The Importance of Transitioning to Veganism

While Veganuary may have come and gone, it doesn’t mean that veganism has to. For those that haven’t heard about it, during Veganuary, people switch to a vegan diet for the month of January. Veganuary, a charity founded in 2014, works to help people make the transition to veganism as well as raising awareness of the benefits of a vegan diet.

Going plant-based doesn’t have to mean waking up one day and completely changing your diet. It’s perfectly fine to make a gradual transition at your own pace. As well as the environmental, health and cruelty-free benefits, going vegan can help you discover some delicious new meals that don’t just consist of a plate of grass with some water on the side, as some may think.

An obvious upside to a plant-based diet is that it isn't at the expense of animal welfare as animals used for meat and dairy consumption undergo a lot of physical and emotional pain. For example, the teats of dairy cows often become infected and their calves are taken from them far too early so that they don’t take any of the milk that’s sold on to humans.

Furthermore, the calf, if it’s male, is sold as veal, or often they're shot shortly after birth. If it’s female, it’s raised to live the same exhausting life as its mother. While cows normally live up to 25 years, in the dairy industry, they only survive for around five. If you want to read more about the welfare of cattle, check out the Vegetarian Society's website

However, less people are aware of the environmental benefits of a plant-based diet. The meat and dairy industries make massive contributions to global warming and pollution and destroy nature and wildlife. Farm animals contribute more to greenhouse gas emissions than every car on the planet; as EcoWatch reported in 2016.  

It's also been proven that people who eat meat use more of the Earth's resources. This is becuase of the land, water and food that are needed to keep the animals. This also results in the destruction of habitats. Furthermore, vast amounts of water are also used in meat and dairy production. Its uses vary from the drinking water for the animals, to things such as the water required to grow the crops that the animals eat.  

Source: waterfootprint.org and waterwise.org.uk 

Going vegan can be challenging, so making a gradual transition is nothing to be ashamed of. You may want to begin by going vegetarian first [as I have done]. Even participating in meat free Mondays is a great step towards helping you introduce new plant-based dishes into your diet and routine.

Buying vegan cosmetics is also an important change that doesn’t involve a huge amount of effort or difference to your lifestyle. There are so many vegan brands already out there: E.L.F., Too Faced, Barry M and Urban Decay all offer a range of vegan products. You can easily see what's on offer in minutes by visiting their websites. Even Cosmopolitan has joined the vegan movement with their official list of vegan branded cosmentics.

While I am still on my journey to a fully plant-based lifestyle, it's been made much easier by going through it with friends. Attempting to go vegan together enables you to motivate each other as well as allowing you to advise each other on great, new found plant-based products.

Another thing I found helpful was following vegan pages on Instagram that tell you about new vegan products on the market that can be easily found in local supermarkets. My two favourite Instagram pages are @accidentallyveganuk and @nowyouknowitsvegan, with the latter having information on some of its posts about the products’ costs. 

Going vegan doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the same meals as before. There are so many plant-based substitutes that mimic meat and dairy really well. Some of my favourites include:

•    Shroomdogs – vegan sausages sold as part of Sainsbury’s vegan range

•    Soya or Oatly milk [Oatly has skimmed, semi-skimmed and full fat options]

•    Flora dairy-free or Vitalite vegan butter

•    Quorn Southern Fried Chicken Strips [these are vegetarian not vegan, but a good starting point and taste very similar to meat]

If you try a substitute that doesn’t meet your expectations, it isn’t the end of the world. Finding substitutes you like is often a case of trial and error and doing a bit of research into reviews and ratings before your weekly shop can really pay off. 

Many people say that they would be able to go vegan if it wasn’t for cheese or various other foods, but if that’s the case, just give it a go anyway! Cutting down as much as you can brings us one step closer to helping the planet.

You may feel that one person going vegan doesn’t make a difference, but you couldn’t be more wrong. On average, in a life time, one meat eater consumes more than 7,000 animals. The growing vegan community has brought the sales of the meat and dairy industries down by millions. For example, in 2016, Veganuary has reported that the sales of fresh meat were recorded as going down by £328 million in just one year. Being just one person might make you feel somewhat powerless, but this is not the case, because there are millions of us and together, we’re making a huge impact.

The planet is dying. Reducing your carbon footprint is important now more than ever. If you’re thinking of cutting down on your meat and dairy intake or just want to learn more, veganuary.com is a great place to start. On the website, you can find out about new recipes, facts about the meat and dairy industries and more about how the myths around veganism really are just myths.