Turning the tide: how marine life gave me a new perspective on my relationship with food
My childhood summer holidays revolved around the sea, first running naked around the beach, 306 - the number of our wooden beach hut - in marker on my back.
It was four years ago that I became a vegan. I still find it strange to call myself one, because vegans are often looked upon as being extreme and in my case nothing could be further from the truth.
After all, what could be more extreme than tying up a cow and inseminating it against its will? And then taking away its calf soon after birth so that we can drink its milk? What could be more extreme than confining a calf in a crate so that it can hardly move, and force feeding it for seven months so that it can then be sent to the slaughterhouse?
I’m just saying.
As long as I can remember I’ve been an animal lover. But it was a long time before I made the link between the animals we love (i.e. pets) and the animals we eat. I’m not entirely sure why it took me so long, but I have a feeling it’s because it’s accepted as being ‘normal’ and we simply don’t know any better. Nobody is taught at school how unnatural the milk is that we drink and how unwanted hens are destroyed in the egg industry. What we see on the supermarket shelves are cartons of yoghurt with contented cows on the packaging and slices of ham cut in the shape of smiling bears. It’s okay, as long as the product doesn’t resemble an animal too much and we don’t know the full story.
It was when I moved to Germany that I started to think more about where my food came from. I used to have chicken and broccoli for my evening meal: it turned out the broccoli was more expensive than the chicken. How ridiculous is that? That signalled the start of my quest for the truth about meat. I came across vegan blogs with information about the agri-foods industry. I started watching documentaries such as Cowspiracy and Forks over Knives. A new world opened up before my very eyes and, quite honestly, I felt I had been duped. How come I had only found out now? Why had no one ever told me this before?
Once I knew, there was no going back; that is, going back to eating animals and buying products in which animals are processed. The VeganChallenge (a month of eating vegetable-based products only) marked the ideal moment to make a fresh start and never turn back.
The best part of veganism is no longer having to feel guilty about animals. Although I’d never previously been aware of the ins-and-outs of the egg and dairy industry, for a long time I’d felt I no longer wanted to eat meat or fish. It just seemed too complicated to stop. So I just closed my eyes to it, suppressed my feelings of guilt and pretended it didn’t exist. Now I have peace of mind knowing that I’m no longer contributing to animal cruelty.
For the first few months of my veganism I felt sad and angry. All I wanted to do was to tell the undiluted story to anyone I saw tucking into a beef steak or boiling an egg. I won’t deny that I never did this, but I quickly learned that this was not my way of persuading people to become vegans. I’m not an activist and I had (and still have) no wish to get into endless arguments which would only make me angry. Not only that, I remember only too well the times that I ate meat, cheese and eggs myself. For a lot of people it’s not a question of not wanting to switch: they just don’t know what I now know and where they have to start. So, I took a different path.
I started writing my own blog called The Vegan Effect. In it, I share my experiences of this lifestyle in a positive way. I show that life can be fun (even more fun) and that it’s simple, satisfying and in keeping with the times. I provide tips on how to get through the festive period as a vegan, share recipes and hotspots across the world so that you don’t need to make any more compromises. It’s a win-win situation. My world was complete when I started working for Abbot Kinney’s two years ago. Every day I’m involved in sharing the vegan message, but in a positive and accessible way.
If you told me ten years ago I’d become a vegan I would have laughed at the idea. Now I can tell myself how natural it feels and this was the best decision I’ve ever taken. Not just for myself, but for the animals. Veganism is anything but an inhibition. For me it’s a way of showing my love for all creatures great and small.