Meet A Vegan – Anita Ghafoor

Our next feature is the beloved of an already featured Alex McLennan. We are very excited to feature Anita as she is a long time vegan of 20 years! There is a lot of misconception that one can not thrive long term on a vegan diet and it is really exciting to showcase someone that is a living example of how possible it is. She offers an insightful and positive approach to veganism, even the challenges. She is also active in animal welfare, in the Uk and abroad. Meet Anita Ghafoor.

Name: Anita Ghafoor

Age: 46

Country: UK

City: Halifax

Where can people find you? Facebook

How long have you been Vegan?

20 years

Were you vegetarian before? If so, for how long before going vegan? And what made you go further?

Yes, I was vegetarian for 10 years. This was the 90s. Signing petitions on Market Street in Manchester opened my eyes to the dairy, leather, egg and animal testing industries, and the exploitation of animals used for entertainment. 

What made you go vegan?

The suffering and disregard of farmed animals.  Apparently, it’s acceptable to wear animal skins and eat eggs and dairy if you are vegetarian, and it’s just meat you give up.  Mind-boggling to me now, but I did that for a long time when I was vegetarian.  I used to get a lot of animal rights leaflets through my door back then (there were no smart phones), so my knowledge was growing.  Consequently, I found it hard to justify carrying on being vegetarian, and a cheese-fest became a guilt-fest, so I gave away all my leather shoes and ditched all the bad toiletries and cosmentics and became vegan.   

long-time-vegan

Has that reason changed?

My commitment has only grown.  Being vegan just, naturally, steered me in the direction of animal campaigning charities, which gave me even more insight into what was going on all over the world.  The more I know, the more I love that I made the decision to be vegan years ago.

What was your biggest struggle during your transition?

Cheese. I can’t remember the brand name, but the only melty-cheese I could get my hands on at the time tasted of sausage!  Obviously, I stuck with it but it was hard to convince friends that my home-made pizza was as good as the “real thing”.  This is absolutely not the case now.  Vegan cheese is amazing, there is so much choice!

What advice do you have for people transitioning?

Don’t begin by thinking you will be sacrifcing everything you know and love.  There is literally a world of alternative meat and dairy products to help you transition. Always try and remember why you decided to be vegan in the first place.  Don’t feel bad if you make mistakes. 

What do you love about being vegan?

I can call myself an animal lover and truly mean it, there are no grey areas. I love the consciousness it has brought to all other aspects of my life.  I’m helping the environment, without even trying. I love learning new cooking hacks and introducing people to new food.  Also, whilst being a vegan abroad on holiday can bring you challenges, vegan restaurants and cafes are always in the coolest, funkiest areas. 

Have you learnt any lessons/insights as a vegan that you didn’t before?

I suppose, pre-vegan, I was ignorant to ingredients in things.  Not just food, but wine and beer, cosmetics, toiletries and cleaning detergents etc.  It’s ridiculous the kinds of animal derivatives that go into things, especially when there are so many companies producing the same products without animal ingredients.  Why do it?!

What do you think is the biggest misconception about Veganism?

That it’s expensive. As with any diet, shop sensibly.  Also, people think we have limited food available to us, so it must be hard being vegan. It’s not a case of going to specialist health food shops anymore; mainstream supermarkets stock a growing range of vegan products and, obviously, everything is available online.

What is your favourite vegan snack?

If we’re talking chocolate, it has to be a Vego bar.  Otherwise, crumbled firm tofu, mixed with black salt and mayo (tastes like egg-mayo) on toast.  And I suppose anything wrapped in pastry!

What’s your go to meal when you don’t feel like cooking?

Probably pizza.

What’s a pantry staple you never go without?

So many staples! I reckon olive oil, garlic, Engevita, tomatoes.

long-time-vegan

I can call myself an animal lover and truly mean it, there are no grey areas. I love the consciousness it has brought to all other aspects of my life.  I’m helping the environment, without even trying. I love learning new cooking hacks and introducing people to new food.  Also, whilst being a vegan abroad on holiday can bring you challenges, vegan restaurants and cafes are always in the coolest, funkiest areas. 

