How I finally, reluctantly, went bloody vegan.
As with many hells, the road to veganism is paved with good intentions.
I’d been perfectly happy as a vegetarian (lacto-ovo, don’tcha know), sitting atop my moral high ground for a good 15 years, quietly judging meat eaters as barbarians, and pescatarians as oddly specific fish-hating grudge-holders. While I had half an idea vegans beat me on morality, I beat them on convenience and self-righteous dickery, and if they occupied a slightly higher moral high ground, all I had to do was not look up. All was well.
I’d had a couple of half-assed attempts at veganism over the years, barely enough to qualify for even one full cheek. There were three big hurdles I couldn’t clear: I couldn’t stand soy milk, on account of how it tastes like attic flavoured piss; I couldn’t do without milk chocolate on account of how it’s essentially brown oxygen; and I couldn’t be bothered with starving to death in restaurants, having struggled to find decent veggie food for a decade and a half and finding a cheeseless social life quite unimaginable.
But researching farming, slaughterhouses and the dairy industry for you people turned out to be a full-on wind-pisser. The piss I covered myself in was my latest epiphany – my 17th, if you’re counting: The dairy industry is the meat industry. There is no separation, except in my wilfully blinkered eye-mind. I thought I’d bailed out of doing harm to animals, but I’d just turned away when things got grisly. I’d stopped eating chickens, but egg-laying hens – even the freest of free-range – are killed off when they stop laying eggs. Male chickens, which tend not to lay eggs at all, get bumped off as soon as someone spots their peens. Same with cows. I figured I was in the clear just nicking their milk and cheese and butter, and turning my nose up at people eating their bodies. But she-cows are killed when they’re done making milk, and milkless he-cows are often done away with at birth. This idea I’d had, that I’d removed myself from that cruelty, got a solid kick in the sack. This is the problem with epiphanies: As truths go they’re often inconvenient. I was going to have to go fucking vegan.
The first thing to sort was milk. I was still haunted by my earlier attempts to drink soy milk, on account of how it tastes like piss-flavoured dust. Happily, thanks to hipster-wanks and super-allergic exclusion-dieters, there was a much wider range of alternatives around for me to try. I started with coconut milk, which lasted for one mouthful because it tasted like someone spiked my tea with shampoo. Then I tried almond milk, after which I gave up on tea forever. Finally, I took a punt on oat milk, using it only in porridge like it was hiding in plain sight. It took a while, and a lot of fruit and syrup to shout it down, but I made my peace with it. In time I got used to it in tea, an achievement that can very definitely be called heroic. I levelled up.
Next, I ditched dairy things in their primary forms – no more milk, no cheese by itself, no butter, no eggs – but kept hold of them as ingredients in other stuff like cakes, pizza, and such and such. Cheese was a big loss; the squidgy, honking stuff that you can smell 50 feet from your fridge. And poached eggs were a loss because I’m incredibly lazy and had them for breakfast every morning (to help me get large). I switched to my double-oated porridge, ensuring I could continue to be just as lazy as before (though I’d no longer be roughly the size of a barge). From there I ruled out dairy stuff as secondary ingredients on a meal-by-meal basis, finding vegan alternatives where I could. Sadly, vegan cakes remained largely shit.
Then came the biggie: Losing milk chocolate. It’s hard to explain the scale of this. Through the 40 years I’ve been knocking about the earth I’ve gone maybe three days without chocolate. As a baby I refused breast milk in favour of chocolate Yazoo. As an adult I ate chocolate in a hair-of-the-dog kind of way, needing its sugar hit earlier and earlier in the day. When Fairtrade chocolate was first kicking off, before it became so widely available, I ordered a year’s supply and on day one dived into it face first like Scrooge McDuck. While Maslow’s hierarchy of needs ranks people’s primary needs (safety) and lesser needs (self-actualisation) in a tiered triangle, my triangular hierarchy of needs is just a large chunk of Toblerone.
This was a big deal. I tried pretend milk chocolate made with soy, which tasted like a diluted advent calendar. I tried dark chocolate, which was as bitter and joyless as I’d remembered, even the flavoured grown up stuff that tries hard not to taste like anything. This was the pivotal moment. I realised there was no compromise to be had. I could either be vegan and live in a world where chocolate and I were forever apart, or stick with veggieness and re-blind my eye to what I was doing.
