Veganism is on the rise and for many reasons. In this blog, Vic explains her own personal journey and rationale behind her natural progression into a Vegan diet and lifestyle. The story starts in a rural farming community in Derbyshire…
As a young child I spent 3 or 4 days a week at my Grandparent’s dairy farm near Ashbourne. Twice a day, Grandad milked 140 friesian cows; around 6am in the morning, and 4pm in the afternoon. It was the norm. It was his job and he worked long hours every single day.
I can see Grandad now, 30 years ago, in his overalls, a big apron and wellies, standing in a pit the middle of the parlour, with about 5 cows on either side of him – their udders are at his eye level.
In this memory, there are 10 milking machines going at a time, attaching 4 suckers to the cow’s udders. There’s a constant pumping noise, sending milk into glass containers in the middle of the parlour. The cows are happy eating corn in the troughs in front of them. They have a piece of different coloured tape around their tails, to remind Grandad if they are dry or if they have mastitis etc, so he knows not to milk those. It all happens like clockwork. The cows look content, they’ve even walked up the field to be milked themselves.
At around 17-18 years old, I lived on another farm, this time in the Peak District with 400 sheep. Again it was the norm to look after the animals, supporting the Farmers with shearing, dipping, hoofcare and getting up in the middle of the night to fetch in newly born lambs. This included spraying their umbilical cords with disinfectant, putting a ring on the tail and numbering the lambs to know which Ewe they belonged to, before feeding the Ewe, and putting them all in a pen with nice clean straw to huddle up in.
Fast forward a bit to my mid 20s, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Basically that means my hormones are messed up and I have very irregular periods. Other symptoms include weight gain, oily skin and acne. Nothing was ever done about this. My Doctor advised to be on the pill for 10 years to mask the problem and carry on as normal.
In my mid 30s, around 2016 I chose to become (what I termed) ‘Organi-tarian’ which basically means I only ate organic meat from a reputable source. This came about for 2 reasons; I had run a coffee shop and when sourcing meat, I could see that cafes and restaurants had free rein to order meat from any country, regardless of condition of living, slaughter and storage/transportation. The customer is not privy to that information unless they ask. I soon started to ask, even though it was annoying, I needed to know what I was eating.
It’s around that time that I met Sarah Cross, from Derbyshire Dales Organics. Sarah is a local butcher who sells her produce at Farmer’s Markets around the Peak District. The produce that Sarah sells is far superior than that of a Supermarket shelf! It also meant that going out for pizza was limited to the veggie versions, as the ham or the pepperoni were just repulsive by my new ‘organitarian’ standards. Margarita anyone??
Fast forward a couple of years to April 2018. I was on holiday in Italy (see photo) with my family and everything fell into place to decide to become Vegetarian altogether. Why not? It felt the right decision to make. My parents were very accepting. However, when I got home and told my Grandparents, Grannie was shocked, asking ‘But where will you get your protein?’ and Grandad was quiet.
Everything was going well with the Veggie lifestyle, I was learning new recipes and enjoying eating more fruit and veg! Less than 6 months later in September 2018, I attended a very interesting talk about PR at The University of Derby. The speakers were Jane and Matthew, Founders of Veganuary who were talking about their successful PR campaigns.
To be honest, I had a preconception that they would be scaremongering, trying to turn everyone in the room into yoga-loving, long haired hippy-type Vegans! That wasn’t the case.
It was really refreshing to learn about how they had grown their mission of Veganuary into such a well know, UK wide campaign, and had plans to take on America next! I felt so inspired!
Whilst driving home, with the radio off, I was contemplating the event and was totally transformed. It was crystal clear to me in that moment that everything I knew was turned upside down. The most profound words from Matthew were along the lines of;
200 years ago, if you asked someone ‘Is it ok to have a slave?’ They would have probably said yes (before it was abolished in 1833) as it was the norm. People could ask the same about eating animals today, is it ok? The majority of people would say yes because it’s the norm. But what will people be thinking about that current response in 200 years?
This really opened my eyes to the context of Veganism and in that moment, behind the wheel on the A38, I vowed not to eat all animal products again. Full Stop.
Please don’t get me wrong; it’s important to add at this point that I have seen first-hand that Farmers on rural small-holdings really do care for their cattle. There’s no doubt about that. For me, it’s the point that they are sent off to the slaughter house, and the mass-scale production of milk and eggs where some of the horror stories are seen. I’ve not watched any of the well known Vegan documentaries yet, I don’t think I ever could.
So, let’s circle back to the point of the Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Another huge benefit of not drinking milk now, is the reduction of external hormones for me. As my hormones are already messed up, surely it stands to reason that adding more into that equation is not a healthy combination?
Another item that is omitted from my diet is tofu. Generally that’s a replacement for meat in a lot of processed foods and restaurant dishes. It’s classed as a phytoestrogen, as it mimics the effects of estrogen. There are other plant based items which are classed as phytoestrogens (chickpeas, some legumes, some fruits etc) however, as tofu is a processed product, this is the main one I avoid.
In the first 4 months of becoming Vegan, I noticed my skin became less oily and less prone to acne breakouts and periods have shown positive signs of becoming a little more frequent.
But the biggest change yet, is the desire to learn more and more about nutrition and how my energy balls form such an important part of a varied diet. On the back of my Recipe Kits being perfect for Vegans, my recipes have been featured in Vegan Food and Living and Simply Vegan Magazines!
In terms of other lifestyle changes, things are happening slowly but surely. Yoga is now a big part of my exercise regime, not for the spiritual aspects, but for the flexibility and movement. It feels great too! Typical vegan hey? Just need the long hair now!
New purchases of clothing are being vetted for their vegan status. For example, I bought a lovely top in the sale and thought a brown leather belt would go well with it. There was a new one in the shop there for £22 which looked nice. However, something inside told me that buying a new belt, tells retailers that it’s ok to continue to stock and sell leather items.
So, off I went to a couple of charity shops. Low and behold, I found a wonderful second hand belt, for £4.95. Much better; saves landfill, donation to a good cause (it was Oxfam) and means that there’s more life out of the belt that was made in the first place.
I’m not yet leather or wool free. As I’ve seen already, these changes will probably come around… at the right time. Veganism is a journey and I don’t think anyone’s experience of change will be the same.