An honest review of veganism
Reviewing a product is a bit capitalismy for my likings (that’s a joke), so today I have decided to review my experience as a ~vegan~.
What’s in a name?
First I want to review the label of vegan. It’s a 1/10 for me. The word is heavy with stereotypes and judgement and expectations. Now I am personally not one to be scared away by some stereotyping (I am a feminist with more hair in her armpits than on her head), but I just find it really puts people off, which is kind of the opposite of what is supposed to be the goal of the vegan. The judgement, again, doesn’t bother me too much. I used to get nervous that I’m being annoying at restaurants when I asked if they had anything vegan, but these days there are so many people with dietary requirements that wait staff usually won’t bat an eye. Most places even have a designated vegan item (it’s often not listed on the menu, you have to ask). As for judgement from my peers… Again, shaved head, unshaved armpits… Nobody is surprised. But expectations. This one I do not like. Telling people you’re vegan often makes them 1. Recoil, 2. Apologise for whatever piece of meat or dairy they just ate in front of you, 3. Say something like “oh, I could never do that! I just love cheese too much!”, and 4. Ask some kind of annoying questions, and/or 5. Tell you they find vegans preachy and annoying. Even though I do not personally mind nor care about these things, I find that fallout is generally people becoming even more set in their ways and less likely to even try a piece of tofu or a dairy-free doughnut. I more often use the term plant based, more specifically, I say I am ‘mostly plant-based,’ as that is more accurate to my reality. Sometimes, when I’m ordering food from a restaurant, I will just order the vegetarian meal and ask if they can take out the dairy - lactose intolerance is much more palatable than veganism. Apparently.
Every day I thank the trailblazing vegans who were doing this before fake meat and cheese made out of coconut oil (it’s better than the cashew cheese FYI). There are a lot of options these days, tonnes of recipes online, stacks of fast food choices, and very realistic alternatives. Now I pride myself for being a vegan who is in touch with reality ie. the actual taste of meat, cheese, milk, etc. I try my hardest not to recommend anything that isn’t a good option and I have never ever ever in my whole entire life said that the vegan alternative tastes better than the regular option, because it just fucking doesn’t. It never does. But I’ve been living my life with pretty good alternatives for over a year now, and as someone who is extremely into food, I think I’m a trustworthy source. It’s pretty astonishing just how many options there are for non-meat/dairy/egg eaters in the modern day. Even Domino's and Hungry Jack’s have excellent vegan options (I get the Rebel Whopper from HJ’s and the vegan beef and onion pizza and vegan cheesy garlic bread from Domino's). The first lab-grown meat has even recently been sold in the US! I reviewed my top picks for plant based swaps here.
There is a lot of toxicity in vegan culture. From a “no thanks, I don’t eat flesh,” at family Christmas to a YouTube video letting you know that if you eat eggs you are personally responsible for the untimely death of male baby chickens, it doesn’t look good. There are planty (haha) of vegans out there who aren’t like this, of course. I don’t mind sitting across from someone eating a giant steak and I sure as hell won’t be saying anything to them about it. I will always talk about plant based eating if it comes up in conversation, but very rarely will I bring it up out of context with a meat eater. But, of course, the loudest people always ruin it for the rest of us. The shouty, shamey vegan culture, shockingly, does not make people want to be vegan. Nobody wants to be told about the rates of cow death when they have a mouth full of hamburger.
How I feel
A startling number of people have asked me if I am vegan for “health” reasons, and I respond by showing how many frozen sausage rolls and nuggets I have in my freezer. Say it with me: being vegan is not inherently healthy. It might be for some people, but someone who is vegan is not automatically healthier than someone who isn’t. Even though this is the case (and it is a fact), I do feel a lot better on a plant based diet. Lots of professionals say that most people are somewhat lactose intolerant, and I have recently learned that I am part of most people. I am less tired and rarely do I feel nauseous or bloated. I am extremely regular, if you know what I mean (I mean poo-wise), and I have a lot more energy. While I hesitate to make recommendations, because everyone is different, I would say that if you experience any kind of digestive problems, you might benefit from a more plant based diet. I think dairy is the main culprit, as I didn’t experience these benefits when I trialled vegetarianism for a month. But once again, this is my experience.
Another iffy one. Because I am usually at pains to clarify that I am a ‘part-time vegan’ or ‘mostly plant based’, I can get away with minimised expectations. But people who wear the vegan label loud and proud are often held to higher expectations. Wearing leather? Fake vegan. Took a bite of a chicken nugget? Cancelled. Ate a jelly bean? Liar. Using non-cruelty-free products? How dare you. This is not specific to vegans. Anyone who holds public ethical views, works in a not-for-profit, or wore an activist-y T-shirt once is automatically held to a higher standard than the everyday person. Although it’s pretty ridiculous, it’s just how things are.
I’m not going to rate veganism, as I don’t think that would be right. What I will conclude with is the reiteration about how good I feel on a plant based diet. It really suits me, and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I don’t think it’s necessarily for everyone, but I do think that anyone who is interested in trying a few vegan or vegetarian substitutes, or even giving plant based eating a go for a week, should do so.