vegan families

Vegan families doing it together

As the month-long ‘go-vegan’ challenge of Veganuary begins, we hear from vegan families who have experienced the journey as one

January marks Veganuary — around the world, people and families from a myriad of different backgrounds sign up to go vegan for 31 days. Throughout the month, the Veganuary team offer full support, from shopping hacks to recipes and everything in between. So, if you’ve bought this magazine out of vegan curiosity — why not give Veganuary a go?

Although more than 1.5 million people have officially taken part in Veganuary, the true figure is estimated to be around 10 times higher. And one reason for that is that so many families take part together. Sometimes, it is a joint decision, other times, family members have little choice if the household’s main cook is taking part! Here, we meet four vegan families who share what taking part in Veganuary was like for them, and their own unique paths to a different way of eating.

“We always explained to Florence why we didn’t eat eggs or dairy, and once she was old enough to comprehend it, she was actually quite upset ”

Christina, Iain and Florence

Christina is a lifelong vegetarian and, with her husband Iain, was bringing up their daughter Florence the same way. But when Christina discovered the reality of the dairy and egg trades, she immediately signed up to take part in Veganuary 2017, and that was the catalyst for the whole family changing.

“When I went vegan, Iain became vegetarian,” says Christina, “though, as I am the main cook, he was largely vegan at home. Two months later, when he realised how easy it was, he went vegan, too.”

Their daughter Florence took things slower. “Florence is a typical fussy child,” says Christina, “so we were reluctant to commit to full veganism for her, especially because of birthday parties and the complexities of having other people catering for her.”

But with a home full of rescued animals, which now operates as a not-for-profit sanctuary, conversation often revolved around animals and compassion.

“We always explained to Florence why we didn’t eat eggs or dairy, and once she was old enough to comprehend it, she was actually quite upset. That’s when we wondered if we had made the right choice for her, if we had put practicalities above her own ethics. She made the decision to go vegan for herself when she was five.”

Today, theirs is a fully vegan home, and when Iain’s children visit, they eat vegan, too, with dinners consisting of all the usual family favourites such as Bolognese, macaroni cheese and bangers and mash.

Florence takes packed lunches to school, and when there are prizes, her teacher takes a vegan treat from Florence’s own snack box, which Christina keeps topped up. Today, Florence is a proud vegan and has even encouraged some of her friends and their parents to try Veganuary this year, too.

Visit the family’s dog rescue and re-homing site at little-legs.org

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Mark, Jenna and Harry

Mark had already been vegan for two years when his wife Jenna and four-year-old son Harry decided to take part in Veganuary 2021. Like most children, Harry had always loved animals, and he had often said that eating them wasn’t kind.

When his mum explained that she was going to try vegan for one month, it came as no surprise that Harry said he also wanted to. It helped that Mark was already vegan and able to guide them “For that one month, I suggested to not worry about anything else — to eat out, try new things and make it an enjoyable, adventure (it was only a month after all),” says Mark.

It wasn’t all plain sailing, of course. “There were lots of outside pressures,” reports Mark. “We encountered some initial negativity and awkward moments from friends, family and at Harry’s nursery.” During Veganuary, Mark gave a presentation to Harry’s nursery who have been “amazing” and since trialled a vegan menu with 16 uptakes. They also gifted them a ‘Vegan Squirrel’ juicer to promote healthy alternatives.

The family’s closest friend now stocks vegan food for when Harry visits and since the initial shock, their wider family has been amazing, too. Last month Harry had his birthday party, which was 100 per cent vegan and that got lots of compliments.

Today, nearly one year later, Harry remains vegan, and is now a passionate advocate. He makes carrot juice and sells this and merchandise at local vegan fairs and online with profits going to The Retreat Animal Rescue.

Not only does Harry encourage others to try Veganuary, but he also persuaded the UK’s oldest independent shoe shop to stock vegan shoes.

He became the first person in their 230-year-history to get vegan footwear — not bad for a four-year old! Find out more about Harry’s mission — ‘Be kind and have fun’ — at TheVeganSquirrel on Facebook.

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“Harald noticed that the children were not picking up colds and other bugs, and that he and his wife recovered quicker from their long kayak trips or intense workouts”

“Iona is a big animal lover, and it did not feel right to her anymore to have animals killed for her food,” says her dad, Harald. “She’d had this on her mind for a month or two before she dared to ask us.” When Iona did broach the subject, Harald and Sabine, who had not looked into the issues before, had some concerns about nutrition.

With Iona, they arrived at a compromise: less meat for the whole family. At the same time, they started researching diet and health, and soon came to realise that cutting out meat altogether would not be as complicated as they’d imagined. “We all talked a lot about it and started liking the idea of not killing any animals anymore for food. Before long, the whole family of five was vegetarian.”

Though Iona had started the process, it was Harald who suggested the family try veganism after his research had led him to watch The Game Changers as well as other documentaries about animal suffering in the food industry. “My wife was a bit shocked and scared but we signed up and took part in Veganuary, again as a family.”

The benefits were clear. Harald noticed that the children were not picking up colds and other bugs, and that he and his wife recovered quicker from their long kayak trips or intense workouts. They decided to stay vegan. “We cannot imagine going back,” he says.

“Taking part as a family was easy. We didn’t need to support each other as no one struggled with it, but we did all share information and products that we’d found, and in that way had a really positive experience.”

Harald’s tip for other families is: “Don’t be afraid. Try new things, discover new cuisines, and never be shy to ask. Find fully committed restaurants in your area and discover new amazing food!”

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Morné and Stephen

It’s been 20 years since Morné and Stephen first tried being vegetarian. Despite working in a vegetarian restaurant at the time, Morné said it had still proved too difficult for them back then, and they soon went back to eating fish. By 2019, both were working in healthcare, taking their own wellbeing seriously, and were very aware of making good dietary choices. But a change was coming.

“We were really exhausted of seeing animal abuse and money made out of animal suffering,” says Morné, “and also for the sake of the planet, and for our own standard of living.” Watching The Game Changers was the final straw for them. They signed up to Veganuary but didn’t wait for January, and instead started right away in October, just to see if it was something they would get to grips with. And did they?

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“We didn’t really struggle at all,” says Morné. “It was a question of trying to get your head around what is vegan and what contains powdered milk and what contains egg and stuff like that. After that, it was just plain sailing. We eat well and enjoy our food, so we didn’t miss a thing.”

Morné and Stephen shared the shopping and cooking, as well as product news and new online groups to join. They really took to it and found veganism was so much more than a diet. “We really love a vegan lifestyle, not just for food but also because we love all animals, so it just made sense. It fits in with how we feel that no beings should be harmed for money or consumption.”

“We really love a vegan lifestyle, not just for food but also because we love all animals ”

Morné says becoming vegan was the best decision they ever made, and he has more energy, better digestion, and lower cholesterol than before. They also have peace of mind. Doing Veganuary together made things easier but Morné says that should not stop individuals from taking part. “It’s just so much easier now.”

True family stories collected by Veganuary, veganuary.com

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VeganLife

The lifestyle magazine written by vegans for vegans.