Thursday 22 March 2018

My Vegan Story

On the one year anniversary of me becoming vegan, I thought it would be fun to share "My Vegan Story" or how I became vegan. I'm going to be totally honest and say I used to think vegans were odd. Not odd really, but different. I don't really know how to put it, but the best thing I can think of is that the whole thing was something I didn't fully understand. 

I was brought up in a "meat and two veg" (as my Dad has pointed out to me, it was always more than two veg but that's just the saying) kind of family. Meat was present at lunch and dinner, and sometimes breakfast.  I always knew where my meat was coming from, I grew up around farms and it was just something I understood was the norm. Almost everyone I knew ate meat, and it was very much just the "done thing". Those who didn't were unusual, talked about, questioned and discussed. I had cousins who were vegetarian but most of them are no longer vegetarian now. Only one girl in my junior school (ages 3-11) was vegetarian, and I remember everyone was always so curious why she didn't eat meat, including myself. In senior school, again there was only one girl who was vegetarian, and that's someone who has been my best friend for 10 years, who is now transitioned to vegan. So as you can see, my life wasn't exactly opened up to the world of not eating meat, as hardly anyone I knew chose to follow that dietary choice.

One way I did adopt the non-meat-eating life early on was that I flat out refused to eat duck or lamb. The reason behind this choice was my cousins farm (they weren't actually farmers, they just had a wide range of animals for pets, this is the same family of vegetarians I discussed earlier). Here, they had chickens, ducks, sheep, donkeys, snakes, all sorts of animals! One summer, my cousins were away on holiday and they asked my family to look after their animals for them. So each day, my mum would drive myself and my brothers along to their house, and we'd go through our list of feeding all their animals. I was in charge of feeding the chickens, ducks and sheep. I'd begin by collecting all the eggs from the chicken and duck enclosure (they were proper free range birds, being able to run around anywhere they wanted) then filling up a bucket with sheep food and running through the field whilst being followed by the herd. These sheep were very clever animals and they knew the sound of the bucket meant food - I'm pretty sure my parents have a photo somewhere of me in my red willies in the field with the whole flock of sheep behind me looking eager for their food. 

Back to the main story, one of the ducks in the flock had a bad wing, and as a caring animal loving child I took to this duck and used to say hello to him every day, and I even called him Andy (don't ask me why). Anyway, I became attached to this duck. Years later, we were sat down for our family meal and Dad brought across the shredded duck wraps we were to eat. I made the connection that this was the same animal that I loved so much as a child and refused to eat it. The same thing went for the sheep, I realised that lamb was from the same animals that followed me across the field with the food bucket, and so I always refused to eat lamb as well.

Despite me making the realisation of ducks and sheep becoming food, somehow the fact that other animals faced the same fate didn't come into my head, or should I say, it didn't bother me as much. Do not ask me why, because honestly I don't know why those two animals made a difference when the rest did not.

Fast forward to me being around 15/16, and I clearly remember one school lunch we had this creamy pasta dish and around an hour after lunch my stomach felt terrible. I went to the nurse asking why is my stomach in so much pain, and she gave me a Rennie (indigestion tablet) and suggested I might suffer from lactose intolerance. This was the start of me buying lactose free products (cheeses, milks) and trying to avoid dairy, although this failed because I am a proper chocoholic! I would still eat cheesy and chocolatey things, I would just suffer later from horrible stomach pains. This Omni-diet with lacto-free milk continued until my first year of University, where I decided to switch to soya-milk. This decision was purely because lacto-free milk was expensive and soya milk was around 60p per carton. For a very brief period in first year I experimented with vegetarianism, however this didn't last long as I forgot and ate a bacon sandwich :(

This diet continued until September 2016. I was staying with my boyfriend, and one night whilst scrolling through Netflix we decided to watch 'Cowspiracy'. That opened my eyes to things I had never even heard of or accepted were happening. I decided immediately that I would be going vegan. Although I immediately failed because the next day I ate some leftover paella without realising there was chicken in. So, I started again the next day, very unsure of how I could possibly eat whole meals without any of the ingredients I had grown up using. After visiting my boyfriend, I went straight to a family holiday in the Scottish Highlands, and my Dad was straight away supportive of my decision, and very willing to try new foods alongside me. Cue lots of veggie stir fries, tomato pastas and salads. Veganism didn't work for me right away because I just hadn't looked into it enough, and I didn't have any idea what I could eat. So, I became vegetarian, and whilst I knew deep down that I shouldn't be eating dairy or eggs I continued to.

The final stage of this story is when I discovered all the vegan YouTubers there are. I had always enjoyed watching YouTube, and I pretty much fell into a rabbit hole of videos. To name a few of those who pretty much convinced me it was time to be vegan, there's;

  • Sarah Lemkus (A lovely vlogger from New Zealand who had a beautiful family)
  • Olivia Vargus (A super stylish YouTuber from America)
  • NaturallyStefanie (A Glaswegian vegan YouTuber with a wonderful sense of humour!)
  • Maddie Lymburner (A Canadian YouTuber who travels with her vegan boyfriend and films her workouts and vegan cooking)
  • Bonny Rebecca (I'm pretty sure Bonny is the first vegan video I stumbled across, and i then proceeded to binge watch all her videos!)
Every single day I was researching recipes and reading about how veganism is the right diet to follow  if you care about your health and how bad the meat industry is for the planet. Not to mention the insane cruelty all the innocent animals suffer. So, on March 22nd 2017 I had finally finished up all my dairy and egg products (I was still a cheap student refusing to just throw things away) and I became vegan. I was armed with a staple set of recipes and alternatives to foods I loved. And I've got to say, I'm incredibly proud and happier in myself with my decision to become vegan.  

* I wasn't too sure what pictures to include in this post so I just included some of my favourite photos of animals that I have taken - the duck walking in front of the camera is one of my favourites!

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