6 things I used to say before I was vegan

Thursday, 9 June 2016



I pretty much went pescatarian over a year and a half ago, and it’s now been over half a year since I’ve been eating vegan. Of course, it wasn’t always that way and it’s almost amusing looking back how anti-vegetarian I was in my teens, especially. I think some people – both meat eaters and meat-free folk alike – can forget how much we can change when it comes to beliefs and ideals in relation to our diets; ten years ago I was one of the first to snort and say that vegans were all idiots and, well, now I am one.

So, I thought I’d do a little post about some of the things I used to believe, and how my views have changed to what they are today!

Humans can’t survive without meat!
I used to cite everything in the book of anti-veggie/vegan bingo to say that humans have always eaten meat, that we were designed to eat meat, that we will all be malnourished and shells of our healthy selves without meat. After all, my canines were obviously designed for tearing into the rare steaks I loved so much.

It’s certainly true that humans have eaten meat for most of our evolutionary history, and it’s definitely true that not everyone is able to give up animal products and still be healthy (this can be for any reason from medical to a simple lack of good veggie/vegan groceries in someone’s area). Having said that, though, there are plenty of people around today who may be politically, environmentally, religiously, culturally or even just accidentally vegetarian or vegan who prove that it’s perfectly possible for many folks to live happy, healthy lives without meat or animal products.  For some, there are even health benefits to be gained from making the switch, so long as they do so sensibly and with an awareness of nutrition.

Vegetarians & vegans are all pushy, preachy assholes!
We all know the stereotype – people who don’t eat meat are inevitably obnoxious and loud and take any and all opportunities to shout about their diet and lifestyle from the rooftops whether you’re willing to listen or not. I’d experienced plenty of asshole veggies/vegans online back in the day, and that admittedly was part of what put me off even considering giving up animal products – they all just seemed so illogical, intolerant, ill-informed and hateful.

Am I a pushy, preachy asshole now? Well, I like to think not. I try not to even mention being vegan out in the physical world unless it’s a necessity to make sure I get the right food. As for everyone else, once I ended up in the right online communities, I encountered plenty of tolerant, compassionate, lovely vegetarians and vegans who didn’t fulfil the much-loved stereotypes touted by veggie-hating omnivores and the media.

Not everyone who is meat-free thinks meat-eaters are scum, or thinks themselves above everyone else. Not every vegan thinks vegetarians are cop outs for not giving up dairy and eggs, not every vegetarian thinks omnivores are cruel or heartless for eating meat. Vegetarianism and veganism have their extremists like any other movement, but that’s exactly what those types of people are – extreme. In the right spaces, you can find people who are immeasurably supportive and loving towards omnivores, vegetarians and vegans alike!

Vegetarians & vegans are wasting valuable land with their soya crops!
A lack of intersectionality and compassion towards humans is an issue with the vegan and to an extent the vegetarian movement that I’ve known about for the longest time, and it’s one that I’m still very aware of now. A lot of those who are against eating animals and animal products almost seem to prioritise animal welfare above human welfare, and the shining beacon of hypocrisy that I’d honed in on was the amount of land dedicated to precious soya that vegans especially loved so much. Vegetarians weren’t immune either though, because in many of these same impoverished areas where soya is grown, grains like quinoa that are ever-popular with vegetarians as a source of healthy protein were plucked from the cultures they originated from, in some areas even banned for natives’ consumption, and instead mass-produced in developing countries for wealthy, predominantly white vegetarians’ and vegans’ consumption.

It’s true that there are those who certainly care more about abused farm animals than say, the humans who are exploited by animal agriculture, and there is a wealth of horrifying truth in the amount of land that is used to grow soya crops.  What I didn’t know (or perhaps didn’t want to know) was that the vast majority of these soya crops don’t go on to become soya milk for ignorant, privileged vegans or soya mince for wealthy, yoga-pant wearing vegetarians – it becomes feed for the hundreds of thousands of cattle that already take up way more valuable land than the Earth can sustain, and it takes many, many times the acres of land to produce meat and dairy than it does to grow vegetables and grains to feed the same amount of people.  Opting out of animal agriculture essentially cuts out the middle man and helps to protect dwindling space and the wild environments that animal ag is constantly encroaching on.

That doesn’t mean that meat-free diets are also free of guilt or pain, because even in the normal agricultural industry humans are harmed and exploited constantly, but what I am able to see now that I didn’t then is that I can carry on as normal, contributing to as much suffering – human and animal – as everyone else, or I can try to reduce the suffering I contribute to, even if it won’t remove it entirely. I used to believe that if I can’t eliminate all the suffering, then there’s no point and I shouldn’t even bother trying, but now I realise that by making certain changes to my lifestyle, I can at least do what I can to eliminate some of the suffering, and that’s still a positive step towards change.

