March marks my first veganniversary. Yes, I’ve done it, 26 years an omnivore, 1 year a vegan. I know I’ve got a long way to go to balance out that ratio but I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the choices that led to my first year of a plant-based, cruelty-free lifestyle. And yes, we want to offer you all some more reasons to try out our new years resolution number three, eat less meat and dairy. Don’t think we’d forgotten : )
Whilst rescuing these lovely lasses was indeed the catalyst for my change in lifestyle, it was by no means the full story. Sure being vegan would mean I’d have a clean conscience when it came to animal suffering but what about the environmental consequences of eating more foods such as soya and could I really justify kicking up such a fuss about animal cruelty but turn a blind eye to issues such as labour exploitation?
I think in the end there were three factors in my decision making; compassion, the environment and lifestyle. Lately, health has also come into play as a factor. I hope by that sharing a bit more about these four things you can get a better understanding of exactly why I feel veganism is right for me and maybe it’ll answer some of the doubts you have about eating less meat and dairy or choosing a plant-based, cruelty free lifestyle.
What!? You mean this cake isn’t enough to make you want to be vegan? Yes its vegan! Ok fine, I’ll explain…
When I look at that picture of our rescue hens, I don’t see some chickens, I see Rosie, Gwen, Ivy and Ruby, four different personalities, four completely different chickens. I guess in much the same way you might think about seeing your dog or cat amongst other dogs and cats. We view them as individuals, as beings in their own right.
So when I had the realisation that I could get to know an animal I used to eat and when I discovered the health problems they suffer because they have been selectively bred to produce eggs at a rate that their bodies can’t cope with, how could I go on supporting a system of farming and exploiting animals. I couldn’t.
We’re all aware of the awful conditions some animals are kept in and there’s no denying that low or higher welfare animals all have the same fate, being raised and killed for our consumption. But there are also millions of ‘waste’ animals killed each year whose lives aren’t valued because they have no commercial value, such as calves and male chicks. Even higher welfare dairy cows have their calves taken from them and if lucky, the calves are raised for veal. The mothers then call out and cry for the loss of their baby, before being made pregnant again in only 60 days. I wouldn’t say being made pregnant time after time only to have each calve taken from you shortly after its birth is high welfare. Would you?
In this day and age, I have access to an enormous array of food and products which means I can easily get the nutrients I need and the products I need without the need to farm or kill any animals. So why wouldn’t I choose a compassionate, cruelty free life?
Protein. Yes where do vegans get it from, the question everyone likes to ask me. Well, things like nuts, seeds, grains, lentils, pulses, including the array of soya products such as tofu and tempeh. I’d heard some bad things about soya that had made me think twice about going vegan knowing that I would probably rely on things like soya milk in my diet, so I set about doing some research.
I found that I needn’t really worry about the environmental impacts of soya production as a vegan because 80% of the worlds soya production is used for animal feed! But that’s not to say I’m ignoring the issues of deforestation surrounding soya production. Soya based foods only make up a small amount of my diet and as with all my foods I always buy organic when possible so that I know that I am not willingly contributing to unmanaged deforestation and environmental damage from pesticides.
With or without soya in your diet its hard to argue with the fact that plant-based diets require about one third of the land space and water usage than an average western diet that includes meat, eggs and dairy. For me it was clear that the environmental benefits of a plant-based diet made veganism a great choice.
I felt I would be a bit of a hypocrite to use my consumer purchasing power to show my rejection of intensive animal farming and not do the same in other aspects of my life. So I decided that if I was going to go vegan I was also going to do the best I possibly could when buying anything, to make sure it is as ethical a choice as it can be. Now I try to consider the welfare of animals and people, the environment, and a fair economy and society when making purchases.
I switched from shopping at supermarkets, to shopping at local shops and buying locally grown veg from a community-led social enterprise. I stopped buying clothes in high street shops that couldn’t guarantee the conditions of their workers. I switched to a green electricity supplier. I changed my bank. I upped my recycling game and chose products with less or no packaging. And I set up this blog to share these choices and hope that others might be inspired to do the same.
I have always considered myself to have a fairly healthy diet but when I lost a few pounds after going vegan I started to realise just how much saturated fat I have cut out by choosing a healthy, plant-based diet. But of course being healthy isn’t about losing weight really, it’s about nutrition and fitness. It was when Veronica was diagnosed with Candida overgrowth and when my Mum read a book about treating and reversing her osteoporosis that the saying, you are what you eat really dawned on me. I’ve been inspired by other peoples stories on blogs such as Deliciously Ella, The Alkaline Sisters and A House in the Hills, and by films such as Hungry for Change and Food Matters.
Being vegan for only a year I have realised the health benefits of a plant-based diet. I am now pushing it one step further by eliminating as many processed, refined foods as possible and am looking forward to reaping even greater, long-term health benefits.
Looking back over this past year I feel I have made some incredible changes to my life that are benefitting my health, animals, people and the planet. Any regrets about going vegan? Only that I didn’t do it sooner!