I get asked that a lot.
So what is it like being a vegan family? Actually, to be more accurate: 2/3rds of us are fully vegan, but my partner/other half currently eats eggs. He has however, gone gluten free in the last year, so that brings him back up on the ‘tricky/picky/fussy eater’ scale!
In answer to my own question – well it is pretty much the same as any other family, but with more time spent speed-reading labels, googling unheard-of ingredients, and deliberating which restaurant to go to when on vacation!
Other than those things, it is pretty much the same as most families – with the usual good times and the inevitable not-so-good times too…
There are certain things that do pop up though, and that’s why this blog is here… to get those things out there… to share experience I guess.
“Why are you vegan?”
I get asked that a lot. Too much. Don’t like that question. It never ends well.
I have come up with many different answers to that question throughout my life: When I was younger, I would often answer with straight-out honesty about why – which could at times, turn into a bit of a sermon…and yes, a heated discussion (argument) by the end, when the person questioning would feel judged and need to step in and explain to me why I ‘should’ eat meat. Other times I might say something as short and simple as: “It’s because I don’t want to eat an animal”. This tact still opened a discussion on whether it is healthy or not to not eat meat, how humans are anatomically engineered, and have even had someone argue that we would be overrun with cows if everyone went vegetarian!
So I started to filter my own answers to this (intrusive/tactless/awkward) question. Of course, some people are genuinely intrigued or curious and want to know more, or hear my thoughts, but even then – I find most people will start to feel uncomfortable. So they should, you might say (I would guess you are vegan by that!). But if they truly are interested, and want to learn or know more, that is different to bringing it up as small talk at the dinner table, whilst I am sat with other friends around me, all eating meat.
So, in any social situation, I try to avoid that question. Not so easy, when you are stood at a buffet table with colleagues recommending the chicken, etc. Sometimes I try to avoid the question purely because I just don’t want to share something so personal. There really haven’t been many times when it has been an enjoyable conversation. Close friends who know me, don’t talk about it, they just accept it. It is part of me, and they get that. Like a religion, you might say. It is a belief, for sure: a certainty that I do not want to harm a creature, much less eat it – when I can eat so many things that are not living creatures.
Family can be tricky at times, as they don’t get it really… My Father might tease me with ‘jokes’ about things (he is a incorrigible teaser – always has been) still… But I know he is not meaning to be cruel, nor disrespectful… for him it is not that serious, but for me, well …I have learned to close my ears to it. I ‘could’ ask him not to and tell him my true feelings of what he is eating… I could tell he and my Mom about the farming industry… I could do all of those things… and some would think it my duty as an informed vegan, but I don’t and I won’t. They are my parents, and I have respect for them. So I close my ears, or roll my ears to a joke or something similar, and I move on.
I have been vegetarian since I was a young girl – around 12/13 when I fully made the switch, I think. I was not brought up vegetarian at all… in fact, I hadn’t heard of the term until a teacher mentioned that one of the boys in my class was vegetarian. That was one of those moments that changes a life. And it did. Mine. Suddenly the veil lifted and I realized what I was actually eating. It had truly never really occurred to me until that moment. And I now could see there was a choice. I did not want to eat animals, and I didn’t have to. I went to the school library – and read the few books available on the topic. Lots of lentils were mentioned, along with a good smattering of hippy-dudes (it was the early 80’s and vegetarians seemed to fall in with the 70’s tree-hugging hippy ideology!). Back then, in the North of England, it wasn’t a term people were familiar with at all.
The same year I made the decision to go vegetarian, we went on holiday to the south of England: – to a large hotel in Cornwall – Newquay to be precise. This was my first endeavor into apologizing for being a ‘fussy eater’ – the ‘difficult one’. I think the chef made me a stir fry for almost every evening. Salads in the day – which might sound nice, but back then, British salads consisted of a couple of cob (Iceberg) lettuce leaves, sliced cucumber, watercress (sprouts) and maybe an egg or some cheese (cheese was almost forced on vegetarians back then!), with a dollop of Heinz Salad Cream on the side! Salad dressings did not really exist in the UK. It was Salad Cream, Ketchup or Mustard!
