‘What does science have to say about eating meat? Put simply, it’s not only unsustainable, it’s dangerous’

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


Aaron McMurrayMy name is Aaron McMurray and I’m from Northern Ireland. I’m a 29-year-old theoretical physics graduate and PhD researcher studying laser driven ion acceleration, which basically means I shoot high intensity lasers at thin metallic targets to accelerate protons and carbon ions. The hope is that one day this technology might have applications in radiography and cancer radiotherapy. When I’m not writing my thesis I’m travelling, practising karate, scuba diving and writing music.

You’re vegan now, were you vegetarian before? What led to that? How long have you been vegan? What led to that choice?
Eating meat was something I didn’t question. It was “normal,” so I dismissed vegetarianism and veganism as hippy nonsense. Of course, I never seriously listened to what vegans and vegetarians actually had to say. My dismissal was a mental knee jerk reaction to something I saw as strange and different.

Eventually, I realised I was taking some of my beliefs as a given, simply because they had been culturally normalised to the point where I didn’t even notice that was what had happened. I came to realise that if I’m interested in believing things which are true and doing good, rather than believing things I like to believe because they make me feel good, then I should really hear vegans out.

I was lucky enough to witness an atheist vegan debate whether atheists should all be vegan at my university’s debate club. They made some good points, but I was left seriously disappointed by the counter arguments. I thought maybe I had witnessed a bad representation of the anti-vegan argument and the opposition was trying to win the crowd with arguments they knew were technically bad, but sounded convincing. I started researching the arguments for and against veganism and couldn’t any good argument against veganism. Nearly all were subject to basic errors leading to inconsistencies, hypocrisy or absurdity. The best I could find was an argument against veganism in survival situations but I’m not in a survival situation. It seemed clear that veganism was the better position.

As a STEM graduate I went to the scientific literature with a question: what did science have to say about eating meat? Turns out, it has a lot to say about it. Animal agriculture is a major contributor to antibiotic resistance (a serious threat to human health now and in the future); it’s a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions; it’s the leading cause of deforestation; it causes land degradation; it aids in the development of oceanic dead zones; and it’s a serious contributor to the loss of biodiversity on this planet. 15,000 scientists from more than 180 countries signed off on a declaratory paper (setting a record for most signatories) warning humanity that nearly all the problems identified above had been exacerbated. Put simply, the current model of feeding people is not only unsustainable, it’s dangerous.

From that point on I was a reluctant vegetarian – accepting veganism was the stronger position but not quite ready to take the plunge, mostly due to all the fearmongering articles written about it in the media.

Supposedly I wouldn’t get enough protein, vitamin D, omega 3, omega 6 or B12; I would suffer digestive issues within a year; I’d become lactose intolerant; I’d gain weight; I’d lose weight; my mental health would decline; and I’d get diabetes. The list of utterly nonsensical claims about living on a planned vegan diet was astounding but worrying to me, having never tried to change my lifestyle this drastically before, so I stuck to vegetarianism for a while.

Not only did I not suffer any adverse effects from vegetarianism, but I felt better physically. I wasn’t tired after big meals anymore, I wasn’t sleeping as much (which was good because before I overslept consistently) and I was able to be more active for longer. I had originally planned to do a year of vegetarianism but considering all the positives I cut it short and went vegan after six months.

I’ve been vegan for several years now. I’m still active and healthy and I feel better than ever; I’m not protein deficient; I get my omega 3 and omega 6; I get plenty of B12; I haven’t suffered any digestive issues; I’ve no idea if I’ve become lactose intolerant or not and have no interest in finding out; my weight didn’t change; my mental health has marginally improved, rather than worsened; and I definitely didn’t get diabetes.
All in all, it has been pretty good.

Do you see yourself ever going back to being an omnivore?
No chance.

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 not fitness obsessed but I am very active. I practice karate and sports karate (kumite) five times a week. I also go swimming once or twice a week and scuba diving once a week and somehow manage to find time to run.

My diet is pretty much what you would expect: a mix of fruit, seeds and nuts, vegetables, grains, beans and lentils and fortified foods.

When I ate meat I often thought it would be impossible to go vegan, I thought it would be too restrictive and that I’d end up eating broccoli feeling miserable. The truth was the opposite. When I went vegan, Continue reading →

‘If a child gets it, adults should surely more than understand the horrors behind eating meat and dairy’

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


SudipThe next in our series is Sudip,right, a 36-year-old broker, who lives with his wife and two young daughters.

Bardo Burner: You’re vegan now; were you previously vegetarian?
Sudip: I have been vegetarian my whole life, and turned vegan a few months ago. I realised that being vegetarian wasn’t enough to stop cruelty to animals. A growing awareness of animal welfare made me feel this way and so I became vegan.

BB: How long have you been vegan?
Sudip: It’s been a few months now and I’m planning to be for rest of my life.

BB: 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?
Sudip: I am a very healthy vegan; in fact I have a passion for sports and fitness. I am more than fit at this time being vegan. I feel much better for my new diet. I don’t miss anything: I can get vegan pizza with vegan cheese; I can get vegan cake; I can get vegan chocolate and I can get vegan milk for my coffee.

BB: Where do you shop?
Sudip: In the same stores I always did… where meat eaters and other omnivores buy their food.

BB: Do you consciously think about where you get your protein, etc, from?
Sudip: Not at all. If need be I could take supplements but I don’t need to at the moment. There is enough vegan food which can give you enough protein.

BB: 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?
Sudip: For me, it’s not been a big difference as I have always been vegetarian. I honestly feel sick and sad when I see people shopping meat in the store or go fishing or hunting. Veganism is not only about avoiding dairy or meat but also about not buying products where animals have been used – whether it’s cosmetics or clothes, anything really.