Reader, I divorced it.
The final step was sorting my joke of a social life. As with milk alternatives, in the years since I’d last tried veganism the world had caught up a bit and Instagram d-bags had gone all-in on plant-based posery. A ton of vegan restaurants had opened around me while I wasn’t looking, mainstream eateries were offering vegan options better than the veggie slop they used to offer, and apps like Happy Cow were making it easier to find them. When trashy places like Greggs and KFC get in on it, you know you’re past the days of self-catering Beanfeasts.
A couple of years in now the losses sting less than they used to. New kinds of food have been popping up, I’m cooking more because I can’t lean as hard on convenience food trash, and I’m accidentally eating more healthily because I let my vending machine season ticket expire. Most importantly I feel better about myself, having undoubled my standard and done away with all traces of cruelty in my food. I wish I’d done it sooner. The old cliché is true: In many ways going vegan is like being born again.
By which I mean I’m shitting like a newborn baby.
Photo credit: The Zero
How a spider spurred my veggie awakening and with it my wider Zero awakening and with it your wider Zero awakening and with it a general saving of animals, humanity and the planet.
Bits of animals are hidden everywhere: in marshmallows, in red food dye, in fake fingernails, even in meat and fish and everything. Swot up on what you need to miss out on.
Because even being ill is an ethical pickle for the self-righteous vegetarian. Between gelatine capsules and mandatory animal testing, you’re best just maintaining perfect health forever.
What should we feed our fellow omnivores? Should we force our morality on other creatures? Will a leopard ever want a bit of tofu? Just three of the questions I’m not all that into but wrote about anyway.
As Veganuary hit and I finished updating the Veggieness section of this here website, I was lightning-bolted by one of my many micro-epiphanies: Ever since Covid demanded I spend less time in the kitchen and more time in bed I’ve become a lousy, lazy vegan.
Veganuary aims to get people trying veganism for a month, drawing them in with time-limited new year faddishness. Last year it had more than half a million sign ups, with about 85% committing to cutting down on meat and dairy thereafter, and a solid 40% aiming to stay vegan for all time. That’s decent, given the most popular new year’s resolution – getting and using an annual gym membership – has a success rate of less than 3% I assume.
As with many hells, the road to veganism is paved with good intentions…
You’ll recall they made a stem cell burger a while back. It was funded by one of the guys from Google taking a break off reading your emails and spying on what you spaff to. He gave a few hundred grand to a couple of mad scientists taking a break off stitching hitchhikers’ mouths to hobos’ bumholes.
As you’ll recall I’ve been terribly ill, mummy’s brave little soldier keeping his chin up through the flu, a chest infection, a spot of whooping cough and very little in the way of blogging. Throughout this charming episode I’ve had a number of very helpful people explain it’s all down to my vegetarianism, there having been no documented cases of illness among meat eaters.
In the days before my epic post-qualifying/pre-job slouchfest, back when I was an overworked and increasingly tetchy student, I bashed out a few new year’s resolutions to fill up a bit of space on what was becoming a seriously neglected blog. However, comeuppances being what they are, I’m now forced to put some effort into doing whatever it was I said I’d do, and all to satisfy an audience of precisely no one. How I hate myself.
As the days count down and 2011 draws to a close I have some unfinished business to attend to, an outstanding resolution yet to be instood. I speak, of course, of Operation Parmesan, the unprecedented assault on the world of cuisine that will make the Hiroshima bombing look like an inappropriate historical event to make reference to.
It’s a hard and trying task, all this Zero business. All this research, all this protesting, all this motivating the troops and doing the groupies. At times I grow weary. People cannot live on self-righteousness alone. It can’t be all hard work and hand wringing and so from time to time I put down my tools, tramp down from the moral high ground to the sewer in which the rest of you live, and have a night off. A couple of nights ago I watched a film. Naturally, I was able to turn it pretty quickly into hard work and handwringing.
You’ll recall how I’ve been writing for my uni’s studentmag. It’s some full on proper do-gooding, converting everyone on campus to my splendid way of life and raising issues usually neglected by right-on students such as Fairtrade, vegetarianism, feminism, environmentalism… Oh. Right.