Transitioning to a plant-based diet: The beginning
I’ve written before about how I’ve been trying to eat a lot less meat. Well, one things leads to another, doesn’t it? The more I read about the environmental impact of raising animals for food, and the more stories I hear about how awful the industrialisation of the livestock industry is, the less I can ignore how I feel about it. If I’m trying to live more sustainably, it’s one of the top things to do in order to lessen your environmental impact.
The truth is, I love meat. I love milk. I love eggs. I actually don’t see anything inherently wrong with killing animals for food, or drinking cow’s milk, or eating eggs. I also always thought vegans were a bit weird. Like, crazy eyed, weed smoking, chia seed crunching obsessives who wanted to give everyone a lecture about the evils of meat.
Of course, then I actually met some people who happen to be vegan and realised how wrong that picture is (apart from the chia seeds, but then I already own a big jar of those). And although I still don’t believe it is wrong to eat animals, the scale of production required today in order to fulfil the world’s desire for these products is unsustainable and makes the whole industry pretty inhumane in the process.
I do feel that the UK’s animal welfare must be higher than in the US, where most of the information I’ve come across seems to come from (and where all of the Netflix documentaries are set), particularly for those animals that live under organic conditions. I didn’t grow up in the countryside, but I’ve been to farms in the UK. I’ve stayed next to working dairy farms and my in-laws live right next to a sheep farm. Driving through the countryside you pass animals on farmland all around you. The ones you see have as good a life as they can, given why they’re there in the first place. But even organic, free range animals are subject to awful, routine practices, like male chicks being discarded at birth and calves being taken from their mothers after 24 hours and cows being forcibly artificially inseminated to keep the milk flowing. And the sustainability questions don’t go away, either.
I’ve tried to ignore how I feel because – butter! croissants! cheese! runny eggs! Someone said to me last week “I could never become vegan – I love food too much”. ME TOO, DUDE! I love food, I love cooking, I love reading food magazines and looking at recipes on Pinterest and photos of food on Instagram. I don’t think this is going to be easy. But I can’t ignore those niggles any longer.
I recently read The Lorax to Theo, and one of the last lines just kept coming back to me (that Dr Seuss was a clever man, I tell you):
“But now,” says the Once-ler, “Now that you’re here, the word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear. UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.”
I can only control my own actions, and since I have the privilege to do that, I have decided to stop eating animal products as often as I possibly can. In an ideal world, I would turn vegan today, overnight, and never look back. But that’s not the world I live in. My husband is a huge meat eater and loves to cook. He’s great at thinking of a vegetarian option for me, but I’m not going to make him start only cooking and eating vegan meals when that’s not his bag at all. Also, Theo is a fussy eater – unless I find foods that he will definitely eat that are vegan, I can’t restrict what I offer him, and there will always be meat and cheese in the house because of Peter.
But where something is within my control – nights when I cook, or when I go out for a meal and am choosing what to eat – I’m going to choose to eat a plant-based diet. We don’t NEED meat or dairy or fish in our diets. Fresh fruit and vegetables, soy based products, quorn, milk substitutes… there is a vegan alternative for pretty much every dish you can think of. It doesn’t taste the same – of course it doesn’t. But it doesn’t taste bad, either. Every vegan dish I’ve tried since starting down this road (only a week and a bit ago, to be fair) has been delicious, so it’s a promising start.
Are you a vegan? Any tips? Any good recipes that meat eaters and toddlers will love? Have you read any articles from people who have transitioned? I read this from Tania Joy, which I loved, but I’d love to read more. I really want to read about people’s experiences changing over – what they’ve struggled with, what recipes they’ve come across etc.
Also, I’ll be writing a post about how it’s all going in a month or so, so if there’s anything you’re curious about, please do ask any questions and I’ll answer them fully in that blog post.