When is a Vegan not a Vegan?

Whilst working in a hostel in Melbourne, I had the pleasure to meet someone who opened my eyes and changed my life forever. He helped educate me about the environmental impacts of the mass-production of meat, and eventually I came to the conclusion that I just couldn’t ‘do it’ anymore.

I didn’t eat another animal product until I left Australia.

The main thing that I personally take away from being a vegan, and claiming to be vegan is that I intend to do the least harm possible. I don’t just avoid eating animal products, but I check out the things that I use and buy and do to make sure that what I am doing is in the best interests of everybody involved in the making and production of it.

I envision a world where people are paid fairly, live well, and are happy. I try to buy fair trade products where I can, and shop in charity stores, I try to buy local, I consider the impacts of my decisions. It’s not easy, but I find a sense of victory in knowing that even if I am only one person – my actions over a length of time will do *something* to impact on the bigger picture.

Since changing my views, I’ve started following others who think the same way. There are Facebook groups and blogs of plenty of people with plenty of ideas but very often there are very clear, polar opposite opinions between them.

Understanding the strong feelings of the vegan who is strict enough in their beliefs that they refuse to eat somewhere that sells animal products is to me, just as important as the vegan who says that they ‘are vegan except for cheese’. I’m pretty sure that publicly these two people come across very different, but the main point is that they are both trying in some way to make a difference.

In this day and age when there is so much hate that it feels like pouring water on the fire of it will only make it burn stronger we really need to take a step back and think about why we let our differences separate us so much.

In the case of the vegan who eats cheese – I can only think that a backlash of hate from others telling them that they cannot claim to be ‘vegan’ whilst they consciously choose to eat cheese is only going to be detrimental to their overall choice. I know I personally cannot afford to buy ‘vegan certified’ trainers, and I certainly don’t know whether the ones I have been wearing the last six months contain animal glue or not – but I personally feel it doesn’t make me any less vegan.

It’s about doing the least harm possible. Causing the least damage to our world by supporting a belief that many people hold.

Personally, I know a few people who have lived on, or grown up on farms where the animals they care for are well-treated and looked after – and ultimately live a long life. Unfortunately, whether it be the explosion of our population or the huge demand for animal products, we live in a world where to sustain ‘our’ habits as a populous that there’s a need for factory farming and other practices that make me want to *cry*.

There are of course extreme ends of all scales.

Here in the UK, I have the freedom to choose from a huge array of shops that offer a range of products to fulfil all my dietary needs. Whilst I was living with my Mum & Step Dad on the peninsula of Alaska I didn’t really have much choice about what I was going to eat – so to be able to go out fishing and catch my dinner was actually a pretty rewarding feeling.

Due to my own nature, and my perception of how vegans I know would react to this – it’s not usually something I talk about. When people ask me ‘How long have you been vegan?’ I actually struggle with the answer. For three months of my life was I not vegan? Did I just work out how many months it had been since I first went vegan and take three away? Do I add up the days and take away that day when I was nearly sick from hunger and ate a cheese sandwich to make sure I didn’t faint?

I still believed in my cause. I feel incredibly difficult emotions over it, and thanks to ‘the way my brain likes to work’ I could even let myself feel so upset about my decisions in those moments that I could abandon all hope of ever being the person I ‘want’ to be and take an extremely different path to the future.

Saying yes, I have been vegan for almost two years is far from a lie as far as I’m concerned. During the entirety of those two years I will have always consciously thought about the things I buy, and because I am human like everyone else who will read this – it’s safe to say that occasionally mistakes will be made. It’s just important not to feel overwhelmed when you do, consciously or subconsciously.

 

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2,782,608 Pigs

I want to take some time to talk about Meat-Free Monday.

When I first heard about it through a vegan friend, my thoughts were pretty mundane. What was the point in promoting something that felt so half-assed? If people only go meat free for one day a week – how does that really make a difference?

See, it’s a struggle to be optimistic – and with Borderline as my witness! (And believe me, I’m an all or nothing kinda girl) I have to say it took me a lot of introspection to really get behind the idea.

It’s pretty simple when you think about it, and once you start to run some figures it’s surprising how much impact something that seemed so insignificant could make.

When I got some time alone to ponder the ‘point’ of such a venture, my first thoughts drifted to my Dad and his girlfriend. The both of them have been terribly supportive of my decision to go vegan, even if my Dad does very often use phrases like ‘can’t I tempt you to have a malteaser’ and ‘do you want milk in your coffee’, but I think – like so many things it’s down to habit.

Anyway, I thought about them. I thought about what they would have for dinner first, and I realised that all this time I’d only been thinking about that one meal of the day. My Dad’s a traditional kind of guy, and anything with vegetables, potatoes and meat at the end of a busy day sounds perfect to him. What if he found a meat-free alternative that he liked the taste of and swapped out his meat for that?

