Talk to people about veganism these days and you’ll be amazed at the repertoire of responses. Maybe you’ve noticed it yourself. In the UK people often look at me like I’m a cross between a starving orphan and a saintly martyr, deserving of their pity and respect, while at the same time they’re cursing me under their breath for reminding them of something that makes them feel guilty and that they want to forget.
Over here in Deutschland, people seem to be (as with most things) more blunt. They tell it like (they think) it is, and more often than not that takes the form of immediate health warnings and nutrition advice, followed by absolute denial that Germany’s animal agriculture is anything but humane, fair, and compassionate. I’m patient though. I listen to them and humour them and even (to my own internal cringing) concede to some of their points. It’s hard being a British woman. We’re all way too polite.
Other times you get the apologisers who immediately start by saying that they really don’t eat much meat at all, and they’ve tried going vegan but it was too difficult, and they only eat meat if a friend cooks it because they don’t want to offend them etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum. I’m amazed so much emotion is generated from me simply uttering the line: “No thanks, I’m vegan”.
I grew up in rural Yorkshire surrounded by Pony Club friends, fox hunting neighbours and a pheasant shooting father, so it may seem strange I evolved this way at all. To me it signals two things: the strength of my mum’s ethical parenting in the face of so much adversity (twice a year her front lawn resembled a butcher’s shop with all the pheasants and ducks and rabbits the shoot would bring back and lay out in a psychopathic display of cruelty); and that humans are naturally compassionate.
Some of my earliest memories are of experiencing this cognitive dissonance between my own empathy for living creatures and what I saw around me. My dad, being the archetypal country gentleman, was very fond of fly fishing, and he tried to interest us from an early age. We were lucky enough to grow up with a beck in our back field, and much as I loved hanging out with him learning how to spot fish, walk downwind, identify plants and trees and animal prints, I always hated catching the fish.
My sister and I once caught some sea urchins on a holiday in Greece, and took them out of the water to dry out (die) on the rocks so we could have their colourful skeleton. We’d seen these in our rented villa, and coveted them. I was 7 at the time, and remember feeling so sorry for these creatures frazzling away in the sun. We kept collecting buckets of water to pour on their waving spines in a childish attempt to keep them alive. After maybe ten or fifteen minutes we couldn’t bear it anymore, and we put them back in the sea. I sincerely hope they lived.
Another memory that still brings up guilt is from a summer at home. We were very young, and my mum had started growing lots of veg in the back garden. This led to an abundance of Cabbage White butterflies that were threatening to eat her brassicas. One day, my dad armed each of us with a badminton racket and told us of a “game” he had played as a boy: essentially whacking these poor creatures out of the sky and killing them. I didn’t take long until I was too sad to continue.
There are so many memories of us crying at roadkill, rescuing worms after the rain, trying to hand-rear baby mice/rabbits/chicks that the cats had brought in, and yelling at other kids who deliberately tried to stamp on insects, that i find it impossible to believe that children are anything other than innately compassionate. I’m proud we all followed my mum’s nature in this regard, and grateful that my dad put up no resistance and was proud of us in his turn.
But back to veganism. I truly believe that humans can live healthy, gracious lives eating a plant-based diet. What was only anecdotal evidence some years ago has now been scientifically proven time and time again: humans really do thrive when they nourish their bodies with natural, living foods that have not been killed or taken from
another creature.I’ve written before (and will do again in more detail) about my own health issues that cleared up when i became vegan. Of course I’ll say here and now that it entirely depends what kind of vegan diet you’re eating: if it’s Pringles and Oreos then you’ll probably pop your clogs far earlier than a moderate carnivore, and feel far worse in the intervening years! What I’m talking about is loads of fruit and veg, some grains, nuts and seeds, and limited sugar.
When I went vegan the second time a year ago, there was one quote that had a huge impact on my mindset:
Veganism is easy as soon as you stop focussing on yourself and start focussing on the victim
Because that’s it in a nutshell. Whereas I’d previously always bemoaned the fact i couldn’t eat cheese anymore, and feeling deprived and sorry for myself, suddenly I was seeing it from a completely new perspective and it was mind-blowing! I’ve since used this with people who’ve come to me for help going vegan, and they have the same “woah” moment.
It’s also so easy! Ok, so I live in Berlin where it’s easier to get good vegan food than it is to get good tea, but still. The world is catching up. There are thousands of blogs full of delicious, fast and cheap recipes; there are vegan ranges in supermarkets; there’re soya milk options in most coffee shop chains (this was a biggie for my mum- the thought of going without her vanilla latte nearly floored her); and even pub grub is becoming more accommodating.
So It’s time to get on board. The excuses just don’t wash any more, especially as the previous generation took one for the team and lived an arguably less taste-bud happy existence while paving the way for the wealth of choice we have today. Get out of your comfort zone and try veganism. The animals are desperate for us to wake up and do something, and our beautiful planet needs it to happen NOW.
Please let me know if i can help in any way: you have no idea how much I love hearing from people who’ve been mulling the idea over but don’t know where to start. Keep checking in to see more on making the switch, recipes, tips and stories, and remember:
If we could lead happy and healthy lives without harming others, why wouldn’t we?
Thanks for reading,