A few years later, and being vegetarian was becoming more acceptable in the UK. You could order a ‘small vegetarian’ pizza in the new Pizza Hut (accompanied with jokes related to my stature – yes, I am vertically challenged!), and some supermarkets (grocery stores) actually started selling vegetarian alternatives. Happy days! Visits to pubs would offer baked potato with cheese – or I would have to fall back on ‘just chips’ (fries). Not the healthiest of options… Christmas party meals with work colleagues at a pub or restaurant would inevitably dish out the dreaded Vegetarian Wellington. Always. No exceptions. Looking back, it really does feel like I lived in the vegetarian dark ages! Ah my daughter has no clue how good she has it…
I am due to go on a social weekend with some work colleagues shortly. I don’t really know these women all that well… other than the odd social chat at Christmas Office parties. Three intelligent vocal women, hanging out in a cottage on a small island a short ferry ride from my home here in British Columbia, having fun, drinking some wine… eating some food…. talking a lot… You probably see where I am heading with this, right? I just know the topic will come up. It could be a weekend-spoiler. I am practicing my ‘get out of jail free’ answer. It will be something along the lines of “I don’t really like to get into it too much, as it can cause arguments, can make people (me) uncomfortable…” . I’ll probably tag along a line around: “…but it is mainly (truly, really, extremely, only) about the animals…” And then really quickly change the subject.
Now, I don’t want you thinking I am ashamed of being vegan. I am most definitely not. Quite the opposite in fact. It is one of the things I am most proud of in my life (obv. my family/child, and more are all in there too). No, I am not ashamed at all… but I am experienced. I have had many (many, many) upsetting, heated arguments over this topic that is so important to me. I have friends whom I adore who are meat-eaters. I am not going to walk away from them. They are my friends, they are adults, and they make their own choices. I would be in HEAVEN if they were to call me and tell me they were going vegan or vegetarian – but I am not here to make them do anything.
But I can lead by example.
I have had this kind of conversation with my daughter recently. We cannot MAKE our friends vegan I tell her. We cannot tell them they should be. But we can lead by example. And very often, this does make a difference. Just as that little boy affected my beliefs and changed my world all those years ago, I tell my daughter: that could be you. You could be the person who changes your friends’ lives. Maybe not now, and certainly not by making them feel bad about what their parents give them to eat, but by just being you. Just by being you: the little girl who loves animals and does not want to eat them – you might just awaken something inside some of your friends. It might not be immediate, it might not be until they are older, but it can and does happen. And I remind her: You are changing the world and helping more people consider becoming vegan and not eating animals, just by being you.
And this is not me as a mother, trying to avoid my daughter fighting with her friends (although I have my suspicions that one or two parents of friends in her past have not been too happy with their own child being influenced by her being vegan, but I will save that for another post)… No, I mean every word I say here – as I know myself, from experience, that almost all of my previous room-mates/house-mates in the past have fallen into a semi-vegetarian diet whilst living with me. Not due to me asking them to. This has been something I have noticed just seems to happen. Most likely out of pure convenience… but it has been good to see and helped make my life living with them easier at the time too.
So to finish off this post: Why am I vegan? Because I love animals. And I don’t have to eat them. I don’t want to eat them. I will never eat an animal. Feeling healthier, greener, etc. is a bonus. But is about the animals.
I don’t want an animal to die for me, when I can eat so very many wonderful plants and vegetables and fruit… and some vegan junk food too. Vast amounts of research now shows that a plan-based diet is extremely healthy, can reverse diseases, can reduce chances of getting diseases, is the greenest diet as far as carbon footprint, etc. But all of that for another post.
So although I might not (currently) shout about it from the rooftop… and often prefer to avoid talking about it in new groups/company; if you are interested and considering going vegan – I would be more than happy to talk about it, to discuss what I have experienced, researched and the many reasons I would recommend it. Being vegan is a very important part of me and I am proud to be part of a vegan family who feel the same.