It’s the final day of Veganuary! Tomorrow, I could rush out and buy a doner kebab, a cheese board and a kilo of Yellow Bellies if I wanted to. But you know what? I don’t want to. I’m going to stay vegan.
… well, I say “vegan” but I’m going to qualify this a bit. During my month of veganness, I’ve been doing a lot of reading of vegan websites and looking into the history and attitudes behind veganism. I wanted to try vegan because I was shocked at the suffering of animals used for food, particularly in dairy and egg production. But for many vegans, the objection to animal products goes further than the need to eliminate suffering – they believe that the “enslavement” of animals to provide for humans is wrong. So even in a hypothetical world where dairy cows live happily in fields with their calves and die naturally of old age, they would not drink milk. They are also against riding horses, keeping pets (unless from a rescue centre), zoos and sometimes even the use of assistance dogs. I don’t want to knock vegans for believing this because it’s a belief that comes out of kindness and love for animals – but it’s not what I believe. I will stop eating dairy, eggs and meat but I’ll be honest and say that I am unlikely to go out of my way to avoid honey or whatever that stuff made out of beetles is. I won’t buy leather or wool from now on and will only choose make up and toiletries that are cruelty free. I could call myself “semi vegan” but the very concept of being “semi vegan” is not acceptable to a lot of vegans, and also who is going to know what to serve me for dinner if I introduce myself as a “semi vegan”? I think it is probably just easier to keep calling myself a vegan and risk the wrath of the vegan massive if they catch me at the zoo. I know my beliefs and what I want to eat, it’s not my fault no one has invented a word for them!
I have been a bit disappointed that some people do seem to feel threatened by the very idea of veganism and try to talk you out of it. I have actually had the “but plants have feelings too!” and “but our ancestors ate meat!” lines more than once. Some people have even developed a sudden concern about the effect of the added pressure of the quinoa industry on poor African people. Many seem very worried by an impossible scenario where everyone turns vegan overnight and fields of farm animals are left to fend for themselves and either take over the world or die horrible deaths, depending on which version you believe. The thing is that no one is advocating that everyone becomes vegan overnight. What they are advocating is a slow rise in cruelty-free consumption, driving up the demand for these products and driving down the demand for products that have caused suffering. We need to send a message to producers that we have had enough of cruelty and that things need to change. We want them to farm fewer animals, and look for farming methods that don’t cause suffering (I am not sure if these exist, or rather whether they can be cost effective, but any improvement is a start). And this is where everyone comes in, not just vegans but semi vegans and vegetarians and even omnivores. Every single plant-based meal you consume sends a message to the industry that enough is enough. So if you really can’t give up cheese, you can still help!
I’d like to finish off this post with a paragraph about how veganism has revolutionised my health, seen my 5km times halve, my weight dwindle and my energy rates rocket. According to my electronic scales I am precisely half a kilo lighter than I was a month ago which I don’t think is a significant different, though I do remain vaguely hopeful that as the novelty and “I must try this vegan X!” factor wears off I might naturally lose a bit of weight – in the meantime, though, it looks like I’m actually going to have to make a conscious effort to shed the marathon kilos. There has been so much else going on that it’s hard to say whether it has affected my running etc, but maybe I need a bit more time to see results. I certainly don’t feel any worse for it though!
Final word: if you are looking for advice on veganism, or decreasing the amount of animal products you can consume, I can heartily recommend The Vegan Society for friendly, non judgemental advice. The daily “Veganuary” emails I’ve been receiving for my vegan month have been particularly informative.
You will be glad to know that I am going to stop instagramming everything I eat now.
I’ve decided that from now on, I’m going to set myself a monthly challenge and post about it on this blog. In June I am actually setting myself TWO monthly challenges, which are:
- Lose four kilograms
- Complete virtual triathlon
I will be back to bore you with some waffle about these shortly.