How and why did you go vegan?
As an avid animal lover, I turned vegetarian when I was 8. Then, when I was in high school my doctor told me to start eating white meat “for the protein”, so I obliged. About two and a half years ago I was doing some soul searching (as I guess you tend to do in your mid-twenties) and realised I had lost touch with the things I felt so passionate about.
I had stopped being accountable for my actions; I still adored animals but had rationalised that it was OK to eat white meat simply because a doctor had told me so eleven years earlier. That’s when I started to re-evaluate things and started taking responsibility for the choices I was making. The more I learnt about veganism, the more it made sense to me.
Since embracing the vegan lifestyle, I finally feel I am living the life I was always meant to; it may sound cliche, but I’ve never felt more at peace with myself. I feel rewarded and fullfilled every day.
King of the castle
Did you encounter any difficulties? If so what were they and how have you dealt with them?
I actually found the transition to be very easy. I think once you uncover the horrible truths about the intensive livestock, dairy and egg production industries, the knowledge you have acquired and all the horrific images that you have seen remain centre stage within your consciousness. That passion ends up influencing your every decision, and suddenly, you find that that glass of milo or toasted cheese sandwich doesn’t seem so appealing anymore.
Initially I found some difficulty dealing with peoples attitudes; it’s amazing how defensive and aggressive people turn just from overhearing a conversation you might be having. It’s as if your positive choices are a reflection on their negative ones, and so they feel the need to patronize and attack you to make themselves feel better. When you feel comfortable and confident in your own convictions, external negativity can’t shake you; if anything it builds you up.
How have your family and friends reacted to your veganism? Have you influenced anyone else to go vegan?
My family and friends have been really supportive; I’m lucky to have such amazing people in my life. Initially there was a concern that I might spend my days reading the ingredients on the back of boxes, and of course there were the “but how will you get enough protein?” queries, but once they saw how happy, healthy and full of life I was, those worries were dismissed. My 74 year old Dad often comments that I’m in the best form of my life.
Jennifer at work
A few of my friends have since turned vegetarian/vegan, in part from the chats and discussions we have had.
That being said, you can’t sit across the dinner table with your nose turned in disgust at the meat on your friends plate, preaching sanctimonious propaganda and then expect them to be open to what you have to say. If people feel they are being vilified, they will shut off. Self-righteousness won’t get you anywhere.
You are more likely to open up a friendly dialogue about veganism and facilitate positive change when you show people that you are passionate, well-informed and speak straight from the heart.
How do you feel switching to veganism has impacted your health?
I am without a doubt the healthiest I have ever been in my life. From a physical perspective, the benefits are immense. From an emotional perspective, to know within yourself that you have made a conscious decision not to contribute to the unnecessary suffering of animals, these beautiful, sentient creatures that bond with their young, that register pain, that can look you in the eye; that knowledge in itself keeps me completely and utterly content.
What are some of your favourite meals?
Enjoying vegan treats
I am one of those people who live to eat, and I love indulging in all kinds of cuisines (especially Thai and Indian). Vegan food is everywhere – people are often surprised how available and common it actually is. There are a lot of vegetarian/vegan places that I visit every chance I get – Veg Out (St Kilda/Prahran), Vegie Bar (Fitzroy), Soulmama (St Kilda), Tofu Shop International (Richmond), Vegetarian Nirvana Cafe (Richmond), Lentil as Anything (St Kilda/Abbotsford), and some newer vegan-friendly favourites; Great Flavours (Frankston), Feedmee (Balaclava), U Cafe (Aspendale) and Wild Yam (Mordialloc), just to name a few.
Fry’s Veg Out Cottage Pie (available form most Safeway’s) is one of my all-time favourites. My friends often cook for me and bake me delicious vegan goodies. My mum cooks me up vegan food every week (like eggplant lasagne, vegie pizza and pumpkin ravioli) and my boyfriend makes a great vegan curry.
Have you encountered any absurd stereotypes, comments or negative attitudes?
People are often shocked to discover that my boyfriend is a big meat eater – I think it’s assumed that vegans and meat eaters can’t possibly co-habituate, and that one will have to conform to the others ideals in order to have a successful relationship. I am not defined by veganism; however it it a big part of my life, but never so much as to isolate all the people that don’t necessary agree with my values.
Probably the most absurd thing I’ve been told is that folllowing a vegan diet will cause your brain to shrink (!)
'The dairy industry is particularly appalling.' This calf is going to be killed so that people can take his mother's milk
Is there anyone who has particularly inspired or helped you?
Funnily enough, it was two people that I had never met before that had a massive impact on my transition into veganism. I stumbled across a couple of websites and myspace pages, one belonging to a local girl by the name of Jamie Yew. Her page was filled with confronting, powerful words and images, and I was instantly inspired. It was from there that I started to find out more and more information about animals as commodities; the dairy industry is especially appalling. It’s sad how we have become so apathetic, so content in the bliss of ignorance; amazing how we treat our pets like kings and yet we can’t extend the same consideration to all the other “non-domestic” animals who end up as a meal, as a handbag, or as ingredients in shampoo. The information is all out there. It’s just about opening yourself up to it.
What do you think are the most effective ways of helping veganism to become more mainstream?
There are so many different tactics, but sometimes the most effective methods are the ones that sneak up on you; subtle in their approach but powerful on impact.
For instance, there was a fantastic radio campaign last year, narrated by a young girl, describing the cruel practices of intensive piggeries. It was simple, but very effective and quite moving. The message was clear; it hadn’t been diluted by overstimulating marketing tools or gimmicks. I think appealing to people’s morality and integrity in a non-threatening manner, supported by statistics and evidence, while outlining the huge health and environmental benefits of a vegan lifestyle is a positive way to go.
Its an indication of demand that vegan alternatives to almost everything are not only available, but have become commonplace. We need to keep putting pressure on the providers of our consumables by always asking what vegan alternatives they provide and always encouraging them to introduce more options, in order to ensure veganism continues to becomes more mainstream, and subsequently more acceptable within our society.
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