The vast majority of vegans were not born vegan and most of us enjoyed the taste of meat, milk and / or eggs at some point. And it’s natural to consider what you think you’ll miss, as well as what you will gain, when contemplating leaving these products behind.
But there is a whole array of products that can simply be substituted for the animal-based ones. These include plant-based milks, yoghurts, cream, ice cream and cheeses, as well as a huge range of vegan ‘meat’ products from deli slices to ‘beef’ pies to haggis. There is a vegan version of pretty much everything.
Some people – but not all – find that it is easier to switch one product at a time, so it doesn’t feel like an overwhelming overhaul of your diet. They may try various brands of meat-free sausages or burgers to start with, and then stick to the ones they like. They may find that the faux fish fingers taste just like real fish, and so start to include those instead, before looking at, perhaps, yoghurts or milks. Whether you’re a toe-dipper or a cannon-baller into the world of veganism, you can get the taste you love without the animal suffering, cholesterol and poor environmental record.
There will be a period of adjustment while you learn which foods are vegan and where to find the vegan brands but that is why Veganuary exists – to help you find the foods you love that cause the least harm to animals.
Interestingly, vegans who accidentally eat something that contains meat or dairy often say they knew it straight away, as it tasted so awful or rancid. It seems that our taste buds adapt very well to the change, along with the rest of our bodies.
And a sobering thought to finish: when you weigh up the suffering an animal has endured – being forcibly impregnated, losing her young, being beaten into the market ring, locked in a cage, trucked to the slaughterhouse; and when you weigh up the harm that meat can do to our bodies, and the diseases it either causes or contributes to; and you add that to the hungry people in the world who cannot afford grain because it is being bought up by the wealthy nations to feed to their livestock; and you tally the harm caused to humanity by antibiotic resistance, land degradation, water shortages, pollution, and climate-changing gases, then perhaps the change from a ham sandwich to a faux ham sandwich isn’t so great. Especially when they taste exactly the same.