Veganism. It’s undoubtedly becoming increasingly common but the stigma still seems to stick. After being unofficially vegetarian for three years and officially veggie for one I’ve finally made the decision to go fully VEGAN. It’s a shift I’ve been contemplating for a while and after listening to Rachel Bethern’s podcast entitled ‘Peace, Love and Veganism with James Aspey’ the blind eye I was turning couldn’t look away anymore and in that moment I vowed to make the final change.
Whilst I would never enforce my views on others or expect individuals to change their diet I want to share my experience with you as I’m a huge advocate for education; for spreading awareness and encouraging people to make their own, informed decisions based on their own ethics, lifestyle and body. I am not a nutritionist – though I did see one to ensure I was still getting all the goodness my body requires– so I don’t and won’t claim that everyone should be vegan for their health etc however hopefully it might encourage you to think a little bit more about what we put into our bodies, where it comes from and what it’s doing to us and the planet - be it meat or otherwise.
Why I decided to go vegan
Once upon a time I was a huge meat eater. A proud northerner, I was a meat and two veg kind of girl. My standard order at a restaurant was fillet steak and a meal wasn’t a meal without a chunk of meat. Fast forward and here I am meat free for pretty much three years and now a consumer of no animal products at all. So what changed?
Firstly, I am a huge animal lover. I’ve grown up surrounded by animals and as I’ve grown in age I’ve
become unable to discriminate between different species. I can’t understand how if someone were to kick a puppy in the street they could be prosecuted yet thousands of lambs, piglets and calves are separated from their mothers and slaughtered without a second glance every single day. Animals are perceptive. They know when things are off, they feel fear and they absolutely feel pain – if you kick a puppy it cries. So, to round up so many living beings – none of which want to die, subjecting them to bloody slaughter houses to be stunned – in the best circumstances – before having their throats slit and bleeding to death just so we can satisfy our own palette has become something I can no longer understand or ignore.
Secondly, I did my research. As these thoughts became more and more prominent I started to dig. Before going vegan, I chose to look the other way. I had an idea of what was happening but it was easier not to look and enjoy my eggs and avocado than really face the facts. However, my deeper level of consciousness began to get louder and louder until it became impossible to ignore and admitting defeat I tuned in. There are so many documentaries, podcasts and articles available I didn’t have to go far before really being confronted by what goes on in all animal industries. Admittedly, some are bias – they have a point to get across and the most extreme stories and images are the ones that receive the greatest reaction – but ultimately facts are facts. As I listened to the Rachel Brethen’s podcast I sat with tears rolling down my cheeks, my heart breaking and I knew that I could never enjoy food in the knowledge that something had suffered so greatly in order to satisfy my own palette for a few moments.
The dairy industry took me most be surprise. Cows are silent sufferers. We see them in the fields eating grass and it all seems rather idyllic. But the only way we can get milk is to impregnate cows artificially, allow the mothers to carry their calves for nine months – just like humans –
and when they're born take their babies away, wire them up to a machine and take their milk until it runs out – an annual process. If her calf is female it faces the same fate as her, if it’s a bullock it goes to the slaughter house as it serves no purpose and is thus a ‘waste product’. Anyone who is a mother could not imagine having their baby taken away yet it seems acceptable to do it to another species. Having seen how powerfully a horse will protect and defend her foal it is impossible to argue that cows don’t experience a sense of loss and sadness year in year out. This process tends to last about 7-10 years before the cow is so broken she is worthless and sent for meat – most cows naturally live until about the age of 25. It also made me think, I wouldn’t choose to drink my dog’s milk so why would I want to drink a cows?
Going beyond what happens at a grass roots level I also became unintentionally educated about the terrible impact animal farming has on the environment. As a lover of the planet, believing in its natural balance and harmony I don’t want to support an industry that has such a devastating impact on Mother Earth. The biggest contributor to greenhouse gases and huge destroyer of the rainforest – something which is putting so many species at the risk of extinction – is the ever-growing animal farming industry. We only get one planet and when it’s ruined, when beautiful species have gone, when lands have been destroyed and global warming is at its worst there is no going back. The damage is done and whilst current generations might not feel the full impact our children’s children certainly will. Our growing consumerism, need for instant gratification and sense of self-entitlement has a detrimental impact on the health and longevity of our planet. The earth grew in fine balance and for the first-time human beings are heavily tipping the scales in our own favour.
Whilst there are endless reasons I could continue to share hopefully this provides a very small insight into what incentivised me to change. As stated above, I don’t expect people to make a change or condemn people who choose to eat differently but I do hope it provides an insight into perhaps why vegans are vegan rather than attaching a stigma just because somebody chooses to eat differently.
How do I feel?
