A CONVERSATION WITH A VEGAN
STORY BY TAVLIN MOLINE
PHOTOGRAPHY BY AXEL MOLINE
ABOVE PHOTOGRAPH: BANANA + ALMOND MILK SMOOTHIE
Although we grew up in the Blue Mountains my parents would always make the effort to take us to Sydney as children. We were lucky kids. My memories are of falling asleep at the ballet, falling asleep under restaurant tables, getting high on pink lemonades with my sisters and grumpily being carried half asleep from car to bed on arrival home. What really sticks in my mind from these long car trips is passing alongside trucks crammed full of cows, travelling at night like us. Catching the light on their big eyes. Wondering where they were going. I can’t remember if I asked my mum or figured it out, either way I decided then, that I didn’t want to be responsible for sending these animals to the abattoir.
I was 12 or 13 and stopped eating red meat and chicken but continued to eat fish.
A couple of years later my sister decided to go vegan, I couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t eat a salad with a mayonnaise dressing or butter on bread and I would give her a hard time about it, turns out my sister was way ahead of me.
There were moments of straying, eating Indian spiced lamb chops in London and when my husband and I were first dating we loved eating steak and frites at Tabou on Crown St. Even though I enjoyed eating this meat, it never balanced for me, what I mean is, it never tasted worth it.
Axel and I moved to New York after we got married in 2008 and lived in a tiny apartment on Eldridge St, below Canal. Each day we walked passed half a dozen fish shops on our way to Grand St subway.
Fish and other seafood lay half dead, flailing in buckets and boxes, spilling out into the summer heat. The smell
was all encompassing
Fish and other seafood lay half dead, flailing in buckets and boxes, spilling out into the summer heat. The smell was all encompassing. I had allowed myself to eat fish because I could not see them so clearly as living beings. They were foreign, unlike cows, pigs, chickens and sheep. But this was in my face, animals dying slowly in front of me everyday. At first I tried to embrace it, buying fish and cooking them. Axel quickly decided not to eat fish and I soon followed.
I was introduced to Babycakes Bakery in New York and became addicted to their vegan biscuits with jam and ‘cream’. It showed me that being vegan didn’t mean I had to exist on lentils and vegetables. I could still enjoy incredibly good baked goods, phew! Another favourite haunt was Kate’s Joint for vegan schnitzel and mash, whenever we felt like comfort food and of course Angelika Kitchen…
In New York I was working at Harper’s Bazaar as assistant editor to Brana Wolf. Leather was everywhere, more than I had witnessed in fashion previously, leggings, pants, shorts, jackets, hats… not just shoes and bags. Names of skins were common, lambskin, calfskin, calf hair, pony hair. The Celine bag seemed less appealing when I knew it was lambskin. I certainly didn’t need a baby lamb to carry my coins and keys around in. These descriptions disturbed me. I started the process of getting rid of my leather belongings and looking for alternatives for shoes and bags. Hello Stella McCartney! Hello wearing canvas sneakers in your 30’s.
We returned to Sydney, hoping to settle and start a family. Within two years I had given birth to our son Wolfgang. I enjoyed pregnancy and was determined to breast feed. It was during this time breastfeeding our son that I started to think about how a cow must feel. Being milked everyday, the hard work it was to produce the milk, the hormones, the uncomfortable nights when Wolfie hadn’t woken at the usual time, the sore nipples. I thought about the cows, doing all this yet not having a baby at the end, day in and day out without the reward of love and loving. It really affected me. And I feel very clear about this. It’s cruel, to impregnate an animal against their will and after they have given birth take their baby to be killed and milk the lactating mother. It’s a hard truth that I don’t think people want to think about, it’s easy to think that a cow likes to be milked, that dairy farming is somehow romantic. I recently read a post on facebook that said “Not your mother, not your milk” and it made perfect sense to me.
It’s a hard truth that I don’t think people want to think about, it’s easy to believe that a cow likes to be milked, that dairy farming is somehow romantic
As a vegan I am a hypocrite. I buy meat for my son and my dogs. I feed my son milk and honey. When I can, I buy milk from Elgaar Dairy in Tasmania. They allow mother cows to nurse their babies for 2-4 months. People always ask me if I feed my son meat and when I answer yes, they seem relieved. The truth is I would love him to be vegan but it’s easier for me to give him animal protein. I am right at the beginning of my vegan journey and vegans have to work a little bit harder, but it’s not impossible. I also feel that it is my path and when he is old enough he can make his own decision. Being at home with my son has definitely made it easier as I make all our food. Dairy intolerance has also made it more common to find vegan items on menus and in supermarkets not just health food stores.
Lettuce-deliver organic fruit and vegetables delivered to your door
Dr Earth 287-289 King St Newtown
Blackstar Pastry 277 Australia St Newtown (vegan cakes available)
Cornersmith, 314 Illawarra Rd Marrickville (vegan dish pictured right)