There are so many factual reasons to go vegan, but I thought that it might be helpful to share a slightly different perspective today. So this is my personal journey of growing awareness and an insight into why I went vegan.
I hope that in sharing my own (far from linear) path, it goes some way to reassure you that there is no ‘perfect’ paint-by-numbers approach. Often, it’s not an overnight switch – and that’s totally okay! We all come to our own realisations when we are good and ready. No sooner, no later.
As I see it now, my life is divided into two chunks: before I went vegan and after I went vegan. During my first thirty years, I ate a traditional Western diet largely comprising of meat and two veg (plus plenty of cheese). Then, as of January 2022, I became strictly vegan.
If you’re curious as to how I underwent such a monumental mindset and lifestyle shift, then let’s take a closer look…
Recommended Vegan Resources
Life as a Standard Meat Eater
I’ll just take a moment to set the scene. As I’ve briefly mentioned, the majority of my childhood and adult years were characterised by complete apathy when it came to animal welfare. It’s just not something I ever particularly stopped to think about. Dogs were pets, farm animals were food. End of.
Interestingly, my childhood best friend was brought up as a vegetarian, which at the time was quite left-field. If anything, I simply felt sorry for her that she had to miss out on delicious roast dinners, and decided that her family was clearly a bit kooky.
I probably sound like a terrible vegan here, but I just want to point out that my mindset was no different to your standard meat eater for a very long time.
The Seeds of Awareness Are Sewn
My first major experience that jolted me out of my comfortable worldview was in late 2019. I was working in retail, and I went on my first sourcing trip to China.
Although it wasn’t really anything to do with animals, it signalled an important shift in my consciousness. It opened my eyes and made me start to question the things I’d traditionally taken for granted.
For the first time, the impact of my mindless shopping habits truly hit home. I saw through the marketing strategies to the unglamorous reality of how things are made. And I strongly sensed that there was a problem with how we were treating both people and planet.
I didn’t exactly know what to do with all this new information just yet, but it left a bad taste in my mouth.
The “I’ll Source Meat More Humanely” Phase
Perhaps it was the sourcing trip, or maybe it was being a first-time pet owner. Having a golden retriever definitely made me realise, more than ever, that animals are sentient beings with their own unique characters and quirks.
I remember talking with my (then) partner about buying meat more consciously. We agreed that we shouldn’t support factory farming and should instead commit to spending a bit more with smaller, more ethical farm shops.
Of course, at this point, opting out of eating meat altogether wasn’t even a thought that crossed my mind.
The funny thing is, I don’t remember us actually taking any meaningful action. So I carried on eating my favourite creamy chorizo pasta – still fairly ignorant, but conflicted.
Rebuilding From the Ground Up
I can’t talk about going vegan without mentioning my life imploding around my thirtieth birthday. I broke up with my fiancé, sold our house, and moved back in with my parents for a short period while I got back on my feet.
During this time, I did a lot of soul-searching and developed a real interest in personal growth. I started to treat myself like someone I respected, cultivating self-discipline and being more intentional with my time.
I also read LOADS of books (honestly, I was a walking library at this point). These were mostly centred around self-help, but one of the pivotal books that piqued my curiosity had an obvious overlap with veganism – it was called How Not to Die by Dr Michael Greger.
All Hail Dr Greger
Most people become vegan out of a deep concern for animal welfare.
I’ll be honest, my journey wasn’t quite so selfless. Despite a vague awareness, ethics was not the primary motivator in my first baby steps towards veganism. I was more interested in how I could improve my own health and well-being.
How Not to Die is a challenging book that will systematically pick apart everything you believe to be true about a healthy plate of food. But Dr Greger doesn’t really touch on veganism in its ethical sense – he focuses on the nutritional benefits of going plant-based.
For someone who had always blindly believed that animal products played a vital role in a balanced diet, I was surprised to learn that they actually contribute to some of the most chronic diseases in the Western world. I steadily began to understand that a plant-based diet is the secret key to health and longevity.
The Pescatarian Plunge
I ate meat for the last time in January 2021.
For such a landmark event, it was surprisingly unremarkable. My last taste of it was a handful of pepperoni thrown on a pizza (talk about mindless consumption). And I didn’t even realise in that moment that it would be my official farewell forever.
The next day, more as a New Year’s challenge than anything, I suggested to my parents that we try going pescatarian. They had already been cutting down on red meat for health reasons (and, in all honesty, my mum had never been a huge meat lover). But I was still quite surprised when they actually agreed to it.
My mum and I started avidly researching pescatarian and vegetarian recipes that we could try. We didn’t put an end date on our pescatarian foray. And, to everyone’s surprise, months passed… but we just kept on going.
A Fork in the Road
Later in the year, I moved out of my parents’ and into my own place.
