Last month I celebrated one year as a vegan. Here I discuss some of the key things I discovered along the way.
Last month I celebrated my one year ‘veganniversary’, as they call it. So I can’t help reflect on the past year of my life and share some things I have learned along the way.
I’ve been trying to write this article for about two months. I have been dipping in and out, deleting entire paragraphs, re-adding paragraphs and scrapped the whole thing at one point. I am genuinely struggling to put my experience over the last year into words. So I’ve decided to list out some of the key discoveries I’ve made along the way instead.
1. Veganism is Misunderstood
I once believed veganism is an undesirable lifestyle to follow. How could people live without bacon and cheese? I had all the usual negative pre-conceived ideas of vegans too. Self-righteous, whiny and annoying. The truth is, veganism isn’t something you do on a whim and certainly not something anybody can just pick up. It takes a lot of energy, commitment and willingness to take on.
The people involved are diverse and span all ages and backgrounds. I’ve made vegan friends through the creation of my blog and presence on Twitter over the last 6 months. The majority of those I speak to are just ordinary everyday people. The vegan community comes in all different shapes, sizes, beliefs and opinions but we all have one thing in common. Compassion.
2. Vegan Isn’t a Diet, It’s a Movement
Being vegan is a bit like a middle finger to ‘the system’. You choose to stop being part of a process which is systematically killing animals, destroying the planet and making us unhealthy. It’s a big ‘fuck you’ to the big corporations, big food companies and big pharma all in one.
Being vegan is activism. You boycott products that are a direct result of a living creature’s suffering or our planet’s suffering. Why do we insist on harming animals and our environment when we can choose to live a life that strives to be free from all harm as far as is possible?
It’s very possible to significantly reduce our negative impact on the planet right now. Many do not wish to entertain this idea and in some cases completely deny the possibility altogether. Veganism is expanding nevertheless. The effects of which can be felt all over the world. Everyday big food is giving in and meeting demands for vegan alternatives. Dairy companies are losing money, even shutting down and the meat industries profits are taking big hits.
Veganism is by no means the answer to all the world’s problems but it is a start. Where possible, we should all be striving to be more ethical in all aspects of our lives. My generation loves to moan about how their parents left them with a terrible hand in life but what are you doing right now to ensure a brighter future for the next generation?
3. Plant-based is Healthy
I’ve just turned 30 years old and I feel healthier now than I ever have. A plant-based diet has made me re-think what I am putting inside my body. I have learned more about nutrition. I understand more what my body needs to thrive and my diet has changed radically for the better as a result.
Food is a huge part of our lives but it’s not something we spend enough time focusing on, except for eating too much of it. It’s not a coincidence that obesity, heart disease and diabetes are the health epidemics of the 21st century. Fat, sugar, salt and animal products are to blame. Processed foods are to blame. Lack of personal responsibility for one’s own well being is to blame. Lack of education is to blame.
We are what we eat and most of us eat foods devoid of any real nutrition. We live in a society that has made highly processed fatty foods more affordable and accessible than healthy foods. This is a key issue for humankind right now. How can we as individuals start to live more ethically when the current system promotes the opposite agenda?
We need to change big business interests by demanding more ethical products. Big business speaks the language of money and it will follow wherever the demand goes.
There is a stage which every vegan will experience along the way. It’s what I believe is the most difficult aspect of veganism. The dark side of humans.
I know this may sound over dramatic but you start to see through the bullshit in the world. You start to see the real relationship between humans and animals. You start to see the real relationship between humans and our environment. They are not healthy relationships.
It’s a relationship based on exploitation and self-interest. You start to realise that most humans only care about animals as long as it is serving them a purpose. Companionship, awe, entertainment or food. A result of this poor relationship is our conditioning to believe that some animals are lovable, some are exotic and some only belong on our plate. This is known as speciesism.
A good example of this is people’s general view of the different types of animals:
Pets are friends. They live in your house, you love them, you care for them and some people are willing to risk their very own life for them.
Exotic Animals are interesting. They are beautiful and mesmerising to observe at zoo’s or on BBC Planet Earth. People donate money towards their protection, sign petitions to save them and even protest on the streets for them.
Farm Animals are a product. They are a commodity, another item we buy alongside other household items. It is widely accepted to continuously breed and slaughter them in the billions to satisfy our taste buds. We do not care about them, we ignore their suffering and deny them their intended natural life.
Currently, we slaughter 78 billion farm animals a year. This is speciesism.
5. We Have a Choice
Most people consider their personal actions don’t account towards change in our world. But we do have the choice to make the world a better place and it’s easier than you think. We can choose not to support industries and big corporations who are destroying our planet for profit. We have a choice to eat a diet that is not the result of suffering, death and pollution. Now, more than ever it is easier to live a harm-free lifestyle.
I’m not saying every person in the world should go plant-based right now. I’m simply stating that those who are in a position to go plant-based should be striving for it.
By avoiding products that harm animals and the planet we are forcing big corporations to re-think the way they do business. We are creating a demand for ethical products.
Whilst we can continue to put pressure on big corporations to operate more ethically, taking personal responsibility for our actions will make a huge impact.
Together, we can make real change.