At the beginning of this year, I wrote about how I couldn’t be a vegan.
I said it was too hard, that, whilst I had nothing but respect for those that dedicate themselves to the vegan way of life, it was not something that I planned to do.
I blamed my gluten intolerance and stomach condition and I highlighted the disordered eating patterns that arose as a result of those two things and I extradited myself from the hook.
I promised that I was making up for it in other areas; I was only buying cruelty free makeup, free range eggs and organic meat. I professed that the things I bought were ethically sourced and for what it was worth, I was a slave to my bag for life and I recycled EVERYTHING.
But then the Amazon caught fire and Greta Thunberg stood up in front of the world and declared a climate emergency and I drove across Europe with my mum and we saw all of these pigs squished into the back of a lorry and it was really grim and made me cry and then when we got home we decided to rescue some chickens and they arrived at our house mostly blind, having never been outside before, without any feathers and frighteningly thin and I couldn’t believe that all those horrifying videos that I’d avoided so vigilantly, to the extent that I now didn’t log onto Facebook anymore because my school friends are seemingly obsessed with animal welfare weren’t just propaganda, that humans were really that shitty and my eco anxiety was catapulted into the stratosphere and I decided it was high time I put my money where my mouth was and be the change I wanted to see in the world.
Before this summer I hadn’t wanted to be a vegan because it was too much work. I as much as said that in the last post I wrote.
I recognised the extraordinary personal sacrifice that a person was taking on by becoming a vegan, which is why I was so resolutely in awe of anyone dedicating their lives to it.
Having lived with stringent dietary requirements for a long time, I knew the difficulties that came with them; I knew the stress of going to a restaurant, how expensive it all became, the triggering and unhealthy requirement of reading the back of every food packet, the relentless sacrifice, the hunger pangs, how hard it can be going to friends’ houses for dinner and on holiday.
I was all too aware of the inconveniences and, good excuses or not, I weighed them up and decided it wasn’t for me.
But when I began to feel the suffocating eco anxiety that has taken a hold of a large percentage of my generation, I knew in my heart that if I wanted that to go away, I was going to need to do something about it.
I know anxiety. And I know myself. Those little piggies had come all the way home and I couldn’t stop thinking about them.
It was no good looking to Greta and hoping she’d do it for me.
I didn’t want to wait for the President of the US to stop taking the piss out of her and do something about the mass pollution problem caused by big business. I didn’t want to patiently hope the Chinese found recycling on their own.
And whilst I know that really, in the grand scheme of seven million people and more plastic in the ocean than stars in the galaxy that my banishing spaghetti bolognese was about as insubstantial as it got, still I knew that I needed to do more than just wait.
And so I did.
I stopped eating meat.
I’m a bloody fantastic quitter.
But this was very different, for a few reasons.
Namely, I suspect, because this didn’t feel like I was quitting. It didn’t even really feel like I was “giving up” meat. Truthfully, it felt better than that, more exciting. It felt as if I was gaining something. Trying something new. Adopting a new lifestyle. I felt like I was being better.
Veganism, to me, isn’t a diet. It’s not a hobby. It’s a way of life.
It’s feeling passionately enough about something to want to make an all-encompassing change. It’s a sacrifice. It’s bloody massive.
And I feel, honestly, fucking chuffed with myself that I was even dabbling with the thought of it.
The only problem was: I didn’t like vegans. And I didn’t like them, because I didn’t get them. They scared me. They scared me because they were able to make a sacrifice that I wasn’t. They scared me because they were not, as I was, all fart and no poo. They put their money where their mouth was and did the bit for the planet that I was too bloody lazy to do. They were,
probably, better people than me. And I didn’t like them for that.
And the problem with not liking vegans really, was the worry that if I became one, people would not like me.
And no, that’s not a very nice thing to admit, but here we are.
As admirable as they are, the vegan community have a bad rep for being pushy, aggressive, liberal loonies (a title I now quite fancy getting tattooed somewhere to be honest), and I didn’t know if I was ready to pick up the gauntlet. To openly admit to being a vegan is to tell the world that you are passionate and that comes with a lot of pressure. Pressure that I thought I could probably do without.
I’d spent a quarter of a century trying my best to ensure that I fitted in, that I was liked, that I was the girl I thought I should be. I thought I knew what I wanted my life to look like and I spent a lot of time doing what I could to ensure that it did.
I wanted to be the gal that ordered the steak.
But in recent months I’ve realised, I don’t want to be the girl that eats one.
