Let’s Talk About Veganism
The first month of 2021 has almost come and gone, and for some of us, it’s been a case of just getting through each day. Some of us have set big goals from the start and most of us are feeling pretty sluggish and overwhelmed. We all have our own ideas of what will make us feel better in these times, our own versions of self-care to build up some resilience. For me, self-care is making sure I take time to love myself and do things that I love, that speak to my soul, taking care of mind and body as best as I can and in the way I feel is right for me. January has always been synonymous with change for many and one change that is now becoming more popular is “Veganuary” – trying to change your lifestyle and see what veganism can offer you for the month of January.
For a while now, being “vegan” seems to have been viewed as a fad that the younger generation are making a “trendy” thing. There are good and bad points about this; the main bad point is that it’s not always taken very seriously and gives us vegans, as a cluster, a very bad reputation. The good thing is that more and more companies are taking note of the increasing numbers of people turning to veganism and are producing better alternatives, which means no one needs to miss out and it is easier now, more than it ever has been, to transition to a vegan diet or full veganism.
Before we proceed any further, I want to make a few points very clear, which I will expand on in the rest of this blog post:
- I am not writing this to act in a superior way to anyone who is a non-vegan. I myself have only been vegan for a little over three months after being a vegetarian for three and a half years. My intention here is to guide you, the person taking the time to read this.
- There is no such thing as a perfect vegan. We all have to start somewhere and we all need to support and encourage each other, no matter what stage of veganism we are in.
- You will never find two vegans who have the exact same opinions of veganism. Although the basis of veganism remains the same, there a lot of interpretations of it based on personal ideals.
Before we start with the nitty-gritty of it all I will tell you about my “Why?”; the reason that I am now committed to living a vegan lifestyle.
I have always called myself a lover of animals; since I was a little girl my affinity to animals was stronger than most of the bonds I’ve ever created with humans. The dogs I’ve had in my life so far have been my best friends: they’ve got me through such dark times in life, especially when I was diagnosed with chronic illnesses. I had a rabbit when I was around 12 years old until around 17 years old and he was the first furry family member I experienced the loss of. Since the age of about 16 I’ve never been able to stomach red meat; it made me terribly ill and it is only in recent years that I have found out that I have an intolerance to certain levels of iron. I used to watch programmes like “Animals of Farthing Wood” when I was a young girl and it made me realise that they have thoughts and feelings and, more importantly, they have families. I am also so very upset when I see any deer, badgers, hedgehogs etc. on the roads as I just think to myself, “They were just trying to get home or provide for their family.” In late 2017 I talked to my husband and I told him that I had decided that I was going to be vegetarian, animals being a big part of that decision. How could I sign campaigns to stop people from hurting dogs, eating dogs etc. but not link it with the lifestyle I was living?
I then thought, if I didn’t eat meat then I wasn’t going to be a part of a cruel industry, right? Wrong. I don’t drink tea or coffee so my milk intake wasn’t much but I used it for cereals when I had them, I ate low fat cheese and used to enjoy the odd yoghurt because as many people do, I thought it was a by-product, I didn’t associate it with any kind of cruelty. It wasn’t until I did more research for myself last year that I realised that ignorance was very much bliss and I couldn’t fully call myself a true animal lover until I had nothing at all in my life that was in any way hurtful to animals. The same week I read the articles online, I watched David Attenborough’s “A Life on Our Planet” documentary and even my husband, who has high functioning autism and doesn’t often show emotion in “typical” ways, was tearful at the end of it. If you haven’t seen it, I fully recommend watching it: it truly is a beautiful and poignant documentary that shows just how arrogant and ignorant our race has been to our beautiful Mother.
I woke the next day and I made a list of everything I was going to do to start making small but steady changes, within my control and within my limited circumstances, for the good of myself, my family, the animals and our planet, and I haven’t looked back. I feel I am now being completely true to myself.
There is a lot of information out there if you have tried to research veganism and it can take you on an overwhelming rollercoaster of emotion, so let’s start with some basics before we move into the facts.
What is veganism?
Veganism is not a diet as many people think, it is a lifestyle. Living a life where, by as many means possible, you are living in a way where you do not buy or consume anything that is in any way made of or related to animals or has anything to do with the cruelty bestowed upon them.
Why do people adopt the vegan lifestyle?
There are many personal reasons why so many choose a vegan lifestyle; however, most will definitely have an ethical tone to their reasoning. Animal welfare is the most obvious reason, as well as environmental issues such as air pollution and contaminated drainage from the farming industry. Veganism is currently the best way to lessen our over-consumption of resources such as land, fossil fuels and water. There are also a lot of health benefits of becoming vegan, which I will mention later in the post.
What is excluded in a vegan lifestyle?
All animal products are excluded from a vegan diet. These include meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, eggs, honey, and their by-products.
A vegan lifestyle also means avoiding any of these products:
- Products tested on animals
- Animal-derived fabrics such as silk or wool
- Leather, suede, down or fur
- Personal care products containing animal ingredients (beeswax, keratin, lanolin etc.)
