So, my New Year’s Resolution’s gone out of the window: ‘one blog post every month’ had been going according to plan until June hit. GODDAMN YOU, JUNE. I’m well aware of the fact that I’m posting this four months after the last two instalments of my Veganniversary series (the first two can be found on the homepage, if you’re curious) but there is good reasoning for my tardiness: I didn’t know how to write it. I’ll explain about that properly later on in this post, but anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I do have an alibi for this piece being so late, so I’m sorry, ok? I’M SORRY.
Let’s hope all this apologising and waffling is worth it.
As well as celebrating two incredible women, in this third and final instalment I’ll be looking beyond the meal-plans and exploring the magical shift in focus that veganism brings along with its delicious, nutritious dindins.
This is Part Three.
As I begin to write up notes for this piece, I’m sat on a train to Brighton with a punnet of grapes and a wrap from Pret’s #NotJustForVeggies range on my lap. (I thought that last sentence sounded familiar so I just looked back at my other posts and saw that I was eating a punnet of grapes as I wrote Part One too… I like grapes.) The man opposite me is eating his family-sized bag of crisps like it’s the last time he’ll ever eat; crumbs flying everywhere and deafening the rest of the carriage in the process.
THE MENTAL SHIFT:
Firstly, I’d like to talk a little (or a lot – it really depends on how much I’m able to focus while my carriage companion practically chokes himself to death on crisp crumbs) about the way your mentality begins to shift once you start on the path to a vegan lifestyle. That might sound like horrifically new-age, hippy-dippy bullshit… but it’s true.
Let me start by saying that my main reason for going vegan was animals. The environmental impact of meat, fish and dairy definitely played their parts, and the health benefits were an added bonus, but first and foremost it was for the animals. This is how I see it: I believe in equality. I’m a feminist, I support LGBT rights and I believe black lives matter… but I now realise that equality doesn’t start and end with human beings. I believe that every living being should be entitled to a free and safe life, and that goes for animals, too. In my book, that’s what veganism is all about. It’s not just learning to love humous and making your own garlic bread; it’s looking at the word ‘chicken’ on a menu and seeing an individual life, rather than a slab of anonymous, flesh. It’s believing that the spider on your bedroom wall has just as much right to be there as you do. Maybe you’d rather he goes outside, and that’s fine – he’s probably scared of you, too – but killing him with a tissue and flushing his mangled corpse down the bog doesn’t exactly scream “EQUALITY FOR ALL!”
This might sound a bit morbid, but since I stopped eating meat just over a year ago I’ve almost started to look at it as if it’s human flesh. I have as much respect for animals as I do humans, therefore I can’t help but think, “Would I want that done to me or any of my loved ones? No. No, I really wouldn’t.” I’m not going to reel off the vulgar details of what goes on in each sector of animal product industries because there are enough documentaries, blogs and hidden-camera videos highlighting all of that – so don’t worry, I’m not going to try to put you off your bacon by describing the process from pig-to-pork. Instead, just take a second to consider this way of thinking:
MILK: Cows’ milk is breast milk for baby cows, so us consuming dairy is like drinking human breast milk yeeeears after we no longer need it… Only, it was never intended for us in the first place because I can almost guarantee that nobody you know weighed 63lb at birth. I’m not a baby, that kind of milk wasn’t designed for my body and that milk has definitely not come from my mum’s boob, so it’s not mine to take.
EGGS: Chickens ovulate and produce eggs – just like female humans. Sometimes those chickens like to eat their eggs. It’s not particularly any weirder than Germaine Greer having a cheeky taste of her period blood or new mothers wanting to throw their own placenta into a wok to accompany a stir-fry. However, I wouldn’t rob another woman’s placenta for my dinner without her permission, because it’s not mine to take. (See where I’m going with this?)
HONEY: Honey is the food made by bees, for bees, to store away for the harsh winter months. If I spent months foraging, preparing and cooking a huge pot of stew to last me the winter, but then someone stole it and replaced it with a shitty substitute (thinking I wouldn’t notice the difference) I’d be pretty pissed off. I didn’t make that meal therefore it’s not mine to take.
