IT is world Vegan Day on Wednesday (November 1).
As more people are turning to veganism, for reasons ranging from health to compassion for animals, Observer reporter Cat Thompson explains why she become a vegan.
LIKE many, before I first went vegan, the idea of avoiding animal products in food seemed impossible.
But since I made the leap from vegetarian to vegan three years ago, I came to realise more than anything, it meant a change in mindset.
Most of us for all our lives have happily consumed products from animals from birth, without batting an eyelid.
To most people, drinking the milk of a cow and chowing down on the leg of a baby sheep is the norm, and vegans by proxy are a weird, quinoa quaffing sub-cult.
And admittedly, when I began to experiment with dairy alternatives – namely soya products – I approached with caution.
Because when I was young I was taught soya milk was ‘funny’. I remember looking at a childhood friend’s, and being repulsed by its off-white tinge.
But my aversion to soya I eventually realised was simply down to others telling me it wasn’t ‘normal’.
Now three years on from fretting over how to take my coffee, the idea of consuming milk from another species in my adulthood, is strange and unnerving.
Heavily processed and chocked with cholesterol and naturally occurring growth hormones adult bodies don’t know what to do with, dairy milk is something best left to its intended recipients – calves.
And with the wealth of plant milks, yogurts, ice-cream and expansive range of meat alternatives from sausage rolls to fish fingers, on the rise, it seems the rest of the world is slowly catching on.
Cheese is one of those foods often preventing people make that last step, but with demand rising from former pundits, the area has seen much improvement. So much so that for those ethically driven to make changes – it might just cut the casein.
Last year Sainsbury’s teamed up with vegan cheese company, Bute Island, to launch its own luxury cheese range – made from part soya and part coconut milk – which sold out within hours of arriving on shelves.
Protein is also among the more common concerns for those considering taking the plunge.
But it needn’t. The nutrient extends well beyond the imagination of the plate of meat and two-veg we all designed in junior school, with nuts, beans, chickpeas, lentils, soya and not least vegetables, all owing to a substantial daily dose of the meat-eater’s favourite argument.
A nutrient that is however lacking in the animal-free diet, is B12 which helps keep blood cells healthy. Supplements can easily replace B12, which also comes fortified with foods such as cereal, plant milks and nutritional yeast – a popular condiment on the vegan table.
Since I became vegan, I find myself more aware of the food choices I do make, more than I ever did as a meat-eater or vegetarian.
I have a growing knowledge of the nutrients I need to maintain a healthy and balanced diet, and which foods supply them – more than the vegan naysayers would think.
There are numerous benefits to going vegan, from health and saving the planet to animal welfare and helping reduce global famine.
And veganism is an option that can be taken easier than ever before, with restaurant chains including Pizza Hut, Ask Italian, All Bar One, Wetherspoons and more recently Carluccios adopting vegan menus.
Visit www.vegansociety.com for further information on veganism.