Meals have to have meat and dairy or they’re just sad bowls of nuts and grass!
One of the most common perceptions of veganism (aside from the stereotypes of what vegans themselves are like) is that vegan food must all be bland, boring and sad. I used to feel like meals had to have meat and dairy and eggs and so on, otherwise what else would it be other than just a plate with a depressing piece of lettuce or boiled greens? Giving up not just meat, but dairy and eggs as well, seemed so restrictive and they’re basically in everything so there goes cake, cookies, crisps, tasty fried things and anything and everything else comforting or flavoursome. I get so much joy from food, and being unable to enjoy so many foods would really affect my quality of life.

It’s almost funny to me now (but nonetheless frustrating) how so many other people I encounter seem to think that a meal can’t possibly be complete without animal products, but that shit’s cultural and rooted in tradition, not reality. If we think back to the meals we were fed by our parents when we were growing up, if we think about – in the UK, anyway – our staple, national dishes, they all centred around meat and then something starchy, with vegetables as a side. Oh, and the vegetables were usually overcooked and gross, which I imagine further feeds the idea that vegetables can’t possibly be the stars of the show. Kate and I were chatting about it back when she was visiting and it’s amazing how our own parents didn’t even enjoy some of the veggies they used to cook, and have since learned new ways of cooking them from us that changed their perceptions of those vegetables; it just never occurred to them before because that was how they and everyone they knew always cooked.

I won’t deny that vegan cooking can be challenging, especially if you’re a fussier eater. I’ll basically eat anything, so I’m down for all the veg, all the beans, all the lentils, tofu, vegan alternatives, sweet stuff, raw stuff, processed stuff – just cram it all down my throat and I’ll love it. Preferably not together, though. Veganism did make me have to rethink cooking and almost figure out how to prepare meals again, but now I’ve come out the other side and I can say it was totally worth it. I used to think I could never be vegan because food was such a huge part of a fulfilling life for me, but that fulfilment isn’t lacking at all. You discover new favourites, and you also realise that you don’t need animal products to make exciting dishes.

Oh, and vegan junk food is hella tasty. Dairy chocolate can suck it now I’ve found Vego bars.

I could and would never give up cheese and bacon!
What? You want me to stop eating cheese? But cheddar is so delicious, pizza is incomplete without mozzarella, and don’t even get me started on Wensleydale with cranberry! And bacon, obviously I can’t give up bacon and all its salty goodness. What is there even to live for if I can’t enjoy bacon with a fry up or have a nice greasy bacon sandwich every now and again?

I haven’t consumed bacon for well over a year now, and cheese (intentionally, at least) for probably around nine months. I haven’t died from withdrawal, and I actually don’t miss it. I used to be that omnivore who said I’d eat two cheeseburgers just to make up for the vegetarians not eating them, and now I honestly don’t want one anywhere near my mouth or my stomach. Granted, part of that comes from my health issues and the fact that for all I know my bowels may well explode at this point if I eat meat or dairy, but mostly it’s because after some time apart, it doesn’t taste as amazing as everyone insists it does, and I feel so much better for abstaining. I feel lighter, I’m more energetic, I have less digestive issues, my IBS is better.

I don’t deny that these things taste good, of course. They do taste good. But my teenage self seemed to think that my life would collapse in on itself if I were to deny myself these things that taste good, when that isn’t the case at all. In my Christmas post I mentioned that I did treat myself to some smoked salmon (one of my all-time favourite foods, way more so than bacon and cheese) on Christmas Day and I’m glad I did, not because I missed it so much, but because it wasn’t nearly as good as I’d remembered. I finally let go and realised that I really don’t need any of these coveted foods that everybody else is obsessed with any more and I can find fulfilling flavours elsewhere now.

I will never, ever be vegan.
Oops.

If you’re meat-free or animal product-free, what kinds of things did you used to believe or say way before you made the switch?

6 comments

  1. I turned vegetarian 2 months ago and its astounding how much my opinions have changed in the past year. I have definitely have thought or said some of these things in the past! It's embarrassing now but it shows that people can change if they are open minded enough. I don't know about you but all the things you've mentioned are pretty much the things I hear every time I mention I'm a veggie!

    Beth xx
    http://myfunsizeddlife.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. Seriously, it's nuts! And yep I definitely agree, I may not have said anything to anyone's faces but I was a classic anti-veg omnivore, I probably would've ticked all the boxes in a game of 'things non-veggies say' bingo! :P

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  2. This is so good! I was exactly the same way and look at me now - on the journey to become vegan :) go veggies <3

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  3. I went veggie from the age of ten after my uncle told me how they killed animals. I am now Vegan (26) - before transitioning over I thought I wouldn't be able to survive without Ice Cream .... how silly of me - Booja Booja is delicious and healthy!!

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    1. That's awesome! Ooh I've tried Booja Booja chocolate and it was fantastic but haven't had the ice cream before... going to have to change that!

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