If I’m entirely honest, I don’t feel like I have much authority on this topic, as I’ve only been vegetarian since August 2015 – which isn’t that long ago, really.
At the time, I was reading a lot of articles about the environmental impact of factory farming, and the reality of what the animals go through, so I decided to give up meat and fish for a month, just as a personal, lent-style challenge.
An entire blog post on the details of my diet seems painfully self-involved, but do I get asked about it a lot, so I thought I’d put all my thoughts together in one blog post.
When I gave up meat, I thought I’d really miss it. I thought I’d desperately miss getting sushi from Itsu at lunch when I was feeling fancy, and having barbecued sausages wrapped in soft, floured rolls and covered in ketchup at summer parties.
And one thing’s for sure – I absolutely never thought I’d be able to keep at it long term.
But I found it much easier than I’d expected – despite having eaten meat pretty much daily up until then. So I just carried on with it, and here we are.
But then when I lived in Bologna on Erasmus, I lived with vegans for a while, met my vegan friend Chiara (pictured above) and learnt a lot about having a diet absent of both meat and dairy – which had always seemed out of the question for me. I definitely reduced the amount of dairy I was eating as a result of seeing other people living healthily and happily on a vegan diet.
Nowadays, I’m vegetarian, and I don’t eat much dairy.
I never call myself vegan, because despite wanting to be, I’m not there yet. It’s a momentous transition, and I don’t think it’s a change you can adopt quickly.
And, obviously, food is such a huge part of our lives – I absolutely love food, and eating out and cooking new meals are things I get a lot of pleasure from. Mine and my best friend Caroline’s friendship is pretty much founded on our shared love of food. So cutting out all dairy – at least to begin with – would require a lot of discipline.
I’m always ready to try a new vegan recipe, I’m partial to a Marinara pizza and the idea of drinking cow’s milk is extremely unappealing, having opted for almond/soya/hemp/oat milk for the past few years.
But I eat non-vegan desserts all the time, sometimes I’ll guiltily have an egg and cress Pret sandwich because it’s one of the cheapest things you can buy there, and my shampoo and perfume aren’t vegan.
You get the picture. And if I’m eating at someone else’s house, I’ll take what I’m served as long as it’s vegetarian, because, well, I’m British and don’t like to make a fuss.
My main message is that I find the way we label our eating habits in terms of ‘vegetarian’ and ‘vegan’ very restrictive. I’m vegetarian, but it’s not a big part of my identity.
It’s impossible to live an entirely cruelty-free life. Buying from Topshop, Zara, & Other stories and countless other high street stores involves a huge impact on the environment and their practices aren’t totally ethical either.
From the clothes we wear and the perfume we spritz on our wrists, to the phones we carry with us 24/7 and our morning take-out latte, there’s a high chance there’s been a level of cruelty or an environmental consequence involved in its creation.
You can’t win, and the more you look into where things come from, the more you end up in a total ethical dilemma.
So, with that in mind, I try to avoid animal products as best I can, because it’s not a big sacrifice for me. Labels like ‘vegetarian’ and ‘vegan’ are totally restrictive and put people off trying to own their actions and eat more ethically in the first place.
Ultimately, if we all made an effort to make ethically conscious decisions when it comes to our consumer choices – without trying to make what for many people is an unrealistic lifestyle change like going vegan – that’s a real leap in the right direction.
Among the many documentaries out there, Earthlings and The True Cost are well worth a watch.