‘Media defending animal agriculture, attacking vegans… These things show how the movement is growing’

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


Our latest contributor Pedro had seen distressing videos of meat industry cruelty without being inspired to change his diet. But when the time came to do so, it came by surprise

Everyday Vegan – PedroTell us a bit about yourself…
My name is Pedro, I’m 31, and I live in London. My family is composed of my parents, a younger sibling and several uncles/aunts. I’m a currently a media systems engineer; I was, until what seems like a lifetime ago, a record producer for several years in Oxford. Now I’m living in London and working in the VOD/broadcast industry. I love music, play bass/guitar, gaming, and just technology in general.

You’re vegan now; were you vegetarian before? What led to that? How long have you been vegan? What led to that choice?
I went straight from being an omnivore to being vegan after watching the documentary Earthlings. For no obvious reason, one night I decided to watch it, and 15 minutes into it, I felt had no choice but to become vegan. That said, I still forced myself to watch it all the way through. That was almost three years ago.

Do you see yourself ever going back to being an omnivore?
No. Never. That’s not even a possibility.

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’m strictly wholefood plant-based – no oils, no processed crap. After six months of hunting for all the vegan junk food possible when I first went vegan, it just naturally happened and now I really feel that I value individual foods (for example, biting into a steamed potato tastes amazing after your taste buds ‘detox’ from being used to loads of sugar and oils and sweeteners).

Where do you shop?
I shop in regular supermarkets and farmers’ markets.

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 – the reality of being an outsider in many situations – for you?
It led to some grim times to be honest; it’s similar to the red-pill scene in The Matrix. You have to come to terms with the realisation that our species and society as a whole celebrates the torturing and killing of billions of animals every year, for absolutely no reason. You realise how every single person comes up with the same excuses, literally the same; it’s like cognitive dissonance is a networked consciousness. It also led to seeing my friends, family, and people in general differently. Even after showing all the facts, all the horrible things, seeing their faces in shock or even crying but still, somehow, they continue to perpetuate those exact scenarios.

Do you mix with many other vegans – does your lifestyle mean that you come into contact with people of a similar outlook regularly?
No, I don’t, but I do seek out vegan forums and groups online.

Do you live in a meat/dairy eating household? And if so, how is that? Do you feel you have more in common with vegans?
I don’t, and I feel that I have more in common with vegans than the majority of other people who don’t believe plant-based is the way forward.

Do you, as most of us have to, eat out with non-vegans often and how do you feel about their eating choices?
Yes, I don’t eat out often, probably a couple of times a year, but it does enrage me internally and leads to internal struggle to hold my tongue.

Are you involved in any form of activism?
I have been, not any more, but am thinking of getting back to it.

How do you feel about the vegan jokes… you know, that vegans can’t go five minutes without mentioning the fact or they explode?
They don’t faze me at all… I don’t really care.

Do you believe that the meat and dairy industries have a future? If not, what do you believe the timescale for change to be?
Decades, minimum.

How do you think we best ‘convert’ omnivores to a plant-based lifestyle? And do you actively try to do this?
I don’t actively try to, I just answer facts and logic when asked; a couple of friends have turned vegan whilst doing that.

How do you feel about the horror-show videos of the reality of meat? Do you share them? Do you feel they have a positive place in changing people’s understanding of the meat and dairy industry?
They’re the best chance we have. Some people will never care, yes, but like me, in the past I had always seen them and never cared. Yes, it shocked me and made me depressed, but then I went on to eat animals 10 minutes later. One day, for some reason, I was predisposed to have an open mind and it worked instantly, so yes, I believe it’s the main way, as it’s the undeniable truth.

Are you positive about the future of veganism?
Yes, I truly am. Mainly now with the mainstream media picking up on hit pieces on veganism, defending farmers and animal agriculture, attacking vegans. These things just show how the movement is growing, that’s how change usually happens, reporting on it then smearing it.

What does being vegan mean to you?
For me, being vegan complies with the initial definition by Leslie J Cross, founder of the Vegan Society, in 1949: “The principle of the emancipation of animals from exploitation by man.”

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.

‘I fear we’ll destroy our planet but we could probably buy ourselves a bit more time as a species if we go vegan now’

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


 

Our latest contributor is Martin Yelverton, co-editor of Bardo Burner, who believes humanity is slowly evolving towards veganism but that it’s a long, long game

Martin Yelverton, Everyday Vegan

Tell us a little about yourself…
I was born in Zambia but did most of my growing up in Zimbabwe and South Africa, which I left back in the days of apartheid to dodge my conscription into the army after college. I’ve been living in the UK ever since and now consider myself an immigrant Londoner. I’m 52, married, and have a grown-up son. I work as a yoga teacher, Pilates instructor and freelance news journalist.

