This year, I’m taking on the Veganuary challenge, and trying veganism for a month, with the goal of adopting a more ethical diet permanently. I’ve been vegetarian for 13 years, so I had to ask myself, why haven’t I transitioned to veganism sooner?
I am a vegetarian for ethical reasons, so forgoing dairy and other animal products is a no-brainer. But something has always held me back from taking that final step (let’s be honest. That something is called ‘cheese’). Working with OneKind for the past several months has made me realise just how important it is to forego animal products and to campaign for animal welfare. There is no justification for the cruelty of the meat and dairy industries, and I don’t want to contribute to either. Now that I’ve been doing Veganuary for the past week, I’m starting to understand that there are loads of myths around how hard going vegan is, which I am now prepared to bust!
Myth #1 – Going vegan is just too hard
The thought of policing your diet might seem daunting, especially if you’re used to being able to eat anything you please. Yes, veganism means being more conscious of what you eat, which includes reading ingredients lists and menus very closely, and being prepared to ask questions from waiters on a regular basis. But these days, it’s just not true that eating vegan is ‘hard’.
Almost every supermarket stocks a range of vegan items, including dairy free milks, spreads, meat substitutes and even ready meals. And if you can’t find what you need at the local Tesco/Sainsbury’s there are specialist stores such as Holland and Barrett and Real Foods which you can sniff out. Just remember, it’s not only vegans who forego meat and dairy – restaurants and supermarkets have been catering for people with allergies for yonks, so they’re not exactly new to this game.
Myth #2 – Veganism will ruin your social life
As someone whose father still regularly tries to entice her to eat meat with the promise he ‘wont tell my friends’, the idea of diet being linked to our social lives is hard to escape. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you’ll never be able to eat out with friends, or enjoy those greasy, cheesy chips after a night out, or that going to people’s houses for a meal will become too difficult if you’re vegan.
But to that I say two things; firstly, eating out is never a problem, see myth #1. And secondly, you can always put a bit of extra effort in to smooth the way for yourself and not miss out on the fun. I often offer to bring a vegetarian dish to dinner parties, and am just changing that to vegan food from now on. And if worst comes to worst – why not try socialising without food?
Myth #3 – Veganism is expensive
Buying specialty food of any kind can be more burdensome on your wallet than otherwise. It’s true that meat and dairy are incredible cheap these days – one of the driving forces that contributes to so much cruelty in both industries. Yes, you may have to spend a little extra if you want to center your meals around meat substitutes, but you can just as easily forgo the fake meat and focus on lentils, grains and other cheap and healthy alternatives.
If you care about ethically sourced food from both an animal welfare and an environmental perspective, it’s important to remember that expense is often linked to ethics, because it’s hard to produce ethical products on the cheap. If you build this into your budget, you won’t even notice the expense – it might just require some planning and foresight early on so that you aren’t surprised by the impact on your spending in those first weeks.
I definitely don’t have all the answers (yet), but I have been pleasantly surprised by how easy veganism has been so far. The main thing I’ve learned is that being a vegan is largely about resourcefulness and being more organised about food. The minor inconveniences are definitely outweighed by the benefits to animals and the environment.
We have some good news for OneKind supporters – you can now get 10% of anything purchased from The Vegan Kind if you enter the code ONEKIND10.
Have you signed up to Veganuary yet? There’s still time to give it a go, and you might be surprised by how easy it is to live a cruelty-free lifestyle!