BB: Do you mix with many other vegans – does your lifestyle mean that you come into contact with people of a similar outlook regularly?
Sudip: Slowly I do feel people are realising the story behind the meat on their plates, and I hope to see the world vegetarian, if not vegan, in the next 25 years.

BB: Do you seek out vegan groups and forums online?
Sudip: Yes.

BB: Do you live in a meat/dairy eating household? And if so, how tricky is that?
Sudip: My family does have dairy but my wife is considering quitting. I explained to my five-year-old daughter the reasons why I am a vegan and at her age she is like daddy Continue reading →

‘I didn’t know how cruel the meat and dairy industries are… but it’s different now – the information is out there’

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


Debby MontenegroI’m Debby Montenegro, I’m 53 and I was raised in Torbay in Devon. I’ve lived in a few places around the world but I always gravitate back to Devon; it’s the sea, I love living near the beach.

I have a daughter who’s also vegan and she’s at uni studying nutrition. I’m currently single, and this is the hardest part of being vegan – finding a compatible vegan Tom Hardy lookalike… I live in hope (lol).

I started my vegan journey in August 2017. It wasn’t a difficult decision to make. Prior to going vegan I had periods in my life where I was a vegetarian and then due to pressure from various people – my partner, parents, friends and health professionals – when I was pregnant I would start eating meat or fish again.

It was also lack of understanding as to why I was a vegetarian; I didn’t know just how cruel the meat and especially the dairy industry was and still is. There was no internet at this time and I was just ignorant and afraid to practise my beliefs. I didn’t know any other vegetarians but what I did know is I never enjoyed eating animals; I always had a deep-rooted guilt that I couldn’t explain.

The world is a different place now and the information is out there. My daughter sat me down and asked me to watch Cowspiracy, What the Health and Forks over Knives, and instantly my eyes were opened. I practically made the decision to go vegan overnight.

I feel more different as a vegan than I ever did as a vegetarian. It’s difficult to explain, but I now feel an overwhelming compassion towards all life, which is constantly growing on a daily basis.

I always laugh about vegan jokes where the punchline suggests we let people know about it within five minutes of meeting them. I always tell people I’m a vegan: I’m vegan and proud and people usually know it within three minutes, never mind the five minutes that all the jokes refer to.

My work colleagues have days when they like to insult my way of life. I just come back with “Yes, I’m saving the animals and just look how healthy I am, I haven’t had a cold, a sniffy nose or any days off work since turning vegan”.

I’m a health-conscious vegan and a great cook, but I do have the odd chickpea burger and chips. I work out five mornings a week at 6am before I start my 8-5 job as an administrator.

I am aware of the horror show videos on social media and the reality of what happens. Some are really brutal, but this is what happens and people need to see what is going on. I do share some of those videos, but not all.

What I really can’t get my head around is when people believe that there is such a thing as humane slaughter, or they say something like animals are here for us to eat, and then I want to slap them and show them what really happens. Then we have the so-called meat-eating animal lovers, who just love their pets!

On the plus side, veganism is here to stay; it’s not a fad, it’s a reality, and more and people are changing their habits and seeing the world through the eyes of all living beings.

I have a dream of opening up a vegan cooperative cafe in the near future, with which I hope to make enough profits to support and fund an animal sanctuary/rescue centre.

You can see more of Debby here at Instagram.

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.

A new series in which the ordinary people driving the rise of plant-based living tell us how it is for them

Everyday Vegans


This is the first post in an occasional series – to which we would welcome any contributions – about everyday vegans; the ordinary people driving the current wave of enthusiasm for a plant-based diet.

What leads people to choose this path and what are their experiences of living in an omnivore world?

For many of us, going vegan changes the way we look at the world and the people around us. I vividly remember the total disconnection from society that I felt during my first shopping trips after changing from a lifetime of vegetarianism to a vegan diet. As I wandered round looking at the lists of ingredients on potential purchases, it sometimes seemed like everything contained whey or milk powder. I suddently felt like a stranger in the shops I’d spent my life buying from.

So how is it for other vegans? Is there always a eureka moment, or for some people is it a gentle drift into a plant-based diet? What’s it like living in a non-vegan household – not something I’ve had to face, but for some people this can be a massive issue? Do we naturally have more in common with fellow herbivores? Do we really try and convert everyone we meet, or blurt out the word “vegan” within the first five minutes of encountering anyone new?

Alex Williams

Artist Alex, above, was the first to respond to my internet plea for volunteers to kick off our new series. Here’s his take on being an everday vegan.

I’m a 36 years old male, born in Jamaica. I’ve lived in Barbados and the Bahamas and am currently living in south Florida.

In my work I mainly paint colourful pictures of fish; I’m a surfer and love the sea.

I became vegan 12 years ago and am the only vegan in my family. I do activist work with Anonymous for the Voiceless and also I also participate in protests.

I think the best way to help someone become a vegan is to share the horrific videos of the meat industry. I know that having seen these films myself, I will never go back to eating meat.

I think everyone will be vegan in the future – maybe in the next 30 years from now that will happen. I eat very healthily – mostly non-GMO and organic foods, and I shop at a place called Nutrition Smart. Avocados, quinoa and lentils form the basis of my diet.

I live with my girlfriend, who is also vegan; she became vegan after meeting me. I became vegan after watching the horrific videos on YouTube of the meat industry.

I believe that most people don’t see a problem with eating meat because they are conditioned to eat meat because of society and all of the meat commercials on TV making it look okay. But it’s not.

You can find more about Alex at his website.

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.