- Animals being used as entertainment
It is important to stress that although there are more and more products being released by companies that are trying to be more conscious of veganism, it is still currently impossible to avoid all animal products. You have to then adopt a “as far as possible and practical” basis for it.
Here is the biggest question I ever get asked: You’re vegan? What do you eat?
There is a vast range of foods out there that vegans can eat – fruit, vegetables, pasta, rice, bread, nuts, beans and legumes, non-dairy products like almond milk, soya milk, oat milk – and believe it or not there are more companies out there than you think that either have alternative products to meat and dairy as well as some popular companies who have been vegan-friendly for a long time.
“Don’t ask why I’m vegan; ask yourself why you aren’t.”
It is a big step and it is most definitely not one of those life changes that you can make overnight: it takes continual learning, research and fine tuning. For me, I started with my diet, which was easier than for someone who had been eating meat products, as well as the items I use in my home for cleaning, such as anti-bacterial spray, bathroom cleaners, laundry cleaners, toilet rolls and kitchen rolls, as well as personal care – skin care, hair care, vitamins, deodorant, tooth brush and toothpaste (again most of these products were already vegan and cruelty free for me).
There are a lot of companies who can make your transition a lot easier; one of those for me was The Vegan Kind Supermarket.
Some of my favourite companies I have found are:
- Method for cleaning products
- Smol and Ecover for laundry cleaning
- The Cheeky Panda for toilet rolls, kitchen roll and baby wipes (so soft and great quality)
- NOMO is my absolute go-to when I need a chocolate hit and I actually prefer these bars to any popular non-vegan brands. Candy Kittens are also my favourite for sharing for movie date night or with the kids. Vegummies do amazing pick’n’mixes for those special occasions or if you want to make a bit of a bigger deal of family night.
- Vegan Outfitters for ethical and comfortable clothing; the staff are fantastic and the company really has a good sense of humour.
I don’t eat a lot of “alternative” food. However, there are three companies I feel need to be mentioned because they really do have some amazing products:
Richmond also now have meat-free sausages available in most supermarkets and they are fantastic. My boys, one of whom has high functioning autism and is very picky about texture of food etc., actually prefer these to meat-form sausages.
The best advice I can give anyone is to always check packaging and do your research. You’ll be surprised at what products have animal products in them; for example, we like to have mints in the car and I made the startling discovery that Trebor extra strong mints have gelatine in them. Polo, however, actually state they are vegan-friendly on the packet.
I know you’re probably thinking, well, all this is great, Rochelle, but what does it have to do with chronic illness?
As chronic illness is very much a one-size-does-not-fit-all thing, I can only give facts and my own personal findings. Severe headache and stomach issues were two of the many symptoms I was bothered with every other day. There was a time at the start of last year I felt like I was living on paracetamol for my migraines (I get focal migraine in the first instance) and I was absolutely miserable, especially when “Auntie Flow” paid her monthly visits and made the situation 50 times worse, adding in widespread inflammation and setting off a flare. Since turning to veganism, I can count on one hand the number of headaches and migraines I’ve had and I haven’t had one day where my stomach has felt like it was going to cramp and just explode out of my body. With the new vegan vitamin I take alongside the diet part of veganism, I now can go past midday without feeling like I need to go to bed at least five days out of the week. I can definitely feel and have been seeing changes in my symptoms since turning to veganism; of course they haven’t all gone and there are days when I still just want to cry because of how my body feels, but there has been improvement with the change.
There are also scientific facts regarding health and veganism:
- If the world went vegan, it could save a minimum of 8 million lives by 2050
- Vegan diet is linked to a 35% reduced risk of developing cancer, including prostate cancer and colon cancer
- Being vegan can reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes by 23%
- Vegan diet can improve kidney function and lower blood sugar levels
- It has been linked to a reduced risk of 42% for heart disease and up to 75% reduced risk of high blood pressure
- Veganism has also been linked to a reduction in pain from arthritis
I said at the start of this post that ignorance is bliss and I have found that to be startlingly true so far in my journey into veganism. I don’t feel it is the right place to talk about the harsh truths and statistics of how animals, especially farm animals, are treated for consumption, but I can say that if you research it you will most definitely be shocked and disgusted. Here is a last set of numbers for you to think about. In one month of being vegan, on average you’ll save:
- 230 animals (14.4 million sheep alone were slaughtered for consumption in 2018)
- 124,917 litres of water (it takes 100-200 times more water to produce one pound of beef than it does to grow a pound of plant)
- 273kg of CO2
- 543kg of grain
- 84 sq.m of forest
Many people don’t know nor do they think of what humans have done to our world. In the past year, and I have no doubt this year will be the same, we need to be more aware of the costs of what we do, the decisions we make each day and how they impact not just us and our families, and the bigger picture for those families and for others. I hope this post has helped anyone who has been thinking about trying to reduce their meat intake or to go fully vegan to put their best foot forward.
Keep safe everyone and please be kind, to yourselves, to others and to all this world has on offer; after all, we are one kind.