By Rosa Burston
There is no correct way to go vegan. Some make the change overnight after viewing footage of farming, seeing a climate change documentary or learning about the scary effects of animal products on their health. Some gradually cut out animal products, slowly accumulating plant-based recipes and discovering that veganism isn’t what they expected. Most people are somewhere in-between! The thing they all have in common is compassion – whether for the animals, the planet or themselves – and that’s all you need to get started.
The first thing I would say is go at your own pace and don’t aim to be perfect straight away. Addicted to cheese? That’s okay, start by switching from dairy yoghurt to soya caramel, vanilla, chocolate or fruity yoghurt and keep enjoying your cheddar sandwich for a while. Can’t imagine a morning without eggs? Ditch the dairy first and phase out eggs over time. Make small, sustainable changes which you’ll stick to and ease yourself into veganism. Alternatively, if you’d rather go vegan immediately – go for it! You don’t have to be a tofu-eating avocado snob to be a vegan; you just have to check ingredients as you buy cruelty-free versions of the foods you currently love. Don’t beat yourself up for slip-ups and mistakes, they happen to everyone. You have chosen to value the lives of others above your own momentary satisfaction – the implications of this are huge and are not diminished by a one-off mistake.
Another thing to always keep in mind is that veganism doesn’t mean deprivation. Try not to view the changes you are making as restrictions – it’s just altering your diet to reflect your morals and beliefs. There is a vegan version of everything these days, and you often can’t even tell the difference. You can indulge as much as you want; I’d choose a mac n cheese over kale any day. Lots of transitioning vegans worry about vitamins and protein, which is understandable considering the millions of pounds invested by meat and dairy farmers to convince us that cooked flesh and pus-filled milk are healthy. In fact, every vitamin required by humans is found in plants (B12 may need supplementation but most omnivores are deficient too). Albumin protein levels in vegans are no different to omnivores on average!
It helps some people to focus on connecting their food to where it came from. If you’re craving hot chocolate, think about the suffering and pain which dairy cows endure and reach for the oat milk instead (Cadburys and Galaxy hot choc powders are both vegan though!). If you’re eyeing up steak on the menu, think about the water and land which has been used to produce it, the CO2 emissions, the slaughter of the cow and the growth hormones you’d be ingesting. Stroke your dog and question why his life matters more than the crying calf which became your burger. Suddenly, giving up animal products seems a very minor sacrifice in comparison to the horrific lives of farmed animals. It’s easier to stay committed to veganism if you remember why you chose it in the first place.
Veganism isn’t a massive scary change requiring an iron will and exotic foods. Explore it, learn about it and give it a go. Don’t let the preachy vegans get you down – most of us are supportive, non-judgemental, donut-loving people ready to challenge stereotypes and help people make changes. And if the idea of veganism is still daunting, bake some Biscoff brownies and treat yourself to a Deliveroo Greazy vegan – that should quash any doubts!