Back in December 2014 I decided to take the Veganuary challenge.
I’d like to say I had honourable intentions when I took it on, but really I did it because I knew Clea, Veganuary’s marketing manager, and thought it would be nice to support her. Oh and it might be a sortov detox after the excesses of Christmas. Plus I could order a nice wrist band!
I wasn’t vegetarian before I started. I’d had an on-off relationship with meat for years and I liked a portion of fish and chips now and again. I’d never even considered being vegan.
So it was with some trepidation that I started on January 1st. I’ve had a long and happy relationship with cheese and a massive love affair with pizza for many years and I thought these would see me failing on day 2. But no! It was surprisingly easy. I stocked up on ingredients, picked up some good recipes (and a copy of the Thug Kitchen cookbook) and I never looked back.
With eating sorted, I started to think about what it meant to be vegan. I know that killing animals isn’t a very nice thing to do, and that modern farming methods are pretty cruel. But was that enough to make me change my behaviour for life? I wanted to find out more and when I did, it isn’t an overstatement to say that everything changed.
First I watched Earthlings. Anyone who has seen it will understand that I watched a lot of it with my hand hovering ready to cover my eyes and that I came away not liking humans very much.
Then I watched Cowspiracy. This film is an entirely different type of beast. It’s low on graphic images, but high on fact. Before watching this film I had absolutely no idea of the scale of animal agriculture and the devastating effect it has on the environment.
And that’s it really. I’m vegan now, for good. Not 100%. I’m still wearing my leather shoes (that seems to be the favoured question from parents!) and I don’t always ask about ingredients in restaurants. But as far as is practical for me, I’m vegan, and that makes me very happy.
I have found that people’s reactions vary a lot. Some people are genuinely interested, but a few seem to feel threatened, as though my choices are somehow a finger wag at theirs. But that’s not how I see it. I don’t preach. I’m not perfect. I will still kill the slugs in my garden (sorry!). I also find, the more I think about it, that it’s fascinating how we can be led to believe a set of things about food when the real answers are staring us in the face. Like the *fact* that we need cow’s milk. Cow’s milk is breast milk for baby cows. Almond milk is bashed up nuts. Go figure.
But to finish, here are a few things I’ve learned.
1. Being vegan isn’t hard. There are LOADS of vegan foods out there and lots of vegan alternatives to replace things like cheese and milk. It’s a treat to be able to try a ton of different things.
2. Being vegan isn’t expensive. Sure, it can be, but with staples like lentils and chick peas, it certainly doesn’t have to be.
3. Began vegan is healthy, but it doesn’t have to be THAT healthy. Pie, chips, hob nobs, oreo cookies. I can still eat junk, it’s just better junk. Did I forget to mention Nakd bars? Stockpile them.
So do I miss meat? Not in the slightest. Fish? A little bit. Cheese? Surprisingly, no. Milk? I prefer the alternatives. And pizza, well I just make my own.