One year on as a vegan

It’s not far off one year since I went from vegetarian to vegan (read my post from a year ago here) and I’ve stuck at it !! After 27 years as a veggie, I took a month long vegan pledge in March 2012 with the help of Exeter Friends for Animals (EFFA). The annual pledge month is coming up again in March so let me know if you’re interested in trying it by adding a comment at the end or simply click on the image below to go directly to the EFFA page.

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So why did I make the change to veganism? Well – day old male chicks being dropped live into mincing machines and unwanted male calves being shot shortly after birth so I can eat eggs and drink milk was a fairly big factor. I’ve done what I can as a veggie for almost three decades but I couldn’t escape the deeper consequences of the ovo lacto vegetarian foods I was eating any longer really. Almost a year on – my conscience is a lot lighter although I’m still wrangling with things like wearing wool and eating honey.

One of my reasons for trying a healthier vegan lifestyle was to lose weight and I have lost just over a stone so far which I’m really pleased with. One not so good consequence is having low Ferritin levels – although this could have been the case for years as a veggie, it’s only this year they were checked as part of a blood test after I had a virus. The amount of ferritin stored reflects the amount of iron stored and although I’m not anaemic, I am watching my iron levels a bit more closely and trying to eat more iron rich foods. I’m also taking a multi vitamin with iron.

HERBIES PICAfter an adjustment period at the beginning, trying to find the nicest milk alternative and trying vegan cheeses etc I do find that my diet fits in pretty well with the rest of the vegetarian family meals. The trickiest part is eating out as most places can manage a veggie meal but find vegans rather challenging. It is always worth asking though as I did have the most amazing salad made for me at Toast recently when I told them I’d like lunch but there was nothing vegan on their menu. This didn’t work so well with Otter Nurseries who have an enormous menu but couldn’t offer anything more than chips for a vegan! They’ve assured me there will be options next time I go for lunch but I’m not sure I want to risk it. I tend to stick to places I know do vegan food  (and soya milk hot drinks) now like Boston Tea Party (Honiton & Exeter), Toast in Honiton, Honiton Wine Bar (lovely hummous & bread), Herbies and The Plant Cafe in Exeter. I also tried Pea Green Boat in Sidmouth. So…..don’t forget to get in touch if you fancy giving the vegan pledge month a try & if you don’t live near Exeter, you can do it via the PETA website – see http://action.peta.org.uk/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=5&ea.campaign.id=14806

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Their Future – how do you view animals?

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I’ve just watched this short film by Environment Films about various kinds of animal exploitation. It’s 10 minutes long and there are some unpleasant bits on animal experiments etc but nothing too upsetting, and I get upset quite easily. The film is designed to make you think about how your everyday life affects animals – and really how we (the human race) treat animals. Please pop back on here when you’ve watched it and add a comment – I’d be interested to hear what you think and we could get a discussion going.

http://environmentfilms.org/EF/Their_Future.html


My Vegan Pledge

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I’ve taken a vegan pledge this March with the guys from EFFA – Exeter Friends for Animals. I’ve been vegetarian for about 27 years now and I have had a lot of vegan friends over the years, and often wondered what it would be like to live a vegan lifestyle. I was asked to do this month long pledge by Wendy at EFFA and I said yes, I’d give it a try. I’m now a third of a way through my month and it has not been an easy start I must admit. You’d think the transition from veggie to vegan would be fairly painless but I’ve found it…interesting, a learning curve, a new experience – but hey – life would be boring otherwise wouldn’t it !!

Apparently between 1% of UK households contain a vegan whereas 4-12% of households have a vegetarian person living there. Most vegans have lower BMI’s, lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure. Vegans eat less calories, less confectionary, less fat and less cakes – one of my reasons to give veganism a try and I’ll give you the results at the the end of the month (says she who has just made a fabulous vegan chocolate cake – pictured below)

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So what am I finding difficult so far – not being able to have a cup of tea or coffee at a friend or relatives house, or at most cafe’s or even at the town council where I spend many an evening! I had some issues with curdling coffee at the start of the month but now I’m only using Alpro soya and microwaving a cup of half water/half soya milk then adding coffee seems to do the trick. I’m drinking other things now – more water and fruit juices which can’t be bad.

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I miss cheese – I realised I must usually eat some form of cheese most days even if it is sprinkled on top of pasta bolognaise. I can’t bear the thought of not having a lasagne or cauliflower cheese again, two of my favourite things. Or cottage cheese and a baked potato, a cheese sandwich, cheese on toast or creamy goats cheese and cranberry sauce! Apparently there are vegan cheeses but they look so strange I’ve not tried them yet. I also love Stilton and Brie so these things are hard to contemplate not having ever again…but it is only a month, isn’t it…

So apart from possibly losing weight (due to not being such a cheese monster) I am doing this to think a bit more about how being veggie does still involve the killing of animals in order to produce what I’m eating. I’m not really into eggs much these days but it’s amazing how many things contain eggs – eg Quorn which our family eats a lot of. But I know that for every female chick born – male chicks are being killed at a day old every day….then of course how are those female chickens housed and when are they killed for being too old to lay?

Conveyor belts of male chicks on their way to the gas chamber or a giant shredding machine
Conveyor belts of male chicks on their way to the gas chamber or a giant shredding machine

As for milk – I sometimes see poorly cared for herds of cows literally staggering from their fields to the milking parlour, staggering along pot-holed country lanes laden with udders of milk which are there for the calves which were taken from them and…fattened for meat then killed at a young age. Of course not all cows are kept in poor conditions, some live lives of Riley on delightful organic farms but at the end of the day this is farming – and these creatures are killed when the farmer decides their time is up. THE reason I became a vegetarian is because I do not believe that humans have any right whatsoever to kill animals, for any reason*

Both my children are vegetarian and I tell my 10 year old daughter that it is part of evolution. We’ve worked out, like slavery or the death penalty or other brutal acts of violence carried out by humans, that killing animals is quite simply wrong. What gives us the right to murder a living creature and then eat it or wear it or rub it on our skin in a cream or potion? Let’s just hope the rest of the human race realise soon that they have no right to stop a beating heart and no right or need to eat flesh. And as far as religion goes – a god who tells people (in the bible) “Everything that lives and moves will be food for you” is no god I believe in.

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* I do believe in euthanasia if an animal (or a person) is in extreme pain however and in my younger days working as a vet nurse, I have helped suffering animals to die a calm, dignified death. I also helped many animals to live too! People should have the right to euthanasia as well – but that’s another blog….