I’ve grownup and into the sort of person that is prepared to put their principles up top and deal with the rest of it as it happens. I’m not saying never but I’m definitely saying not right now. I don’t want to eat steak anymore.
It didn’t taste as good as a cleaner conscious would feel. I think that’s the crux of it…
And so I came to veganism.
Or as close as I could get to it, at any rate.
Haha, yes. After all of that, I have to admit: I can’t go vegan. Not fully, and not yet.
I have stopped eating meat, and eggs and obviously I don’t touch dairy. At home I am a vegan.
But I will still eat fish, when I’m out, and I accept too that there may well be unavoidable situations in my future that see me needing to eat meat. A lot of vegan food has gluten in it, a lot of gluten free food has egg in it, many foreign countries don’t understand my allergies and there’s a limit to the sacrifices that I can make.
I exercise a LOT and require a lot of protein, protein that’s hard to come by given my dietary restrictions, namely: I can’t eat nuts, and I struggle a lot with beans and pulses goo.
I am also just now learning how to intuitively eat too which is a huge process for me that requires a lot of unlearning of the toxic behavioural patterns taught to me by diet culture. I will write about this soon, but to cut a long story short, I’ve got a lot of my own shit to work out and strict veganism isn’t ideal for that. Although I’m loving it whilst at home, I still feel really anxious at the thought of taking yet another incredibly restrictive diet away in a suitcase with me.
I went away last weekend and three times we found the only things I could eat on the menu, not cooked in butter, or using flour or containing any of the foods that cause me to flare up were meat.
I hated it and I felt shitty about it, but what was I supposed to do?
I can only do my best.
And that, I realised, is and entirely viable option.
I grew up thinking that there were no blurred lines, sure there were vegans, vegetarians and pesketarians but I thought that within that, there were strict rules that had to be adhered to, that there was no leeway at all. That once you were on the road, there was no way off it.
And whilst that is the case for a lot of people, that could not be the case for me, and that was going to need to be okay.
I’m a vegan at home.
A peski-vegan when out.
And a I’ll-do-the-best-i-can-er everywhere else.
I’m a part-time-peski-vegan.
And I’ve been deliberately quiet about that.
Because I don’t feel as if I’ve been doing it properly, and truthfully, I thought I was at risk of getting a hard time for that. I thought if I started to use the “vegan” label, even prefaced with all that other shit, I would be attracting too many criticisms. I thought I’d be held too accountable and that there would be too much pressure.
And, I’m a bit scared of vegans, remember?
But then I realised something.
I wanted to make this change for moral reasons. I saw those pigs in that lorry and those half dead chickens and I thought for long and hard and I realised that I no longer felt comfortable eating meat. I wanted to make a positive change, to make a difference, no matter how small. And that’s exactly what I’ve done.
Sure. I’m not perfect.
And it’s not the sacrifice that other (better?) people have made.
But being 90% vegan is better than being 100% not.
Something is better than nothing.
And I’m giving as many somethings as I have to offer. I am doing the best that I can, every single day.
And I do want to talk about that. Because I put off making a positive change for such a long time because I didn’t think that anything I had to offer would be enough. I thought it’d be too hard.
It was too hard, in the end. But that should not have stopped me from trying.
That’s something that we have not given enough thought to recently: trying.
To try and to fail is better than to not have tried at all, anyone can see that.
So I’m not as vegan as I’d like to be. But I’m much more vegan than I’ve ever been before. And I’m really happy about that.
I didn’t want to talk about it, because I didn’t want to find myself on the receiving end of abuse if I were to one day eat meat again. That’s a bit of a shitty admission to make, but it’s a reality I have to face. To admit something publicly is to be held to account, and I’ve been a bit scared of that, because I don’t know what the future will look like.
I might find that veganism really doesn’t work for me and I have to be prepared for that.
So I haven’t gone the whole hog (pardon the pun) and the future is unsure, but for now, I’m really enjoying my peski-veganism. It’s a foot in the right direction. It’s a something. And I like somethings.
A meat free Monday is better than a meat fest Monday.
To fuck it all off and order a share portion of ribs to yourself just because you ate a cake containing egg is really just throwing the baby out with the bath water.
I didn’t do vegan in the way perhaps I thought I should, but at least I’m doing something.
And I’ll say it again: something is better than nothing. We like somethings.
So in a world that is quite literally going to shit, I think it is a fair enough conclusion that really, all any of us can do, is our best.
And my best, right now, happily, looks like part-time-peski-vegan-ism.