You’re vegan now; were you vegetarian before? What led to that? How long have you been vegan? What led to that choice?
I became a vegetarian in my early 20s after getting a kitchen job in Germany that involved killing trout for instant cooking (this was during the summer; in winter it would also have involved killing rabbits). I was no good at killing, lasted one day in that job, and decided that if I couldn’t kill animals, I shouldn’t be eating them. About four years ago I watched Cowspiracy and was a vegan by the end of the week (couldn’t resist not finishing off my cheese stash – used to love the stuff, now it grosses me out almost more than meat). Since then, I’ve learnt a lot I didn’t know about how grotesque the dairy industry is; I can’t believe I supported it for so long as a vegetarian, but there it is; one learns.

Do you see yourself ever going back to being an omnivore?
I can’t imagine that happening. However, I’ll never say never, because I did return to eating meat for two years during my long stretch of vegetarianism. I studied Hung Gar kung fu with an old school teacher who believed you had to be a meat eater to be strong enough for some of the stuff he taught. When I do something, I’m all or nothing, so for the sake of the kung fu, I tried going back to eating meat to learn these things. I tried to convince myself I was getting stronger. I wasn’t. And deep down I knew I wasn’t being true to my principles either. Eventually I drifted away from the kung fu and into yoga, returning to vegetarianism. It was a big lesson: don’t take a teacher’s word as gospel – this is something I try to impart to the people who study yoga and Pilates with me.

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 try to be a healthy vegan, with varying degrees of success. I mainly eat rice, wholewheat spaghetti and variations on vegetable stews and curries, as well as tons of fruit and nuts. I eat a little more processed food than I’d like to, but keep working towards a whole food diet as an ideal. I’m inclined to beat myself up when I don’t manage this, but try not to; being a fundamentalist is never a good thing. My biggest challenge is processed sugar. For the most part I don’t use it, but every now and again I’ll treat myself to some of the fine vegan cakes and desserts out there, and I always regret it, because the sugar gets right up there like a monkey on my back. I find it scarily addictive. If I can keep processed sugar out of my life, my diet tends to be pretty healthy.

Where do you shop?
I shop at local supermarkets, whether big chains or independents. We are spoilt for choice in London; vegan food is everywhere. I sometimes feel guilty shopping at the big supermarkets, which do so much to keep the meat industry alive, even as they’re serving vegan customers so well, but, hey, it’s not a perfect world.

Do you consciously think about where you get your protein, etc, from?
No, not really. I sometimes go through the motions, but it’s not a big deal for me. I’ve gone through phases of being too protein obsessed but I think that’s a fool’s errand. I simply try to eat a balanced diet and let nature take its course: fruit, veg, grains, nuts, pulses. And so far, so good; I’ve never been healthier.

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?
To start with, it didn’t bother me much. I believe passionately that we’re all just doing our best to get through the dark night of the soul, whether we eat meat or not. Life is hard and we do the best we can; I try my best to empathise with all beings. But the more time passes, Continue reading →

‘It’s hard to watch people making terrible choices about food… but I want to be a shining example, not a bully’

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


Our latest contributor, Christie, turned to veganism in desperation to help with a challenging range of health problems. It brought huge physical benefits and soon became a key component of her spiritual life

Christie

Tell us a little about yourself…
I’m 44 years old and female. I’m a follower of Jesus. I am married (to an omnivore) and we have four wonderful cats and no human kids. I’m a speech-language pathologist who specialised in supporting kids with developmental diagnoses (especially autism) and their families. I wrote and now distribute a curriculum to teach biblical truths to kids with special needs (the Chirp Curriculum) and I have a YouTube channel  where I post videos relating to special education. My husband and I both love cats, reading and hiking. We’ve been married for 23 years next month. We both grew up in gorgeous Minnesota. We now live in Arizona (also gorgeous).

You’re vegan now; were you vegetarian before?
Yes, I was a vegetarian for about six months before I became vegan.

What led to that?
I was searching for answers to my health difficulties. I noticed that I felt a lot worse eating meat, and cut that out first… but that didn’t solve my problems!

How long have you been vegan?
I became fully vegan in August of 2015 and I’m grateful for every day for the opportunity to support my own health and to cause less suffering in this world.

What led to that choice?
My vegan story started due to the aforementioned health concerns. When I was in my first graduate program (age 23), I found out I had celiac disease (I am therefore gluten-free). In my second graduate program (age 25), I was diagnosed with stage IV endometriosis, attached to my intestines and all over inside my abdominal cavity (ew). Endometriosis is when the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus. It responds to hormones and causes extreme pain and trouble.

My case was pretty extreme due to the threat of it perforating my intestines, and the Monday after my graduation, I had a complete hysterectomy with removal of my ovaries, too. I was 27. This did not prevent further health difficulty, however; in subsequent years, I developed Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and eventually Crohn’s disease (that’s the one that really knocked me on my butt).

