Confessions of a vegan noob

I loved cheese! Cheese was my friend. Cheese also made me unhealthy. I was down, overweight, my skin was in a terrible condition and I generally felt uneasy with myself. It wasn’t my physical and mental wellbeing which prompted me to explore veganism. It made the decision to convert easier, but not even these factors could push me to listen to my body’s warning signs. 

The thing which finally pushed me over the edge after years of vegetarianism, was a terrible one that lurks in the hidden corners of our minds:

“What happens to the cows?”

As a vegetarian, I thought myself quite the humanitarian. I was vocal about the inhumane, needless slaughter of animals for food while conveniently ignoring the fact that my morning latte had come from the misery and mistreatment of a poor dairy cow somewhere in the country. My lightbulb moment was when I realised dairy is what precedes slaughter and that I, as a dairy consumer, is complicit in this process. 

We’ve been lied to all our lives. The idyllic pictures of happy cows used in marketing and advertising, are myths. Instead, the truth about mass production on industrialised farms, is hidden from public view and the dairy industry goes to great lengths to keep it so. 

“Drink your milk so you can grow up big and strong” we are told.

And we all buy into it without question. Why is it that no one is willing to look the truth full in the face? 

Metathesiophobia. It’s a great word and if you can pronounce it, I’ll award you 10 extra points. The word refers to the fear of change. 

Fear of change is a normal human response to something which has the potential to force people to abandon their comfort zones. It’s also the driving response behind the unfortunate backlash that vegans face when broaching the subject of veganism. People fear what they do not know, understand or view as outside the ‘’norm’’. Veganism is more often than not viewed as strange or ‘’fringe’’ and therefore something to be feared or ridiculed. 

My friend Anna* is a prime example. She has a particular fondness for a specific rice and bean dish from her country of origin. The dish is really flavourful and whenever I visit her, I ask her to make it for me. 

As a new vegan, I recently told her with excitement that because this dish has no meat or dairy, it qualifies as vegan. Her face became ashen upon hearing this.

“Don’t tell me that!”, she exclaimed, ‘’Now I probably won’t eat it again!’’

Such is the irrational fear of the unknown.

But to be fair, that was me before I became vegan. What will I do for my coffee? What will I put on top of my pasta? But you can’t beat a cheese toastie? These are questions I didn’t really want answers for because it would mean that I could no longer hide behind ignorance. 

So as a newbie vegan, determined not to partake in the needless torture of animals anymore, I started to hunt for substitutes. And based on my own experience, this is my advice for those of you who are looking to come over to the ethical side:

Start out by finding a milk alternative that works for you. Personally I recommend a nut milk for coffee and an oat milk for tea and cereal. 

The British supermarkets have gone into overdrive to offer vegan meal alternatives which might not always be hugely nutritious, but do offer new vegans or the vegan curious the option of having their favourite meals without completely having to change the way they cook or eat. If you find yourself liking a “Chick’un Burger” don’t be shocked. It’s part of the journey.

There is no such thing as the perfect vegan. Allow yourself to take it step by step, day by day and do it at your pace. Do what makes you comfortable enough to commit to veganism. This is your journey. Only you know what will work best for you. 

And if, like me, you crave cheese, the vegan cheese counter at most supermarkets is groaning under the weight of the vast amount of choice available. 

Don’t be fooled by clever marketing lies. You have choices. The animals don’t. 

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