Vegan Life in Durham

By Charlie Wilson

Veganism has been circulating a fair amount in the past year. It has made itself known in the celebrity sphere with singer Billie Eilish teaming up with Woody Harrelson to suggest that fans reduce their meat and dairy consumption ‘for the sake of the planet’.

While the climate crisis is a top reason to go vegan, doing so can still be quite daunting. This is exactly why I want to focus on vegan food in Durham and not crowd an already saturated space with more talk of ‘for the animals’ and ‘for the planet’.

I don’t want it to seem like I have little faith in the college catering system, but when the people who do eat everything complain that it’s only potatoes, what are the vegans eating?

People always worry about being vegan in Durham and ask me whether it’s easy. Honestly, I find it so much easier to be vegan in Durham than I do at home. However, I was never on the catering system in my first year and I hear the story in college is very different.

The university prides itself on a lot of things, but the vegan options in college and formals perhaps aren’t one of them. Of course, this depends on your college. I’ve heard some great stories from colleges, like Hatfield, which has a vegan option for every meal.

However, I’ve heard the other end of the story where you have to go into the kitchen and get a completely separate option for dinner – it’s almost like shaming the vegan! I am aware that the university is currently working on reducing their meat consumption and introducing more choices for the growing vegan and vegetarian community. This new scheme includes only six colleges and the university could be doing more, especially as this is a major worry to incoming freshers.

As part of the university’s Vegetarian and Vegan Society, we get messages from students before they arrive asking whether or not they can eat in college. In reality, this should be one of your last worries when coming to university! I don’t want it to seem like I have little faith in the college catering system, but when the people who do eat everything complain that it’s only potatoes, what are the vegans eating?

Despite this the number of vegan options in Durham city is huge. Here are just a few:

  • The Jumping Bean – A fully vegan cafe on Neville Street selling burgers and cakes
  • The Bean Social – A vegetarian cafe on North Road which has so many vegan options and is great for brunch
  • Chapters – I’ve not been in myself, but my housemate discovered they do great vegan cakes 
  • Tia’s – On Claypath, they have a fully vegan menu. I would 100% recommend the fajitas
  • Most of the larger food chains have a fully vegan menu – including Zizzis, Ask Italia, Pizza Express, Papa John’s

Overall, I wouldn’t say being vegan in Durham has ever been a challenge. Other than dealing with the occasional vegan joke, the overarching opinion towards vegans seems to be a very positive and supportive one. However, if you’re still feeling like the odd one out, or an ugly duckling, finding the community is the best place to start. This is Sunny’s, president of the university’s Vegetarian and Vegan Society, biggest tip:

“My biggest tip is actually to meet other vegans and find like-minded people so that you can support each other on your journeys. There will undoubtedly be times when you need to remind yourself why what you’re doing is necessary, and I think forming a compassionate community around you is the best way to stay positive”.

Image by Anna Pelzer via Unsplash

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