Obviously my body was screaming to be heard! I didn’t understand what it was saying until I was at my very lowest about four years ago. It was the most miserable time of my life. I was terribly depressed because I couldn’t get well and I didn’t know how to live life in that state. I was scrolling through things to watch on Netflix, and I came across What The Health. These days, all those doctors seem like friends to me, but at the time, I couldn’t believe that drastic health improvement could come from eliminating foods that I’d thought were health-promoting.

I didn’t jump on board right away, but I began researching. I read the books, I looked on PubMed, I watched YouTube videos from the plant-based doctors… and I discovered that there is a scientific backing for what these doctors were saying. It scared me because I did not know how to do it and I did not want to tell my friends and family that I was becoming vegan. And in fact, I didn’t tell even my husband for a while. We both grew up in Minnesota, where dairy is almost holy, and people believe that eating meat is a necessity for survival.

Veganism was a pretty big departure from everything we were used to and the way I had been cooking. Thankfully, because of the celiac disease diagnosis years before, I wasn’t quite as intimidated as I could’ve been by changing my cooking. To my surprise, Continue reading →

‘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 Continue reading →

On six years of sobriety: living moment by moment with the dark, bottomless thirst for oblivion

glass of water

I sit opposite my dining companion, me with my glass of water, she with her single glass of wine. I enjoy the company, I enjoy the meal, I enjoy my water; however, the whole time – sometimes more strongly, sometimes less, but always – there is this thought in the back of my mind.

Why on earth would you do that? Why on earth would anyone drink one glass of wine? Why would you not by now be on to the second glass, the third, the fourth; why would you not already be ordering the second bottle, and indeed contemplating the whiskeys to follow?

This is a consistent thing whenever I am in the company of a “healthy drinker”, one who is happy to have “just the one”. It is one of the big things that reminds me why I do not drink alcohol, why I am today six years sober. It indicates very clearly that deep inside the dark, bottomless thirst for oblivion still remains in me.

I am less inclined these days to throw the term “recovering alcoholic” around, although that is indeed one of the things I am. My path is the path of trying to see who I am from moment to moment, of trying to emerge from the grooves – of behaviour, of thought – into which I constantly fall. So self definitions seem slightly at odds with the project.

Of course, as someone still grubbing in the lowest muds of the path, this business of escaping the bonds of patterning is more an intention than a reality. For now, it helps occasionally – particularly on each January 28 that I am blessed to mark as another year of sobriety – to remember where I have come from. To remind myself that I am a recovering alcoholic, grateful to be sober, one moment at a time.

‘We’ve all been fed lies about the necessity of consuming dairy and meat when the truth is it does us harm’

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


UK music teacher Jenny, our latest contributor, explains how she ended up treating herself to becoming a vegan for her 40th birthday and why she is committed for life

Vegan Jenny with her kids

I’m 52 and I live with my three children and my second ex-husband. My eldest has been influenced by my first husband’s family and sadly wants to eat meat. He buys his own food and I sometimes put his choice of food in the oven for him. My younger two are both vegetarian but I would be happier if they were vegan. My second ex is vegan but doesn’t insist his children are. I mainly buy them vegan food but occasionally buy them Quorn products.

I’m a part-time piano teacher and accompanist, mainly in a fee-paying school.

I went through a very gradual transition to being vegan. When I was at college one of my friends was vegan which did have an effect on me. However, I didn’t think she looked that healthy, so sadly I assumed she was missing out on foods she needed. I hated the idea of eating animal flesh but I truly believed that we had to do so in order to stay healthy.

From my late twenties I began by giving up red meat, then white meat, then fish. My first husband was happy to have veggie mince for some meals as his mum liked veggie food. When we split up in my mid-thirties, I picked up some Viva leaflets at my local Sainsbury’s supermarket and from them realised I didn’t have to have dairy and eggs to be in good physical shape. I went along to some Veggie Essex meetings and decided to go vegan for my 40th birthday.

I then met my second husband through a veggie friend’s website and he went vegan soon after me.

Although I used to like the taste of meat; I would never go back to eating it. For me, it’s a no-brainer being vegan:

  • I love animals and wouldn’t want to cause them to suffer just for my taste-buds;
  • It’s better for my health; and
  • It’s much more environmentally friendly.

I’ve been vegan now for around 14 years and it’s never been easier.

We went on to have two children, who were both breastfed for over two years. They are careful not to accept sweets with gelatine but at the moment can’t resist milk chocolate, pizza and Quorn. My daughter likes to eat school dinners with her friends but unfortunately the veggie option is rarely vegan.

I shop in my local Sainsbury’s or Tesco store. I sometimes have takeaway chips or Chinese food due to a very busy schedule. My 12-year-old likes to cook vegan food at the weekend and he’s adapted all his school cookery lesson ingredients to be vegan so I can eat them.

