Apologies now for how long this post will be but my vegan journey has also been a long one and one I would like to share with you.
I am 36 years old, and on my 36th birthday I made the long-time coming decision to become vegan. But this story begins 30 years ago really. When I was 6 years old, my grandmother’s best friend was a farmer. Every year in the springtime, we would drive out in the car, me, my Nan and Granddad to the farm during lambing season and I would get to play with the lambs, cuddle them and hold them and occasionally bottle feed any orphan or rejected lambs. This was one of the highlights of my year and something I really looked forward to.
I came from a very animal-friendly family (although all meat-eaters) and we always raised money for local animal shelters, animal rescue charities and always have had rescue animals sharing our home. Anyway, being 6 years old, it had never occurred to me that these beautiful creatures that I fed on the farm were the same thing my family served me up for dinner.
This particular year, after me rushing over to my granddad to tell him how lovely the lambs were, he made some wry comment about how they would be even lovelier with mint sauce. I burst into tears and begged my Nan to tell me that these lambs were not the ‘lamb’ I ate with my Sunday roast. Of course, she couldn't lie to me and whilst shooting evil looks over at my grandfather she gently tried to explain that all of the meat we eat comes from such animals. Well I was absolutely distraught. I cried all the way home in the car and sobbed myself to sleep. And when my mum and dad came to pick me up the next morning, I begged them to let me have all of the lambs as pets and never to make me eat them again.
Thus began my journey to vegetarianism.
It started with lamb at aged 6 and slowly as I got older and realised about other animals, I began excluding them from my diet or refusing to eat them.
I then watched a documentary when I was 11 years old about factory farming practices and made the decision to become fully vegetarian. I remember telling my parents and them thinking that it was a phase and maybe some of my friends at school were doing it and it would soon pass, so they played along with it and didn't serve me any meat from that day.
In those days, there were very little vegetarian meat substitutes and my family had little knowledge of vegetarian diets so I ate what the family ate, but without the meat. My mum took me to the doctor and asked if there were any supplements I should be having and he put me on Iron tablets. I have been vegetarian ever since and I am still the only member of my family (immediate and extended) who doesn't eat meat or fish.
So after 25 years of being vegetarian, what made me become vegan? Well I have an allergy to eggs and have never eaten them; I dislike the taste of milk and have not drunk it since I was 5. I very rarely ate yogurts as they tasted too much like milk and have always avoided animal by products, leather, gelatin, animal derived food colourings, rennet, suet and always sourced cruelty-free beauty products since the day I became vegetarian. I only ever ate honey as an ingredient, never on its own and I don’t like wine or beer and so that just left my two vices – chocolate and cheese!
I will get this out of the way now – My name is “Vegan Vox” and I am a cheesaholic!
This is the sole reason that for the last few years every time I met anyone new and described my dietary habits, they would say “oh, so you’re practically vegan then?” And the niggling addict inside me would ignore them and say, but you can’t live without cheese. So I would bury my guilt, avoid reading too much about the dairy industry and carry on eating cheese with everything. And I mean everything. Soft cheese, cheese sauce, cream cheese, cheese spread, flavoured cheese, mature cheese, cheese with crackers, even those awful cheese slices you serve with burgers! I truly believed that even if I could handle switching to dark chocolate I could never give up cheese, and I hear so many other people say the same thing.
So what has changed? Well last year I went to the West Midlands Vegan festival in Wolverhampton and was inspired by the range of choices for vegans available now which didn't even exist when I became vegetarian. There are vegan cupcakes, sausages, spreads, milk and yes...cheese. So I had a long hard think about it and decided to ditch the cheese (and all other dairy) for good in January this year and become fully vegan. It hasn't been easy, and the cheese devil on my shoulder has taunted me several times, but I have made a commitment and if I truly want to be a supporter of animal rights and welfare then it felt hypocritical continuing to eat dairy products.
So why this blog? Well I felt that I cannot be the only one who has fought their cheese addiction or maybe people are still battling theirs and thinking about becoming vegan. Also I was the resident vegetarian expert among friends and family after my quarter of a century commitment so always felt like I had the answers, recipes, knew what to look for on labels etc. Now all of a sudden, I feel like the new kid at school, I am learning as I go along how to veganise my meals, what is and isn't vegan friendly and thought a blog would help others to share in this new journey with me.
Vegan Vox is exactly that a vegan voice, it will be a vegan lifestyle blog, sharing my journey with you. There will be recipes, food reviews, travelling as a vegan posts, restaurant reviews, events, vegan friendly companies I have found or products I am trying, the never ending search for good cheese substitutes and everyday ordinary supermarket items which I have discovered are vegan and how you can build them into any diet or lifestyle. I am not a health freak, I love junk food as well as healthy food, I love puddings and cakes and chocolate, I probably should exercise more but I just want to share with you that anyone can become vegan.
If along the way I trip up or make mistakes with my veganism, please feel free to gently correct me and help me back on my path, I'm still learning. Please don't leave abusive comments or sarcasm. Veganism is about respect for all living beings, that includes humans, which includes me!
Thank you for sharing in my journey with me. VVx