Why am I vegan, I get asked this all the time, it is a question most vegans are very familiar with. An I am sure most of the time we all find it slightly annoying, there is this assumption that this is an easy question to answer, maybe its the bunnies?!
Personally I am vegan for lots of reason and if, when people asked me the question, they really wanted to hear the answer that would be great. But normally what they want is a 4 word answer that they can then pick apart so they can tell you how weird/wrong/deluded/unhealthy you are… this of course doesn’t apply to everyone and occasionally you meet somebody who is genuinely interested. So for the few people who really do want to know why I am vegan here are some of the many reasons…
Firstly I should probably tell you how I came to be vegan. I was 13yrs old, my whole family were vegetarian and for months my mum had been harping on about how milk was bad for us, how cooked food was bad, how fruit should only be eaten in the morning… basically she was going though one of those fazes, reading lots of self help healthy eating books, “You are what you eat” etc etc and changing her mind every week… to be fair to my mum it might not have been quite as I describe, but to my 13yr olds memory that was how it felt!
Anyway around this time on a weekly outing to the library I pick up a book called “The Livewire Guide to Going, Being and Staying Veggie” by Juliet Gellatley, I am not sure quite why I picked it up, after all I had been vegetarian most of my life, but I liked other books in the Livewire series so though I’d give it a go. The book is very blunt and lays out the facts of animal farming, but what it did for me, was show me how bad the dairy industry was, I had grown up knowing that factory farming and animal slaughter was bad, but I’d never realized the impact that diary farming had.
I was however addicted to cheese… I had cheese on toast for breakfast, cheese sandwich for lunch and jacket potato and cheese for dinner, I could not imagine my live without cheese.
I decided though that I would try and reduce the amount of cheese I ate, and not being one to cut down slowly I bet myself that I would not be able to go a week without eating cheese (and while I was at it milk of any kind or eggs) I would try and go vegan for a week, I doubted I would manage but I would give it a go. Well at the end of the week I realized that it hadn’t actually been that difficult, so lets try 2 weeks, 2 weeks turned into a month and a month has turned into 15 years… I am not saying it was easy and there were times in the first 6 months partially that were difficult, but since that day I have never eaten another piece of cheese, and you know what, life has gone on!!
I was very lucky my family were very supportive, they didn’t treat it like a teenage faze or try and stop me, I think in many ways there was amazed by my will power. My mum carried on reading her crazy books, and you know I think she still does, I know she struggles with the will power to go totally vegan but now a days I think they are all pretty much there, occasionally going vegetarian when eating out, but basically vegan at home.
So clearly my hatred for animal cruelty, and the meat and dairy industry has played a huge part in why I am vegan, but you would be amazed by how many people hear that story and react with, “So you went vegan for a bet?!” arrrgggggg!
There are of course other reasons, I dont think it is possible to make such a fundamental change to your life habits if you only have 1 reason for doing it, for me ecological factors play a huge part in my reasons for being vegan.
Personally is it a process of logic, the less steps between the field to the plate the less impact my diet will have on the worlds environment. The 1kg of grain (say oats) is gown, I eat the oats, total approx 22 bowls of hot porridge. Versus the 7kg (that’s 154 bowls) grain is grown, the cow eats the grain, the cow is butchered producing 1kg of beef, now having just looked this up, 1kg of beef will feed approx 6-8 people. The maths just dont make sense.
Neither does the land use, by adding that extra step, having cow graze the land we are turning more countryside to agriculture then we have ever done before. Agricultural needs are often cited as one of the most common reasons for mass deforestation, which is having a huge impact on our environment and climate as articals in the even the most respected magazines shows; National Geographic. Of course agriculture does also refer to grain being grown for us people, but if we were to cut out the need to feed the cattle as well as ourselves the need for extra land would disappear; we have plenty of land available to grow the grains we need!