So, how have a I felt since making the change? ALIGNED! Having consciously turned a blind eye to certain animal industries for a long time there’s always been a sense of guilt when eating things like eggs and chocolate. Admittedly it wasn’t strong enough for me to make the change right away but now I have made and committed to my decision I feel so much more settled within myself. Whilst I’d describe myself as pretty relaxed I have a strong set of core values and for a long time my actions have been out of line with these but now I’ve gone vegan it’s as if everything has finally slotted into place and emotionally this has made me much happier within myself.
Physically, to be honest I don’t feel hugely different. I eat well, predominantly a plant based diet with sweet treats thrown in. I take supplements that work for my body and ensure the foods I’m eating cover all the bases in terms of nutrients. Given the nature of my job, I’m very in tune with my body and believe I’d be quick to notice changes through diet but this honestly isn’t the case. I found the much bigger change came from stopping eating meat a few years ago. I felt less heavy and had much more energy which was a refreshing change. I was quick to notice the difference and this made reducing my intake of meat to cutting it out completely much more natural. The rest has been an organic progression so when it came to cutting out the eggs – which was pretty much the only animal based product I ate consistently – it didn’t feel strange at all.
Whilst I could list the pros of going vegan all day long I’ve included a summary based on what I’ve learnt, experienced and believe. If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of turning vegan than throw yourself into research – I promise it’s fascinating.
I feel much more aligned morally.
I’m heavily reducing my impact on the planet in terms of water and plastic consumption, greenhouse gases, deforestation and it’s subsequent threat on other species.
I’m not killing animals for my own pleasure meaning they can live happy.
My energy levels are higher.
I sleep a lot better.
My body feels like it works much more efficiently.
It’s far more sustainable.
My meals are so full of flavour thanks to all wide range of ingredients I use.
I definitely eat a much more varied diet in terms of meals as I've had to learn to be more creative.
There are a lot of great vegan cookbooks available which bring you delicious and totally accessible dishes.
The challenges and how to overcome them
Whilst I’m totally happy with my decision, other people seem to struggle with the concept. It’s amazing how quickly it can spark a debate at the dinner table and to be honest, I find it quite upsetting. Whilst I don’t comment on the way other people choose to eat, some are quick to comment on how I do. For me this has been and continues to be the biggest obstacle.
Going out for dinner has also proved slightly awkward. Luckily there are vegan restaurants popping up across London but there are a lot of restaurants which still don’t offer vegan options. I’ve found calling ahead has been a huge saviour. Rather than turning up and expecting restaurants to be prepared calling ahead a day in advance allows them to amend a dish easily on the night meaning everyone is happy.
One step on from this is dinner with friends. Admittedly this is something I find hard. I don’t want to cause a fuss and certainly don’t feel comfortable asking people to cook me something different or amend what they want to serve to keep me happy. Luckily, I have some great friends who are very accommodating and have taken it in their stride but I always offer to bring something along that goes with the sides they are serving and depending on the situation I sometimes go early with a bottle of wine and help friends cook. So far so good and if anything, it’s me who finds this harder on a personal level than those who are cooking.
The final challenge that really stands out is learning what I can and can’t eat. When it comes to fresh fruit and veg it’s a no brainer but other more processed food such as crisps can contain traces of animal products even if they are a totally non-meat related flavour. I have been caught out a couple of times but the as time goes on I’m becoming clearer on the things I can eat and those I can’t. Finding substitutes for some of my faves hasn’t been successful as of yet but I’d much rather miss out on a couple of things than harm an innocent being to temporarily satisfy my taste buds
If you’re going out for dinner call ahead so you don’t get caught short.
Follow vegan pages on social media. I find this helpful in terms of finding new and existing products suitable for vegans. The animal images also help to keep me on track if I feel tempted to have that normal piece of chocolate or add an egg with my avo.
Invest in good vegan cookbooks. There are endless recipes available in print and online so get researching.
See a qualified nutritionist to ensure you’re maintaining a balanced diet and covering all the bases when it comes to getting your goodness.
Keep it simple. Cooking doesn’t need to be complicated so find a few good staple recipes that you can turn to when you have a craving for something like chilli, spag bol or a curry.
Get educated. I can’t stress this enough. Read online articles, watch television shows, listen to podcasts and debates so that you’re getting a balanced and informative approach to veganism.
Change your perspective. Don’t see it as a sacrifice, the taking away of foods. See it as a gift, knowing that you’re giving back. You’re making a huge impact on the planet and to thousands of animals lives. Even though ‘you’re just one person’ you CAN make a change and this is something to be so so proud of.
So there you have it. My reasons for going vegan and my experiences of it so far. Has it been easy? Not entirely. Do I regret it? Not in the slightest. I’ve never felt happier, healthier or more aligned. As I’ve said above, I don’t want to preach or judge but I do hope that people choose to get educated and then they can make choices in line with their own values.
If you’ve any questions about anything I’ve discussed here I’d love to hear from you so feel free to drop me a message via the contact page on my website.