I try to stay quiet on the animal welfare side of veganism, not because it isn’t important, but because I find pictures and stories of animal cruelty mainly just upset animal lovers and put non-vegans on the defensive. I’d rather people did their own research and keep my posts to “here is a vegan thing that I ate” and “this is how being vegan has affected my health and lifestyle”. But this morning I saw that a friend of mine – a decent and intelligent person – had posted a cartoon of a cow with the caption “look into my eyes and tell me you don’t want a quarter pounder with cheese” (with an added comment about just having eaten one). And I thought this was horrendous and very nearly posted a picture of an actual cow suffering on a farm before backspacing and suggesting that if he looked at an actual cow maybe he wouldn’t find this so funny and maybe he might like to try a Vivera steak.
I don’t believe meat eaters are bad people or that they genuinely support animal cruelty. How could I when I was an omnivore myself for most of my life? I know that a lot of people would find going vegan a lot harder than I did – I am lucky enough not to have any other dietary requirements (being allergic to soya or gluten would have made my life very hard), I was able to up my food budget a little and I live alone so don’t have to factor other people’s requirements into my cooking. I know some people make different decisions when it comes to eating ethically – cutting down on meat, being vegetarian, being an omnivore but cutting out palm oil, buying organic meat. Some vegans say this is not enough but personally I think any contribution is doing something to help and should be encouraged.
But are we really so set in our ways that the horrible cruelty that goes on in farms is normalised? We see The Tories taking benefits away from disabled people and we are outraged. We see someone prosecuted for abusing a cat and we hope they rot in hell. We see a miserable cow dying a horrible death and we see… a cheeseburger.
When I first became vegan I read some other vegans talking about “abolitionism” and how animals were our slaves and at first I thought it was a bit ridiculous to compare farming to slavery, but now I am starting to see some parallels. My Other Hobby is genealogy and I’ve been doing some American genealogy lately. The Americans who kept slaves weren’t evil people, even though they treated their slaves in a disgusting manner that we can barely believe was allowed to happen. It was simply just normalised. Everyone did it. That’s what they thought black people were “for”. But the anti slave movement grew and grew and eventually slavery was abolished, and now we look back on slavery with horror. I wonder if in 500 years time our descendents will be sitting round the dinner table, tucking into their roast tofu and saying “I can’t believe what they used to do to cows!”
And how am I getting on with being vegan? Much the same as last time I wrote about it. I have not had any deliberate slip ups – no drunken pizza orders etc! – but there were a couple of occasions when I ate something and realised there was actually an imperceptible trace of lactose or gelatine in them. I need to be more diligent in reading labels. My upcoming trip to France is a bit of a worry but I have learned the French for vegan – végétalienne – and located vegan cafes in Paris and Lille. I still haven’t really seen any effect on my health, good or bad, other than improved skin. I am not really missing any particular food, especially at home, but occasionally I end up irritated when I pop into a shop for an unplanned snack and can’t find anything without bastard coriander in that is suitable for vegans.
The sugar reduction, however, has had a much more marked effect. Not only have my 5km times gone down (the most important thing!), so has my resting pulse (from high 50s to 52bpm) and my weight (by 3.3kg in just under three weeks). I am amazed at how much less hungry I am and how little I have been eating, even though I haven’t been limiting anything other than sugar.