These are not issues that we can pretend we have no control over, or ignore because we dont believe it is happening. In America 60% of the corn grown is apparently feed straight to animals as is 47% of their soy production. This is not a sustainable use of the land or a cost effective use of food that could after all be feeding 10’s of 1000’s of staving families across America. To give you an idea of what is currently happening here is an article that looks not just at how sustainable (or otherwise) the current system is, but also what impact that is having on the animals, and in consequences on the humans that eat them; Sustainable Table.
If you need more convincing here is a guide put together by the Vegetarian Society that looks at vegan and vegetarianism from an environmental point of view.
I also feel very healthy on a vegan diet, I realize that some people find it hard to stay healthy on a limited diet, though frankly some people find it hard to stay healthy whatever there diet. For me the fact that I care about what I eat instantly gives me a better chance of being healthy! I am not the stereotypical pale pasty weak vegan, well to be honest I am pale, probably something to do with the beautiful British climate… But I am not weak, nore am I stick thin or pasty. People are often shocked when they find out I am vegan , because I dont fit the image they have in there mind about what a vegan should be. I am physically very strong, I have good stamina I am fit, and well healthy!
According to what most mass media would have us believe vegans like me dont exist. They are wrong! Here is a list of famous vegetarians and vegans that also dont like they are about to keel over from being veggie! An for fun here is a Vegan Periodic Table that was compiled showing a mix of famous people, and there reasons for being vegan or vegetarian!
So in many ways my other reasons are not necessarily vegan only ideas, they are more like the ideals I try to live by….
Eat Local! I dont mean only eat food that has come from within the 2mile radius of your house, I mean eat a British grown apple not one flown from New Zealand, eat a Scottish strawberry not a Spanish one. Now I am not suggesting that you will be able to get all the food you *want* from within the Uk, I like avocados and I know we dont grow them here, I still eat them… but I do make sure that all my apples, potatoes, carrots, pears, cabbage etc etc all come from within the Uk, the air miles alone for apples flown in from New Zealand, is just mind boggling!! Plus as a bonus by eating local we are supporting our own economy!
Second Hand! 90% of my clothes, books even my shoes come from charity shops, which is quite impressive since I hate shopping (happily for me my mum and sister seem to love it so I get all there 2nd hand, so by the time they hit me 3rd hand items!) I was brought up hunting though rummage sales, jumble sales, carboot sales and charity shops… nowadays you can even use the internet amazon, ebay etc to get good quality second hand things. An this is great, because by using second hand you are not producing more waste, using more energy to create from new, and saving the environment and yourself a little extra cash, its a win win!
It also raises an interesting vegan debate…. what is better to buy a newly manufactured vegan pair of boots, or wear a non vegan pair of boots that somebody else brought for themselves second hand, then realized they didn’t fit so passed them along to you now 3rd hand… I have had these boots for 8 years now, they still work and I still haven’t had to buy a replacement pair, vegan or otherwise… so should I have rejected these boots because they were not vegan, or does the environmental benefit of not manufacturing from new out way the vegan ethics? Personally I feel it does, but it is a very complex debate and a decision has to be made issue by issue, you can not apply a blanket rule here!
Do the best you can! This really is the main point to be made, being vegan doesn’t automatically mean that you will be healthy or ecologically minded, it doesn’t make you a bunny hugger, but it is a step in the right direction. When you take each day as it comes, and you do the best you can, without beating yourself up on days that dont go so well, then slowly but surly you will be making a positive difference to yourself and your environment, which is all any of us can ask for.
I have been vegan for 15 years now, quietly doing my own thing, I am not the type of person to push myself forward or to shout about my beliefs, when people ask why I am vegan I usually deflect the question, because most of the time they dont want to know, and I dont want to argue with them. But if you are now reading this last paragraph then thank you for listening, I hope in some small way you now understand a little more, my reasons for being vegan. It amuses me that after years of not making a fuss about being vegan it is creating a cooking blog that has made me talk about it… but of course for me it is a cooking blog, that fact that all the recipes are vegan is incidental!