Being vegan in Azerbaijan: not eating meat is not even half the battle
Being vegan in Azerbaijan
Going vegan doesn’t just mean giving up animal products. What distinguishes vegans from vegetarians is their ideological commitment. Vegans refuse any food, clothing and household items associated with the exploitation of animals. Avoiding meat isn’t even half the battle. According to our interlocutor Turana, being a vegan in Azerbaijan is not such an easy task.
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From vegetarian to vegan
Turana Nuri has been a vegan for almost five years. What differentiates veganism from vegetarianism, they say, is its ideological commitment. According to Turana, veganism obliges a person to give up animal products in any area of life, the exploitation of the animals is also unacceptable. Veganism is against the use of animals in manufacturing, testing on them, any entertainment with animals, as well as consumption of meat and animal products.
“I first got acquainted with veganism during my research on ecology. I myself studied to be an ecologist. I began to study the ethical aspects of this movement. But at first I thought that it would be difficult in Azerbaijan. There was not a single vegan friend around me.
First I decided to become a vegetarian. It went on like this for eight to nine months. Then I switched to veganism. Now there are many friends around me who are also vegans.
From the material side, I do not experience any difficulties. I am a supporter of locally produced food. In other words, I use legumes, grains, and I am content with the foods that I can afford on a budget.
But if you buy vegan products – cheese, meat, alternative milk, then this requires serious expenses. Therefore, I prefer local products.
Veganism cannot be viewed only in terms of food”, says Turana.
Who are vegans?
Vegans do not eat animal products such as meat, dairy products, eggs, fish, seafood. In addition to these products, vegans usually do not buy, do not use in everyday life, and do not support:
leather products, fur, silk, wool and other materials of animal origin; honey and other beekeeping products;
products that contain components derived from animal products (for example, gelatine, glycerin); so, – for the manufacture of photographic film, – gelatine can be used;
things manufactured using products of animal origin (for example, gelatine is used in the production of certain types of refined sugar, in the clarification of certain varieties of wine and beer);
products that have been tested on animals (for example, some types of cosmetics and varieties of tobacco);
the entertainment industry, if animals are involved in it against their will and are mistreated (e.g. circuses, zoos, dolphinariums and aquariums, horse races, photoshoots involving animals, bullfighting, animal fights).
Problems with a partner
“When people find out that I’m a vegan, sometimes their jokes are not very ethical. Veganism is often misunderstood in Azerbaijan. Vegetarianism is more understandable for people, they perceive rejection of meat normally”, says Turana.
According to them, there is very little information about veganism in the Azerbaijani language: “I have to find vegans to consult on various details. In Europe, even in Turkey, it is much easier for vegans. There are many alternative products at affordable prices. The vegan community helps new people by sharing their experiences in specialized groups”.
“There are enough people around me who adhere to the principles opposite to mine. It should be borne in mind that we live in Azerbaijan. I am not hostile to them. They grew up in this culture, Azerbaijani cuisine is fundamentally focused on meat dishes. Therefore, it is difficult to research veganism, to go into this way of life. For this reason, I do not blame anyone. I also had a period when I had no idea that I could become a vegan.
There are some of my friends who are not vegan, even some who eat meat. But the question with a partner is much more complicated. If you do not adhere to the same views with a person, building relationships, living under one roof is problematic. My family members are not vegans, or even vegetarians. But a partner would be obliged to share the same values that I do. Perhaps someday I will have a non-vegan partner, but I am not ready for that yet”, says Turana.
Is it easy to find vegan food in Baku?
In Azerbaijan, particularly in Baku, it is not so difficult to find food for vegans in regular stores. They do not need to be labeled as being suitable for vegans. Vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, nuts are sold at an affordable price. There is a separate store offering products especially for vegans. Vegan cometics can also be found here. Development has been observed in this area since 2017.
In cafes and restaurants in Baku you can order falafel, vegan burgers, shawarma without animal products. Salads and soups are also offered. The vinaigrette is the most popular among them. But before ordering this popular salad, it is worth checking if butter or stock was used in the preparation.
Garnishes are overwhelmingly cooked in vegetable oil, and therefore suitable for vegans. If cheese is included in the salad, then you can ask the waiter not to put the cheese in it. There are also vegan pickles available.
Turana advises new vegans to plan their diet. In this case, they will be healthy and not spend too much.