Monday 31 July 2017

Why I Went Vegan?

When I had just turned ten years old, I announced to my parents that I wanted to turn vegetarian. I don't remember specifically what triggered my desire to abolish meat but the overall decision was out of compassion. I had always been an animal lover, in fact back then I wanted to be a vet like my paternal uncle. My maternal auntie's vegetarianism had always fascinated me - she'd not eaten meat since she was a teenager, making her well ahead of her time. But even in the early 2000s when I made the change, vegetarianism was not (at least, amongst those who I knew) a commonly understood concept. I remember consistently having to justify my decision to befuddled people: "I just think I can live a healthy diet without having to kill animals." Eating this way was different (and on the whole more difficult) back then - over the past fifteen years I have seen supermarket options multiply considerably, foods are labelled much less ambiguously, and to be vegetarian (aside from eating in very high-end restaurants or certain country pubs) is so incredibly easy now. Had I opted to go vegan at ten years old I think my parents would have been in despair due to the lack of mainstream available knowledge and produce, but these days it's so much easier to do. It's something I've always come back to thinking about, but equally never thought I'd do. So I suppose the real question is what changed my mind, and why is going vegan so important to me after all this time?

In my opinion there are three main reasons to switch to a plant based diet, and they all link together. In researching these reasons I have realised that veganism is the only way of moving forward that makes sense to me. But before I get into that there are a couple of things to address before I get into what "converted" me. One is the "preachy vegan" typecast and it must be admitted that there is a stereotype that some vegans try to enforce their lifestyle onto others. It's not always tactful, and in my years of being a vegetarian I used to pride myself on not being preachy and accepting others choices. Now I understand to an extent why some feel the need to share this way of living that challenges the horrors of the meat and dairy industry, though I'd prefer to keep my reasons brief in a post that somebody might read with an open mind and research at their own will. Please know that by sharing this information it's not trying to brainwash you into only eating lentils - just to enlighten some topics not everybody is aware of. The other common assumption is that eating vegan is really difficult, extreme, and will leave you nutritionally deficient. The truth is that there's so much information and choice out there that eating vegan doesn't have to be hard at all. I just ask that before you disdainfully write the concept off entirely, you do your own research and are aware of the following information, as there's lots I didn't know that I wish I'd learnt sooner and you might even feel the same.

Something I'd never realised before is that the meat and dairy industries are ravaging this planet. These industries and their byproducts are one of the leading causes of global warming. Eating meat and fish is rapidly causing the destruction of our rainforests and our oceans - in fact these industries are the leading cause of rainforest deforestation and are wiping out entire species of creatures by destroying their environment. I have to admit, at first this was the hardest motivator for me to grasp as when you're thinking about this vast planet as a whole it's easy to discount your own actions: what difference does one person make? But everybodys' footprints add up. Like many people I find myself most at peace outside in the fresh air, somewhere with nature. I want to minimise the amount of damage my lifestyle causes to our planet's natural beauty, and a vegan diet requires only one third of the land needed to support an omnivorous diet. If you want to be kinder to the planet, eat a plant based diet.

This is something fairly self-explanatory: eating animal products is not kind to animals. For years as a vegetarian I've chosen not to kill animals for my dinner. But the dairy industries can be just as cruel. Ultimately, I don't want to drink milk if it means a cow has been forcibly and repeatedly made pregnant. Milk is full of pus, hormones, and it's only meant to be drunk by calves. The egg industry is full of needless cruelty: the killing of male chicks, the chickens are often kept in abhorrent conditions, and finally killed once they stop producing eggs. Even if you were to believe these animals lived happy lives in great conditions, I don't want their blood on my hands when they have fulfilled their purpose. If you want to be kinder to living creatures, eat a plant based diet.

