31 January 2018

Veganuary: An honest review

For the past few days I have been in the best mood. Partly because it's (finally) payday today, but mostly because it's the end of January, ergo the end of Veganuary.

Veganuary – a whole month dedicated to eating plant-based foods, or, rather, food that doesn't come from animals (it's not necessarily healthy). Basically: The vegans are TAKING OVER.

But that's okay! They won't be converting me anytime soon.

Source: Veganuary

Let me just clarify, I went into this month with a completely open mind. I had no idea whether or not I would continue following a vegan diet at the end of the 31 days, but I was not opposed to the idea. Actually, in the days/weeks leading up to this challenge, the idea of eating meat was starting to gross me out a bit. I made a meal plan and even ordered a big food shop that included two types of vegan cheese – most of which was left at the back of my fridge, uneaten (it smelled and tasted like cheese strings, which made me question the legitimacy of my favourite mid-afternoon snack).

It turns out that this was the easiest January I've had in years, and the happiest, too. As well as taking up a vegan diet I also decided to run every day to keep the January blues at bay. Having something to focus on, to tick off in my bullet journal each day, was satisfying in itself. The sense of achievement at the end of each day – another day of not contributing to animal cruelty, global warming, of healing my gut (maybe) – was what kept me going. But as the month went on I began craving cake, pastries, butter and cheese more, not less. I noticed no difference in my health, fitness or general wellbeing, and I was looking forward to the end – to a time when I could enjoy coffee AND a pain au chocolat from Hart's bakery, cheese on my pizza, a bowl of cereal with ice cold cow's milk, just the CHOICE, you know? If Veganuary taught me anything it's that restrictive diets are not for me.

Some people believe that animals and humans are equal, but I am not one of them. Every day this month I opened the Veganuary email and every day I felt myself moving further away from this way of life. This was, in large part, due to the manipulative, preachy, judgmental and cult-like language and tone used in Veganuary's marketing collateral.


'How do you kill something humanely if it doesn't want to die?' is a perfect example of the harmful language used by the Veganuary team. If that is what you believe then that's fine – you don't have to kill animals, you don't have to eat animals, but you can't force your beliefs on other people. Actions speak louder than words, so lead by example, don't shame people into following a vegan diet. It won't work.

Having said all of that, my overall experience of Veganuary has been positive. I ate some great meals and ate much more mindfully. I spent less money and more time in the kitchen. All good things! If you'd like to see what I ate during Veganuary I saved my favourite meals on my Instagram story highlights – @wnwrote. 

I won't be sticking to a plant-based diet religiously but I will try and eat less meat and dairy with the aim to buy produce from only good, local farmers. There is a middle ground when it comes to treating animals well and eating a healthy diet. It's not always black and white, so don't let anyone – meat eaters or vegans – tell you otherwise. Everyone has the right to eat the diet that is right for them. What you eat is no one else's business.

What are your views on veganism? Do you think you could give the vegan diet a go for a month?


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9 comments

  1. This is such a thoughtful, considered post, Naomi. Really refreshing to see someone tackling the scary language that often surrounds eating/diets. I find some of the language used by (some) vegans very offputting as well, almost shaming in a way (and I haven't eaten meat in 14 years!) I totally agree that being vegan is not the only way to make a difference. As you say, responsible farming does exist – it just takes more effort to find it. Vegans also conveniently overlook the fact that almonds (=almond milk) are some of the most taxing crops to maintain and have actually contributed to California's drought! That's just one example, but almost nothing is truly ethical so I don't get the judgy tone... Most people are trying their best, right? x

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  2. Interesting reflections and you have to wonder about the commercialisation of vegan foodstuff, the mainstream food magazines were full of Veganuary but will it continue? I doubt it.

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  3. I loved this post! I didn't do veganuary as I'm not a fan of restrictive diets, but I do try and eat less meat and dairy and, when I do eat meat, I try and buy it from my local butcher who can tell me which farm it's come from and how they treat their animals. A very reflective post and one which I was pleased to read!

