Yep we’ve done it. We have survived what is arguably the most difficult month of the year and I guess I am feeling a little bit extra proud today because it also marks 31 days since I went vegan and started taking part in Veganuary 2018. I know it’s a topic which makes vegetarians and meat-eaters alike roll their eyes and squirm at the thought but love it or hate it, veganism is a movement which is very much on the rise and one that really needs to be discussed. In fact, the number of individuals following a vegan lifestyle has risen by 360% in the UK in the last ten years so it’s clear that more and more people are seeing why it’s such a worthwhile way of life. But this post is not here to convert you, or annoy you, or make you feel bad for your own actions – it’s simply for me to share with you my observations, experiences and motivations for making this change.
I guess why I chose to go vegan is a good place to start considering that this time two years ago I was a meat-eater who thought vegetarianism was achievable but that the idea of veganism was just plain extreme and impossible. After becoming vegetarian and researching into the topic more I guess something just started to feel less extreme and more right and now my reasons for going vegan can be placed into three categories:
- For Sustainability
This is an argument which came to me a lot later on in my research but is now one of the main things which keeps me going. It all started with a documentary style film called Cowspiracy which opened my eyes to the fact that eating a carnivorous diet is actually killing our planet and that, if we don’t stop soon, we will have no natural world left. One of the most shocking facts for me was that the farming of animals and the meat industry is currently the leading cause of global warming which I couldn’t believe since everything else I had ever read on the subject pointed to emissions from cars and industrial sites. I couldn’t believe that the consumption of animal products was making such a massive difference to our world but it is and there is no denying that these facts are real and scary and so I knew it was time to act. If it is something that interests you too then I urge you to get on Netflix and watch Cowspiracy because it will completely open your eyes.
- For The Animals
My second reason also came from watching a video documentary on the subject but this one came much earlier on and caused a much larger emotional impact for me, who had always just ignorantly assumed that the talk of the dairy and egg industry being just as harmful to the animals involved as the meat industry was untrue. I believed the whole ‘free-range’ and ethical farming lies from the industries and honestly thought that my eggs were coming from a happy chicken roaming about the countryside somewhere, happy to give it’s eggs for human consumption. It was only when I saw an image of male chicks being ground alive within the documentary that I realised how gullible I had been. And, after hearing the statement that ‘all dairy cows end up in the meat industry eventually’ I knew I would never think of milk and cheese the same way either. Thinking of my dog at home and then thinking of the animals I have let be mistreated for so long doesn’t seem so different any more and I no longer want to fund the evil industries that separate them and think this type of mistreatment is ok.
- For my Health
The final reason is one that I am least convinced by (yet still know is completely relevant) because, after completing my month of Veganuary and changing my diet and skincare range to eliminate all animal products, I haven’t felt more energetic, my skin has certainly not become glowing and clear and I feel more uncomfortable with myself than I have in a long time but I think the problem is not with veganism itself and perhaps just with the expectations that a lot of vegan propaganda place on the lifestyle. I certainly don’t feel worse and, to be honest, I was very committed to leading a healthy lifestyle before I became vegan so I didn’t really need a fix in this department. The main health implications for me now are the cold, hard facts: lean chicken is certainly not the best source of protein and drinking cow’s milk is definitely not meant to be done by humans and I can now recognise that what I have grown up being taught is wrong and that it is time to look at things from a very different perspective. Plants are what we are meant to eat and I can be a much happier and healthier individual knowing that I am living cruelty-free and eating the way that nature intended!
My Veganuary Experience
So now that I have explained a bit more about why I chose to take part in Veganuary I think it’s time to start talking about how I got on. To tell you the truth, it didn’t take long for the doubts to set in which came as a shock to me because I thought the difficulty would come from not finding things to eat and missing foods and not just as a waning in my enthusiasm for the movement. And yet there I was, on day two, honestly thinking I would just ‘let other people do it.’ I questioned why I had to make life harder for myself and why I couldn’t just be like everyone else and bury my head in the sand. But I put the doubts down to that one moment and carried on to the next day and I am now so glad that I did because I never had doubts like that again.
And it wasn’t hard to see that Veganuary 2018 was it’s most successful year yet because I got great encouragement from the number of supermarkets, restaurants and cafe’s bringing out all new vegan ranges and making veganism seem like less of a daunting prospect. I actually found it really enjoyable to go out to eat at Zizzi’s, Pizza Express and Wagamama’s during the month because they are all front runners with their vegan options and even Tesco has really upped it’s game and brought out their new fully vegan ‘Wicked Healthy’ range. This really helped to dispel these doubts I had had that I was making life harder for myself because finding foods I could actually eat has not been a struggle at all. In fact, I feel as though I can’t walk past a vegan product without buying it now ‘just because it’s vegan’ so for my bank balance’s sake I kind of wish it was that little bit harder.
And I must say at least once how amazing vegan food actually is. I had eaten vegan a lot for a long time but it was often easy to forget in the past that the majority of my favourite foods already fitted into this lifestyle. I love falafels, hot chocolate, flapjacks, peanut butter, burritos, smoothie bowls, dates (I actually have a slight obsession with dates but that’s an entirely different post) and many, many more and so I really haven’t had to miss anything I wanted. I don’t think anyone has ever been happier to find reduced vegan mince pies in Sainsburys or felt so much joy when my Mum went to the effort of making me vegan curry and homemade dessert. Veganism doesn’t have to be restrictive at all and this, which was another worry of mine, never had to surface once.
However, I’d be lying if I said it was entirely smooth sailing after my first initial difficulty and my next struggle came soon after from my work at a café. I had always loved getting free cakes at the end of a long shift and, especially with the high levels of waste during the quiet period of January, it was (and still is) often a struggle to see my colleagues leaving with fancy cupcakes and pastries galore while I stand there lucky to pick up a tiny piece of date slice! But once again I stayed strong and went home to my vegan mince pies and flapjacks instead.
And then comes the new struggles with finding these ethical options because, although they are always there and you can pretty much get an alternative for everything, slipping up and buying something with honey or milk powder lurking within it is incredibly easily done. It’s not even just about watching out for milk and eggs, it’s about avoiding lanolin and whey, collagen and E901. At some points I felt like I was trying (and failing) to learn a new language! I bought falafels which contained honey and ate them by accident, I discovered that Kelloggs cereals contain Vitamin D3 which also isn’t vegan and I felt like a failure again. I even bought tea leaves that contained milk powder and felt as though I would never get it right. And don’t even get me started at the time I was talked into buying beauty products containing animal products again because the person in the shop reckoned that it would be all right.
But the truth is that I didn’t fail at all and certainly don’t feel like a failure now because, as defined on the Vegan Society website,
Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.
And that is exactly what I am doing. I am trying my best to live an ethical, vegan lifestyle and as long as I continue to do that then I am doing all I can. It’s not about perfection, it’s about making the effort.
And so with that we come to the big Veganuary question…after 31 days free of all animal products, will I be staying vegan?
And the answer is a resounding yes. Nothing has made me feel more fulfilled this month than the knowledge that I am helping to make the world a less cruel place, and that I can enjoy as many pieces of date slice as I want while doing it (Which, lets face it, will be a lot). Happy Veganuary folks!