I became vegan in July 2015 when my friend told me how you get dairy. It really disturbed me and I was quite shocked I never knew before. I began identifying with cows as a woman, a feminist and a person who loves and respects their mother. This became a domino effect that meant I had to go vegan. I came to the conclusion treating animals as commodities in any way is not okay.
Being vegan, for me, is not about humans being equal to all other animals necessarily. It is quite simply about what a sentient being deserves, and what it doesn’t.
Once I found out the truth, I decided if it was up to me a cow would not be forcefully subjected to artificial insemination while being strapped up to a ‘rape rack’. She would not have her days-old calf torn from her, and bleat for days looking for her baby and mourning. She would not have to go through this every year of her life. She would not then be made into burgers. Her terrified, lonely babies would not be sold for veal or brought up to suffer the same fate.
I concluded we are not supposed to drink the milk of another species, and I found out about the delicious plant-based milk, cheese, yoghurt and ice cream which make great replacements.
I found food shopping as a vegan is easy. Ocado and Whole Foods are excellent places to go for more specialist vegan products. I love buying vegan chocolate from Hotel Chocolat and soya or almond milk from my local supermarket. Soya and coconut yoghurt is lovely and you can get tons of different vegan cheeses from Holland & Barrett. Vegan ‘dairy’ tends to be a little more expensive but it’s a tiny price to pay for not funding an industry of torture.
Moving on to meat, there’s tons of great flesh substitutes including seitan, tempeh, Fry’s products and Quorn. Other plant-based protein sources include beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas, tofu, nut and seed butters, oats and vegan protein powders such as sunflower, pea, hemp and brown rice. I love baking cubed tofu in tamari, ginger and garlic with sunflower seeds. I have this with quinoa or sweet potato and broccoli, kale or spinach.
Around half of my articles for Metro.co.uk and MailOnline are on veganism. It is so important for me to promote the movement through my work, conversations and social media because the animals don’t have a voice.
For me, the most challenging aspect of the vegan lifestyle is seeing people around me doubting its brilliance or saying I can’t be getting enough protein and how impossible it must be.
The first thing I did when I went vegan is look all of this up. I researched vegan deficiency issues and myths and read a book on vegan nutrition, which reassured me I could stay healthy for life. I also discovered tons of elite vegan athletes and natural bodybuilders, which reassured me I could stay fit and progress my physique.
It is all so absolutely possible and it breaks my heart when people dismiss it. Kind, good people. Just open a book, do a Google search, ask me a question.
I’m competing in Miss Galaxy Universe, a bikini bodybuilding competition, in six weeks’ time. I have managed to carve out a slender, toned figure eating vegan with no issues.
A year on I can say veganism has consumed me; or perhaps more accurately, it has freed me. I feel healthier than ever before, as well as purposeful and good. I feel like my conscience is alive and that I am living my truth. I feel happier, kinder, more aware, educated, enlightened and connected to all living beings and the Earth. I am not surviving; I’m thriving.
It is an absolute joy and I only hope and wish others can read my story and be inspired to try it.
A thought to end on:
Just because humans are the most powerful creatures on earth doesn’t make us the smartest, and the fact we deem dolphins and dogs and crows the ‘most intelligent’ simply because they’re the ones that jump our hoops or shake our hands or solve our puzzles doesn’t make them ‘worth’ more than the other members of the animal kingdom. All creatures, whether we understand them or not, deserve compassion and the right to life and free will.
Deni Kirkova, 25. Journalist, qualified personal trainer and ethical vegan.