As an ‘eat to live’ kind of person rather than a ‘live to eat’ person, I’m not terribly worried about my protein levels as I have soya, nuts, vegan cheese etc and I think I’m strong and fit most of the time. I eat fairly simple food like porridge with oat milk, muesli, toast and marmite, sandwiches or salad at my school for lunch, fresh fruit and lots of jacket potatoes with fresh veg and sometimes a Linda McCartney pie or sausage etc.

I’m always pleased when I meet other vegans as it makes me feel saner to know that others think like me. I have joined vegan Facebook groups and attend vegan fairs and talks when I can. I’ve also joined a vegan pen pal scheme for the over-50s Continue reading →

A ‘basic’ yoga posture that’s anything but (and why you should listen to your body rather than your teacher)

Reversed Warrior yoga posture

For all we know, the guy in this photograph is pictured at the very moment of enlightenment, uniting with the wider cosmos via his body. So it goes without saying that there is nothing wrong with what he is doing.

It should be noted, though, that his spine is curved back and to the side at angles way beyond what is considered functional for the human body; similarly his rear leg is extended far beyond natural range, with powerful effects on his hip joint and pelvis. Again, no problem – it’s his body, he can do whatever he wants with it.

What is a problem, however, is that the shape he is producing here is frequently offered in yoga classes as a reasonably standard, basic posture called Reversed Warrior, sprinkled into flowing sequences of poses, or vinyasas, for a bit of variety.

As the teacher – perhaps hypermobile, as many in the yoga game are – arches beautifully into the shape, burbling the instruction “now reverse your Warrior”, mere mortals attempt to do so and swiftly discover the natural limitations of a healthy human spine and hip joint. If this were the point that the posture was being used to demonstrate, that would be a good lesson.

However, the suggestion is more often that if we keep practising our yoga, one day we too will be able to make this shape; this despite the fact that if we were to continue to do so, there’s a reasonable chance that we might never get close – cue potential feelings of inadequacy – and indeed might hurt ourselves somewhere down the road.

But almost worse than the risk of injury, to my mind, is the fact that instead of the practice being a means of exploring what is happening in the body, mind, the universe, right here and now, yoga becomes something that has to chased after, a goal to be achieved in the future, like a mansion, or an expensive car, or £1million in the bank. And the future, as we know, is something that is by no means guaranteed, considering that we do not even know whether we will be alive in a minute’s time.

I am categorically not suggesting that people should stop doing Reversed Warrior, or any number of other modern yoga postures that similarly require joints to be taken far beyond functional range (that for which the body has evolved to be healthy). If this is the kind of yoga you want to do – if making shapes you consider to be aesthetically pleasing is what the practice is all about to you, if striving and goal-setting and achievement are your thing – then by all means go wild.

However, if you simply want to move your body in a functional way, building useful degrees of strength and flexibility while practising the art of being in the present moment – which is what I think yoga is really all about – it is perhaps worth thinking carefully before you start trying to push yourself into positions like this.

(If, by the way, you find positions like this easy to get into, it is probably worth investigating whether you are hypermobile, and how you might adapt what you do for the health of your joints.)

Remember, you do not have to do what any teacher tells you to do – when it comes to your body, they do not know better than you – and if a teacher tries to physically push you into positions like this, remember you absolutely have the power to tell them to back the hell off.

Remember, too, that there is nothing sacred or special about yoga poses – they are mere positions in which to put the body. The postures that are offered in mainstream yoga classes are generally modern, 100-odd years old, and were mainly invented by blokes who knew little about anatomy and who history has often shown to be pretty nasty pieces of work.

This is not to say there is not plenty of value in these poses; they can be excellent body laboratories in which to explore the deeper layers of who you are. But it is important to reinvent them as you will to suit your own body, or to find ones that work better for you. Just make sure they are serving you in a healthy way.

Fortunately, more teachers are coming round to the approach that empowers practitioners rather than the image-based studio industry. A leading figure helping to inspire the process is Alexandria Crow, whose work I particularly recommend if you are a teacher wanting to learn more. I also strongly recommend Peter Blackaby’s book Intelligent Yoga: Listening to the Body’s Innate Wisdom; and if you ever have a spare hour and a quarter, there’s a deeply inspiring talk by Blackaby here.

In my own quiet way, this is the kind of yoga I am trying to teach in my classes in London. If you happen to be near Woodford Green and are interested, please get in touch. Full details on my website.

A note on the photo
The picture with my post was taken from an online repository of open-source stock photos available for anyone to use as they please. I would never pull a picture at random off a yogi’s personal website or social media feeds. I have used this photo under an open-source licence purely as an illustration of a posture as it is often taught and encouraged in yoga classes, not as a comment on the model.