A series in which ordinary people talk about living a plant-based life
Our latest contributor, Toni, became a vegan after learning about the horrific conditions of farmed chickens while conducting research as part of her work as a microbiologist
My name is Toni, and I am a 26-year-old microbiologist from Manchester. I live with my fiancé, parents and our companion animals.
I first became vegetarian at 10 years old, after watching a programme on TV where someone killed their pet chicken and ate it. After this point, I remained a vegetarian until I was 18.
For several years, I was pressurised by my family and doctor to start eating meat again, as they believed it was related to my anaemia. Looking back, however, I had no sound dietary advice and ate a very poor diet with little to no fruit or vegetables.
At age 18, I regretfully, began to eat meat again and soon found myself much more ill than previously. During this time I felt disgust at what I was putting into my body, and was miserable thinking about the sources of my food.
Aged 23, I was researching antibiotic resistance in farmed animals, and discovered the hellish conditions that “broiler” chickens were kept in. Each bird has less floor space than a sheet of A4 paper, and they have health disorders, and suffer from lack of stimulation and pain from breeding issues.
At this point I became vegan and have not looked back since. At this time, my fiancé was vegetarian, but after showing him videos of the issues with dairy and egg industries he also became vegan. I can confidently say that I will never eat meat or any other animal product ever again.
After becoming vegan I properly researched how to get all of the needed nutrients, and I am currently the healthiest I have ever been. I have a diet that is full of vegetables – although I do still treat myself to some vegan junk food!
Food shopping for me can be quite a tricky exercise. I have coeliac disease so I cannot eat gluten, and I am allergic to mushrooms, lentils and peas, which are very common vegan proteins. These are more common in gluten-free options, so I do shop around to get the best options from each store I go to. I take time to consider my nutrient sources to ensure my diet is balanced; however, I do not obsess over it.
The initial change to veganism had an impact on how I viewed others, as I believed most people must be as oblivious as I was to the living conditions of farmed animals. I tried to get people to understand how horrific the short lives of these animals were, and was extremely shocked when I found that some people, when faced with the evidence, simply did not care.
Luckily for me, I had my fiancé to relate to, as he felt the same horror as me. I found joining Twitter and coming across other vegans who had the same views as me to be a comfort:
the knowledge that others as compassionate as me were out there really helped. I carried on chipping away at my parents, and my dad has now been vegan for a little over a year.
As a general rule, I try to avoid eating with non-vegans as I find their food repulsive, and prefer to not be in the scenario, especially as non-vegans often feel the need to try and engage you to talk about how “good” their food is.
I find all the jokes about vegans funny in a sense, as it speaks to me of the other party’s insecurity and need to have others confirm that their beliefs are right. My work regularly buys food for staff members’ lunches, and it’s always from locations such as KFC, where I will not eat food from.
This led to an amusing occasion for me, as colleagues picked up I was vegan when I refused to order, and I was immediately hit with the joke, “How have you kept quiet that you’re a vegan for that long – normally it’s in the first five minutes.” I had not said anything about my lifestyle for months yet this person couldn’t handle passing up the chance to make a vegan joke. I pointed out the irony but of course this couldn’t be seen!
I genuinely believe that veganism is not a fad, and I sincerely hope that others develop the empathy needed to become vegan. I would love for the future to be vegan. I believe the dairy and meat industries will die out as people become more ethically and environmentally conscious. I hope this change comes soon, but realistically believe it will be over the span of the next few hundreds of years, due to the number of people that do not want to change their behaviour.
Veganism, to me, is the aim to reduce the suffering of animals in any way that I possibly can, and using any means necessary to convert others to veganism. I believe conversion tactics have various successes and need to be targeted widely to act on whatever a person cares most about – their health, the environment or the suffering of animals.