    NINEGRANDSTUDENT: A Foodie Blog

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  5. PART 1

    Veganuary – a whole month dedicated to eating plant-based foods, or, rather, food that doesn't come from animals (it's not necessarily healthy). Basically: The vegans are TAKING OVER.

    I do wish that were true as the world would be a lot more compassionate but that will not be happening anytime soon unless something extremely drastic occurs.

    But that's okay! They won't be converting me anytime soon.

    It is not a religion as they are all based on spurious historical facts and bizarre as it seems morality is not as prominent in religion as people tend to think.

    But as the month went on I began craving cake, pastries, butter and cheese more, not less. I noticed no difference in my health, fitness or general wellbeing, and I was looking forward to the end – to a time when I could enjoy coffee AND a pain au chocolat from Hart's bakery, cheese on my pizza, a bowl of cereal with ice cold cow's milk, just the CHOICE, you know?

    Old habits die hard …

    Try and remember with every bite some suffering has been inflicted whether you care to admit it to yourself in that moment or not. For every cake that contains egg male chicks were summarily killed at birth in a mincer or by suffocation. That is the truth however unpalatable it may sound and the milk you will consume will have come from a dairy industry whose prime concern is to maximize milk production irrespective of any suffering or distress inflicted on of any of the cows or the lives of the male calves who will be killed, bred for veal or in a minority of cases low grade beef.

    If Veganuary taught me anything it's that restrictive diets are not for me.

    This statement sounds very demeaning and disrespectful to vegans as it gives the impression the diet is faddy and is based on being picky and choosing food groups for the benefit of the “dieter”. The diet is based on ALL edible food excluding any food derived due to a result of the unnecessary exploitation of animals. Whilst that is indeed restricting your available food it is not the same as any other diet where ethics plays no part in limiting the food groups.

    In reality everyone follows a restrictive diet to some degree or other as they leave out foods they dislike: who likes to eat everything and anything?

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  6. PART 2

    Some people believe that animals and humans are equal, but I am not one of them.

    I certainly don’t go in for all this animal anthropomorphization: animals are not our friends and treating pets like little children in my view is somewhat pathetic and says more about the owners than the animals. The whole idea of keeping a pet is rather odd when you think about it; it is a captive creature there primarily for the amusement of a human. Why anyone would keep a dog and be happy picking up its hot stinking poop is beyond me?

    That aside you don't need to think that way in order to treat animals with respect and not exploit and kill them for their skin/meat/hair/milk/eggs or indeed experiment on them or kill them for entertainment. Obviously if animals were our intellectual equals they wouldn't be getting enslaved and exploited in the manner they do.

    Every day this month I opened the Veganuary email and every day I felt myself moving further away from this way of life. This was, in large part, due to the manipulative, preachy, judgmental and cult-like language and tone used in Veganuary's marketing collateral.

    They are just a bunch of individuals who happen to be vegan. Their opinions are their own. There are many branches of religion in the world but if you disagree with one of them that doesn’t mean God doesn’t exist, although the biblical God may indeed not irrespective of how many denominations exist.

    Personally I don’t understand why anyone would want to try Veganuary anyway, at the end of the day it is a marketing ploy to get people to try veganism. Why would you even want to do that in the first place unless your conscience was troubling you or you had some selfish reason to go vegan - for health reasons or whatever? It is my view non-ethical vegans are much less likely to remain vegan for the long term as their actions are not borne out of compassion and empathy for the animals and that is either part of a person’s psyche or it isn’t.

    I can't get on board with an organisation that so blatantly avoids addressing the fact that there are many small farms that pride themselves on raising animals humanely and treating them with respect and kindness before killing them in a humane way.

    You know this always make me think of someone saying "You can raise children with respect and kindness before you kill them" - it just doesn't make sense. They are being exploited for money, not loved and cared for. Even if they were this in itself makes the act of betrayal of killing them even more abhorrent; it wouldn't be a very good parent who after lovingly rearing their children then handed them over to a bunch of strangers for them to be brutally killed. You say blah just a lamb, a calf, a pig but you know they still would rather not die and they probably have some trust and faith in their keeper seeing as they feed them every day.

