Why I Made The Switch – My Vegan Journey
I’ll apologise in advance for this slightly indulgent post but a few people contacted me and said it would be good to hear more about why I made the switch over to a meat free diet. One thing I’m very conscious of as a food blogger is being too ‘preachy’ when it comes to dietary choices. Many who read Canny Food aren’t vegetarian – never mind vegan – but still continue to visit the blog to check out the reviews. I’m often told I’m ‘different’ because I don’t talk about animal rights or comment on the food decisions made by others, especially when I’m dining out with my non-vegan friends. I can’t force my opinions and beliefs on others, it’s as simple as that. I’ve been called an apologist by other vegans and feel it is unfair, to be honest. I’m patient and try to show understanding. I ate meat and dairy for 36 years. Some do this overnight, others take longer. Some may always eat animal products. If the folk at work want to talk to me about veganism and/or food I’m more than happy to chat about it, but I’m never the person who brings it up first. Veganism is a huge part of my life because of my love of grub but it doesn’t define me.
My first steps began when my then-partner made the switch himself. We watched Cowspiracy and were appalled at how wasteful the meat and dairy industry was in terms of the world’s precious resources. He became a vegan overnight while I was a little more resistant to the change. It was easier to prepare plant based meals for the whole family and the weekly shop was less of a chore when we all ate the same. Being vegan at home was, I’ll admit, the laziest option for me. When Dinky was born the mutual decision was made to raise her as a vegan, which then got me thinking about officially cutting out animal products from my own diet. Because of the blog I was eating meat and dairy sporadically doing reviews, but it was becoming harder to deal with the ethical conundrum. I knew these animals weren’t tickled to death without the need to watch any videos, admittedly, but I began to think how selfish I was by making excuses for my consumption habits. While I didn’t eat meat that often, my meals were still having an impact on the world I lived in. I was putting my palate before the lives of others.
I also noticed how much healthier I was feeling once I stopped consuming dairy at home. While I was hardly the biggest milk drinker, the fact I had a huge cheese habit didn’t help. I would feel sluggish, had stomach cramps frequently, and had visited our GP regarding what was diagnosed as IBS. I would often say that the reason I couldn’t go vegan was because the substitutes were ‘rank’. I grew accustomed to oat milk in my tea in time, but cheese was a harder habit to break. I’d read posts on Facebook walls about certain dairy free cheeses and would think that the people raving about them must have lost use of their taste buds. Fast forward 9 months and I really don’t mind them myself now! Admittedly, there’s been a lot of trials in the Canny Food house and I’ve finally found a variety of cheeses I will happily use in my own cookery.
Even if I hadn’t found decent alternatives I think I’d have persevered regardless. One thing I found hard to move on from – once I’d realised, that is – was the fact we were drinking the milk of another species while acting repulsed by mothers breastfeeding publicly. Seriously, folks need to get a grip! Cows are impregnated so we can have a bowl of cereal for breakfast. Isn’t that all wrong? Surely their babies are more deserving of the milk than we are? We talk about weaning our own young onto ‘proper food’ and then merrily splash bovine growth juice in our teas and coffees or suggest it is part of a ‘balanced diet’. And while we’re on the subject of the calves, it isn’t pleasant what happens to the males. Do some reading around the dairy industry and you’ll be quite shocked on that particular subject 🙁
To return to the health side of things, a lot of misconceptions and false truths are out there about vegan diets. Talk of osteoporosis, malnutrition due to lack of protein, and other scary tales are batted in my direction daily. All I’ll say on that matter is it is worth looking at who funds these studies to get an idea of the agenda behind it. While I’m not a conspiracy theorist and don’t have a tin foil hat I don’t think people should be shocked to learn about the lobbying and subsidies that happen to promote the meat and dairy industry. One great resource I used doing my own research, especially when it came to Dinky’s diet, was Nutrition Facts. It contains citations and peer reviewed articles which are far more credible than your average Daily Fail articles, let me tell you. While you may hear some say an 100% whole foods diet has cured cancer and all sorts of anecdotal ‘evidence’ extolling the virtues of cutting out animal products, you have to make your own mind up as to whether you will pay heed to these.
As a child my parents were told I was allergic to dairy – these days it would be termed as CMPA – as I was covered in severe eczema. They gave me goats milk as an alternative but as I got older no-one stopped me eating cheese and chocolate. It was only in my teens and the proceeding years that the issues with my skin returned. I spent years using steroid creams, and at no point did anyone suggest dairy might be to blame again. While I get the odd flare-up from time to time, these are usually linked to stressful periods and I don’t suffer as badly as I used to. Cutting out dairy has definitely had a positive impact on my skin. I believe my vegan diet has also helped with my IBS too.
There’s no coincidence when you read some of the medical research being done on diet and the way we consume products there is a link between the food we eat and the ailments we are susceptible to. A fascinating read is The China Study. It is one of the largest studies conducted on nutrition and the conclusions were based on a large amount of data collated. While it may seem like common sense, eating a diet filled with vegetables and avoiding animal products was shown to be the healthiest.
Becoming vegan seemed overwhelming as it is about more than merely the food on your plate. I started off following a plant based diet but was aware I needed to make adjustments in other areas of my life. Things like my cosmetics, clothing, and items in the home had to be researched and switched over to avoid animal cruelty and inadvertent consumption. To do all of this at once would have been an expensive and time-consuming undertaking. While it is important, we can’t expect people to do this overnight. Because one of my own reasons to make the switch was waste I felt it was more practical to change products one at a time once the others had run out. 9 months down the line and I’m almost there!
I hope Canny Food has shown that making the switch over to veganism isn’t as restrictive or as difficult as many believe. It does take a little getting used to, especially in the supermarkets, but after a while reading ingredients and asking questions in restaurants becomes second nature. It is exciting to watch more restaurants promoting vegan menus and I certainly feel it is getting easier to avoid eating animal products.
I’m frequently told my diet won’t make a difference to the environment and that animals will continue to be killed and eaten as food no matter what I do. That may be true, but it isn’t the point for me. If we all took that attitude nothing in the world would ever change. We live in a capitalist society and I cannot completely limit the impact I have on the world. Unless I go off grid, live in a tent, and start growing my own food I will always have a footprint. As wonderful as this lifestyle sounds, it isn’t practical. I make mistakes, I could easily eat more whole foods in my diet, etc. What I try to placate myself with is that veganism isn’t about perfection. The Vegan Society itself is clear that we can only do so much and there are ethical decisions we have to make individually – like on lactose-coated medication, for example – but I go to bed knowing each day I’ve tried not to be responsible for the death or mistreatment of any sentient being for the sake of what’s on my plate. That is more important to me than any Camembert or steak, for sure.
I have tried to cover some of the pertinent points for me but there is still so much more to talk about, especially regarding the treatment of animals and raising vegan children. If anyone would like to chat more about veganism I am happy to answer messages (within reason) via Facebook or Twitter on the subject.
Thanks for reading,