Of course, this requires a little research and effort on your own part (the following would not be applicable to a vegan eating solely chips and Super Noodles) but here are some interesting myths to dispel. Yes, it is possible to get more than enough nutrients eating a plant-based diet: yes, even protein, Omega-3s and calcium! Yes, you can achieve this even without supplements (with the exception of Vitamin B12, something that our modern day diet struggles to provide and you may be deficient in even as an omnivore.) A whole foods, plant based diet is the human design. Did you know meat and dairy consumption have incredibly high links to Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease and cancer? Did you know these types of diseases are less often caused by genetics, and are strongly influenced by diet and lifestyle choices? I'm not saying you'll become invincible or any less likely to be hit by a bus but you can give yourself more protection against some of our biggest killers by avoiding animal products which we are not naturally designed to digest. If you want to be kinder to yourself, eat a plant based diet.

For these three reasons, I've been slowly phasing dairy products out of my diet. By my 26th birthday - my official 15 year anniversary of giving up meat - I plan to have given them up entirely. When making a diet change some people choose to go "cold turkey" but I personally feel I am less likely to relapse or make mistakes if I wean myself off items I have habitually eaten for my entire life. After all, I've never been great at denying myself of things I want! I used to think I could never give up certain items and doubted my ability to change. But I know this is something I personally want to do to make as much of a difference as I can. The label "vegan" itself poses some challenges: a plant-based diet is one thing... there are many steps I have yet to take before I could consider myself to be fully "vegan". However something important to keep in mind is that it's not a competition and nobody is perfect. I never thought that I could live a vegan lifestyle because I couldn't be "perfect" and completely avoid hypocrisy. I thought if I accidentally bought a jar of coconut and almond butter with honey in it, the vegan police would turn up and tell me to hand back my badge, give up and go to McDonalds. But that's not what this is about - it's just about making a more morally informed decision as a consumer. Nobody can live a perfect lifestyle free of any footprint. Whether it's the blood on your steak or the air pollution from transporting produce, every choice we make has a price and it's up to us to pick our poisons. It's important that we just do what we can when we can, and remember that every conscious choice matters. This is a story I am hoping to tell here, and I'd love for those of you who've already done it to join me and share your own experiences. I want to make a series of posts documenting the positives and drawbacks of this way of living and my own personal journey and I hope you'll be happy to join me.


  1. I applaud your conversion to veganism. I turned vegetation in the mid 80's when I was 16 and it was TOUGH. So little choice. I was veggie for 16 years but shockingly unhealthy. I lived on pancakes basically. I just never did it right. When I moved in with the boyfriend I ended up eating meat again but when we don't eat together I always choose vegetarian. I often think about going back to being vegetarian but I'm ashamed to admit that it's just too impractical for me, which really is a shit excuse. But well done you, it's really impressive.

    1. I can imagine how tough that must have been in the 80s, especially in Scotland! (Is it harder to be veggie in Scotland? This is very possibly purely my own association since my Scottish relatives are notoriously baffled by my meat-free diet!) I definitely think health really needs to be top priority, and sadly mostly pancakes doesn't sound like a totally balanced diet (though possibly a delicious one?!)
      I think who you live with does play a huge part into how easy it can be to stick to any diet. I know for me in all previous living situations there's been too much of an abundance of dairy for veganism to seem something I could stick to. So it's not a shit excuse - it makes it a hell of a lot harder! Even though my boy's actually gone veggie now and I'm lucky to have that support I know this will still be hard for me occasionally - it's partially why I felt the need to blog about it, as a reminder as to why I'm doing it if that willpower ever wavers! Thanks for the support <3

  2. Love this! I can't even begin to tell you how much I admire your lifestyle choices. You have such amazing willpower that every time I speak to you about this subject it makes me seriously think about the way I live my life and the diet (or lack of) that I have - especially as I've just had a huge fry up!

    1. Thanks chic <3 If it's any help at all, I don't have THAT amazing willpower, I have just eaten about 7 chocolates... however it's cool it makes you think! I literally have no notion that vegan is suitable for everybody but I think knowing the facts and making that choice consciously each time you eat is better because so many people just have no idea about quite how impactful these industries are - I definitely didn't!

  3. I eat vegan to dramatically cut your risk of pretty much every major degenerative disease going, from heart disease, to diabetes, to cancer.

    Gretta Hewson
    Mesothelioma Lawyer Pearland TX


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