АвторAuthor: Olha Verkalets | Translation: Hanna Dzhyhaliuk
2 August 2022
Tamara Human is the head of NGO “Every animal”. Since 2019 her organization has been giving lectures about veganism and launching animal protection campaigns, and from the beginning of the full-scale invasion she’s been sending parcels with plant-based food to the soldiers of Armed Forces of Ukraine. Tamara has also launched a “Vegan kitchen of Ukraine” project, within which territorial defense fighters (hereinafter TD), internally displaced persons and people in need can receive a hot vegan lunch. “Monologues of the War” found out about the work of the organization and why it is important to introduce vegan dry rations at the state level.
When I was 22, at the end of 2015, after watching the trailer to a movie “Earthlings” I became a vegan. I read about what’s going on with animals in every industry and decided not to be a part of it, not to pay for animals to suffer. It took me one evening to quit eating all animal-based food.
I was a passive vegan for about a year. I did it for myself and thought it’d be enough. But the world hasn’t changed. Everybody continues eating meat, animals continue suffering. The fact that I’m a vegan didn’t change much. I realized I must do something and turn my passive veganism into action.
At first I was an activist in various vegan organizations. In 2019 together with other volunteer activists we held rallies in Kyiv. We then realized that we want to form a legal organization and promote our ideas at a new level. That is how the NGO “Every animal” was born.
At first, we were engaged in educational activities. We had a free “Vegan Express” educational course on veganism. We gave lectures for businesses and educational institutions, held film screenings, and events with tasting of plant-based dishes. We traveled around the cities of Ukraine and launched animal protection campaigns. We did everything to make it easier for people to switch to veganism.
February 24 was the most horrifying day of my life. I woke up in Kyiv from the sound of explosions. On the first day, we did not understand what to do. We packed a suitcase. The rat and the dog were also ready. But where to go and should we even go somewhere? We spent the first day in a bomb shelter. The next morning we left for Lviv, where we stayed for two months. And on May 6, we came back home.
After the beginning of the full-scale war, almost all our projects stopped. Everyone had other things to do. During the first week, we helped displaced animals find shelter, transport, bought fodder, and looked for new families. It was coordination work.
Then we saw our friends’ project “Lviv Vegan Kitchen” (editor’s note: volunteers feed the displaced people with vegan food and send humanitarian parcels for the army) and realized that we could do something similar in other regions.
“Vegan Kitchen of Ukraine” was launched in three cities at once: Vinnytsia, Kyiv, Rivne. From the very first day, we started looking for soldiers of the TD and Armed Forces who needed plant-based meals. The first people were found through common friends, and then word of mouth started working. We published daily reports on the number of parcels sent. Later, we started receiving requests to send vegan products.
Currently, our “Vegan Kitchen” operates in eight cities: Kyiv, Uzhgorod, Dnipro, Rivne, Ivano-Frankivsk, Odesa, Vinnytsia and Lutsk. More than a hundred people are involved in this project. As of July 4, we have prepared 18077 lunches.
We try to put in our parcels as many protein products as possible: vegan sausages, pate, canned food, stew, plant milk, protein bars, nuts, peanut butter. We make it in three cities: Lviv, Brovary and Vinnytsia. One parcel is enough for two or three weeks.
When creating the content, we are guided by the fighters’ wishes. Some have nothing at all, only a piece of bread for lunch, and others have beans and porridge, but not enough pates or sausages.
So far, we have sent 350 parcels (editor’s note: the interview was recorded on July 4). These are approximately 250 fighting men and women that we fed. Some are already contacting us with a repeated request.
These parcels are processed by four volunteers. We try to do it as quickly as possible. At times, the queue is formed a week in advance. We try to send hot meals, but to those who are within reach. It is impossible to do this in hot spots.
Currently, only we and “Lviv Vegan Kitchen” are sending parcels for vegans. There are also manufacturers of plant-based products that ship directly.
