The last couple of years has seen a surge in the popularity of veganism and people turning to plant based diets, and it certainly doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere soon.
As a vegan of 15 years, long before it was fashionable, and certainly before the times of supermarket plant based ranges or the invention of vegan junk food, I couldn’t be happier to have a whole multitude of options open to me (Eating good food is one of my favourite pastimes), but this continual conversation about veganism and becoming plant based got me thinking about what people really mean when they say they’ve ‘gone vegan’.
Let’s start with the basics, vegan’s do not eat animals or animal by-products. No meat, fish, eggs, dairy, gelatine etc. But it’s not just about what you put in your mouth, Vegan’s also don’t use products with animal products in them (think make-up and skincare), nor do they wear them (leather, suede etc) or use anything tested on animals (everything from shampoo to your household cleaning products). Basically you are animal and cruelty free. Yes, you eat plant based meals, but you are also cautious about all other aspects of your life and how animal’s might have been used too so many vegans don’t eat honey because bees make it, they don’t horse ride or bet on sports that involve animals like horse or dog racing- it’s an entire lifestyle.
So when I hear people saying they’ve ‘gone vegan’ I think what they probably mean is that they’ve stopped eating animal products, but they’re likely not vegan (yet). Most will still be wearing leather shoes, having a flutter on the grand national and using their usual shampoo without a second thought. It doesn’t mean that you haven’t gone plant-based, but it does mean that you’re not following a vegan lifestyle.
And do I say this in criticism of those now following a plant-based diet, or those saying they’re vegan? Absolutely not. It’s a fabulous thing to hear so many people becoming more conscious of their food choices, whether it’s for individual health, for the environment or for animal rights. We’ve come such a long way since the days of meat and two veg been the staple diet of the average person and anyone who didn’t eat meat being labelled a hippy!
So go forth and spread the word about your new plant-based diet, and if you want to try being vegan, try baby-steps. Any vegan will tell you it can be difficult at first (although it’s so much easier now than it was), but with a plant-based diet you’re well on your way!