My Vegan Story!

For those of you wanting to know a little more about why / how I became vegan, here’s my story….

Early Years

I’ve always loved animals; in fact, much more than people! I grew up wanting to work as a vet, or in a zoo and I studied animal behaviour through my Ecology degree at University. I volunteered in animal shelters, worked weekends at a local farm, rescued injured birds, rehabilitated stray kittens for new homes, and even got a tattoo of one of my favourite animals on my thigh!

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As a child, I begged my parents to let me get a pet rabbit, and slowly worked my way up to guinea pigs, geckos, hamsters and eventually my childhood goal; a puppy! Both my sisters went vegetarian early on – one aged eight and the other at just four when she learnt where her birthday plate of chicken wings had come from. I dabbled in vegetarianism in my teens and had tonnes of veggie meals at home, but never really stuck at it.


University

At University, I ploughed through an insane (and very unhealthy) amount of bacon each week, despite claiming that pigs were one of my favourite animals. I failed to make the connection; pigs were food, and that was unfortunate.. but humans are designed to eat meat, right?! If my mind ever wondered to the conditions the pigs lived in, or the pain they must have suffered, I would actively distract my thoughts to stay disconnected.

my vegan story


Bye Bye Bacon!

Whilst at University, I met one of my now longest and closest friends. She was vegetarian and had been for many years. We had a ridiculous amount in common and would talk for hours on subjects that left my mind wandering for days afterwards. I had no idea about animal agriculture or welfare before meeting her. I’d happily kept myself in the dark to dampen any potential guilt, and continue to get pleasure from each steak, bacon sandwich or hot-dog I ate. She could not fathom how someone with so much love for animals, could keep eating them! We started to talk more about vegetarianism and I began to open my eyes to what is happening within animal agriculture. This included watching videos such as Earthlings. I was mortified. I could no longer justify putting my own selfish desires ahead of the lives of other beings. I did not want to be responsible for any animal suffering for my dinner. So that was that! I went vegetarian.

At this point, neither of us were aware of the horrors of the dairy industry… I have never liked milk so have always had almond/ soya milk but continued to eat cheese, butter and products containing milk powder (cakes etc).

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Age 14: Staying on a farm in Ireland

 

From Veggie to Vegan 

I spent a year vegetarian, which was extremely easy for me. Although I ate a fair amount of meat before, I didn’t actually like a lot of it. I was pretty much limited to bacon and sausages along with the very occasional steak or chicken wings if at a restaurant. The only meat I was really bothered about was bacon, and everyone tells you bacon is the hardest to give up, so I was worried at first that bacon would get the better of me! However, this fortunately was not the case and it was actually very easy to give it up. In fact, the smell of bacon cooking now makes me feel kinda queasy.

During that year, I was 90% vegan anyway as I enjoy eating fruit and vegetables, wasn’t drinking milk and mostly stayed away from sweet snacks as I don’t have a very sweet tooth! I wasn’t buying cheese, but was still eating cheese when out for dinner as EVERY freakin’ veggie option always comes loaded with some kind of cheese!

my vegan story

Tagliatelle with vegan ‘scallops’ in a creamy garlic and parsley sauce (Instagram: the.wild.life)

 

In 2015, I started reading more and more about veganism and what happens in the dairy industry. I couldn’t believe that cows were being repeatedly raped through artificial insemination, having their calves ripped away from then when hours old (to be sold on as veal), then being chained up to milking pumps which left their teats red raw and leaking pus (into the milk by the way…). I, like many others, grew up believing that cows always produced milk, and ‘needed’ to be milked. This sadly just isn’t the case – more on that here.

I knew I needed to become vegan, but it took nearly a year for me to make the commitment.

Why?

The reason it took so long for me to make the step to becoming vegan was mostly due to my constant worrying!

  • What would I eat when I go to restaurants?!
  • What will people think of me?!
  • Will people judge me / see me differently if I tell them I’m vegan?!
  • What will I eat when I travel!?
  • My shopping will be more expensive… can I afford to be vegan!?

The list went on, and on… and on! I was in a constant battle between wanting to go vegan and caring too much about what everyone else would think of my decision. Eventually, in Jan 2016 I decided it was a great time to take the plunge, originally starting by doing ‘Veganuary‘. It was the perfect way to ease into veganism and I haven’t looked back since!

my vegan story

Vegan mushroom and cashew pie! Instagram: the.wild.life

 

It turns out I was wrong about all my worries. It’s was easy to transition and I’m loving the vegan lifestyle 🙂 It’s easy to eat out at restaurants, so many places offer vegan options now and it’s always easy to create something combining starters and sides if there isn’t an obvious vegan choice.

I also went to a vegan meet-up in my area, which helped massively. Although my friends and family are very supportive (both my sisters are now vegan too, woo!), it’s easy to feel isolated when you don’t spend time with people who share the same views as you. At the first meet up, I was surrounded by about over 30 vegans of all different shapes and sizes; from young children and families, to older men, and everyone in between! There are loads of vegan meet-ups all over the UK, so it’s definitely worth investigating!

As for expense, it’s CHEAPER being vegan – fruits and veggies are always cheaper than meat. Meat substitutes and tofu are often less expensive than a meat alternative too. So no worries there! I also feel SO MUCH better than when I ate meat and dairy, I have more energy, my skin and hair are healthier and my digestive system is thanking me too.

It also feels good not worry about what people think – if people ask why I’m having almond milk in my coffee, or declining the office cake, I’m not afraid to say those once scary words, ‘I’m vegan’.

I have travelled to 20+ countries since turning vegan and it was honestly so easy. I found plenty of options, lots of alternatives to cultural and traditional foods and even managed to eat vegan in remote Russia and Mongolia!

my vegan story

Instagram: @alysthewildlife

 

If you are thinking about becoming vegetarian or vegan, or would just like to know a little more about what happens to your food before it reaches your plate, see my ‘Why Vegan‘ section. There’s loads of links on there for helpful sites and informative videos etc. Alternatively, please ask any questions in the comments below or drop me an email and I’ll do my best to answer 🙂

Thanks for reading!

Alys 3