What does "vegan" mean to you?
To me, veganism is a peaceful, compassionate way of living. In a world that is so full of hate and violence, why would we want to live any differently?
How long have you been vegan?
I have been vegan approximately 2.5 years. It was a slow transition for me, so I can’t give you an exact date.
What first inspired you to go vegan?
My journey to being vegan has been a long one. I was raised as a vegetarian, started to eat fish and chicken as a teenager/young adult and then in my early 20s started to eat red meat on rare occasions.
Then one day my husband, who was raised on meat and two veg, decided to go vegetarian and I decided to as well. The switch wasn’t difficult – as I mostly cooked only vegetarian food at home anyway. Then, about 3 years ago I noticed more people around me going vegan, including my mom and her partner who is an ER doctor in the US. That, coupled with watching a few compelling documentaries, is what finally convinced me to make the switch to veganism.
Tell us about your vegan journey. What was the transition to veganism like?
It was exciting! I love to cook, and this was an entirely new challenge that I took on with gusto. I started to research vegan recipes, substitutes and swaps, and discovered so many amazing new foods and dishes I had never had before. I also really enjoyed veganizing the foods I loved as a non-herbivore.
What resources (people, books, blogs, films, etc.) helped you with your transition to veganism?
My mom helped for sure – although it took a while. I used to roll my eyes whenever she’d talk about the benefits of a “whole food plant based diet”. I think the problem for me was that I didn’t care about the diet – but I care about animals. So the word vegan means more to me. That said, I could see how good she looked, and was seriously impressed at how her partner (the ER doc) lost weight and got off statins by making the switch.
There were some very instrumental videos as well – Forks over Knives, Blackfish, Cowspiracy, Specieism (although that came out after I went vegan). I haven’t watched the movies that show animal abuse – I’m so sensitive that I’m not sure I could stomach it.
Were your friends & family supportive of your choice to go vegan?
Definitely! My husband was supportive because he benefited from my new enthusiasm for cooking, and the rest of my immediate family are vegetarian or vegan anyway. I do have friends who tease me, but it doesn’t bother me. The only person who I butt heads with is my father in law – but that’s just because he likes a good argument!
What do you love about being vegan?
I love the way I feel – both physically and emotionally. I feel more empathy towards all living things, including people, although that is tested at times I admit.
What inspires you to stay vegan?
The animals. Plain and simple. I cannot disconnect from what is on my plate to how it was produced. I have always been an animal lover, but it wasn’t until I went vegan that I realized how damaging the meat, dairy and egg industries are. Animals are treated as commodities, not as living, sentient beings with complex emotional lives.
What challenges you as a vegan?
The food part of being a vegan is a cinch. The tough part is eliminating non-vegan things from your daily life, like makeup products that may be tested on animals or bedding made with down feathers.
The other tough part is seeing people you love eating animal products. You know they are good people, and you know that if they took the time to really understand animal agriculture, that they would make the choice to go vegan. But it’s just not that simple, and you can’t preach to them because that is a sure fire way to be stonewalled or worse, cut out of their life.
What is your favorite vegan food or recipe?
I love ALL FOOD. That is not an exaggeration. My love of food has only intensified since going vegan. That said, I have a particular fondness for Mexican food having grown up in Arizona, and for Indian food now that I live in the curry capital of the UK.
I love making all kinds of different tacos (jackfruit, roasted veg, tofu scramble), but my favorite recipe at the moment has to be these crispy avocado and jalapeño tacos: https://leicesterveggie.com/2016/05/17/crispy-avocado-and-jalapeno-tacos/
What advice would you give to new or wanna'be vegans?
I always tell people to do what feels right. That could be jumping in straight away, or taking your time by slowly eliminating animal products from your life. Educate yourself – watch documentaries, visit blogs you like and get on twitter to join the supportive vegan communities. Cook – get out some vegan cookbooks and get started. There are so many great vegan dishes you can make that you should never feel like you’re depriving yourself. Finally, be gentle with yourself if you slip up, and be gentle with those around you who are not yet vegan – we are all on our own journey.
What gives you hope for the future?
I am hopeful. We have to be, right? It would be naïve to think things will get better immediately, but you can’t let it bring you down. Yes animal abuse is rampant, yes animal agriculture is damaging our environment. But veganism is taking off and becoming mainstream, and more light is being shed on the realities of these industries, helping to bring about real change. I am hopeful. At least I try to be. If I wasn’t, I’m not sure how I’d get out of bed everyday.