Did you know that one of the best individual changes you can make to be more eco-friendly is to eat plant-based? When talking about food-caused emissions — the carbon footprint of a vegetarian is about half that of a meat-eater and vegans have the lowest carbon foot print of all. I’m a vegetarian who is slowly transitioning to vegan (rice milk is great with cereal FYI) and I’m really interested in how being a vegan is so good for the environment and animals alike. I’ve been wanting to write about this for a while, but as I’m not a full vegan yet I didn’t really feel like I could. Luckily, my good friend Ellie agreed to do a guest post for me where she writes about her own journey to Veganism:
(Trigger warning: this article mentions animal cruelty and abuse).
For as long as I remember, I have loved animals. When I five years old, I wanted to be a ‘lady farmer’ just like my favourite book character ‘Sophie’ from the Sophie book series by Dick King-Smith. I loved the idea of being surrounded by farm animals all day, caring for them and feeding them. When I got a bit older, I decided that I wanted to be a vet instead and care for sick or injured animals. This was until I found out that you couldn’t always make them better which made me really sad. If I’d known how much sadder the life of farm animals were, I’m sure I’d never have dreamed of having that job either.
It wasn’t until I was fifteen that I became a vegetarian. I suddenly realised that it didn’t make sense to eat meat, because I loved animals. Luckily, my mum was very understanding and supportive of my decision and began cooking vegetarian meals for me straight away, whilst the rest of my family continued to eat meat.
A year or so later, I began working as an Assistant Practitioner at my local theatre. We worked in the same pairs all year, so it wasn’t until the Christmas dinner party that I met a middle-aged lady who said she had been vegan for over twenty years. Being completely uneducated about veganism at the time, I remember I replied to her scornfully about how wrong I thought it was that people brought up their children vegan, as she had done. This moment often hangs over my head, and I wish more than anything that I could have been more educated about veganism at the time, or that I had been able to apologise for my response at a later date. Clearly I had gotten the idea that ‘vegans are extreme’ from someone as uneducated as myself, when in reality it is much more extreme to continuously molest animals and steal and murder their babies for milk.
I become more aware about plastic waste and fast fashion around the age of eighteen and began to make a conscious effort to live a more sustainable lifestyle. It was around this time that I realised that something didn’t sit right with me in terms of my diet. I began to cut down on milk and cheese and started following more eco-friendly people on Twitter. This led me to watching the documentaries ‘What the Health’ and ‘Cowspiracy’ on Netflix, and I cannot tell you how gut-wrenching it was, and still is, to see the abuse that animals suffer for the greed of humans. I was completely horrified. It was the final straw – seeing how abused these animals were, and the negative affect that it was having on our planet and our health, gave me the confirmation that I didn’t want to support such a horrific industry. I transitioned to veganism over the next few weeks and never looked back.
(TW: Please bear in mind that the documentaries mentioned above What the Health and Cowspiracy do contain scenes of animal cruelty that can be upsetting.)
The bad rep that vegans get is that they’re ‘preachy’ – but I think this stems from our compassion. Knowing what we now know, we find it impossible to believe that even half of people that consume meat and dairy could continue to do so had they seen the horrors that go on behind locked doors. The sad truth is that if people did know or had seen the harsh reality, they wouldn’t continue to support those industries, which is why the industries themselves keep it all out of the public eye.
Now, I know that we still have a long way to go. Every month or so I learn of yet more brands that I have supported over the years that aren’t vegan and I make more of an effort to support more sustainable and cruelty free businesses. However, the number of vegans in the UK has quadrupled over the last four years and countless fast food chains and restaurants are adding to their plant-based options every year. This progress is what gives me hope for a much brighter future, where animals aren’t senselessly exploited and murdered for the greed of human beings.
There are also many health benefits that you can get from a plant-based diet. Within four weeks of not eating dairy, the acne that I had been struggling with for years completely cleared up. I was previously unaware of the link between dairy and acne, so this was a huge confidence boost for me as my acne had had a profound effect on my self-esteem. Within a month or two, I also noticed that my hair and fingernails were growing a lot faster and my fingernails were much stronger than they previously had been. I looked into this and learnt that it was from the increase in silica and vitamin B7 in my diet from leafy greens, radish, mushrooms, legumes and spinach, which I found interesting. Overall I felt a lot happier, healthier and more energised.
If I’d have made the connection between animals, farmers and meat as a young child, I’m sure that myself and King-Smith’s ‘Sophie’ would have strived to rescue animals from farms and work at an animal sanctuary rather than become a farmer. Humans are born with compassion, and if children fully understood where their meals came from, I’m sure a lot less of them would want to eat meat and dairy.
If you only have five spare minutes today, I highly recommend watching ‘Dairy is scary’ on YouTube. It is truly eye-opening to the suffering that we humans inflict on these poor, defenceless animals. Together, we can fight for animal rights and truly make a difference.
If you’re more interested in veganism and want to know how to start and change your lifestyle, check out The Vegan Society. They have some super helpful resources and meal plans that can help you on your vegan journey.
Thank you for reading, best wishes!
About Ellie: My name is Ellie Violet and I recently graduated from Aberystwyth University with a First class degree in Creative Writing and Drama and Theatre studies. I’m currently on my gap year and I’m passionate about writing, sustainability, traveling and theatre. I also often write about LGBTQ+ and disability related topics, as I have Cystic Fibrosis and I identify as bisexual / queer. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter to keep up with my adventures!
Do you have a story to tell which you haven’t yet seen covered on my blog? I’d love to hear from you, either comment below or email be at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m especially interested to hear from disabled writers/ POC/ LGBT+ and fellow climate activists.