By Leanne Jenna
Know why you’re doing it, but don’t get too attached to that
People come to veganism for all sorts of different reasons. I initially became vegan because I felt passionately that I could no longer contribute to the harm inflicted on animals, while my partner initially became vegan for health reasons. There are numerous benefits of adopting a vegan lifestyle and while one reason may resonate more strongly with you to begin with, be prepared that that may change. I don’t know a single vegan now, including my partner, that doesn’t consider the animals to be at the heart of their lifestyle choice. The fact that a vegan lifestyle causes less environmental damage and is good for your health are added bonuses.
Know what you can eat
As a vegan newbie, you’ll quickly become a master label reader. Be prepared to be weirded out by the amount of foods that contain animal products — some salt and vinegar flavoured crisps contain milk for example, who knew? But, you’ll probably be equally surprised by foods that are already vegan, for example, the biscuit tin favourites, Oreos, Hobnobs and Bourbons. But who wants to spend hours at the supermarket checking labels? Not I. There are excellent resources for this, and a particular favourite of mine is the Instagram account Accidentally Vegan.
Know where you can eat
The amount of vegan options in chain restaurants is rising rapidly to meet demand. Just a few weeks ago Nandos announced that they will be introducing two vegan burger options to their menus, McDonald’s are currently trialling the McVegan burger in Finland and chains like Pizza Hut and Pizza Express have vegan cheese pizzas permanently on their menus. There is a wealth of brilliant independent vegan restaurants and cafés to tantalise your taste buds too, and Happy Cow is a brilliant app for locating them. It’s particularly good when you’re visiting a new area, or travelling and it locates the nearest vegan food outlets — genius.
Get a few good recipes under your belt
When you first decide to go vegan, cooking can seem a little daunting. All of a sudden it feels like your options have just fallen away, but fret not, all of your old favourite foods can be made vegan. In my household, we frequently eat sausages and mash, roast dinners, hoisin ‘duck’ wraps, even ‘fish’ and chips, and get a thrill when a new vegan range is launched. And, of course, the internet is chock full of vegan recipes. You can start simple — toast with peanut butter or porridge with soya milk for breakfast, veggie soup or avocado toast for lunch, stir-fry with rice noodles or pasta with veggies for dinner – and build up. There are plenty of vegan cookbooks, magazines and blogs too, so you’ll never run out of culinary inspiration.
Knowledge is power
As a vegan I have been questioned many times about my lifestyle, the most common one being ‘Where do you get your protein?’ and you will come across this too. The best way is to get smart, read the books, watch the documentaries and arm yourself with the answers. A brilliant quote is ‘If slaughterhouses had glass walls everyone would be vegan’ — I believe the reason so many people are becoming vegan now is because we are able to easily access the facts, should we wish to find them. Many carnists simply do not know that cows only produce milk for their young, or that we can get protein from plants, or that 56 billion animals and 2.8 trillion fish are killed every year for food, this is likely because they have chosen not to be aware. Being aware and having the facts to back up your lifestyle is really empowering, particularly in a potentially challenging discussion.
Build your community
When I first became vegan none of my friends or family were, and my boyfriend was a meat-eater. Needless to say, I felt a little bit like an oddball and so I created a sense of community for myself. Here’s how:
Join Facebook groups – there are plenty of vegan Facebook groups, local, national and global. Local accounts are brilliant places to arrange local meet ups and find out about local vegan businesses, events and restaurants. My local group recently alerted me that the Vegan Ben & Jerries’ had hit our local supermarket — win.
Follow vegan social media accounts, and maybe create your own – there are so many brilliant vegan social media accounts out there and as I am particularly partial to Instagram; I follow a lot of activists, bloggers and chefs there. Have a snoop about and follow accounts that you feel a connection to and get chatting.
Go to Vegan events – Vegan Camp Out, Vegan Life Live and Veg Fest are big ones for the diary, but do keep an eye out for local events too. I am attending a yoga session on Sunday that is followed by a vegan brunch, and am hoping to book a vegan afternoon tea in a yurt for a few weekends time.
Consider activism – Activism is one of the best ways to get involved in the vegan community, meet new people and make friends. My boyfriend and I attended the animal activism march in September, and the sense of community and the feeling of being surrounded by like-minded people was inspiring and comforting.
Don’t compare your transition to anyone else’s
Some people when they become vegan get rid of all their wool and leather goods, clear out all their non-vegan household cleaning products and start from scratch with their make-up bag. Whereas others decide to wear out and use up these goods and replace with vegan friendly items as and when. Don’t fret, do things in your own time and know that you’re on the right path for you.
You can see more from Leanne on her blog.