into bite-sized pieces. Before roasting, coat with olive or vegetable oil, then flavour with salt, pepper, lemon juice, grated lemon peel, whole garlic cloves, soy sauce, basil, oregano, sage, paprika, parsley or even mustard.

Mushroom wellingtonAnother idea is to make festive pies with your favourite vegetables, cooked brown or puy lentils, chestnuts and puff or shortcrust pastry. You can buy animal-fat-free frozen pastry from most supermarkets and grocers (Jus-rol is one of many brands).

Puddings for all

The Co-op has two varieties of Christmas puddings clearly labelled as suitable for vegans. Most other big stores sell at least one pudding that is OK.

None of the best Christmas puddings or mince pies now contain beef suet or egg and it is also quite easy to make your own if you can spare the time.

To make an egg-free fruit cake, simply replace each egg in your favourite recipe with about a tablespoon of vegetable oil and a dash of lemon juice or vinegar.

Alternatively, why not serve a totally ethical trifle? Just get hold of some gelatine-free jelly crystals (there are several brands, such as, 'Just Wholefoods', available in health food shops and Asian supermarkets). Make up the jelly in a large see-through bowl, according to the directions on the packet, and when it is partially set, stir in some chopped fruit, such as peaches, or strawberries. Once set, top with a layer of home-made custard (made using soya milk) or buy a packet of vanilla flavoured 'Alpro soya dessert' - very similar to custard, but more creamy.

Vegan trifle

You can even make a dairy-free cream topping by liquidising tofu with syrup, vanilla essence and lemon juice. Or else you could simply buy a carton of soya cream and pour it over the individual portions of trifle when serving. Don't forget to garnish your trifle with grated plain chocolate, or 'hundreds and thousands' (some brands contain animal-derived colourings, so check the packet).

Finally, just in case your guests have any room left, don't forget to order a selection of chocolates from the Animal Aid online shop.

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