    The confusion of being transported off to a slaughterhouse must be very bewildering and frightening for them and then having their throat slit and hacked to pieces must be horrific. The workers in the slaughterhouses don't give a damn where a farm animal has come from or how it was treated - they will treat them all the same. They will show no mercy to any of them and I doubt there is much respect for them either, judging by the reams of video out there showing shocking practices. An animal is just a unit of production to a slaughterhouse worker, if the animal struggles for its life and makes it more difficult for the slaughterhouse worker he is more liable to get angry with the animal and mistreat it especially if they are being paid on a quota basis.

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  7. PART 3

    In addition please bear in mind all the animals who are farmed die prematurely, in human terms somewhere between new born babies or young adolescents:

    Slaughter Age vs. Natural Life Span

    Pigs: Slaughtered at 6 months young; Natural life span: 6 to 10 years
    Chickens: Slaughtered at 6 weeks young; Natural life span: 5 to 8 years for those birds bred as "egg layers" such as Rhode Island Reds; 1 to 4 years for factory layer breeds such as leghorns; and 1 to 3 years for "meat" breeds. Male chicks killed within a few hours of being born.
    Turkeys: Slaughtered at 5 to 6 months young; Natural life span: 2 to 6 years
    Ducks/Geese: Slaughtered at 7 to 8 weeks young; Natural life span: domestic ducks: 6 to 8 years; geese from 8 to 15 years.
    Cattle: “Beef” cattle slaughtered at 18 months young; dairy cows slaughtered at 4 to 5 years young; Natural life span: 18 to 25+ years; male calves not used for veal slaughtered at birth.
    Veal Calves: Slaughtered at 16 weeks young; Natural life span: 18 to 25+ years
    Goats: Slaughtered at 3 to 5 months young; Natural life span: 12 to 14 years
    Rabbits: Slaughtered at 10 to 12 weeks young; Natural life span: 8 to 12+ years
    Lambs: Slaughtered at 6 to 8 weeks young for “young lamb” and under 1 year for all other; Natural life span: 12 to 14 years
    Horses/Donkeys: Slaughter age varies; Natural life span: 30 to 40 years

    [little graphic illustration of the above]
    https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/537335799268162140/


    'How do you kill something humanely if it doesn't want to die?' is a perfect example of the harmful language used by the Veganuary team.

    Why is this harmful? I assume you don't want to die right? How would someone kill you humanely? Be aware these animals are not being tranquilly put to sleep, they are being brutally and systematically killed in their millions every single day. Most are stunned first by captive bolt or an electric head bath or electrified tongs but halal and kosher animals are fully conscious when they have their throats slit – Muslims and Jews claim this is humane killing but I doubt you or any living being would want to have their throat slit whilst fully conscious. Pigs in the UK are generally gassed to death which judging by their screams is not a pleasant experience for them.

    If that is what you believe then that's fine – you don't have to kill animals, you don't have to eat animals, but you can't force your beliefs on other people.

    You certainly can't force your beliefs that is true unless you are a powerful dictator I guess but just putting your opinion out there is not forcing your beliefs on anyone, no more than society being compliant in giving out the impression that exploiting animals is a beneficial necessity.

    Many people make a LOT of money out of exploiting, using and selling animals so their motivation for doing it is very clear but vegans have nothing to gain, there is no hidden agenda. The agenda is to eliminate unnecessary pain and suffering and ultimately death being inflicted on animals or at the very least make other people aware of it.

    The animal agriculture industries and the large corporations who are making billions obviously don’t want people thinking about this too much. As far as they are concerned they are selling a product that people like to eat. They only talk about the ethics of what they are doing when they feel like sales might be hit adversely and then of course they attempt to make it look as if all the animals are well treated and cared for and all animal welfare standards are adhered to but in reality they don’t care as long as the bucks keep coming in.

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  8. PART 4

    Consumers for their part generally don’t want to feel guilty about their choices so they like to hear these reassuring sounds (every now and again) even if they aren’t completely taken in by them. It assuages their guilt (if they have any) and stops them questioning the morality of it too much, well if the majority of society is fine with it then that sanctions my consumption. My taste buds can have free reign to do as they choose!

