In a few short weeks i will have reached a pretty significant milestone – six.months.vegan.
If you’d have asked me about going vegan only 7 months ago, I’d have probably laughed out loud. See, at that point, i was an avid meat-eater with absolutely no considerations beyond what was on the plate in front of me and how good it tasted. The transition to veganism was a rapid one by most people’s standards – no intermediate vegetarianism, no pescetarianism, no ‘meat-free mondays’ – just a complete and absolute overhaul of my life.
So how did it happen?
I guess the transition was gradual in some respects, but the initial changes were mental rather than dietary. I was raised as a meat eater by my parents and habits formed in early life are difficult to eradicate. My younger sister had actually been vegetarian since she was aged 15 and i’d kind of had this niggling doubt in the back of my own mind about the ethical justifications of killing a living being for food. But these doubts were easily buried in a world where eating meat is so normalised in our society.
Fast forward to this year and significant changes started to happen. I came into contact with an increasing number of vegans and being naturally inquisitive i would ask them about their choices and the reasons behind those decisions. I was gradually exposed to very convincing and compassionate arguments about health, environment and animal rights. Although i wasn’t totally convinced yet, i started to really contemplate these issues and found them difficult to dismiss.
There was still one major obstacle in the way – i LOVE food. I eat out at least twice a week. I love cuisine from all corners of the world. When I travel, the first thing I search for are the best restaurants in the area. I would describe myself as a ‘foodie’ and i even once sarcastically quipped that “you can’t be a real foodie if you’re vegan” – I would later come to eat my own words! Early in 2018 my cousin got married and the entire wedding meal was vegan – it was absolutely amazing. Delicious, fresh and cruely-free food. I no longer had that age-old excuse ‘what can vegans EVEN EAT!?’.
The thing is, i still wasn’t completely ready for such a drastic change in my life. I’d considered vegetarianism initially and had discussed this with a friend in work who’d been vegan for a few years. She told me about a couple of documentaries that i should watch to help me make my decision; ‘Cowspiracy’ & ‘What The Health?’. These excellent films contained some very convincing arguments advocating veganism from an environmental and health perspective. I was really on my way to making a permanent change.
Then came the definitive moment that sparked a profound change in my mind…
After watching these documentaries, my friend in work recommended one more – ‘Earthlings’. This one came with a warning though – “It’s extreme and very upsetting”, she told me. She was right. Produced and directed by Shaun Monson and narrated by Joaquin Phoenix (a passionate vegan himself), the film documents humankind’s widespread exploitation of animals. It covers multiple aspects of human dependence on animals from food and clothing through to entertainment and scientific research. The film consists of an hour-and-a-half of brutal, shocking and graphic footage of slaughterhouses, vivisection facilities and battery farms, amongst other areas where animal exploitation takes place.
I cried. A lot. My chest tightened and i felt increasingly dizzy and nauseous as the film progressed. I experienced immense feelings of dread, guilt and most importantly empathy – How could anybody subject a living, feeling being to such treatment?! It was the first time that i had really connected what i was eating and drinking to the living, sentient creature that had suffered or died in order for it to be produced. Of course, i knew all along where my food came from, but it was all too easy to disconnect the two in my mind. Now that i had been confronted with the horrifying truth about the cruelty of the dairy, egg and meat industries, it wasn’t so easy any more.
I made an immediate and permanent decision in that moment – from that point onwards i would be vegan.
This change wasn’t restricted to diet either. I also pledged that i would make a concerted effort to move towards using cruelty-free, vegan products and clothing wherever i could. I’d had an irreversable realisation that any living being capable of suffering should be treated with the same ethical consideration as a human and that animals were simply not ours to exploit.
That was it. Done.
The next 6 months of my life would be an amazing journey of growth and discovery that opened up a vibrant world of new tastes, ideas, people and places..