Clea is Veganuary’s Marketing Manager. A vegetarian since the age of 12, she became vegan after participating in Veganuary 2014. Describing herself as “an unconscious vegetarian, but a very conscious vegan”, Clea is passionate about sharing information and ideas, and inspiring others to take part in Veganuary.
I was 12 years old when I decided to become a vegetarian.
I have a memory of being on a walk, not long after, and there were sheep in a field on the other side of a stone wall. I remember looking out at them and feeling so content in my heart, content that I would never have to hurt them again.
That may sound silly to some, but that feeling has always stayed with me. I guess, being a New Zealander, sheep epitomise the eating of meat for me; roast lamb being a religion you’re indoctrinated into from birth.
In my teenage years, being veggie was very much a part of who I was. I was the girl with the hippy skirts. But it was all very normal, really, and easy; living in London meant there was always lots of choice and I never worried about what I ate.
I moved back to New Zealand, which was a whole different story. Often there was no vegetarian option, very little in terms of convenience food, and cheese that had been made without animal rennet was a rarity. Being veggie was weird. Going round to someone’s house seemed to cause mass hysteria. “What, you won’t even eat chicken!”
Fast-forward nine years. I’m back in the UK, and overjoyed at the choice of food. I can eat so much! My husband and I begin to settle into life and, after that initial ‘trying to get to know people’ stage, start making some real friends. A couple of these happen to be vegan. I’m intrigued. They share my values. They rescue animals. They’re informed. They’re fun! They like giggling over a few glasses of wine as much as I do.
But they make me feel like a fraud. That might make it sound like they preached, or judged, or condemned. Not at all, far from it in fact – not even slightly, not once. And you know what? That made me feel even worse.
But I love cheese. And vegan’s just too extreme, isn’t it. Isn’t it?
I meet up with another friend, one who I’ve not seen in years. Guess what? She’s vegan too. And what’s more, she became vegan in the one place I found it so hard being vegetarian: New Zealand. I start to feel worse than a fraud. I feel spineless.
Facebook. A video appears: Veganuary. “Everyone’s going vegan for January!” it exclaims. I don’t think. Click. ‘I’m game! Anyone else?’
January 2014 is a month I will remember for the rest of my life. I read. I read books, I read online. I watch video after video. Specifically, I watch videos about the dairy and egg industries. I cry. I didn’t know it was like this. I’m angry. Why the hell didn’t I know it was like this? I’m shocked. How can it be like this? I feel stupid. I’ve been a part of this. I’m upset. All those animals. The ones I became vegetarian for. All this time. Still. Now. And then. I’m relieved. I’m so relieved. I’m not a part of it anymore!
Oh thank god. I’m not a part of it anymore.
I feel brilliant. I can’t describe it. It’s as though I’ve been let in on this big secret, a secret that’s right there, that you can reach out and touch…but hardly anyone seems to know about it. I’ve got to do something.
Back to Facebook.
Dear Jane and Matthew, I took part in Veganuary. I’m in marketing. I want to help.
Present day. I’m Veganuary’s Marketing Manager and can say, hand on heart, that taking part and going vegan has completely changed my life. My only regret about being vegan? That I didn’t find my way here sooner. But then I wouldn’t be a part of Veganuary so I guess everything happens at the time it’s meant to. I’ve always been a smiley person but I feel like that’s also changed.
Now when I smile, I smile from the inside out.