The world started celebrating the founding of The Vegan Society in 1994 and every year since then, November 1st has been marked as World Vegan Day with people celebrating and championing their vegan lifestyle. It recognises how far the vegan movement has come, highlights how accessible and beneficial a vegan lifestyle can be and encourages those who are curious to adopt vegan habits by sharing advice, recipes and ideas. They also have the 30-day Vegan Pledge that you can take to make a change for a whole month. You never know, it may be the making of you.
One thing you’ll hear time and time again (because it’s true) is that “going vegan is the best thing I ever did”.
Reports of better sleep, improved health and skin conditions as well as having a clearer moral conscience, knowing you are no longer contributing to the harming of animals. There is also the environmental perspective that adopting a plant-based lifestyle is the best thing we can do to limit our carbon and environmental footprint.
If all the above is true, then why won’t everyone switch to a plant-based life? We live in a society in which meat and two veg is engrained into our lives. If we don’t eat meat then there’s a huge chunk of our plate missing.
“Where do you get protein from?” “How come you’re not tired all the time?” “So you just eat rabbit food all the time, then?”
These are only a few of the very common questions that we, as vegans, get asked all the time. The arrogance and ignorance can really irritate me. But that’s half the problem: people are ignorant in the sense they do not know enough about the Western diet and its problems. I’m not a full-blown activist, but I do take up most opportunities to share little nuggets of wisdom about the meat and dairy industries with my friends and family when I can. There is a fine line between a conversation and preaching, though. While I fully and whole-heartedly believe in a vegan lifestyle, telling meat-eaters they are wrong to eat meat displays the same hostility to which we are often victim. Vegan activism for me, in a sense, is to open a dialogue with people about what I eat, what I wear and how I act in society. I don’t pretend to know all the facts and so I’ll direct people to useful sources of information such as vegan magazines, documentaries and books that have inspired and educated me. In the same way, I take each source of information with the correct pinch of salt. For example, some case studies are specific to America and so the facts may not be the same over here in the UK, but the premise is the same. The excess water needed for the rearing of animals. The cruel and inhumane conditions in which animals are transported and sent to slaughter. The dangerous health effects of processed animal meats. The waste. The unnatural way dairy cows are bred and kept. The cramped chicken coops. A little research can go a long way. But, as I said, I do not want to preach.
My journey to veganism was gradual and I cannot pin point a time when I went vegan. I found out about almond and soya milk as a dairy alternative in my first or second year of university and wanted to try it out because it was cool. The added bonus was that I really enjoyed the taste, too. So, I ditched the dairy milk and the next few times I had some at home I felt a bit gross and really didn’t enjoy it. This was the same time that I began to get really interested in food blogs and began following many foodies on the internet; most of whom happened to be vegan and showing off plant-based foods. Gradually, I accidentally began to buy more pulses and dairy free alternatives instead of meat which wasn’t a huge transition for me as I’ve never been a big fan of red meat, cheese or overly processed meats. This was also a time where “low fat” was all the rage, although I quickly saw through that and tried to focus on whole foods. My interest in health, food and nutrition continued to grow although my quest proved more difficult while in France on my year abroad. I was often very limited and faced with sad salads in a country where meat and cheese dominate. I had always been a picky eater but as soon as I began to eliminate animal products from my diet, I noticed that I didn’t feel as fussy.
Soon after university I watched vegan documentaries and my eyes were opened. I decided I had to give up Greek Yoghurt – I loved it so much! That was the only food item that I had to force myself to no longer consume, as I didn’t have any other dairy in my diet. I spooned my way through various non-dairy alternatives and am very happy to say that there is so much variety now: from soya to almond to coconut. I don’t miss Greek yoghurt, at all.
I continued to cook, read food blogs and learn about health and naturally ate less white meat and less fish until some weeks people would comment that I hadn’t eaten any “real food” for ages. I’d replaced eggs with chia seeds in baking and chickpea flour in omelettes and found nutritional yeast to be my new best friend.
The one turning point I can remember is saying to my family that I won’t be eating turkey at Christmas. I could tell they were wary, dubious and perhaps a bit concerned that I wouldn’t then eat a well-rounded diet. But I am so grateful that they trusted me, my research and believed in me. That was two years ago now and I have never looked back. Give me tofu or tempeh any day of the week and every day I find a new vegan product on the shelf.
2018 has been a great year for veganism, with so many restaurants and cafes opening up in London. I have also witnessed first hand the amazing vegan food and culture abroad for example in Zurich and Budapest, and closer to home in Cardiff. Supermarkets and larger restaurant chains have also joined the vegan bandwagon with vegan menus, vegan options and completely vegan lines stacked next to the meat aisle.
I find new vegan blogs to follow all the time – thank you Instagram – and I continue to be fuelled by shocking articles and new research studies. Recent reports on water consumption and our environmental impact highlight the true benefits of a vegan lifestyle for the planet and I hope more people will listen.
We’re far from there, but with 2018 marking the biggest year yet for Veganuary – some 168,500 participants registered and 62% of those interviewed after intended to stay vegan. 67% of those reported improvements to their health and 99% would recommend Veganuary to others. Now, that’s impressive! 2018 also celebrated the Great British Bake Off’s first ever Vegan Week challenge to show the nation how delicious, available and inspiring vegan baking can be – despite the toppling layer cakes.
Now, I hope I haven’t sounded too preachy, I just wanted to share something with you.
To me, being vegan means to cause the least amount of harm to others, to animals and to our planet. It means to nourish my body fully with wholesome, plant-based and healthful foods. It means to celebrate nature and the joys of life around us. It means to be Nourishing Amy. It also means to be ME, Amy.
You can find more information from The Vegan Society here.
You can find out more about Veganuary here.