I’ll tell you what it means. It means that for one night he doesn’t need to buy that ASDA (Tesco/Sainsbury/Morrison/Whatever) £3 pack of pork chops.

Okay. Wow. Two people. Four chops. Whoop de doo.

No, no.

In 2011 the estimated population of Lincoln was 130,000. Assuming that each person would have just ONE pork chop for their dinner on a Monday night, that’s 130,000 pork chops that Lincolnites don’t eat.

According to the internet, one pig will provide 23 pork chops (and a host of other cuts, but for the point I’m making we’re sticking to chops. Deal with it.)

That means, (with some help from a calculator) that in Lincoln alone approximately 5,652 pigs would not be required.

I’m already in a statistics kind of mood, so lets ramp up the numbers a few more steps, shall we?

A quick internet search suggests that in 2015 the population of the UK sat at just over 64million people.

ASSUMING, that 64,000,000 people ate ONE pork chop on a Monday night – the approximate number of pigs needed to provide those chops would be a whopping. 2,782,608 pigs.

Okay, I can already hear the critics, but hear me out.

If you told me that in a YEAR we, as a country were culling this many pigs just so that we could get our pork fix I would have difficulty coming to terms with this as a truth.

Suddenly, the notion of Meat-Free Monday has taken on a far more important meaning to me, and I’ll be doing my best to try and encourage my friends, family and acquaintances to consider taking one day off from meat in a week and maybe, just maybe people will be begin to see just how much difference this tiny sacrifice can make.

http://www.meatfreemondays.co.uk/ – Get some great Meat-Free ideas for next Monday.

http://www.animalaid.org.uk – Find out more about adopting a cruelty-free lifestyle.

Emulsifier 471

I’ve been vegan for a grand total of 3 weeks. It’s been much easier than I expected, but I’m not really here to talk about my own personal troubles.

I’m here to talk about Emulsifier 471.

It didn’t take me very long to work out that this was a problem ingredient. Every time a product seemed to be vegan, I was scuppered by this tiny addition to the list. There are only so many times that I’d like to scroll through endless Google results to find the answers to the ‘Question’. Is the 471 in this product animal based or plant based???

Of course, taking the first person’s word for it was never satisfactory. Anyone who works for a company can create a profile to say online ‘anonymously’ that their product uses plant based 471.

So why aren’t companies letting us know what we’re so desperate to find out? Surely it’s in their best interests, to be on ‘the list’ of widely known vegan products would surely improve sales and if they already use plant based 471 they’re onto a winner right away!

Changing your life

There are so many things that I feel I could write about right now. A lot of things have happened recently, and trying to pin down my thoughts for long enough to process these changes properly feels like something I’ve been incredibly bad at.

The biggest change is probably one that would shock all those people who know me. I met someone who explained to me that he was vegan. At first, I thought literally nothing of it. My attitudes toward other people have shifted radically over the last few years, and it’s hardly going to bother me that someone has chosen not to eat certain foods. Of course, my understanding of being a vegan was actually pretty limited. I have a close friend back home who I now know to still live a vegan lifestyle but for the longest time it was simply easier to ignorant about it. Every day there are countless numbers of things that happen that are unjust, unnecessary and if they happened to me I would be doing my best to shout out about them.

I was introduced to a few discussions and videos about only a handful of these things that happen every day, things that without knowing, I was a keen supporter of. It sounds ridiculous even as I type it, but this is an incredibly new concept for me – and I’m not the best at explaining my thought processes at the best of times, but after I watched a very interesting talk by a man named Gary Yourovsky my thinking changed drastically.

I’ve often been the type of person to do things on a whim. I can be quick to make up my mind about something, and I’m the first person to admit that sometimes my ideas and understanding about things can changed at the drop of a hat. It’s easy to listen to one conversation, and then listen to another and change my mind right after. This feels like something that I may well struggle with, but I have a determination about it that I’ve not felt before. This guy, Gary, made me question the reasons why we do the things we do, and helped me to understand very clearly that I wanted to do everything I can to try and stop the things that go on behind closed doors.

Quoting the talk is pointless, if anyone is interested enough to watch the video they will learn everything I know now, and he can definitely talk far better than I can argue  the topic. I can never properly process my thoughts, never mind trying to translate those into actual words.

Either way, after I listened – I acted. Luckily, I don’t have half as much food as I used to have – and where the day before I’d decided I would take the slow route, eat the food I still had and only buy new food that is vegan, I ditched everything. The milk, the nutella, the eggs, butter, honey. It’s all gone. To a good home, I’m sure. The free shelves here in the hostel have been my saviour enough times that it was probably about time I repaid the favour!

Only two days in, I’m not exactly in a position to claim success – but I am committed and prepared for a change! One I’ve orchestrated, and one I hope I can stick to.