The sudden transition to meat affects two things at once. A person begins to have diarrhea, nausea, because it is too heavy food they’re not used to. And mental health should be taken into account too. A person does not give up meat or dairy products simply because they do not like them. There is an ethical question behind this. The fighter switched to veganism because they did not want to harm the animals.
“They have to eat meat out of desperation. And they compromise with their principles. Because they have to survive. Knowing that you must eat something you don’t want to, has a great effect on the psychological state”.
We are not in the russian army, our soldiers don’t have to hear “eat what they give you”. It’s russians who eat expired products and cannot say anything. We are people of a different sort, so we have to take care of everyone. If there are people who do not consume animal products, then we should not tell them “eat what they give you”. It is wrong. They protect us, our country, and we cannot even provide them with food?
Vegans are a part of the Ukrainian people, even if it is not a large one. This is not a whim, it is their ethical principles. A person does not want to eat and kill animals. They have the right to it.
Israel’s experience is valuable for us. In this country, 5% of the population are vegans. And the same number is in the army. Fighters are given the opportunity to choose a vegan diet, shoes not made of leather, but of synthetics, and wool-free uniforms. They can remain vegan not only in food, but also in clothing.
Unfortunately, we do not have analytics on how many vegans are serving in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. We think that in Ukraine approximately 1% are vegans. We planned to conduct a similar study this year to confirm or refute our theories. But the war made its adjustments. It can be assumed that the Armed Forces also have the same approximate number as the population.
We keep in touch with soldiers to whom we deliver parcels. They even made a video where they were interviewed about their impressions of our food. They are pleased that someone cares about them. They often do not advertise their needs for individual products, because it is perceived as a whim and causes negativity. But such support gives them strength and understanding that there are people in the rear who are ready to support them. Such support is rather moral than material. https://youtu.be/-u_1iJmCT0I
Once we sent a parcel to the military and informed them about it by SMS. He was happy with the news and wrote back that they had already had bread and tea for lunch that day, because there was nothing to eat. I was very moved by it. We want to reduce the number of such cases.
I also remember a story about a girl who was a vegetarian before the start of the full-scale invasion. She went to the East, she had to eat everything that was there. We sent groceries to the girl. From the moment she received the parcel, she stopped eating meat, because she was able to return to her usual diet.
The petition (editor’s note: you can read it in more detail and sign it HERE) will help you serve as comfortably as possible. The soldiers are surrounded by terrible things. They have a lot of stress, lack of sleep. Thanks to vegan dry food, they will at least have the opportunity to eat something that does not contradict their ethical principles. Yes, there are not many vegans. But this does not mean that they are not there.
You may hear that a lot of money will be spent on the production of vegan dry rations. But this cost will not be added. Vegan rations would replace the ones that are there now. Plus, many organizations (ours included) could join and help the state create such dry rations. It is a movement towards progress when we care for each and every one.
We have resumed the “Vegan Express” course. In May, we launched a test registration and saw that almost as many people registered as in peacetime. Even during the war, the topic of veganism remains relevant. Therefore, the course has been fully resumed.
We are also continuing our work on the “Vegan Kitchen of Ukraine”. Even after the end of the war, it will continue to exist as long as people need it. After our victory, there will still be many challenges, we will need to rebuild our country. And vegan food won’t hurt.
Everything we can do now is thanks to people’s support. You can support us financially. And, of course, join our kitchens in different cities. There is a lack of volunteers to cook and places where we can cook.
We are often helped by displaced people, but they return home. We would like to expand, work every day, and do more. However, we need more volunteers.
To donate the activities of the NGO «Every animal», please use the website https://www.everyanimal.org/donate
Чому важливо поширити цю історію?
Якщо українці не розповідатимуть свій погляд на війну в Україні, світ поступово забуватиме про нас. Натомість цим обов’язково скористаються росіяни. Тому не даймо їм жодного шансу.
Why is it important to share this story?
If Ukrainians do not share their views on the war in Ukraine, the world will gradually forget about us. Instead, the Russians will definitely take advantage of this. So let's not give them a chance.
АвторAuthor: Olha Verkalets | Translation: Hanna Dzhyhaliuk