It's February 1st and for many people out there you will have completed your first month as a vegan. You should feel good about this because it means that you committed to a month of taking control of your diet and lifestyle in a way that has largely reduced your negative impact upon animals, the planet and your own health.
Some of you may have decided to take part because you wanted to start the New Year with a health kick, for others is may have been because you realised that the animal agriculture industry is hugely detrimental to the environment - and for many it will have been learning of the unnecessary suffering of animals that made you strive to be vegan. Whatever your initial reasons for beginning 2018 as a vegan, it is undeniable that you have begun to have a better impact on the world.
Now, throughout the month you may have had initial difficulties and this usually comes from family members or friends who struggle to understand why you have chosen to make the change to veganism. You may have been bombarded with questions such as “what about your protein?” or "what about the fact that our ancestors eat meat?” - the list goes on. Many friends suddenly become health experts, they're concerned, or perhaps worse, very offended by your choice to no longer fund animal exploitation. The good news is there isn’t a single question anyone may put forward, genuine, or in an attempt to make veganism seem negative, that can’t be answered with a response that effectively debunks any of these anti-vegan issues. If you were unsure how to answer some of these questions, that’s okay, there are resources to help you.
With the challenges you may have faced, you might be unsure whether you will continue to live vegan from now on - and if you are having doubts then it helps to look at this from a different perspective. You need only consider the suffering and abuse and exploitation that are inherent in the animal agriculture industry to see that these animals deserve far more than for us to slip back into paying people to kill and abuse them for their flesh and secretions.
When you have a choice between vegan cheese and animal lactation cheese, you need only remind yourself of what happens in the dairy industry – for example, that the cows must be made pregnant with intrusive procedures such as artificial insemination, that the cows are separated from their calves soon after birth and that every year around 90,000 male dairy calves are shot soon after birth and discarded as a by-product.
When you have a choice between plant-based 'meat' or the flesh of an animal, you need only remind yourself that your choice decides whether an animal lives or dies. Your choice could mean a 6 month old pig has to be lowered into a gas chamber where they will suffer a brutal death – a death 1/3 of the pigs in the UK suffer. Your choice determines whether chickens are selectively bred and genetically modified to be fully grown around 41 days old, making them effectively chicks in fully grown chicken bodies, who are often unable to walk and who are then sent to be killed for you. Your choice always has an impact on an individual.
When you go to reach for that non-vegan product, you are deciding that an animal’s life matters less than your temporary preference of consumption and when we are aware that our actions mean this, then continuing to be vegan becomes easy.
So from here on, your actions can continue to mean something a lot more positive, your actions when you choose to live vegan mean that you are choosing to avoid harming or exploiting animals, you are choosing to help them - and you are choosing to be a positive difference in a world that desperately needs you to be.
For anyone needing help or guidance with continuing their vegan lifestyle, there is always help out there. Never worry about reaching out to other vegans online or in person, as there is an endless supply of information and help out there just waiting for you to look for.
It has never been so easy to live vegan - keep in mind the victims of animal agriculture and it becomes easier still.
Peter Keighley for Surge