Although most vegans have eaten meat at some point in their lives, I would be amazed if many have eaten more than me. The son of a Northern Irish farmer (and butcher, no less), my diet was “chicken/mince/pork plus peas and potatoes”. Well, all the major food groups were in there, at least…
When I got older, I branched out. Broadened my horizons.
‘Zinger’ tower burgers.
Double cheeseburgers at Maccy d’s (only 99p!); on the way to the pub, after the pub or, occasionally, in between pubs.
If I was flush, I had steak and peppercorn sauce.
When I was being good? Tuna and jacket potato.
I may have never gone fishing, hunted an elephant, or strangled a cat, but I have eaten a shit-load of meat in my lifetime.
Every time my tummy rumbled, an innocent animal paid for it with their life. So I could feel a little less hungry for a few hours.
I absolutely regret it, but I don’t feel bad about it. That might sound like a paradox (or just bollocks), so let me explain.
I am always trying to be a bit happier, a bit healthier, a bit kinder. I think most of us are. Fighting against ourselves; our habits, our conditioning and our neuroses.
So I listen to Tim Ferriss’s podcast, count my calories, and try to meditate twice a day. Doing my best not to let my head run away with itself. Fighting the good fight.
And as I have grown and changed, my thoughts and priorities have too.
Before, I was conditioned by the way the world was.
Humans eat animals. It was the accepted fact of life. Nothing was more normal.
As I got older, I got more considered in my thoughts, and more thoughtful in my considerations.
I didn’t want a duck or a chicken (or one of those big friendly doe-eye cows at my stepdad’s farm) to die filling out my sandwich.
Now, I am not trying to absolve myself of responsibility. I was conditioned, but I did become aware of the possibility of moving from this norm about ten years ago.
Always a dog-lover, I would have thought someone killing a pooch was f*cking scummy. No less than murder, in fact. But millions of chickens being penned up and slaughtered every day? Well, that was different, wasn’t it?
I didn’t know the details, I didn’t know the scale; and that was increasingly a wilful ignorance on my part. I knew vaguely about the practice of factory farming. I knew there was a disgusting documentary people promised would put me off my KFC, and I deliberately ignored it for that very reason.
But I got to a place where I no longer saw any distinction between animals. Us and them. Dogs and chickens. And I knew I would feel happier doing my bit, at least, making a new normal for myself.
So, the journey- or, more accurately, the transition- began…
My new partner (now wife) was a vegetarian, so after we got together, a whole new culinary world opened up for me. I suddenly discovered avocado, a bunch of new spices and houmous. Lots and lots of houmous.
We ate meat-free alternatives, and upon checking the back of the packet, I saw they not only had the same protein as meat, but often less fat too. They didn’t taste any worse and- big bonus- no animal had to die for it.
My transition started there.
Then Covid-19 struck.
As the country locked down, the British Prime Minister gave us all 30 mins a day outside for exercise. I spent mine in the local park I had ignored for the previous five years.
Now with Egerton Park in Bexhill-On-Sea, we are really spoilt. As well an (adidas-sponsored) basketball hoop and exercise park, tennis courts, 5aside pitches, lots of greenery, and two ponds, the park has lots of wildlife- including families of ducks and eight big white swans. (It’s awesome, my little girl loves it!)
Goofily admiring these ducks one morning, a thought just popped into my head. And it would prove to be one of my more productive ones.
“I can’t believe I eat these guys in curry sauce”.
Because I did. I used to love the succulence of duck, basted in thick, chip shop curry sauce. But now, just like that, it seemed abhorrent. Repulsive. Disgusting. And lots of other words meaning pretty much the same thing.
Most of all: Un-natural.
Then I thought, well don’t I like chickens? Don’t I find pigs amusing? Piglets cute?
Just look at his widdle face…
Didn’t I enjoy walking past Noel’s cows in the field and stopping to stare at them as they stared back at me? Wasn’t there a sense of solidarity beneath the mutual curiosity? Feeling different, but not that different. They were just another animal trying to get through their day and live their life too. “Fighting the good fight”.
I didn’t want another animal to die for my sandwich. Not when I had the education, the money and the opportunity to eat something else.
After just a few minutes research, I saw this change would actually benefit my health, benefit the animal (obviously), and would benefit the planet too.
It seemed a no brain-er.
So I was vegan for a few months- albeit absolutely hammering the tuna and salmon now, to get the my protein- until one day –I started wondering why they were any more fair game to be killed and eaten.
So… I did some more research.
I had nutrition qualifications from my personal training days, but there was lots I was still unsure of.
Is it really healthier? Where do get my protein? Will I lose my hard-earnt muscle? Are there any other nutritional deficiencies? Does it really have a better carbon footprint? Can I still drink beer?!
All the answers were positive. And I could still drink beer. Double no-brain-er.
And just like that, I’d gone full vegan.
I’ve felt really happy with my choice; even healthier in my body. And I have enjoyed a whole new world of food that has opened up for me after rotating the same ten or so meat-based meals for forty years.
So I started this blog. Oh, actually, we fast-forwarded a bit there…!
That came after a year of freelance blog writing. Lots of sites were paying me to write for them, so I wanted to see if I could do it for myself.
Cue: (you guessed it) more research!
Turns out, Kevin Costner was wrong- if you build it, they won’t necessarily come. My site had to be something people cared about or were interested in, even if it was only a few thousand people.
My new life-choice was fresh in my mind. I felt I had something to say, something to offer. From all the research I had done. My personal training and nutrition background. My own perspective.
A site that was a bit different. Non-judgemental, non tribal, and non preachy.
So here we are.
I have my own vegan site, with two other amazing writers, several readers, and I have got a stranger (that’s you!) to read my ramblings for a good seven minutes now, telling them all about it. A bizarre turn of events indeed…
I hope you enjoyed my vegan journey! We’d love to hear about yours in our comments below. Remember, it’s a judgement free-zone here- we’re all here for the best of reasons 🙂
And check out Tracy and Toni’s journey. Truly, no two are the same…