It took one tweet for me to go vegan.
It was the summer of 2017 and at the time I was a vegetarian. I considered myself an animal lover and I believed that by being vegetarian, I'd opted out of animal cruelty. Then I saw a tweet which mentioned some of the realities of the dairy industry, such as the simple fact that dairy cows need to be pregnant in order to produce milk. I was so ignorant that I didn't actually realise this. I then did some research and found out about the horrific reality of the dairy industry.
Female cows on dairy farms are artificially inseminated (a process that involves a farmer inserting his hand inside the cow's vagina and injecting her with bull semen). The cow then goes through pregnancy, yet once she gives birth, her calves are taken from her after just 24 hours (current legal farming guidelines). The cow is then grieving for her calves, meanwhile her male offspring get shot in the head at a few days old as they are useless to the dairy industry (their bodies get sold as veal) and the female calves are placed in solitary pens where they are weaned on artificial milk while the grieving mother's milk is taken by farmers and sold to become cheese, chocolate and ice cream, etc. Once the female cow has stopped producing milk, she is then artificially inseminated again and the process repeats. This usually goes on around four or five times until her body can't take any more and she is then slaughtered to become beef. This is all perfectly legal - it's the industry standard for dairy farms.
It took me a while to get my head around this. I was so angry and horrified that such blatant abuse of animals was taking place all over the world to billions of cows. I'd imagined dairy cows to be happily grazing in a field and had no idea that instead the reality was pure torture and unapologetic animal abuse. I should have realised, after all, that when you commercialize a product like dairy and want to keep costs down and drive profit, conditions are hardly going to be ideal for cows. But it still came as a huge shock to me quite how heartless and inhumane dairy could be. I discovered that the egg industry is also gruesome, with live male chicks (deemed a waste product as they can't lay eggs) being thrown into grinders and pulverised to death even on RSPCA 'humane' farms. At this point, I was then left with two choices: either come up with some kind of weak-willed excuse that would enable me to justify my continued consumption of dairy and eggs or cut them out and adopt a vegan diet. I didn't want to feel like a hypocrite so I opted for the latter.
I'd always considered veganism a dietary choice for the privileged. I associated it with Deliciously Ella and thought it would be expensive and would involve a great deal of planning and preparation. Since I tend to shop at Tesco and am usually fairly time-poor, I thought it would be incredibly hard for me. However, I decided I'd try it for a few weeks just to see how I coped.
What surprised me was how easy being vegan was. A lot of the meals I was eating as a vegetarian were vegan and I hadn't even realised, such as Quorn chilli with rice or a jacket potato (as pictured), falafel and hummus wraps, tofu Thai green curry, vegetable soup, etc. And when it came to other things like cheese, I simply bought vegan cheese instead of cheddar! I was already a fan of soya and oat milk over regular milk and I don't really like eggs. The main things I missed were halloumi and ice cream. Fortunately, there are plenty of dairy free ice creams (like Ben & Jerry's dairy free version which you can get from Tesco) so I just started buying those instead. I did miss halloumi but when I thought about the suffering of dairy cows, the desire for it quickly faded. Now, I genuinely don't miss dairy products at all and I don't even think of them as food.
I think the trick to going vegan is not to think of it as something foreign or complicated. You don't need to learn a ton of new vegan recipes. I see some people talk about it like it's a whole new diet and I think that makes it feel difficult and alienating. Let's face it, we're all busy and no one has the time to completely revamp their diet, incorporate a whole new bunch or recipes and completely change their habits. But if you think of it in the following way, it's really easy: take any meal you currently love and replace non-vegan parts of it with vegan alternatives.
So, if your favourite meal is a big juicy burger with fries, then all you need to do is make exactly the same dish but use a vegan burger (there are some delicious ones from regular supermarkets that taste amazing) and use vegan cheese and vegan mayo. Voila. Same dish but vegan!
Or if you love chicken pie, simply make the same pie with Jus Rol pastry (which is vegan), Quorn chicken and some plant-based cream.
Or if you love a cheese and bacon toastie, just make it with vegan cheese and a imitation bacon.
Or if you love chocolate cake, make that cake! Just use mashed up bananas instead of eggs. And use vegan chocolate if you need it.
You get the picture! My point is that it's super easy to just replace non-vegan products with vegan ones and you can get all of the vegan alternatives from supermarkets. It's honestly so surprising how easy it is to go vegan. It really shocked me at the time!
The taste is obviously a little different but personally, I prefer it. Vegan food is less greasy and doesn't make you feel heavy or bloated in the way as non-vegan food can do. In my opinion, even if the taste isn't exactly how you want it to be, we should be willing to accept that and just adapt to it. If dogs tasted like spun sugar we still wouldn't eat them. We should apply the same compassionate approach to other animals.
Being vegan when you're out an about is also really easy. You can get vegan sandwiches from Pret, Starbucks, Tesco and Costa now, among other places. Vegetarian sushi is also vegan most of the time and Asian food is also often vegan. I've never had an issue eating out either. Usually there is a vegan dish on the menu (choosing becomes a lot easier!) or there will usually be a dish that can be veganised by the chef by removing cheese or cream. My favourite places to eat out are restaurants like Pizza Express, which does a few delicious vegan pizzas, Wagamama, which is great for vegan options and Zizzi, which has a delicious vegan menu. I also like to support vegan restaurants like Purezza (best vegan pizza ever!) and Temple of Seitan (delicious vegan fast food).
If you're interested in veganism, I hope this post has helped! And please feel free to reach out by DM if you want some advice or support. Going vegan can be really emotionally draining as you learn more and more about what humans are doing to animals, so I'm here if anyone needs to talk.
Also, if you need extra support going vegan, you could sign up to Veganuary and try it for January. I haven't actually tried it myself but by signing up, you will receive recipe ideas and nutritional advice, etc. You can sign up here: https://veganuary.com/