I thought I would share more about my vegan journey. As since becoming vegan I get asked about it a lot. And its something my own views have changed with over time. More recently I am feeling compelled to do more to help animals in need which is probably showing through my social media and ceramic pieces and I feel it may be useful to hear how and why I became vegan in case it was something you were considering too.
I grew up in a animal meat and 2 veg household. Until my 20s I doubt I ever had a vegan meal and I didn’t question it either. the ethical or health benefits of veganism never crossed my mind and I didn’t know any vegetarians or vegans. After a short career in the NHS I re trained in ceramics. During my design degree I took a trip to New Zealand with a friend and spending so much time in the countryside noticed the trucks of animals on their way to the slaughterhouses. I remember feeling so sad and sickened. My first realisation of what happens to animals so that I can eat them. I immediately attempted a vegetarian diet, failed, tried again and failed again. I failed because at that time I had a rubbish diet so a few months in each time I had strong cravings for protein and iron. I wasn’t substituting animal flesh I had just eliminated it. There wasn’t a lentil, seed or bean in sight.
A year or so later I rented a small shared studio space in Liverpool. All of a sudden I was surrounded by vegetarians and vegans. We had many social gatherings and studio events where everyone brought a dish. There was never any animal meat and the food was so colourful, fresh and varied I learnt so much about being a healthy vegetarian. At lunchtimes all my friends tucked into their delicious meatless meals and it helped me to make the step to becoming a vegetarian with a balanced diet. But I still thought being a vegan was going ‘a bit far’, ‘a little extreme’ and I was vegetarian for around 5 years.
When I was pregnant with Ted who is almost 3 I began to learn more about the dairy industry. I had never (even as a vegetarian) considered what life could be like for a cow, the demands for her milk, the demands that are so high that it results in her calf being taken from her at its birth or well before nature intended the separation. If the calf was ‘lucky’ to be female it could live a little longer than her brother who would be slaughtered very young for veal while she continued her mothers lineage at becoming a milking machine. I could no longer buy my animal products from the supermarkets and I spent time researching organic, higher welfare farms where I could buy dairy and eggs. I found a farm in Yorkshire and continued to buy from there for another year. It was more expensive so I ate less of it.
When Ted was 9 months old I no longer felt that me consuming eggs and dairy wouldn’t be affecting another beings quality of life. I remember feeling so strongly about animal welfare at that point and it was a decision made in a second to never consume animal meat or their secretions again. I learnt all about how to have a healthy and balanced vegan diet, the necessary supplements and found lots of new recipes and chefs for delicious meal ideas. But there was definately an adjustment period. I think heightened by the fact I still had a young baby. So self care was only imagined and it took some time to get on top of taking my supplements – particularly b12 (just remembering to really as I was often so tired my brain didn’t work) and to have healthy snacks rather than just sugary and caffeinated ones. It maybe took me 6 months to get into a rhythm.
Now that I’ve been vegan for just over 2 years I feel on top of it and healthy. While I decided to be vegan for ethical reasons rather than health I definately seem to have a more stable and healthy weight now. I don’t seem to fluctuate like I used to. I opt for as little processed vegan food as possible. The only animal flesh alternative I use is tofu preferring to steer clear of the processed alternatives and eat veg, nuts, seeds, grains, beans and pulses instead… for the most part… I’m not perfect. I do that to stay healthy and to avoid unnecessary plastic packaging, which may just end up harming marine animals rather than farm animals. Its also so much cheaper. And if you have a zero waste shop nearby, even better for the environment and even cheaper. Plus all the tubs and jars make your kitchen cupboards look nice ;)
When I first went vegan I was happy with being vegan alongside making other personal efforts to protect the environment. I had no cares about other peoples views, preferring to leave people to their own choices. Not even my husband’s who continued to eat animal meat and dairy. And my son who was vegetarian until age 2 (he is now vegan and thriving). But its funny, as soon as you raise the bar, you are satisfied initially and then you see the ways you could raise it further. And further. So began more learning about more aspects of farming, of sheep, chickens, fish, pigs, cows, the slaughter process, living conditions, life spans. I’ve met rescued pigs and chickens, learnt about their history and been sickened to my core at what I’ve heard and seen. I’ve also read the reasons against veganism to try and educate myself outside of my obvious emotional feelings towards animals but I haven’t been able to find anything that would make me personally change my views for this moment in time. I have gone from avid animal meat consumer to failed vegetarian twice, to vegetarian, to vegan, to animal advocate. Well I guess I’m at the beginning of being an animal advocate. So far I have hopefully saved many lives by being vegan for 2 years, through my donations to animal charities personally and through my sales. I feel in a place where I can begin to do more. I’m not sure how yet but I feel my place in the world is to be a voice for animals and to certainly support those who are so good at doing that already.
My first step in learning about veganism and nutrition was via the Vegan society and I go back to it often, reminding myself of calcium, omegas, iron rich foods etc. And my favourite go to chefs are Aine Carlin , Anna Jones , Bosh , Meera Sodha , and I’ve just come across domestic gothess.
Whilst this is an overview of how and why I became vegan. There has been alot of underlying sadness, suffering and feelings of helplessness under it. I’ve done a separate blog post here which is more in depth of some of my mental and emotional thoughts around the subject and how I cope with knowing what I now know about animal abuse in farms and finding the strength to learn about it and then do something about it over ignoring it. I know this is a heavy subject for many of us and I thank you for reading this far with me.