Around this time last year, I had just watched Cowspiracy, which helped change my life for the better. It got me thinking about how, as a vegetarian, I was capable of doing so much more to protect the earth and prevent the death and maltreatment of animals. I realised that simply avoiding meat wasn’t enough, and felt compelled to stop consuming animal products altogether.
I allowed myself a gradual start – I had some holidays coming up, and knew it might be difficult to live by a diet I hadn’t yet gotten to grips with fully – but, soon enough, the idea of eating dairy and eggs was just as disgusting to me as the notion of cutting into a bloody steak. It is certainly not always easy – convenience foods that I used to love, like croissants and muffins, are especially hard to pass on – but I can honestly say it is one of the most rewarding lifestyle adjustments I have made.
On this, my 1st veganniversary, I thought I would share some thoughts on what I have learned.
1 | People will be just as annoying as they were when you were vegetarian
After nearly 5 years of vegetarianism, I’d grown pretty used to people throwing up the usual jokes and ‘observations.’ It’s kind of cute how they think they’re being original, right? Bless. Turns out that, when you go vegan, you will have people expressing their thinly veiled judgements anew with questions like “how will you get your protein?” and “what if you were on a desert island?” Some of the more nuanced arguments consist simply of images of burgers and barbecues. Occasionally I will get into a genuinely interesting conversation about animal agriculture, but sadly these are so often approached by omnivores from a perspective that maintains their innocence and seeks to dismantle your resolve, so I prefer to avoid them.
2 | Veganism can feel like a religion
As a pretty devout Atheist, it is pretty disconcerting to experience a passion and belief in something that I can only imagine feels akin to religious faith. Sometimes, I am so impassioned by the ethics of veganism and the hope that it gives me, that the whole thing feels spiritual. Roll your eyes if you will, but the more you learn about the environmental and health benefits of a plant-based lifestyle, the more you will understand where I’m coming from. Knowing that you are no longer complicit in the suffering that the meat industry inflicts is an exhilarating feeling indeed.
3 | The community is (mostly) great
It always makes me sad when I hear that people (omnivores and transitioning/aspiring vegans alike) have had unfriendly encounters with vegans. I agree that there is a need for passion and a place for outrage and anger, but it is often not the best approach when we are trying to welcome other people into the lifestyle. Veganism is about compassion, and this should always extend to other humans around you. Fortunately, the online community is supportive and encouraging, to my experience at least. See for yourself by joining in with the cruelty-free bloggers chat on Twitter!
4 | I’m still evolving and probably always will be
I am not the perfect vegan. Sometimes I go blank whilst buying cosmetics, and totally space on whether or not they are sold in mainland China. I drink alcohol that has probably been filtered through fish bladders, and still use non-cruelty-free cosmetics and toiletries outside of the house, etc. Following a vegan lifestyle does not automatically elevate you to some sort of moral god status. I try my best, but can’t always be perfect. And that’s OK.
5 | This isn’t the end of my ethical journey
There are so many ways in which life has been made difficult for humans and animals worldwide. From the dangerous and unethical fashion industry, which sees women paid beyond poorly to produce the cheap clothes we wear, to the devastating effects of palm oil production on the orangutan’s natural habitat (for palm oil which goes into the vegan products we eat!), mass consumerism is a monolithic evil which we need to show awareness of. I want to do more to help the less fortunate humans and animals of the world, beginning next with the clothes I wear and the rate at which I consume.
It can often seem like there is no hope, but with vegan living on the rise, attitudes are shifting and scientific study is ever more often proving that things cannot continue the way they are going.
Are you vegan? If not, would you consider making the change? Let me know your thoughts below!