I made it!
One month of being vegan.
This has been the most successful Veganuary ever. With more and more people signing up (the final figure could be as high as 150,000), the UK charity’s campaign hit record after record in 2018. Many restaurants added a vegan option to their menus. Several shops and supermarket chains provided clearly labelled vegan friendly food. There was quite a lot of buzz around the campaign.
My personal experience with Veganuary has been pretty much exactly what I expected – and at the same time quite a shock to the system.
I must say that it wasn’t all terra incognita for me. I had been a vegetarian for nine or ten years in my twenties. My soulmate John has been vegan for years. I was informed thoroughly about the health benefits of a whole-food, plant-based diet.
I was already very familiar with the bountiful range of alternatives to meat, milk and eggs that a city like London can offer anyone who cares to explore.
As the Independent wrote, ‘Why would you give up something that will help you live longer, protect the planet and be kind to animals?’.
So on December 31st I declared to my family I would embark on the Veganuary wagon and see how it would go.
I already ate almost no meat so that was an easy one. Same for fish. Eggs, no biggy for me either. When it came to dairy though… ouch. My coffee with its lovely foam on top. My French cheese with a glass of red wine on weekends.
It is for one month, I said to myself. Let’s try.
I swapped my daily cappuccino for an oat milk one. It is a “barista” oat milk and it foams very well, better than milk! In terms of taste, I am not into soya milk really (too bean-y) or almond milk, but oat milk did the trick for me.
Cheese, I must admit – the vegan alternatives that I tried were not so exciting. So I just ditched cheese from my diet.
And I survived. Quite well in fact.
The Veganuary team is a spectacular bunch. They sent me one email per day and it was the one email from a mailing list that I did read.
They were there for anyone who would give veganism a try – while keeping a non-judgemental, open-minded, caring attitude.
I learned a lot.
I read many pieces about veganism, some of them opposed to it.
What stuck with me was the article about the milk cow.
I realised I grew up with this idea that milk is healthy and good for you and we associate milk with innocence, mainly because it is meant for babies.
What we need to keep in mind though – as obvious as it can seem now – is whose baby is this milk intended for?
In order to produce milk, a cow needs to give birth to a calf.
Veganuary taught me something I did not know.
After nine months of pregnancy, the milk cow is separated from her calf when the baby is 48 hours old (in nature, it would be breastfed for up to one year).
This separation is incredibly traumatic.
There have been cases (some filmed) of milk cows breaking free and running after the truck that was taking away their calf, sometimes for miles.
That single image – the cow running desperately after a truck with her baby on it – this single image stuck with me.
Maybe because I have a baby in my arms, even right now. Maybe because I cannot trick myself anymore into believing that one creature’s suffering is more important or noble that another creature’s suffering.
With the children it was especially interesting.
During Veganuary I cooked a lot (those of you that follow me on Instagram might have seen some pictures, I added a few here).
I spent time with my kids talking about our eating choices.
They listened and then spontaneously decided to try vegetarian while I did Veganuary – so we contacted the schools to chose a vegetarian option menu.
We discussed daily how easy or difficult it was for us. Without minimising my kids’ point of view (fish & chip on Fridays is like a sacred staple in schools here in England. That was quite the sacrifice I think). Without patronising. We watched videos, age-appropriate videos on how you substitute milk, or eggs.
We learned compassion together while talking about the use of the Earth’s resources, how to ethically live our life.
We realised together how privileged we are.
We concluded that with privilege comes responsibility.
We made the connection.
The responsibility our family collectively has been ready to take is to eat consciously.
Eating consciously means knowing exactly what is in your plate. Where it comes from. How it is cooked. What it does to your body. How it impacts the planet.
I am not an all-or-nothing person. It would take more single-mindedness that I have right now for me to declare that I am becoming a vegan today.
So I am not.
I will stick to my already established eating habits of consciously choosing, as much as possible, food that is good not just for me, but for the ecosystem in which we all belongs, together with animals and plants.
I want to thank the Veganuary team for their fantastic work. I for once will surely think twice more in future before eating an egg or using milk. I will tell people around me that are willing to listen, why I am choosing an oat milk latte at my local cafeteria and why I make the stance to go for the whole-food, plant-based option whenever available.
I know it is not perfect to do just a bit and not all. But I am a great believer in doing our best – and I am aware that if everyone who is reading this is inspired to reduce significantly their consumption of animal products, it would already make a difference.
A small one maybe. And yet.
With love and oat milk foam,