I became a vegan in January 2018, when I was 15 years old. I think the urge grew gradually over around a space of week beforehand as I began to watch documentaries such as What The Health, Cowspiracy and Forks Over Knives on Netflix. Once I learnt about the health-related and environmental reasons why one should eat a plant-based diet, I then became swept up into YouTube videos and online articles about animal rights and the hidden truth behind what happens to get my food on my plate. I watched the breath-taking speeches by activists such as Gary Yourofsky and Earthling Ed. I always considered myself an animal lover, and went horse riding most Saturdays. I knew the ways animals were treated in food production wasn’t good, but I turned a blind eye to it as I just thought we needed to eat animals to be healthy, and so it was a necessary evil. I think it was crucial that I read the science of why we didn’t need animal products to be healthy first, before delving into the world of animal rights as everything became clear to me very quickly: if I could obtain every essential nutrient from plants to be healthy, there was no need to eat animals. Animals are being bred into this world and kept against their will in unfathomable conditions to eventually end their short life slaughtered for a piece of food or drink that I gulped down in a second, which I did not even need to survive, let alone be healthy.
The realisation of all this information felt like a veil had been lifted from my eyes. I did not understand why it seemed completely normal to have been living this way my entire life. I had to undo all of the social conditioning I experienced which taught me to believe humans were the most powerful and important species, and that eating animals was normal and necessary to be healthy. I guess it was easier looking at it from a young mind, a mind only swayed by societal constructs for a mere 15 years. I applaud anyone who is much older who makes the switch so easily. But the thought of making this vast lifestyle change, considering the fact that I was still young and living with my parents who cooked the majority of my meals, frightened me.
I learnt of ‘Veganuary’, the month-long challenge people undergo to be vegan for a month, and as January was approaching I declared that I was doing it. I’m pretty certain I said this to not scare my family, and make them dread the long-term changes they’d have to make to accommodate me, or the questions I’d get from friends if I’d made the bold statement of “I’m going vegan forever“. But I knew deep down that I would continue being vegan after the 30 days, as I knew too much to allow myself to fall back into my old lifestyle.
The week before I made the overnight switch was a special time where I researched my reasons further, and collated some vegan recipes I’d make while I was eating as little meat and dairy as possible. This was important so that I confidently answered the questions from people about why I was suddenly eating a different way. My parents were supportive of my decision, and even more so when I explained my reasons, and as I offered to make dinners the first week. It wasn’t too out of the ordinary for me to cook, as I liked to help out in the kitchen often before I went vegan anyway. On one of the evenings after eating a vegan chickpea curry I’d made, my parents and I watched the What The Health documentary on Netflix (believing a documentary can explain better than I could) and the minute the credits rolled, my parents wanted to join me and go vegan, too. I was over the moon, and this made things a lot easier, as my parents could understand my decision and cook vegan meals for the whole family.
I told my best friend that I was going vegan, and I kind of knew it would be hard to convince her as I knew she wasn’t much of an animal lover*. I remember walking home from school with her and we passed a billboard displaying an advertisement for supplements, and she said “Ah, now you’re vegan you’re going to have to take loads of them.” I explained the best that I could why that wouldn’t be the case along with all the other information I’d learnt, and in that one walk home I ‘converted’ her. We both share very similar views about things, and we aren’t the kind of people who would continue doing something we knew was wrong for the sake of convenience and tradition. She became vegan the next day, and we entered the exciting and life-changing world of veganism together, and I loved it.
Once I nailed the change in my diet, and felt physically better than I ever had before, I began to look at the other areas of my life which concerned animals. Once I had used up the non-food products (i.e. cosmetics) that were not vegan or were tested on animals, I bought vegan alternatives. I consciously looked at the fabrics my clothes and shoes were made from before buying to ensure they were not derived from animals. I educated myself on the other ways in which animals were exploited i.e. entertainment (donkey rides, circus acts, horse racing etc.) and even the things which disguised themselves as caring for animals (e.g. zoos, even some animal sanctuaries) and ensured I wasn’t supporting these industries too. I hadn’t rode a horse for a while anyway, but made the absolute decision to never do so again. I believe I try my hardest to reduce the amount of suffering I impose on animals as much as possible (the definition of veganism) .
In August later that year, my best friend and I attended our first Official Animal Rights March in London, and was overwhelmed by how many people there were. The speeches at the end were so inspiring and I thought I have to do more for the movement. I set up an Instagram account, where I posted recipes and informative posts about veganism, as a way for people to learn more about veganism and make a change. I re-posted informative posts from animal activists’ pages to help the message get out. I thought I was making little difference (although some of my friends say my page made them go vegan, or simply open their eyes), especially as I saw many of my followers in real life continue to eat animals, despite knowing they had read the information I posted that made me stop eating them for life. I realised different people had different barriers to making the change, and I was committed to making them realise how easy it really is.
Veganism completely changed me as a person, and I believe was a crucial signpost to me becoming interested in other things including yoga and meditation. I became more interested in protecting the environment, and the other lifestyle-related things that concerned this such as fast fashion. I want to help others start their journey in learning about these as well, so this blog will cover many things!
In terms of a vegan diet, I’d recommend looking at accredited resources for nutritional advice or ideally a healthcare professional as I am not qualified to give this information. When I make a factual statement about something, I will always try to add a link to a reputable article or website for you to look into further if you wish.
*I’ve realised since that you do not need to be an animal ‘lover’ to understand that animals share the same right as you do to live free from suffering.