Do you take any supplements?

No. Although I make sure I eat fortified foods to get what I need.

Do you use any kind of superfoods?

On a daily basis, chia seeds, walnuts and milled linseed (all part of breakfast).  And kale and garlic feature heavily in my diet.

What’s the biggest food – health realization you had? (for example you were not eating enough of a certain thing?)

The power of veg is amazing!  My general rule is to eat strictly healthy/raw/consciously Monday-Friday, then I allow weekends to treat myself (you know, carbs, meat-alternatives, pastry etc).  My weekday diet definitely has me feeling healthy and energetic, rather than a Sunday night slug!  It’s a good balance, I can’t remember the last time I was poorly.

Has a vegan lifestyle led to any other changes in your life?

Being more conscious about everything else that I buy,  and the impact it has on animal habitat and the environment. Plastic, palm oil etc. Always second hand or up-cycled wooden furniture.  And, whilst you can buy an abundance of vegan cosmetics and toiletries, I will always opt for those that are all-natural based, with no parabens or chemicals in them.

What’s your advice on handling social situations?

Be positive.  Don’t shy away from answering people’s questions.  In food places, don’t YOU be afraid to ask questions.  If there’s nothing on the menu, ask about an alternative. The more you ask, the more you are raising awareness.  Don’t be quiet and stand in the background because you are the only vegan in your group, you don’t have to miss out on anything.

How do you handle negative people?

People are generally negative because they have limited knowledge of veganism.  If asked, I tell it how it is, but I’m careful not to elaborate too much because then people think I’m preaching. I try not to rise to any digs or let people frustrate me.  In any given situation, it doesn’t take long before somebody says “how do you know vegetables don’t scream?”.   I just roll my eyes now, it’s a defensive question because people want to justify the evident suffering caused by their chosen lifestyle.  Keep smiling 🙂

Were your friends and family supportive? Or did they take some time to come around?

There were few who were worried out how healthy a choice it was but, on the whole, everybody just let me get on with it. I’ve always been strong-willed, so everybody knew it would have been a considered decision.  I think my sister was the most excited, because she got all my leather shoes and boots.

How do you share your vegan lifestyle with others?

I have mates and family over for dinner, or I’ll take my contribution round to their houses. People always want feeding so it’s a good way to share.  When it’s my turn to pick where we’re eating out as a group, I’ll always choose a vegan place.  I only buy vegan friendly gifts for people (perfumes, chocolates etc).  If they don’t want it, it’ll only get passed to a charity shop…………win win! 

Quick Fire round

Fast food vegan or health focused vegan?

Healthy focused vegan.

Meat alternative burger or veggie burger?

Meat alternative.

What’s your favorite vegetables?

Kale, broccoli, spinach, potatoes

What’s your least favorite vegetable?

Don’t have one.

Support all vegan goods or boycott non vegan parent companies? (Why?)

Support all vegan goods. Companies need the encouragement to continue to produce vegan products, to make them readily available and accessible in the mainstream market.  There’s a greater chance people will try alternative products If there is easy access to them so they don’t have to break stride.  Once companies realise the demand, who knows where it will lead.

Anything else you would like to share?

I never realised, when I donated some cat and dog food and became a volunteer at a local animal charity in 1999 (The Society for Abandoned Animals), it would lead to a lifetime in animal welfare and rescue.  I have since volunteered my time at many places including the RSPCA (Manchester & Salford Branch), Wildlife SOS (India), Tia Greyhound Rescue and the British Hen Welfare Trust (BHWT), as well as involvement with feral cat trap-neuter-release programs abroad.  There are many animal campaigning charities that I support, but I would like to especially mention Hillside Animal Sanctuary.  It was founded in 1995, to help the campaign and bring public awareness to the millions of animals suffering every day in the intensive factory farming industry. It is home to over 3,000 animals, including pigs, cows, sheep, goats, horses, ponies, donkeys and many many smaller animals. In my own home, I have 8 rescue cats, 6 ex-battery hens and 2 rescue ducks.  Life is never boring!

long-time-vegan

Animal welfare and rescue orgainisations: