10 Things I Do That Aren’t Vegan

  1. I wear leather boots and wool jumpers.

IMG_2683I sure as dammit wouldn’t purchase anything ever again that was made of cow hide, sheep skin, wool, or silk for that matter. But I do own items made from these materials that I still have from before I turned vegan. The reason I keep them is that I also don’t believe in waste. I will continue to wear them until they wear out. And then I will be replacing them with vegan alternatives instead. I do however, feel very odd about wearing them. I can feel a sense of betrayal laying heavily around my shoulders as I don my “old faithful” leather jacket. And I don’t therefore wear it very often and there may come a point where I simply don’t want to wear it any more and in that case, I’ll pass it on to a charity shop or something rather than just throwing it away. It doesn’t seem right to just toss it in the trash when an animal was murdered to make it. In fact, I appreciate these garments so much more and take extra care of them because it seems callous to treat them badly after an animal gave their life for them. Nowadays, I always check the labels on any garments to make sure that they don’t contain any animal-derived products. This goes for other things too, not just clothes. For example, we’ve recently replaced our leather sofa with a fabric alternative.

 

  1. I feed my dog meat.

IMG_6019There are vegans out there that will argue that this means I’m not truly vegan at all. It’s a bone of contention amongst vegans. They generally fight each other about the issue. There’s evidence to say that cats are obligate carnivores, that is, nature has determined that they’re physically unable to survive on a herbivorous diet. They’re basically born meat-eaters and there’s no getting away from it. However, there is evidence to say that dogs are not obligate carnivores and can not only survive, but thrive, on a plant-based diet. In fact, one of the dogs that held the title of oldest dog in the World, ate a purely vegan diet. However, I don’t feel that I have enough knowledge of the subject to put my dog on a vegan diet and I’m concerned that I’d do more harm than good. Especially as I know that some vegan foods can actually be bad for a dog. My dog also has a particularly sensitive stomach. I have found a food that suits him and I don’t want to upset things. However, if I ever had another dog in the future, it is something that I would want to further explore.

 

  1. I take iron tablets.

screen shot 2019-01-04 at 21.15.44I did a lot of research to find a brand whose ingredients did not contain animal products, but they are from a pharmaceutical company who do test on animals. There are iron supplements out there that are vegan AND cruelty-free, but the dosage is not enough for what I need. It’s generally accepted that medication is exempt from veganism. If your health is suffering and you need to take medication, don’t deny your body what it needs to feel better, in order to satisfy your conscience. Avoiding medicines that will bring you back to health because they contain animal products is beyond ridiculous. And just to clarify, my iron deficiency is not due to eating plant-based, I suffered with this long before I became vegan, even back when I ate meat. If you feel guilty, be consoled by this: you need to be fighting fit in order to better protect the animals. You’re no good to them if you’re too poorly to speak up for them.

I’ve also had someone ask me in the past why I took a course of antibiotics because I was killing bacteria and wasn’t all life equal in the eyes of a vegan, including bacteria? In short, the reason I took them was for self-preservation. To quote Gary Yurofsky; I love animals but if a bear jumped out and started attacking me, I wouldn’t just stand there and let it kill me. It’s the same with bacteria, if they’re threatening my health, I’m not gonna let them take over, I’m gonna fight them. You have to be practical and being vegan, to me, means avoiding animal products as much as is practically possible.

 

  1. I use Sensodyne toothpaste.

Not all the time. I buy vegan, cruelty-free beauty products with no exception… apart from toothpaste. I use a vegan and cruelty-free toothpaste that is specially formulated for sensitive teeth, but I’m reluctant to admit that it doesn’t work as well as Sensodyne, so I keep a tube handy in the bathroom cabinet. I only use it when my teeth start to become painful. Once it’s back under control, I switch back to the vegan toothpaste that the rest of the family use, until it happens again.

 

  1. I buy my children vegetarian food at restaurants.

53243792_501678983694545_7231372836399480832_n.jpgMy kids are vegan at home. I will not allow any non-vegan food in the house at all. When we’re out, I’ll order vegan for them where possible, but sometimes it’s too difficult (like at a children’s party), especially for a threenager who really doesn’t “get” veganism yet and who I don’t feel ready to explain the gory details to. So I allow them to follow a vegetarian diet sometimes when we’re out.

My youngest is still at nursery and the nursery are under strict instructions to only allow him to eat vegetarian food. However, I allow my eldest (6 years old) to choose his own meals at school, which means that inevitably, occasionally he will eat meat. He’s quite enthusiastic about veganism and if he knows the dish contains meat, he chooses not to eat it, but sometimes, he won’t realise (take Shepherd’s Pie for example, he probably wouldn’t realise that it contained meat because there’s not an obvious enough clue in the title).

This is where I get it in the neck from both sides.

It really bugs me when people discover that I’m vegan and their next question, asked with a disapproving tone, is “are your children vegan?”. They believe that it isn’t fair for me to “force my views” on to them and that I shouldn’t make that decision for them, they should be allowed to choose for themselves when they’re older. Wait a minute, who said that an omnivorous diet should be the default? When you’re weaning a baby, you’re making the decision on their behalf of what they should eat. So you could equally say that a non-vegan is FORCING an omnivorous diet on to their child… Surely it’s better to allow them to eat a scientifically proven healthier diet containing no animal products while they are too young to make the decision and then let them make their own choices when they’re older? I’ve heard loads of times people say that it’s cruel to deny them and that if I let them have the choice, they’d probably choose non-vegan food. Firstly, there are vegan alternatives to everything so they’re not missing out and secondly, just because a child would choose non-vegan food over vegan food doesn’t mean that we should let them. If we all let children choose their own diet, they’d be eating pizza and ice cream for breakfast!

Conversely, vegans tell me that I’m not trying hard enough, that I should tell the nursery/school to feed them a vegan diet. But the truth is, I care about their mental wellbeing and I don’t want the other children to think that they’re “odd”. Right or wrong, that’s the decision that we’ve made as parents.

My plan is to allow them to make their own choices outside of the home where it is beyond my control, and although I might not always like the decision that they’ve made, what I can do is continue to educate them about the virtues of eating plant-based and hope that they make the right decisions as they grow. Sometimes when we’re out, they’ll see something that is non-vegan and ask if they can have it. I explain, factually, that it isn’t vegan and how it harms the animals, then I leave them to make an informed decision. More often than not, they’ll choose something different instead. But if they stick with their decision, I don’t make a fuss or make them feel guilty.

 

  1. I use a fridge, a laptop and drive a car.

54516654_412730789297871_765441782933618688_n.jpgThe issue here lies with the plastics and the glues, they contain minute amounts of animal derivatives and even the process in which some of the minerals are obtained can cause harm to animals. I have to drive a car. It has a leather steering wheel and animal-derived stearic acid in the tyres. There’s little I can do until I’ve earned enough money to buy me a vegan leather, electric Tesla. Which leads on nicely to my next point…

 

  1. I spend money.

In the UK, £5 and £10 notes contain tallow, an animal byproduct. There’s no getting away from it. Does the fact that I have a fiver in my purse make me non-vegan? I don’t think so.

 

  1. I use the hand wash in public bathrooms.

IMG_6170Most soap contains animal fats or other animal byproducts such as milk and honey and might be tested on animals too. I use it because well, it’s just basic hygiene. Whichever way you look at it, by using that soap, I’m contributing to animal cruelty. Had I not used a squirt, it wouldn’t have run out as quickly, it wouldn’t be replaced as quickly, they wouldn’t have had to purchase as much, so the companies that either put animal products into the handwash or that test on animals wouldn’t sell as much, they’d produce less, and fewer animals would be harmed. So although I haven’t bought the soap, I’ve still contributed to animal cruelty. I could avoid this by carrying my own with me, I suppose, but it’s things like this that make vegans sound ridiculous and veganism unattainable and this is what puts people off even trying, they think it’s too difficult.

 

  1. I dye my hair.

54437249_2160648247361365_7174762654882332672_n.jpgVegan and cruelty-free hairdressers are hard to come by and can be expensive. There are several vegan and cruelty free companies that produce home-dye kits, but the issue is that I’d have to do it myself and I know I’d do a horrible job of it. You could argue that in that case, I should stop dying my hair. So yeh, I’m not perfect. But… What I have done is chatted with my usual hairdresser and she’s agreed to still do my hair and charge the regular price, but use the vegan alternatives that I will supply.

 

  1. I’ve decorated my house

IMG_6029We recently updated the décor in our living room and opted for Farrow and Ball paint. I didn’t even think about it at the time, but a lot of paints use animal-derived products as binders such as beeswax and milk protein. It was only after reading the news that Meghan Markle had used vegan paint from the Organic and Natural Paint Co. that I gave it a second thought.

 

The reason for writing this blog post was to show that nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes, but the point is that just because we don’t always get it right doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try. I hate when people call vegans hypocrites. We’re not hypocrites. I’ve had people say to me in the past “but what about all the insects that are killed when harvesting the crops that you eat?” Avoiding harm to animals is not, unfortunately, in our non-vegan world ever going to happen 100%. But just because some insects are killed in harvesting vegetables doesn’t justify bringing animals into the world just to kill and eat them. The whole definition of veganism is that you strive to avoid harming animals as much as is practicable and possible, so yes, some insects will be harmed, it’s unavoidable and incidental, not deliberate. We’re trying our best.

There are loads of things that I know other vegans do that Level 10 Vegan Police would be after them for. I say let’s stop tearing down those that classify themselves as vegan, they’ve already taken giant leaps and have made a big impact. Why don’t we instead focus on educating and converting those that are not yet vegan and don’t yet recognise the global need to reduce the use and exploitation of animals. We need to be united and in support of each other in order to better spread the vegan message, not fight amongst ourselves and put off other would-be vegans because they think it would be too difficult because they’ve got to stop sitting on leather sofas!

What do you think? Is there anything that you do that isn’t vegan that you think the Vegan Police would call you out on? Leave a comment below.

 

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Vegan Me

I figured it was about time that I got around to starting that blog that I always intended to. The aim is to share information and experiences. If I can make one person think and make a change, then it’ll have been worth it.

So this first post is to introduce myself and to explain a little about why I feel that transitioning to veganism is one of the best lifestyle choices I’ve made.

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I think my story is probably similar to many other vegans’ in that I initially stopped consuming animals and animal products, selfishly, for my own health. I have a very dear friend who was diagnosed with cancer a couple of years ago. He went to visit a cancer nutritionist who told him that in order to minimise the chances of developing cancer to begin with, people should really turn to a plant-based diet.

This was news to me. What was so wrong with meat and dairy? My interest was piqued and I set about doing my own research.

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I found transitioning to veganism fairly easy. While studying for my undergrad, I lived with a vegetarian who I regarded as being quite strict. She always checked ingredients, even on sweets and checked the filtration processes of wines; she’d sometimes refuse medication because the capsule contained gelatine; she wouldn’t share the dishwasher, preferring to wash by hand; she was quite choosy when eating out at restaurants because she was concerned of cross-contamination if her chosen dish had been cooked in the same pan as meats; and she would only buy cosmetics from places like The Body Shop and Lush. I’d come across vegetarians before, but had never really thought about the Ins and Outs. I could completely understand her strictness and was always sort of in awe of her self-discipline. I thought it must be incredibly hard to live the way that she did. She was also studying veterinary science and kept guinea pigs in her bedroom. The very definition of a true animal-lover. She has since turned vegan.

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She made me think twice about eating animals. Prior to this, I’d chewed on dead carcasses quite happily without it entering my consciousness. As a family, we always had some form of meat with every dinner. Mum used to cook a lot of white meat, but I can honestly say that I’ve never eaten a steak in my whole life. I’ve only ever had gammon twice and I can clearly remember both occasions. The first time, I couldn’t get past the second mouthful it was just so salty and chewy and I vowed that there would never be a second time. Then, I went to the home of my university boyfriend where I was to meet his parents for the first time. About an hour before sitting down to dinner, he’d asked me if there were anything that I wouldn’t/couldn’t eat. I said I wasn’t fussy, the only thing I would NOT be able to eat was gammon and obviously, that is precisely what was placed in front of me. I had to politely chew and swallow every morsel, and it took me around a million excruciatingly painful minutes (I’m only slightly exaggerating). Embarrassingly, I think his parents actually left the table before I’d finished. So although red meat was not something that was regularly on the menu, aside from gammon, I would eat pretty much any dead animal… within (what I thought was) reason. I now realise it’s a ridiculous society-ingrained notion to think that it’s OK to eat some animals but not others.

But after meeting my veggie housemate, something changed. I felt sickened by the thought of eating a cow or a pig or a lamb. I obviously had always known where meat came from, but I’d never really thought about it. How had I not considered it before now? An animal had given the ultimate sacrifice (against its will). I no longer wanted something sitting in my stomach when I knew that it was a dismembered body part of our mammalian cousins. I felt like I could actually feel the remains laying heavy in my belly. A highly uncomfortable feeling. So I decided that I’d eliminate from my diet… cute animals. I just cringed writing that, but that’s basically what it boiled down to. I would not eat anything fluffy or hairy again.

But I decided that, because we surely needed meat in our diet to remain healthy (because weren’t all vegetarians pale and anaemic?), that I would continue to eat poultry and fish. And I did so for the next 15 years.

So when I discovered that, actually, ALL animal products have negative health consequences, I experienced something of an epiphany and decided quite easily that I had to eliminate chicken and fish, as well as dairy and eggs too.

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Just as I’d made the decision to become plant-based, I found out I was pregnant. I hadn’t done enough research around the topic and didn’t want to risk the health of my baby by not “doing it right”. I just didn’t feel confident enough that I was able to get all the required nutrients to sustain a healthy pregnancy. So while I stopped eating meat, I continued to eat dairy for a while because, y’know, milk builds strong bones and all that. Pfft.

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I did loads of research and found out that you can indeed sustain a healthy pregnancy without torturing, abusing and slaughtering animals. Who knew?

So, I committed to veganism. It really felt like the next logical step and at the time I felt like the metaphorical weight had been lifted. I was just “giving up” one extra thing. But, I wasn’t giving up anything. I was simply ceasing to take something that wasn’t mine in the first place. What a weird concept, I realised, drinking the breast milk of a completely different species. If I passed you a glass of dog’s milk that had been through the same pasteurising process, you’d say “yuk”. But breastmilk from a cow is completely different and completely fine? And fancy feeding it to our infant children when it’s intended to turn a 65 pound baby cow into an animal that weighs 700 pounds as quickly as possible. How have we been feeding this to our children without thinking that there could be negative consequences? But that’s for a different blog post.

Just for those eagle-eyed of you who are wondering where my what-should-be-an-8-month-bump is, I sadly found out at my 12-week scan that I had lost the baby. It had been my third miscarriage in 6 months. We’ve since decided that, actually, we’re quite happy as a foursome.

Back to the story.

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I started to do a lot more independent research. I watched health-related documentaries that focused on diet, such as What The Health? and Forks Over Knives. I learnt that by eliminating animal protein from your diet, you can increase your life expectancy and can reduce your risk of developing heart disease, cancer, diabetes and stroke, because when you follow a plant-based diet, you literally consume zero cholesterol. Cholesterol is only present in foods derived from animals. I also learnt that you can obtain all you need from plants, including protein, iron, and calcium. Furthermore, the quality of these vitamins and minerals is actually better, because you’re not recycling it through an animal who obtained all of those things itself from a plant-based diet. Learning what I did simply cemented my decision.

Digesting the persuasive arguments in those documentaries (‘scuse the pun) further fuelled my interest, not just in health, but in other areas such as the environmental impact of eating meat, I hadn’t even known that there was one up until that point.

I watched Cowspiracy next. It was a name banded about quite a lot in the vegan community and I felt it my duty as a new vegan to partake in viewing this influential film. Frankly, after watching this, I was scared. Scared for the planet and for my babies. What a world I have brought them into. I had no idea that the meat and dairy industry was having such a massive, destructive effect on our beloved Mother Earth. I didn’t know that we were clearing such massive areas of rainforest to make way for agricultural farming. An acre per second! If it continues at this rate, in 15 year’s time, the Amazonian Rainforest will no longer exist. We’re destroying the lungs of our planet. Without all of those trees photosynthesising and cleaning the air, we are contributing to global warming more than burning fossil fuels, driving cars and flying planes put together. By continuing this practice, we’re likely going to end up in a climate war with mass migration occurring as people flee from droughts, famine and sinking landscapes.

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The main takeaway message from this film was that we could literally halt global warming if we all agreed to stop eating meat, to stop breeding cattle, to stop clearing forests. Not only that, but if we took all of the grain that we use to fatten up cattle for the West, and instead gave it to people, there would be enough food for everyone and we could actually end world hunger too.

Now, I’m not an animal-lover per se. I’m not one to watch cute cat videos shared on Facebook, or even pet a puppy that comes over in a park. I mean, there are times when I really don’t see eye-to-eye with my own dog. But I challenge anyone to watch Earthlings without crying your heart out and without you taking away with you an image that you will never forget. I was only describing one scene from it to my husband and we both ended up in tears.

As I say, I’m no animal-lover, but I do respect another being’s right to live free from slavery, torture, abuse, fear and murder. I became vegan for my health, but veganism is not just a diet, it’s a lifestyle. Anyone can fall off the wagon on a diet. So I’ll remain vegan for the animals. I can no longer say that I don’t know. And I won’t go back.

So here’s a brief summary: eating animals and animal products is actually really bad for our health. Eating animals and animal products is actually really bad for the planet. So even if you don’t care about the animals, there are two massive reasons right there to refrain from farming, killing and eating them.

“If we don’t need to kill and eat animals to be healthy, what are we doing this for?” – James Aspey, animal activist.

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Me and my boy, Oscar