If you had told me 3 years ago that I would soon become known as ‘Kelly the Vegan’, I’d have laughed in your face. I’d classed myself as an animal lover for as long as I can remember, and had attempted vegetarianism for a short time in my early teens. Like many, I made the mistake of swapping meat for junk and soon became ill. It was a valid reason to revert to my old ways, and I ceased to question my eating habits for some time; after all, I was raised to believe I need meat for protein and I need milk for calcium.
The more I travelled, the more I met individuals that had different (and somewhat bohemian) views on life. A particular topic kept cropping up and I was increasingly surrounded by not just vegetarians, but vegans. I look back now and I am embarrassed at my reactions to this new-found word ‘vegan’ and all of the connotations that come with it.
“But what about cheese?”
I spouted, “Milk is so delicious” and the classic “where do you get your protein?” – These and many more rolled off the tongue as if I had magicked a degree in nutrition out of thin air.
I conversed with both preachy and humble vegans. I met vegan-curious vegetarians and those that were once vegan and had gone back to eating meat. To be honest, it was a confusing time full of contradiction and uncertainty. Regardless, it spouted a niggling curiosity that I couldn’t shift.
Soon enough, I was scanning the internet, downloading documentaries and filling my kindle with relative material. It became an obsession. My eyes had been shocked open and there was no going back.
Fast forward to the present moment and here I sit with my soya latte reflecting on my first year as a vegan and how I got to this stage. Yet how I hate that label. The thing is, telling people you eat a ‘whole foods plant-based diet’ or refrain from all animal products usually results in a raised eyebrow and awkward silence. The word vegan is as least understood by most these days, but it still drags along connotations that keep people standing two steps back.
I’ve considered preparing an introduction for all those I meet. It would go a little something like this:
“Hi! I’m Kelly the Vegan. Don’t worry, I’m a normal human being, I’ve just made the personal choice to stop consuming animal products. Yes, that includes things like cheese, fish and honey. No, I’m not iron, calcium, protein or B12 deficient because I now eat 10x more fruit and veg (than I did on a carnivorous diet) which happens to contain all the nutrients I need. I like to talk about all the usual topics and I’d really appreciate not having to explain myself for the next half hour. It’s really ok for you to consume animal products in front of me, but please don’t make jokes about McDonald’s. What I choose to put in to my body does not affect you in any way – you make your choice and I make mine. Why am I vegan? If you’d like to have a real discussion about this, I’d appreciate it if you’d first go away and watch an educative documentary about animal agriculture. I mean no offence, but I’ve heard every excuse, reason and counteractive argument under the sun and I have no intention to change your ways only open your eyes to the harsh reality. If you truly understand why people choose to be vegan, you’d never need to ask the question in the first place.”
And so on, and so on, and so on.
As it happens, believe it or not, I’d prefer to avoid telling anyone I am a vegan. How often do meat-eaters sit down at the table and announce their food choices?
If you’ve read this far then you may well be curious as to why I changed a habit of a lifetime. Which, I might add, is incredibly hard when you live in a world that adds milk solids to everything.
Bare in mind my reasons, along with many others, stretch widely across three criteria: animal abuse, health and the environment. I think most people understand these as a basis, so I want to focus on the ‘little’ things that I began to look at in a different way:
- Cow’s milk. Baby growth fluid from a different species. A growth fluid produced only after birth, designed to dry up once the young are old enough. Would I drink dog’s milk? No. The thought of drinking breast milk from a human even makes me gag. The only reason I found it acceptable to drink cow’s milk was because society says it is necessary. We steal from a mother to feed adult bodies of another species. Wtf.
What they don’t want you to know: Females are forcibly impregnated continuously. New-born calves are ripped from their mothers (watch here) – females are raised for milk production, males are killed. Once a female can no longer produce milk, she is slaughtered for her meat.
- Eggs. A chicken’s period. Full of cholesterol, blood and hormones. But it’s ok because they taste good scrambled on a piece of toast. My few minutes of satisfaction far outway the bird’s inability to stand up due to calcium deficiency from laying eggs around the clock.
What they don’t want you to know: One day old male chicks are thrown alive into a meat grinder because they don’t lay eggs. The term ‘Free Range’ was created to make you feel better about buying eggs. Watch here to see the reality of a free range chicken in Britain.
- Meat. Dead flesh of another living creature that didn’t want to die. Usually consumed around 4 weeks after slaughter, full of antibiotics, adrenaline and stress. A food that cannot be eaten without being cooked (but we’re carnivores, aren’t me?), cannot be enjoyed without sauces and spices, and that which hold (some) nutrients we need because it first fed on plants. Why are we using an animal to process the plants, when we can go straight to the source and cut out the middle man? Our jaw moves side to side like a herbivore, we don’t have sharp teeth or claws and our intestines are long, built to digest plants.
What they don’t want you to know: Animals and slaughter house workers are put through incredible stress, fear, pain and suffering to meet the consumer’s demand. Don’t take my word for it, Watch Land of Hope and Glory.
All it takes is to look at things in a different way, from a different perspective. Unfortunately, our conditioning begins from birth. We are taught to love one animal, and eat another. The industry does all it can to hide the truth. Dead animals come packaged in plastic, health issues are disguised by pills and our blind and unnecessary demand is taking its toll on the planet. We’re raised to keep our eyes wide shut, not to question and to believe mainstream media for absolute truth.
Ignorance, in the eyes of powerful industries, is bliss.
How could I then, Kelly the Vegan, take it upon myself to preach? I was ignorant for 26 years of my life. All I know is that since I turned my back on a lifetime of social conditioning, I have never felt better.
The truth of the agricultural industry has been leaked, yet it continues to be considered as a war against farming. Everyone has the right to know both sides of the story; otherwise you cannot make an educated choice. So, instead of preaching all I can try and do is get people questioning, the same way I began this journey. If more people could take the time to find out what they are actually putting in to their bodies; where it comes from, what it contains, the damages on body, mind and land – I honestly believe our habits and ways of thinking will change. It has already begun.
Every living creature wants to live a happy, peaceful life and there is no such thing as humane murder. Just as there can be no true animal lover that consumes meat and dairy – think about it.
Here is a list of documentaries that changed my life. I urge you to do one thing this year: make time to educate yourself on the one thing that you (should) consciously make a choice about three times a day. For those of us lucky enough to live in a western world, we have so many choices and as a consumer we have incredible power – become aware and make a conscious choice instead of allowing yourself to be ruled by propaganda and industry greed. They don’t care about your morals or your health; all they want is your money.
What the Health – All about the health effects on the body that is caused by consuming animals
Cowspiracy – The truth about the cattle industry and the effects on the planet
Earthlings – Five chapters of animal use: pets, food, clothing, entertainment and scientific research
Land of Hope and Glory – The British equivalent of Earthlings
Lucent – The truth about the pig industry in Australia
Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead – How a plant-based diet can reverse and eradicate many diseases
Forks over Knives – Examines the claim that all degenerative diseases can be cured by plant food
Simon Amstell: Carnage – Set in the future; humans look back in disgrace at a world which once ate animals
Food Matters – Look at the state of food in terms of additives and effects on health.
That Sugar Film – Not animal related, but equally important.
As for books, the number one I can recommend is The China Study.
By far the most impressive resource is Veganuary – full of recipes, myth busters, a supportive community – created to make the transition as easy as possible.