Howdy ponders, thank you so much for dropping by! As you may know from this post about why I went vegan, when I embraced a compassionate lifestyle at the start of this year I quickly found a sense of wellbeing that came from finally aligning my beliefs (that animals are awesome and I’d never want to be a part of anything bad happening to them) and my actions (not paying for people to breed and kill them). But I also struggled with a few things and spent a lot of time googling weird questions and asking vegan friends (huge shout-out to the bad-ass Jen from Win Friends With Salad who steered me elegantly through the first few months).
I want you to know that you can always message me here if you have any questions about veganism and I will do my darndest to help but thought I’d share my personal answers to some of the questions you might have. Of course there’s no right or wrong answer to almost anything in life, but I hope this is useful!
Can I keep my old leather stuff?
Yes! You might want to get rid of anything that in your life that isn’t vegan or cruelty-free and I totally understand why you would feel that way and think you should go for it. There will be a clothes bank or a charity shop near you that will be very grateful for your donation.
Equally, shoes bags and coats are expensive and you might not be able to afford to replace your clothes right now – so don’t worry! Replace them with vegan-versions when they wear out and don’t feel bad about using them in the meantime. Most of us weren’t born vegan. Don’t beat yourself up about this!
Maybe from now on you will buy vegan-shoes and handbags but you have a handbag that was a gift from a special person or reminds you of a wonderful trip and you don’t want to get rid of it; then don’t. And don’t worry! Veganism is a “philosophy and 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.” It is practical and reasonable to use the items you already own (and kind to the environment in terms of using what you have whilst it still functions) and to choose animal-product-free clothing in the future. You might want to let your close family know about your favourite vegan companies (I am a sucker for Matt & Nat handbags for example) so that if they’re buying you a gift they’ll know it’s one that makes you feel good.
Are you sure I can really live without cheese?
Yes! I know it might sound beyond comprehension but if I can I’m pretty sure you can too. Before I went vegan I remember other vegans telling me that they didn’t miss cheese and I thought it was total and complete BS. But guess what, it’s true, a fulfilling life without cheese is possible! I used to eat a LOT of cheese. I’d spend time thinking about which cheeses were in my top 5 of all cheeses ever and was – I’m somewhat ashamed to admit – even pretty excited when a cheese emoji was finally launched. But here’s the thing, 9 months later and I don’t miss it. For starters I feel so much better and lighter. I no longer get that bloated help-I-need-to-lie-down now feeling I used to after eating.
Then there’s the fact that vegan cheeses are more widely available and getting tastier. My husband Josh says they smell really bad – tough luck mate! – but they often melt like the real-deal and there are more varieties easily available than ever before. Zizzi – the nationwide chain do vegan-cheese for their pizzas and even small pizza joints like Voodoo Rays in London are embracing the vegan cheese right now. I’ve also had some pizzas, brace yourself, without cheese that tasted banging.
Finally, I now associate cheese with the grim reality of how you get it. In pretty much every nature documentary you ever watch what do you see? Mothers who will do anything to protect their children. I never realised that to create milk for humans to use, a mother cow would need to have a calf. And obviously, I never realised that those calves would either become dairy cows themselves or veal. Every block of cheese I ate was supporting someone impregnating a cow that was pregnant for nine months – like people! – before she had her baby taken from her. That’s the reality of dairy. So as much as I get that cheese tastes indecently good, to me now, it’s just pretty much indecent.
What can I feed cats and dogs?
Cats are obligate carnivores; this means you cannot just put them on a vegan diet. This would be dangerous so please do not do it.
Dogs can eat a vegan diet; so feel free to research this if it’s something you’re interested in!
How do I tell my family?
Depending on your circumstances – do you live at home? Are you still a kid? Are your family hostile to veganism? – this may be more or less daunting a prospect. If you do live at home or do eat meals with your family try to calmly let them know why you are embracing a vegan lifestyle and how you can work together to keep life simple and costs down. It might be best to do this when you’re not at the dinner table as I find this to be an especially heightened time to discuss food choices. Even if you have your own home I’m guessing for most people, sometimes you might visit your family and eat together – so let them know what you can and can’t eat – they might be confused and have questions. My mum asked if potatoes were vegan. Bless her. Try and make delicious vegan food for your family when you can to show them how easy and rewarding a vegan diet can be.
Try and stay calm, non-judgmental and positive. If you’re close to your family remember that you love them, they love you and you only want the best for one another – you’ll find a way to make it work.
How do I tell my friends?
You might not need to, at least not for a while. But if you’re going out with friends for food or they’re cooking for you, then it will probably need to come up. Calmly and clearly let your friends know what you can and can’t eat if they’re about to make food for you. Offer to take round a dish or two if that’s helpful and share nice vegan food with them if you can as some people think they dislike all vegan food (which is obviously highly unlikely to be true!)
How do I stop my friends or family taking the piss?
Damn. I’m sorry. That sucks. Just try and stay calm and rational. It can be hard as this meme I saw beautifully illustrates:
As Michelle Obama says “when they go low we go high” so try and be the best you can be and hope that they come around before too long.
What’s wrong with free-range eggs?
