‘Embrace the cognitive dissonance of eating meat, overcome it and become a better version of yourself’

Everyday Vegans
An occasional series in which ordinary people
talk about living a plant-based life

Our latest contributor, Adelin, 25, a newly graduated electronics and computer engineer,  has a fuss-free approach to being a vegan despite the challenges of living in bacon-obsessed Denmark

Everyday Vegan: AdelinYou’re vegan now; were you vegetarian before?
I was an omnivore and I just went vegan, cold turkey, about a year ago.

How long have you been vegan?
I’ve been vegan for about one year. More precisely, since October 2017.

What led to that?
My girlfriend was vegan beforehand and I just got inspired. I watched Cowspiracy, Forks over Knives, Earthlings  and all the other movies on the topic. Then I looked into the science, and I read How Not To Die, by Dr Michael Greger, and watched most of the videos by Nutritionfacts.org.

Do you see yourself ever going back to being an omnivore?
Provided that I don’t lose my mind, obviously not.

Are you a “healthy” vegan? Often people assume we’re all fitness-obsessed, when the reality is that we come in many flavours and for many people life is an eternal hunt for vegan cake. What makes up your diet?
I fully adopted a whole-foods plant-based diet so I consider myself a “healthy vegan”. More than 95% of my diet consists of whole foods, thus I eat very little processed food. It has never been a struggle to be honest. My taste buds needed two or three weeks to get used to the change. I’m also a supertaster, so I just had to reprogram my taste buds and now I just love the taste of each single vegetable in my meals. I never thought I’d be craving broccoli. I don’t use any oil and I consider salt to be a lazy spice since it covers the unique taste of each vegetable in the mix. So, purely by good fortune, I have the healthiest diet of anyone I know.

Where do you shop?
I shop locally. Most times we actually end up going to at least a few shops just to find everything we need. Danish society in general has a very unhealthy diet, so while you find 10 types of bacon, only one shop has canned beans without any added salt or some unhealthy sauce.

Do you consciously think about where you get your protein, etc, from?
I don’t worry about macros since I think they’re overrated. As long as one eats enough calories, they just can’t be protein deficient. However I’m more mindful regarding fats and try to avoid saturated fats as much as I can. That’s why I don’t really use oil, coconut cream or other foods rich in saturated fat.

For many vegans, the initial realisation of facts that make us turn to a different lifestyle is pretty life-changing and alienating. We view things differently, from the supermarket shopping experience in a meat-eating world to the people around us. How was that change in mindset – the reality of being an outsider in many situations – for you?
It does feel pretty alienating at times. However, my girlfriend is with me on this so it all becomes manageable. I haven’t even presented the ethical arguments to my family, for example, since they have very unhealthy diets and I just want them to get healthier and basically improve the quality of their lives. I don’t want them to think there’s any doubt about whether it’s healthy or not to eat this way. I try to keep up with science and I can present very clear arguments promoting a plant-based diet. And so, when it comes to the ethical part, it’s only other vegans who really understand what I’m talking about. Social events that involve food make me feel uncomfortable, since I can’t just sit there and enjoy my food while people around me are eating dead animals…

Do you mix with many other vegans – does your lifestyle mean that you come into contact with people of a similar outlook regularly?
Yeah, I know all three other vegans in my city (smiles). In all honesty, I don’t really come in contact with many vegans, actually.

Do you seek out vegan groups and forums online?
Yeah, especially culinary groups.

Do you live in a meat/dairy eating household? And if so, how is that?
Definitely not! I just can’t imagine opening my fridge and seeing a dead animal in it without losing my appetite.

Do you feel you have more in common with vegans than the majority of other people who don’t believe plant-based is the way forward?
Not really. I actually think that non-vegans just have a blind spot but can be more enlightened in other areas than vegans. Although it’s one of the pillars of my moral code, I can easily disagree with other vegans. We’re on the same team when it comes to ethics, but there are plenty of vegans who aren’t very consistent either. For example, if you’re a true Christian and vegan, there’s a lot we can disagree on.

Do you, as most of us have to, eat out with non-vegans often and how do you feel about their eating choices?
At times, I have to deal with it, but I avoid it as much as possible. As I mentioned previously, I just cannot enjoy my meal while someone’s eating a dead animal next to me. I might be considered extreme or whatever, but I just can’t be polite enough to tolerate that. I wouldn’t try to push anything onto anyone, so they can eat corpses all they want, just not in front of me. I’m the one that has to leave, though, not them, since I’m the “odd one out”.