Put yourself in the shoes/hooves/trotters/feelers of any of these animals and you might start to see the injustice.
I’m not going to give an example for meat, because unnecessary death itself is enough.
Having said that, if you believe animals being ‘raised’ just to be fattened up and killed is bad, then imagine all of that on top of that being forcibly impregnated (otherwise known as raped) on repeat, then having your newborn child taken away from you so that another species can make your boob milk into chocolate ice-cream.
‘Stupid, preachy vegan. Stop pushing your views on me.’ Are they my views, or is it the truth you don’t want to hear because cheese tastes nice and a BBQ isn’t a BBQ without ribs and drumsticks? I have been there, my friend. I loved steak once, too.
I’d now like to draw your attention to this, one of my favourite quotes:
“Many consider veganism to be an exercise in self-denial and self-sacrifice, but the opposite is true. To consider veganism a sacrifice is to believe that we have a right to use and abuse animals any way we choose. Veganism cannot be a sacrifice because it’s not about giving up meat, eggs and dairy; it’s about not taking someone else’s life and liberty.”
– Source and date unknown, but I think it’s a brilliant quote so I’m leaving it in here. (If any of my old tutors are reading this then I’m sorry but the referencing skills you drummed into me for three years have gone down the shitter… along with my language. Please don’t take back my degree.)
SHIRLEY & MAGGIE:
Now that I’ve had my rant, I’d like to introduce you to two of the most wonderful people on this planet: Shirley Miller and Maggie Mcateer. I’ve known them for a long time – since I was born, actually. They used to babysit me when I was little, take me to the park and they’ve probably changed a few of my pooey nappies…
They are not just wonderful friends of mine but also some of the most inspiring animal activists I have the privilege of knowing, and I wanted to write a piece about them. When I go down to Brighton to visit the family and catch-up with friends, we usually meet up for lunch in one of the city’s many wonderful veggie/vegan cafes. This time, we met at The Almond Tree – their latest go-to.
We sat down and quickly ordered our lunch, then started chatting like we’d never be able to have a conversation again. I got so swept up in their stories that I nearly forgot we’d agreed for me to interview them for this piece. I say ‘interview’, but it ended up being a two hour long chat without much structure. I arrived with a short list of questions but it all went quickly out the window as we jumped straight in. (SPOILER: This is what all my waffling in the introduction was about.) Essentially, because I’ve never interviewed anyone before, and because their stories are so enthralling, my original idea for this piece soon went out of the window. The things they’ve done in their lives could not be limited to a single blog post, and I wouldn’t even know how to begin to condense it all down. Nevertheless, I’m going to try my best to show the world what they’re made of so I’ve instead decided to transcribe our conversation for all to hear.
Therefore, dearest patient readers, if you want to listen to the full conversation (including my occasional dulcet tones but minus the first ten minutes of our chat because I’m a twat and forgot to press ‘record’) then click HERE.
They’re pretty incredible, right?
As we asked for the bill, Shirley’s animal-rescue phone bleeped and she was called off to save a dove and a badger… you can’t make this stuff up. Someone needs to write a children’s story about these two. It’d be like Percy The Park-Keeper but the female – and far more heroic – version.
There we have it. You probably thought this piece/series would never end, but this is, in fact, very nearly the end – SURPRISE!
I’d like to think that if you’ve read any or all of this Veganniversary series that you may be slightly more interested in giving veganism a bash or that perhaps you’ll watch or read one of the recommendations I plonked at the bottom of Part One. If, however, it’s made you think ‘mmm I like bacon’ then that’s fine. You carry on sharing the ‘let’s all laugh at how stupid and annoying vegans are’ videos and I’ll carry on sharing anti-fur petitions and pictures of my food that are lacking in a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’. (Cruelty… That was- That’s what I meant. Not flavour. If you didn’t read between the lines then that’s what I meant. Jeez, talk about a joke falling flat…)
If you’re fortunate enough to have a choice in what you put on your plate – and you consider yourself to be a compassionate person – then once you’ve seen what goes on behind closed doors, it might just start to seem like a no-brainer… but what would I know? I’m just pushing my views on you.