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Veganuary 2021: A beginners guide to a plant-based lifestyle

Just over one year ago I made what has been one of the best decisions of my life: I made the switch to a vegan lifestyle. In this article, I want to share what I’ve learned from my first year as a vegan, and hopefully convince you to adopt a lifestyle that’s better for you, animals, and the planet.

Maybe you’re already one of the record half a million who’ve taken the “veganuary” pledge this year.  Or perhaps you’re curious about veganism, but just don’t know where to start? Starting your vegan journey can be intimidating, especially with the less than positive (though always improving) depiction of vegans in the media, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some things I wish I’d known before going vegan…

The UK Vegan Society defines veganism as “a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals”. Basically, veganism is changing your lifestyle to minimise your exploitation of animals as much as is possible for you. We know that, in our current system, it’s not possible for everyone to completely exclude animal products from their life. There are many reasons – , medical, financial, or otherwise, that may mean someone can’t cut out certain products, but as long as they are doing the best they can they are no less of a vegan.

You don’t have to throw out your leather shoes, and you can finish the ice cream in the freezer! For most people, this isn’t an overnight process, and we won’t judge you if you slip up. Animal products are everywhere and you will almost certainly make mistakes, so don’t be hard on yourself. It might take a few weeks to find the products and recipes you like but trust me, it’s worth persevering, however intimidating it may feel at first.

One of the best things about going vegan is the way it’s changed how I cook. Without meat, you discover new ways of making foods often considered bland (tofu, vegetables, etc.) into incredible meals. It’s worth investing in a couple of vegan recipe books to get started, as these will help you make vegan food interesting, without relying on expensive “fake meat” products. I recommend “15 Minute Vegan”, and “BOSH!”(both available on Amazon).

Even when you can’t be bothered to cook, the days of being the awkward vegan who can’t eat anywhere their friends (if they have any) want to are over. In 2021, everywhere from Dominos, to Greggs, to even Nandos, have plentyof vegan options. As a responsible journalist I, of course, made sure to test all of these before writing and can confirm they are just as good, if not better than their meat-based counterparts. There really is no reason not to be vegan. Vegan foods have never been more readily available. 

This is, arguably, the most difficult part of going vegan: in my opinion, it is at some point essential to learn the reasons behind your veganism. This means confronting a reality that most people would rather have hidden from them. I’m not saying you have to go and watch slaughterhouse footage, but when people inevitably question your lifestyle (because secretly, you’re forcing them to question theirs) it can really help to remind yourself why you chose to go vegan in the first place. I’d also recommend learning to debunk the “but soy!” and “free-range, local meat is better…” arguments that will inevitably be thrown your way. Check out “Earthling Ed” on YouTube for (mostly) non-graphic explainers.

Going vegan can feel like the world is working against you, even when you know this is the right thing to do. That’s because it is. We’ve created a system in which it’s essentially impossible to avoid animal exploitation. But, by removing your support of one the most destructive and exploitative industries, you’re making an important and significant step towards changing that system.

If at any point in your vegan journey you need advice, or just want to talk to other vegans, we’d love to have you at the UEA Vegan Society! You don’t need to be vegan to join, and we’re always happy to answer your questions on Instagram @UEAvegans. 


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19/01/2021

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Henry Webb


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The University of East Anglia’s official student newspaper. Concrete is in print and online.

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