    Actions speak louder than words, so lead by example, don't shame people into following a vegan diet. It won't work.

    I really don’t know what you are getting at here: "lead by example"? They are vegans and they try to tell the truth about the reality of how our food is produced. What more are they supposed to do?

    Having said all of that, my overall experience of Veganuary has been positive. I ate some great meals and ate much more mindfully. I spent less money and more time in the kitchen. All good things! If you'd like to see what I ate during Veganuary I saved my favourite meals on my Instagram story highlights – @wnwrote.

    That sounds slightly reassuring as you could probably go full vegan if you were really motivated to do it. It wouldn’t be the end of the world.

    I won't be sticking to a plant-based diet religiously but I will try and eat less meat and dairy with the aim to buy produce from only good, local farmers.

    What are your reasons for reducing meat and dairy? Do you feel like there are ethical considerations in consuming them?

    There is a middle ground when it comes to treating animals well and eating a healthy diet. It's not always black and white, so don't let anyone – meat eaters or vegans – tell you otherwise. Everyone has the right to eat the diet that is right for them. What you eat is no one else's business.

    You are of course conveniently ignoring the animal victims here when you say “What you eat is no one else's business.”. Someone might like to kill and eat you but I doubt you would be defending their right to do that. You are treating the animals as commodities with which we have the right to do with as we please. You of course can take that position but I personally don’t think it’s a very ethical one.

    I also don’t believe in all this locally produced, well looked after animal malarkey, that is an excuse used by people to assuage their guilt because deep down they know it is wrong to kill but people are also inherently selfish and they are able to elevate their taste buds above the right of an animal to live out its natural lifespan.

    In the real world the vast majority of the 58 billion animals annually killed are intensively farmed and in the real world people generally go to supermarkets and restaurants and they don’t bother thinking about how the animal was treated as they are munching into their cheese burger or drinking their milkshake or chewing on their lamb chop or when ordering from a menu: “Waiter could you tell me where your steak comes from; were the cattle lovingly raised and humanely slaughtered on a quaint little farm in the Shires per chance?” Blah …

    If livestock were really well cared for and allowed to live at least 50% of their natural lifespan the cost of eating them would be a lot higher than it currently is, faced with that prospect almost no one would buy a similar end product that costs perhaps 10 times more no more how ethically it was reared. If they cared that much about the ethics behind the food they ate then they’d be vegan.

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  9. PART 5
    What are your views on veganism? Do you think you could give the vegan diet a go for a month?

    Me personally oh I think I could easily manage it until I die.

    The hardest part of the vegan diet in common with most diets is trying not to consume too many calories. There is a plethora of choice out there but it takes time to figure out what works for you. There are alternatives to almost every food you ever ate in your life. Sometimes the taste can be a little different and no doubt your taste buds may change to accommodate these differing tastes but enjoying your food is not something vegans need worry about. Quorn make fishless fish fingers that taste and smell oddly fishy and whilst not identical to fish fingers they are a very delicious substitute.

    Some cheese and soya milks for me are not overly tasty but I actually prefer the taste of certain brands of soya milk (Aldi Sweetened Soya and Asda Sweetened Soya) over cow’s milk; both are great with tea but coffee is too acidic for them and they tend to curdle in it. I haven’t found an alternative to coffee-mate as yet but I haven’t looked too hard to be honest. I enjoy cereal with ice cold milk (not from a cow) with my breakfast every morning so I certainly don’t miss that aspect of my life before being vegan. I was always aware when having cereal when I was a child that the milk was from a cow’s teat (which had probably spent most of it’s life covered in slurry) and it grossed me out to a degree but back then I didn’t know such a thing as soya milk existed, it certainly wasn’t as abundant and varied as it is now.

    I do find it rather odd that people will happily drink the milk of another species that is of course meant for that species but they would balk at the thought of drinking human breast milk. That aside milk is for the young of mammals and was never intended to be drunk by adults of any species. How we ever got to this state in the first place is quite baffling but that is a whole other debate.

    Regards

    Daniel

    https://vegan1944.wordpress.com

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