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At thirteen years old, I made the decision to become vegetarian. Everybody always laughs when I tell them the story as to why – and my mum finds great pleasure in adding that I’d eaten a bacon butty only hours before I blurted out my new lifestyle choice.

From a young age, I always enjoyed camping trips with my family. On this particular occasion, we were staying on a farm – and due to the fact it was around Easter time, an abundance of baby lambs had been welcomed into the world.

I’ve always been a massive animal lover, and so of course I took it upon myself to head into the farm house and hold the newborn offspring. They were the cutest little things I’d ever seen, and I spent hours in there just holding them and watching them interact with their mother and siblings.

After a considerable amount of time, I left – yet on my way out was faced with the most disturbing sight. A black bin bag, which had been nudged open by a passing tractor, contained the remains of a couple of baby sheep who hadn’t made it past birth.

Nothing has ever made my stomach churn more, at the thought that rotting, dead flesh is considered normal for us to cook and turn into a meal. The phrase ‘ignorance is bliss’ is one that is easily applicable in this situation. If we choose to ignore the hauntingly obvious fact that we are consuming a dead animal, then we don’t have to think about the pure barbarity of the situation.

Whilst there’s the argument that we have always consumed animals, and that it’s a part of human nature – I personally believe it’s one of the most disturbing and disgusting acts that humanity partakes in.

Since becoming vegetarian, I was always interested in veganism, and I knew that I would transition into becoming entirely plant based one day. I always told myself, and other people (including my family, who weren’t particularly keen on the idea) that I would make this change at University. Here, I could be totally in control of my own cooking and shopping and I wouldn’t be ‘bothering’ people with my ‘extreme dietary requirements’.

So, just after my nineteenth birthday – myself and my sister decided we’d make the leap of faith. I have always been one of the fussiest eaters on the planet, and although I was only vegetarian, dairy products such as butter, milk and cheese were never my favourites anyway. Alice, on the other hand, went completely cold (quorn) turkey. She went straight from eating chilli con carne to absolutely no animal products whatsoever.

Obviously there were a few slip-ups, which is to be expected. I’d wake up to snapchats of her at 3am eating a Dominoes pizza after a night out, or I myself wouldn’t check the labels properly and end up consuming something with a trace of milk powder in (I swear, that stuff is in almost EVERYTHING).

My reasoning for my transitioning to veganism wasn’t based entirely on moral or ethical stances. Although they made up a large portion of my decision, the health benefits also played a significant factor. Alice had been diagnosed with glandular fever just a couple of months before her transitioning, and a result of this meant that both her immune system and energy levels were extremely low. Within a couple of weeks of veganism, she was genuinely like a different person. She was happier and healthier than she’d felt in months, and you could tell what a massive difference a change in diet had made.

I am not one of those people who pushes my beliefs onto other people, as I believe we all have the right and leeway to make our own decisions. However, I will always answer people’s questions as to why I have converted to this lifestyle, as long as I know it’s not done in a malicious way.

Whilst vegans have a reputation of being extremists and pushing their beliefs onto other people, I can genuinely tell you that that is far from the truth. Obviously, those types of people do exist, and I’m not going to deny that, but, so far, it’s the meat-eaters who often have the most to say. People often ask me what the hardest part of being a vegan is, and to that all I can say is ‘having to put up with other people’s judgements’.

Just as I stated in my last article, when people don’t understand something, they feel the need to belittle and question it. I don’t let it affect me too much, as I do think the world would be a boring place if opinions didn’t exist, but sometimes it does get irritating.

Since I became vegan, I’ve noticed improvements in every aspect of my life. I am so much healthier than I was before, and my fitness levels have definitely increased. My overall happiness is genuinely the highest it has ever been, and I’ve found myself being a lot more productive and focused than I was prior.

All I can say to anyone who wants to make the change is to try it for a week. If it’s not for you – then fair enough. Even just eating a vegan diet for a couple of times a week, you are taking a step in the right direction. Educating yourself is so important, and there is an abundance of podcasts, journal articles and documentaries which are completely worth the watch, and expose the horrors of the dairy and meat industry in the most eye-opening way.

Research has shown that every day following a vegan diet, you save one animal, 45lbs of grain, 1000 gallons of water and 30 square feet of forest. So, whilst it does wonders for your health, morality and ethical standards, it also helps save the environment, something which is becoming increasingly important.

If you can give up the plastic straws, and other single use plastics, then surely you can give up eating meat or animal products, even if it is just a few times a week. We are so lucky in the sense that there are so many great alternatives and substitutes out there, and it is honestly a much easier transition than is often portrayed.

I am 19 years old and studying Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds. I am from Manchester, and my biggest passion is writing. I hope to do a year abroad in Australia, and my ultimate goal in life is to work at the BBC.
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