At this point, my mum was still going strong as a pescatarian, but my dad was now eating meat very occasionally (aka ‘flexitarian’). As health had always been the primary motivator, this made sense. Besides which, they did (and continue to do) so much more than most people.
Having been the one to bring up going pescatarian in the first place, I suppose it’s no surprise that I was the one to go a step further. So, after a year of eliminating meat and feeling good about it, I started to question whether I should remove fish from my diet, too (little did I know at this point about the horrors of eggs and dairy).
Would it be so hard to go all-in vegetarian?
The Film That Made Me a Vegan Overnight
In the New Year of 2022, I started my vegetarian journey – all one week of it.
Because during this week, I unknowingly decided to do one of the most powerful things you can do if you want to go vegan – I watched some documentaries to educate myself.
The very first film I came across had a profound impact on me. It was called Earthlings.
Calmly narrated by Joaquin Phoenix, Earthlings starts with an introduction to ‘speciesism’ – explaining that how we treat animals has parallels to social injustices like feminism and racism. While humans have been able to fight back, voiceless animals don’t have anyone to speak up on their behalf.
It is then split into five unflinching ‘chapters’ which document the many ways in which human beings exploit animals, including food, pets, clothing, entertainment, and scientific research.
Bearing in mind that I wouldn’t call myself a diehard ‘animal lover’, I was barely able to watch in places, and I cried more than I’ve probably ever cried at any film. I knew it wouldn’t be easy viewing, but I really didn’t expect it to have the impact it did.
By the end credits, it was like a switch had been flicked. My old life felt like the closed chapter of a book. If I cared about animals, then I needed to go fully vegan and eliminate all unnecessary suffering in what I chose to consume. I haven’t looked back since.
Having a Strong Enough ‘Why’
He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.
In the following days, I cleared out my fridge and kitchen cupboards, and I did my first vegan food shop. But my initial excitement quickly faded away after an hour or so of painstaking label checking (I still wasn’t entirely sure what I could and couldn’t eat at this point). Let’s just say that those first few weeks involved a lot of salad and falafel!
But I continued to watch more documentaries – basically, all of the ones on this list. I also read Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation, which addressed many of the topics raised in Earthlings in more depth. I’m not sure I realised it at the time, but I was in the process of fully cementing my ‘why’.
People say that they could never go vegan because it would be too hard. And it’s true that I missed creamy dips, sauces, and cheese (I used to grate cheddar on just about everything). But the funny thing is that veganism was always a non-negotiable for me from this point onwards, so there was never a doubt in my mind. I just got on with it.
Reaction to the V-Bomb
On a personal level, going vegan is fairly doable. What you might not immediately realise, though, is that the social repercussions can be the hardest part to deal with.
Of course, my vegan transition wasn’t all that surprising to my parents. They probably thought I’d stop at vegetarianism, but they were supportive of my decision which really helped. In fact, my mum is always fighting my corner and demanding more from restaurant menus!
My grandparents, on the other hand, were a different story. Initially, they simply couldn’t get their heads around it (my nan quoted just about every vegan myth in the book). Thankfully, things have become easier over time.
And my boyfriend also had to come to terms with me being vegan (I’m not sure he quite grasped what he was signing up for!). Vegan and non-vegan relationships can work, but they certainly require a lot of love and patience.
Reflections on 2 Years of Veganism
I can’t believe it’s been nearly two years since I went vegan. But in other ways, I can’t believe it’s only been two years! Veganism is a part of my identity, so it’s crazy to think back to a not-so-distant time when it wasn’t even a part of my consciousness.
This helps to keep me grounded when accepting the choices of others, because I know how long it took me to come to my own realisations.
Going vegan has been one of the most empowering things I’ve ever done. It’s taught me a lot about myself, how to have strength in my own convictions, as well as self-discipline in living a life driven by values over the short-term gratification of my tastebuds.
I’ve also learnt that veganism is about so much more than what you put in your mouth – it encourages you to consider the effects of mindless consumption in all areas of your life. Caring about animals helps you to see things from outside of your own limited perspective, whether it’s people in supply chains or the environmental impact of your purchasing decisions.
Of course, veganism hasn’t been without its fair share of challenges – from my first Christmas to budgeting, or what to do with old leather items. It may not have been perfect, but I honestly wouldn’t change anything.
Over To You
So there you have it – my vegan story. A lot has happened in a short space of time, so I’m intrigued to see where I find myself in a couple more years.
I should also clarify that if you’re not vegan, I’m not here to make you feel bad or shame you. The very fact that you’ve found yourself reading this article suggests that you might be ready to take the next step on your plant-based path, no matter where you currently find yourself. But it’s also important to do your own research and come to your own conclusions.
If you’re feeling inspired but don’t know where to start, then check out my beginner’s guide to going vegan – the complete overview I wish I’d had a couple of years ago. And don’t forget to let me know where you’re at right now. I’d love to hear your thoughts!