Leila Scott from Animal Liberation Malta tells all.
There is no denying that veganism is on the rise worldwide, including in Malta. Whereas a few years ago vegans struggled to be recognised, let alone served by the community, most people today are at least slightly familiar with the term and what it entails. And just like most minorities, when vegans travel to or live in a place, they need to discover where to find what they need to thrive. We spoke with Leila Scott from Animal Liberation Malta, one of Malta’s leading vegan and animal protection communities, about what it’s like to be vegan in Malta.
What, in essence, does it mean to be vegan?
"Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose. We feel their lives have intrinsic value and animals are not just here merely as resources or tools for human use. Being vegan demonstrates true compassion for animals."
Is Malta a vegan-friendly place?
"In recent years, Malta has become incredibly vegan-friendly, making it easier than ever for vegans to eat out and purchase vegan-friendly cosmetics, to name just a few. Non-vegans are also more curious than ever to try out meat alternatives and plant-based foods."
Are vegan products readily available in supermarkets?
"Yes, vegan products are readily available in supermarkets. You can find vegan cheese, yogurt, ice-cream, pizza, sausages, burgers and a wide selection of plant milks to name a few. That's in addition to the other food we eat like fruit and veg, pasta, grains, beans, legumes, nutritional yeast flakes, seitan...the list is endless. A vegan diet is very abundant and not about sacrifice."
Which supermarkets are best for vegan shopping?
"All major supermarkets have a wide range of vegan products nowadays. I would say Pavi, Pama, Smart and Green's are the best, with Lidl also having a decent selection which is reasonably priced."
Is it easy to eat out in Malta as a vegan?
"Although there are few purely vegan restaurants in Malta and Gozo - Balance Bowl (Malta) and Green Mood (Gozo) are the only two - the vast majority of restaurants now label vegan dishes on their menus, have a separate vegan menu, or in the worst case scenario, are able to adapt certain dishes by removing certain items such as cheese to make them vegan."
Which vegan-friendly eateries would you recommend?
"Some of the most vegan-friendly eateries in Malta are The Balance Bowl, Choco Kebab Cafe Sandwich Bar, Sapori Cafe, U&Co Mediterranean Restaurant, Le Bistro, Tapaz Mediterranean Fusion, Pure Living, Wagamama Asian Fusion, Falafel Street Lebanese Kebab & Grill, Tokyo Fried House, Suruchi Indian Restaurant, Foam and Fork and Green Mood, to name a few…"
What kind of general reactions about veganism could one expect from people at large?
"People are a lot more familiar with the term 'vegan' now. It isn't as alien as it used to be. Most people are somewhat curious and ask questions, while others can make jokes and come up with excuses as to why they could never be vegan or why people are not meant to be vegan. This may be, perhaps, to make themselves feel better because it's struck a chord!"
Who can I contact to learn more about being vegan?
"You can contact us at Animal Liberation Malta. You can also find a lot of information on the Vegan Malta Eats Facebook group on where to eat out and so on. And, finally, I encourage anyone who wants to give veganism a try to sign up to Veganuary.com to take the one month challenge. They will provide you with lots of tips and support from recipe ideas to informative documentaries."
What kind of vegan activism is happening in Malta?
"Malta Animal Save holds monthly vigils outside Marsa Public Abattoir from 4.30am-7.30am where the public can bear witness to the animals before they are sent in for slaughter. This is done in order to raise awareness and encourage others to see them as sentient beings, each with their own personality, not as products that are chopped into pieces and sold as packaged goods just because people like the way their flesh tastes."
"The Cube of Truth held by AV Malta takes place every month. Activists wear masks and hold laptops showing footage of animals being exploited, such as in factory farms, slaughterhouses, testing laboratories, marine parks and zoos. Outreachers approach members of the public to discuss the footage with them and talk about leading a vegan lifestyle."
"Animal Liberation Malta hold monthly social events. We organise movie nights showing eye-opening documentaries, attend various protests, get involved in animal rescues, foster animals who need to be temporarily homed, make TV appearances, investigate cases in which animal abuse has been reported to us, share footage of animal abuse here in Malta and globally on our Facebook page, meet with politicians and big organisations who have the power to make positive change here in Malta when it comes to animal rights, and encourage and support eateries in becoming more vegan-friendly, to name just a few."
A final note from Leila:
"When great personalities such as George Bernard Shaw has said, 'Animals are my friends and I don't eat my friends,' and Mahatma Gandhi had said, 'The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.' We can recognise that veganism is noble because it is based on love and respect for all sentient beings. Thank you for considering veganism as a way of life."