Vegan Voices: about pessimistic Lithuanians and vegan activists

Rasa is a young, active, inquisitive girl from Lithuania who lives a bright and dynamic life. According to her, over the past 5 years, perhaps the only thing that has not changed in her life is the way she eats. Rasa, a vegan and member of the Organization for the Protection of Animal Rights, talks about her experience of an ethical lifestyle, as well as her favorite dish.

This happened about 5 years ago and quite unexpectedly. At that time, I had already been a vegetarian for a year and did not plan to exclude dairy products from the diet at all. One day, while looking for a recipe for delicious cookies on the Internet, I came across an animal rights website. It was on it that I read an article about the dairy industry. To say I was shocked is an understatement! Being a vegetarian, I believed that I was making a significant contribution to animal welfare. However, reading the article made me realize how closely intertwined the meat and dairy industries are. The article clearly explained that in order to produce milk, a cow is forcibly impregnated, after which the calf is taken away from her and, if male, sent to the slaughterhouse due to its uselessness for the dairy industry. At that moment, I realized that veganism is the only right choice.

Yes, I am a member of the Association “Už gyvūnų teisės” (Russian – Association for the Protection of Animal Rights). It has been around for 10 years and thanks to their site, which for many years was the only resource on the subject, many people have been able to learn the truth and understand the relationship between animal suffering and meat products. The organization is mainly engaged in educational activities on the topic of animal rights and veganism, and expresses its position on this issue in the media.

About a year ago, we received the official status of a non-governmental organization. However, we are still in transition, restructuring our processes and goals. About 10 people are active members, but we also involve volunteers to help. Since we are few and everyone is involved in many other activities (work, study, other social movements), we have “everyone does everything.” I am mainly involved in organizing events, writing articles for the site and the media, while others are responsible for design and public speaking.

Vegetarianism is certainly on the rise, with many restaurants adding more vegetarian options to their menus. However, vegans have a slightly harder time. This is due to the fact that a huge list of dishes falls off the menu if eggs and milk are excluded. It should be noted that Lithuanian restaurants do not always know the difference between “vegetarianism” and “veganism”. It also adds complexity. The good news is that there are several specialized vegetarian and raw food restaurants in Vilnius that can offer not only vegan soups and stews, but also burgers and cupcakes. Some time ago, we opened a vegan store and an online e-shop for the first time.

Lithuanians are very creative people. As a nationality, we have been through a lot. I believe that overcoming challenges requires creativity and if you can’t just get something, you need to be adventurous and creative. Many young people, also among my acquaintances, know how to sew and knit, make jam, even make furniture! And it’s so common that we don’t appreciate it. By the way, another characteristic feature of Lithuanians is pessimism about the present moment.

Lithuania has very beautiful nature. I like to spend time by the lake or in the forest, where I feel energized. If you choose any one place, then this is, perhaps, Trakai – a small city not far from Vilnius, surrounded by lakes. The only thing: vegan food is unlikely to be found there!

I would advise visiting not only Vilnius. There are many other interesting towns in Lithuania and, as I said above, the most beautiful nature. Vegan travelers should be prepared for the fact that the food that suits them will not be found on every corner. In a cafe or restaurant, it makes sense to meticulously ask about the ingredients of a particular dish to make sure that they are really vegan.

I really love potatoes and, fortunately, many dishes here are made from potatoes. Perhaps the most favorite dish is Kugelis, a pudding made from grated potatoes. All you need is a few potato tubers, 2-3 onions, some oil, salt, pepper, cumin seeds and spices to taste. Peel the potatoes and onions, add to the processor and bring to a puree state (we put the potatoes raw, not boiled). Add spices and oil to the puree, transfer to a baking dish. Cover with foil, put in the oven at 175C. Depending on the oven, the readiness takes 45-120 minutes. Serve Kugelis preferably with some kind of sauce!

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