Years before going vegan I had this stereotype of vegans as angry, hemp-wearing, natty dreadlocked moralistic beings.
Partly because my experience of them to date had been exactly that.
As a vegetarian I convinced myself for 20 years that meat was murder but dairy was doable.
Every so often I would stop eating eggs – especially after reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals.
However I had a flit or two with fish in my mid twenties, until at a fish market in Vietnam I saw the pain in their eyes as they flapped around half alive, half dead.
So like many I had years of denial about the animal industries.
Becoming vegan wasn’t something I ever set out to do
After an indulgent holiday I gave up cheese for a month – the one thing I always said I would struggle with if I was vegan: the excuse of many.
I realised it wasn’t hard at all so decided to follow a plant-based diet the next month, consciously not labelling myself vegan as I knew there could be backlash if I wasn’t a ‘full vegan’.
Reading and research into animal agriculture and veganism was enough for me to make the complete switch
It started with looking for more vegan recipes.
Websites like The Vegan Society gave well-balanced, easy to understand information and facts around animal agriculture and the effects on the planet, animals and humans.
I started to truly understand the realities behind all meat and dairy production – the harm and cruelty towards animals from the emotional pain mothers and calves feel when separated right after birth to the inhumane conditions that chickens are kept in and processed through for chicken and egg production.
Documentaries like Cowspiracy and Earthlings are often cited in people’s reasons to go vegan.
It took me a long time to decide to watch Earthlings, which features explicit insights into animal agriculture.
I knew I didn’t need convincing and that it would upset me but eventually I watched it, almost as a reminder of what goes on as sometimes the arguments people have with you – often on a daily basis – can grind you down.
When I did watch it I just wept on my sofa, often having to pause it so that my heart could stop racing.
That might sound dramatic but seeing real life torture and murder is not something I think anyone can take lightly.
But it’s not all tears and debates.
Vegan food is absolutely delicious
The regular questions of ‘what do you eat?’ and ‘where do you get your protein?’ are eye-roll worthy.
See everything you eat? I eat it too. I just don’t get any of it from dead or tortured animals.
You’re having spaghetti bolognese for dinner? Me too.
You love to gorge on cheese on Christmas day? Snap.
What about a big filthy burger as a treat at the weekend? I’m there!
We live in a day and age where there are plant-based alternatives for EVERYTHING including vegan meats.
But even without these you can make absolutely banging dishes from pulses, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds and grains.
I have had so many instances when I’ve made food for friends or served it at events or taken people to vegan places and they are astonished by the flavours and all the options.
Eating out as a vegan is an absolute joy. London has more vegan dishes than I think I will ever get to eat, and boy am I trying.
I feel healthier and stronger
I didn’t eat much dairy as a vegetarian but even that minimal shift made me more energised and less bloated.
The difference was probably from eating out – no longer relying on a cheese-laden uninspiring veggie options but getting something full of pulses and vegetables instead.
Sure, I sometimes still put myself in a vegan mac and cheese or Chickn burger food coma but it has nowhere near the effects of actual meat or dairy.
I became vegan whilst doing a lot of intensive weight training and people would be going on about protein and meat and shakes and then be surprised when I could train harder than them.
All just powered by some measly plants.
The vegan community is amazing
Sure, there are militant angry vegans – I’ve had another blogger write a nasty post about me for not mentioning animals in an article on vegan food trends – but these are the minority.
The majority of vegans I’ve met online and IRL are welcoming, inclusive and downright lovely people with compassion at their core. And a love of cat memes.
Goes with the territory of loving animals really.
For anyone that wants to dabble I recommend getting online – looking for recipes, places to eat, information – and you’ll find lots of warm welcomes.
Especially if you don’t know anyone vegan IRL or live in a place with an active community.
You don’t need to do everything or become totally vegan
I know some vegans will disagree with this but anything that can be done to reduce harm towards animals and the planet and to improve health can only be a good thing.
Of course idealistically I want everyone to give up meat, dairy, leather, goods tested on animals and the rest.
Unfortunately Simon Amstell’s utopian 2067 is some way off so we have to support everyone to take whatever steps they can to make the world a better place.
And if that is through and towards veganism then fantastic.