This has come up a lot for me. Firstly a quick google of “undercover free range eggs” will quickly reveal that the healthy, happy image many people have of free range egg-laying hens have may not live up to the reality. Moreover, the hatcheries that provide hens to most free-range egg farms kill their male chicks immediately upon hatching. These newly-hatched male chicks are generally ground up alive; in other cases they smother them in garbage bags or bins. When I learnt this I was utterly devastated. I had no idea that this happened. I would never EVER put a tiny little chick in a blender, but this is the equivalent of what happens to most male chicks in the egg industry. Gross.
Do I need to take supplements?
If you are eating a well-thought out diet you should have all the nutrients, protein, and calcium and so on that you need. It can be hard to get B12 through a vegan diet so I take a vegan vitamin supplement to ensure I don’t miss out on this. I try to eat “the rainbow” – i.e. a variety of fruit and veg as often as I can as well as nuts, tofu, lentils, beans, pulses, spinach, marmite, etc. Listen to your body and if you’re feeling odd or under the weather try and see a doctor.
What about beauty and house-hold products?
As with your pre-vegan clothes, I would use up the stuff you already have and then try, where possible, to look for cruelty-free alternatives. There are amazing vegan beauty bloggers out there who can help you find products you will love.
I feel dizzy?
Are you eating enough? If you’ve pretty much carried on eating what you used to eat – but without the meat, milk and eggs now you’ve turned vegan – then you might not be consuming enough calories. Make sure you’re still eating as much as you need to – if you’re exercising lots or have a long day then do up your food intake – and if you can carry around snacks (perhaps bananas or nuts – if you like/aren’t allergic to them) to eat when you’re on the go or caught short somewhere. As before, listen to your body and see a doctor if you don’t feel right.
But Veganism makes me feel sad.
Now that you’ve made the connection between the food you see everywhere and used to eat and the suffering of animals that maybe you weren’t fully aware of before, are you feeling really blue? *A massive bear hug for you* I know how you feel. I’ve written before about how the hardest bit, for me, about being vegan isn’t about sometimes only getting to eat chips and a salad because your local pub has lame vegan options, but the realisation that so many people aren’t vegan. Once you think of pigs the way most people think about dogs, comprehending the suffering of farm animals, the scale and depravity of it, can feel like a horrible burden. Stay strong and know you’re not alone.
Know that your positive actions do count. More and more people are trying veganism, more and more people are aware of animal welfare issues. Look out for vegans online – on twitter or Instagram or forums and talk to them if you don’t have any vegan chums in real life. Don’t worry if you feel angry, or guilty or sad – there’s a lot to feel angry and sad about. When you feel up to it, maybe see if you can harness these feelings and do something positive. Write to your MP about an animal welfare campaign and ask that they apply pressure on the Government. Tweet a story about a farm animal being rad so that more people make the connection. Visit a city farm and hang out with the gang. Cuddle your pet if you have one. Eat something vegan that makes you feel good and remember that you’re doing your bit to make the world a better place.
I messed up and ate something with an animal product in it and I feel terrible!
Whether you just hurriedly ate a pack of crisps and only read the packet afterwards and saw they contain milk or succumbed to a desperate hankering and ate something you knew wasn’t vegan, please don’t worry. As a vegan you should obviously try, as much as possible, not to eat animal products but we live in an omnivorous-world. If you accidentally eat something non-vegan don’t fret – it can happen sometimes – instead just reaffirm that you’ll approach your next meal or the next day trying, where possible and practical, not to eat animal products. My philosophy is to try my hardest but know that I’m not perfect and that it’s better to be 99% good than worry I won’t be 100% perfect and so not even try.
Plus, the vegan-five pound controversy reminded me that so many things have animal products in them: bone china plates are (durrr, why didn’t I realise this before, made with bones!), plastic bags are sometimes made with animal fat, as are some car and bike tires. Vehicles sometimes use leather seats. Liquid crystals found in screens on TVs, computers and cell phones may be based on cholesterol taken from animals. It is really hard to avoid the exploitation of animals in modern life, so remember you can only do your best.
How do I cope with the fact that my husband/wife/partner/parents/children aren’t vegan?
*Another massive bear-hug for you*. This can be tough. My husband (who’s not vegan) and I have had moments when it’s been trickier than before when we both ate the same things. We don’t have as many meals together now and it can be sad to have fewer shared experiences. If your family don’t really like to eat vegan food and aren’t open to the idea of, say, trying Veganuary then you’ll have to find a way to accept – for a while at least – that that’s the way it is, and you’ll have to learn to live in harmony. When making a meal together try and identify bits of the meal you can both eat. If there are vegan meals everyone likes then enjoy making and scoffing them together. It can be done! Be respectful of one another. Try and find places when you eat out that you know caters to both of your needs equally. If you’re talking about food or veganism and it feels like an argument is a’brewing then try and stay calm, where appropriate.
Remember that if you’re the one who’s changed it might be a bit bewildering for your partner but people grow and develop and in any enduring relationship learning how to communicate and tolerate one another is a great skill.
And finally… do vegans fart more?
It amazes me how much I see this assertion on Below The Line comments from people who are not keen on vegans. I can safely say, and I’m sure Josh would vouch for me on this one, that I do not, nope. My trumps (shout out to the silent but deadly crew!) are as infrequent but as gnarly as they were before I became vegan. Ha!
Are there any questions YOU’VE received a lot if you’re vegan? How did you answer them? Was there a question above you were hoping I’d tackle and I didn’t? Let me know in the comments if so!