Now it’s your turn…

I’m sure you’re all sick of hearing me babbling on so I thought it would be refreshing to hear from some other vegans. First victim/interviewee is an inspiring young vegan, Emily Bennett. Like me she is relatively new to veganism but extremely passionate about it, taking part in demonstrations and grasping any opportunity to share her vegan enthusiasm – to good effect. Thanks to Emily, several people, including her own mum have now adopted a vegan lifestyle. So let’s find out more about her:

1. How long have you been vegan?

8 months (since early April 2011)

2. What made you decide to become vegan?

I made the decision to go vegan 8 months ago and I can honestly say that it’s one of the best decisions that I have ever made. There are so many good reasons for going vegan but my main reason was for the animals. Having been vegetarian beforehand, I read up on the dairy and egg industries and was outraged to find that as much suffering to animals exists there as it does within the meat industry. I came to the realisation that if I’m truly a person who does not believe in cruelty to animals then I just shouldn’t fund it, on any level. With so many vegan alternatives to all kinds of products (from chocolate to ice-cream, cheese, milk and even cream), I’ve found the transition from vegetarian to vegan quite straight forward. Shopping for new foods that are free from animal ingredients has proved exciting and I’m enjoying experimenting with new dishes and adapting old ones. I’ve even shared my new-found knowledge with my mum who has embraced the vegan lifestyle with me! As vegans, we have never felt healthier or happier. But the best part, for me, is knowing that animals have not been harmed in order for me to eat and drink. Going vegan is the single most important thing that you can do for the lives of animals (not to mention your own health!). I would urge anyone to give it a try; you’d be surprised by how easy and rewarding it is.

3. Was it a gradual transition or an overnight decision?

Overnight. I pledged to be vegan for 30 days and gave myself a start date of the 2nd April 2011. I had it in mind to be as strict as possible for my 30 days and to monitor the effect of how I felt. At the end of my 30 days I found that I had enjoyed my vegan journey so much that I just wanted to carry on. I did not have strong enough reasons to go back to being vegetarian so I decided to keep up being vegan. 8 months in, I’m still going and I feel very happy.

4. Did you encounter resistance to your decision and if so, how did you overcome it?

At first my partner was not happy about my decision to go vegan as he felt that it would make things very hard for us when eating out. This proved not to be the case however and I love all the veggie/vegan friendly restaurants that I have visited so far! In my experience, most people’s resistance to veganism stems from knowing very little about it. Veganism means making conscious decisions that aim to minimise suffering to others (both animal and human) as much as possible. Sometimes people may have the perception that choosing vegan living is odd and that’s because sadly in our society (ab)using animals is the norm. Vegans can be accused of being extreme but if you look at what’s happening in the meat/dairy/egg industries, then that’s what is actually extreme. Factory farming is extreme and it’s seriously damaging the Earth. Veganism is about living a life that seeks to exclude suffering; what could be so extreme, or odd, about that?

5. How would you define your veganism?

This is a really great question. For me being vegan has become a part of who I am. I feel much more connected to animals now that I no longer use them. I feel at peace knowing that animals don’t suffer for me. I empathise and sympathise more. I feel I have a new outlook on life now that I have learnt what it fully means to respect and love all sentient beings: animals have evolved with us, not for us. Veganism gives me a foundation and grounds the most basic of morals (like responsibility and compassion) into my everyday living.

6. How has it changed your life – negative and positive?

The only negative that I can think of is that sometimes I feel overwhelmed by having a more realistic understanding of how badly animals suffer at human hands and on the staggering scale that this exists. I am now aware of so many issues that had never crossed my mind, and some days I feel down when I think of the millions of animals living in battery cages, in slaughterhouses and on dairy farms worldwide. On the positive side, I feel relieved that despite the horrors which persist I can say that I no longer contribute to their misery as I choose food, clothing and toiletries that do not come from cruelty.

Veganism has changed my life in countless positive ways. As before, I feel more connected to animals and I have a stronger ability to empathise with others. I also feel more at peace with myself knowing that I am not making animals suffer in order for me to live. I have met so many wonderful friends since going vegan and this has been a major positive – meeting like-minded people and knowing that others share my passion for helping animals and minimising harm. On the health side of things, I feel more energetic within myself because I eat more healthily. I have glowing skin and I sleep better. Lots of positives!

7. What are your top tips for anyone considering veganism?

Understand what being vegan means and understand your own reasons for wanting to explore it. Make changes little and often, for example by choosing a plant-based milk (e.g., rice milk or soya milk) the next time you shop instead of buying dairy milk. Take your time to check out the vegan options that your local supermarkets and health food stores have to offer by reading packaging carefully and making cruelty-free purchases as much as possible. Focus on what you can have, not what you can’t have, and stock up on plenty of natural, fresh food like fruits, vegetables and nuts. Countless vegan alternatives exist for literally any non-vegan item that you can think of, so feel free to rely on good alternatives like veggie sausages and dairy-free chocolate. Online shopping is also wonderful – Goodness Direct is a treasure trove for all kinds of vegan products and you can even search to see vegan items only (http://www.goodnessdirect.co.uk/cgi-local/frameset/diet/V-Vegan.html). Enjoy making new dishes and adapt old ones. Share your veganism with others. Rejoice in knowing that you are choosing a lifestyle that seeks to cause as little suffering as possible whilst reaping the benefits of improved health!

Top websites to explore:

http://www.chooseveganism.org/index.php

http://evolvecampaigns.org.uk/evolve/default.aspx

http://www.govegan.org.uk/

Thanks Emily!

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