Are you involved in any form of activism?
Not the true vegan activism, but more like whole foods plant-based diet activism.

How do you feel about the vegan jokes… you know, that vegans can’t go five minutes without mentioning the fact or they explode?
Oh, I don’t really take myself very seriously. I don’t feel offended at all, it just kind of makes me sad, because their ignorance involves actual victims, the animals and ultimately, our whole planet. However, I have perfected a whole arsenal of vegan comebacks, so it’s actually fun when they try to pull of something like that. Eg, Them: “Oh, so where do you get your protein from?” Me: “I don’t…”

Do you believe veganism to be a fad?
I don’t think so. It just makes sense from every point of view. It actually doesn’t make sense not to be vegan, given the moral code of most modern civilisations. I’m usually very optimistic about stuff, but I’m afraid veganism will soon hit a plateau. We’ve got to reach that tipping point on a global scale to actually see a meaningful change. However, in the meantime, I’ll be living my happy vegan life, while not living in cognitive dissonance and I’ll try to lead by example.

Do you believe that the meat and dairy industries have a future?
Most likely, as a minority. If we reach that tipping point, it’s going to be “omnis” who have to search the whole shop in order to find some pig flesh… aka bacon.

If not, what do you believe the timescale for change to be?
As I said, I’m afraid more and more people start eating more meat since they can afford it now. I only hope that education and policy changes will make a huge change within the next few decades.

Some countries went through the development phase in like a decade (with key performance indicators such as infant mortality, poverty, number of kids per family, etc) while it took the Western world way longer to catch up. I assume that a lot of people in developing countries will eat more and more meat, until they grow out of it and it’s going to be way quicker than it took the West. Let’s hope Great Britain will lead by example. It seems like they’re on the right path. I don’t see this coming from the US, or the EU.

How do you think we best “convert” omnivores to a plant-based lifestyle? And do you actively try to do this?
I definitely do. I think we just have to find what resonates with each person most. Since veganism makes sense from an environmental protection, ethical and health point of view, we just to see what’s up there as a priority for them. Although most people find the idea of factory farming repulsive, it’s something they can easily ignore after you’ve showed them footage from Earthlings. It’s not to say that the typical vegan forms of activism aren’t effective at all, but when you know someone a bit better, you can put it first from the perspective they’ll most likely care about.

For example, I could never kill an animal, but in the past I’d seen animals being slaughtered for food. I just saw it as a necessary evil. However, I’ve always been very concerned about the environment, never littered, recycled, bought the car with the lowest emissions possible, worked on renewable energy projects, did all the things I knew were helping the environment.

However, when I first watched Cowspiracy, I felt like a complete hypocrite. It hit me so hard that I couldn’t think about anything else. Then I looked into it even more and then saw the full picture. I guess that was the perfect spot to throw the hook at…

It could have probably worked just as well if I saw Earthlings, let’s say, but I feel like there’s always something that sticks in the long run. I could’ve probably justified it by saying we should adopt some form of “humane” slaughter, abolish factory farming… you name it, any excuse to make me feel better about myself, just like, basically, most omnivores. I’ve always loved animals and actually grew up on a farm, but I’ve never volunteered in animal shelters, nor did I donate for such a cause, so it might either haven taken longer to “hook” me on that or it just wouldn’t work.

One of my reasons for reaching this conclusion is that when you ask vegans what made them change their minds, they’ll most likely mention the most important issue (to them) and then say, “Oh it’s also this and that.” And since veganism makes sense from multiple points of view, there’s a clear consensus between vegans, no matter what they view as the most important issue.

What does being vegan mean to you?
Being vegan to me means being consistent. I have a strong moral compass on this matter that could only be overpowered (briefly) by my survival instinct. (I’ve trained, though, by being put on so many hypothetical desert islands by so many meat eaters.)

I want to be as mindful as I can about how my actions affect the world and I think that applies to most people, whatever their diet. They just need an annoying vegan to hook them with an argument that speaks to the individual and to help them embrace the cognitive dissonance from which they suffer, overcome it and become better versions of themselves. I do believe vegans are more morally virtuous than meat eaters but that does not make omnivores immoral either; they just need that “wake-up call”.

If you are interested in sharing your thoughts in our Everyday Vegans slot, please get in touch and we’ll let you know what to do.

Published by Karen_WY

Vegan blogger living with more cats than humans.

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