Michael Jackson said “If you wanna make the world a better place take a look at yourself and then make that change!” Martin Luther King, Jr. said “Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.” Albert Einstein said “Our task must be to free ourselves… by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and it’s beauty.” All of these quotes embody so much of what I’m feeling today, on my SECOND anniversary of going vegan.
Now, I know it’s basically impossible to quote philosophers, musicians and great thinkers, without sounding like David Brent, so I’ve decided I’m going to go FULL-BRENT and include a quote from my beloved Dolly Parton in this piece. Dolly once said “If you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving another one” and ain’t that the truth.
Veganism is my way of paving a new road for my life’s journey. After years of blissful ignorance about how food is produced – about how animals are turned into products – the realisation that factory farming was so brutal, so wantonly cruel, and so widespread – TO PUT IT LIGHTLY – was a helluva bummer. I’d always told myself I was an animal lover but I couldn’t place my hand upon my heart and say that the practices common in industrialised agriculture equate to how I’d treat any creature. It’s certainly not how I’d treat my one-eyed rescue bozos; Betty and Chester. Veganism, this alternative road, is a way to live without exploiting other creatures, without asking for other animals to suffer for my – often fleeting – pleasure. And it feels so damn good.
There was a twitter “beef” recently between Ruby Tandoh and Lucy Watson about veganism and I think it is worth repeating: The Vegan Society defines veganism as “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.” Key words for me are “possible” & “practicable”. If anyone has any health, financial or other issues which would make veganism a struggle then of course they have to do what’s right for them. And even if everyone reading this blog could go LEVEL 5 VEGAN you have to do it at your own pace. Whether or not we can all go vegan right now, many of us can take the time to consider how we want to live and the world we wish to inhabit. Can we reduce our single-use plastic consumption? Can we reduce, re-use and recycle? If we all do what we can, when we can, it would be truly magical.
Since deciding to give up animal products, or as I prefer to look at it, since deciding to adopt a more compassionate lifestyle, I have surfed wave upon waves of emotion. Frustration at politicians who offer so few solutions to climate change: the defining issue of our time, anger at people who derive pleasure from hunting and hurting animals, sadness at the predictable “lol bacon” replies to any article or tweet mentioning veganism, joy at companies ditching fur, hope at the increasing normalisation of veganism in society.
Thinking back to when I decided to first take the plunge I was worried about a few things: missing tasty food, being one of “them vegans” and making mistakes, and I am delighted that my fears have been allayed.
Does Vegan Food Suck?: MATE. Oh mate. Vegan food is incredible. What was I worrying about? Yes I sometimes miss a Cadbury’s Boost bar. Yes vegan cheese hasn’t yet managed to fully replicate dairy cheese. But vegan food in 2018 is off the hook. Hot sugary donuts (thank you Crosstown Doughnuts!), crispy succulent fried chik’n (thank you Temple of Seitan!), creamy pie and mash (thank you Young Vegans!), incredible zingy tacos (thank you Club Mexicana!), oodles of noodles (thank you CookDaily!), epic pizza (thank you PickyWops!) and on and on… I eat seriously well and healthier than ever. Back in the pre-veeg days I would sometimes eat one, maybe two portions of fruit and veg a day, now I’m a happy herbivore!
Being a Preachy Vegan: OK I get it. Vegans are sanctimonious and boring. Well, yes I am. BUT I was sanctimonious and boring before I went vegan. BOOM. ROASTED! As with any form of activism – the trick is to stay true to your beliefs whilst persuading people, who might not want to listen, to take notice of your cause. For me this means being polite, being funny, being understanding. It means talking about your cause so you help, not hinder it. And, I would say that there’s nothing wrong with raising your voice a little either. Martin Luther King Jr said “life’s most persistent and urgent question is “what are you doing for others”. Doing what you know is right, doing it in an honest way, and doing it with love in your heart… well, you can’t go far wrong.
But What If I Make Mistakes? Real-talk. It happens even when you think you’ve got really good at reading labels and you shouldn’t ever beat yourself up over it. We live in an omnivorous world. With the best of intentions I’ve bought food only to later find out it has milk in it. I’ve picked cheese out of salads when I’ve been abroad and there was no vegan-option. I’ve had a bite of a non-vegan biscuit in America because I was desperate to try it. We are imperfect, we live in an imperfect world and it’s about doing your best. Let’s make this movement as attractive, compassionate and inclusive as we can.
In my two years I’ve seen veganism in the UK, where I live, go from strength to strength. I am excited to see where we are when we get to March 2020, let alone March 2050! There’s never been a better time to embrace a more vegan-friendly lifestyle. Whether it’s the regular stories about meat and hygiene and health scares or UN warnings about animal products consumption and the environment. Whether you’re worried about antibiotic resistance and the dangerous use of antibiotics on farms or grappling with our increased understanding of animal sentience. Whether you’re concerned about the extraordinary amount of water it takes to make a hamburger or reports that the U.S. could feed 800 million people with grain that livestock eat. Whether it’s to do with environmental, human rights or philosophical concerns I think Friday Night Lights sums my up feelings towards veganism: clear eyes, full heart, CAN’T LOSE.
Thanks for reading AGAV and for all of your lovely comments – I appreciate them so much. If I can ever answer any of your questions or help in anyway let me know. x