Today I want to share my vegan journey with you. I would like to dig into when and what made me become vegan.
I became Vegan in March 2018, after many years of taking baby steps towards that direction, educating myself and making peace with my values. It was the best decision of my life! I wish I had started earlier!
My omnivorous childhood
I wasn't raised vegan, I grew up in an omnivorous household. My mom cooked in a traditional Mediterranean way, made us eat vegetable soup and salad everyday (I still love it), and we ate more fish than meat. I never liked meat that much (and was even disgusted by the sight of it) and I remember several parental attempts and strategies to make me ingest it...because ''you need it'' and ''its for your own good''! Regarding fish and sea food, I will be honest, I liked it a lot (I think that I might still like it).
The pescatarian phase
Maybe because of this, in my early 20´s I was eating mostly fish and, I suppose, I can say that I started my journey by being pescatarian. Those days I used to think (in a very naive way) that by doing this I was playing my ecological part, and I was pleased with myself. After all, you can't cuddle with a fish and not eating mammals or cute 4 paw animals felt like a good step to me. But, somehow, I was still feeling that something was off.
The long vegetarian years
The first time I was introduced to the concept of `vegetarian´ was in the first year of my bachelor studies in Lisbon. There was 1 (!one!) colleague in the entire university who was following a vegetarian diet. He was seen as an exotic bird, I must say, plus, his diet consisted mostly of croissants, that he privileged over soups. But, poor guy, his options were limited!
A couple of years after, I had the privilege of meeting someone (thanks, Leonor!) who was not only a vegetarian but also a great cook and who showed me (and the entire group of friends) how vegetarian food can be delicious and nutritious! Obviously, I had a million questions for her, and her (good) reasons for being a vegetarian. This time I really started to think and reflect on my own choices.
Until then, I think that I wasn't very knowledgable and I was very care free... ''what you don't know doesn't hurt you'', right? I started to actively do some research and what I found out had an impact on me. The way chickens are raised, how cattle is treated and slaughtered, the impact of overfishing and fish nurseries conditions, the deforestation, soil contamination and lost of biodiversity to increase the amount of land attributed to bovine industry were the aspects that caught my attention back in the day.
So, it was settled, I started being a vegetarian and carried on following that diet for almost 17 years. I was, most of the time, what people call those days 'flexi-vegan' (a debatable concept) and happy with my contribution to sustainability and animal welfare, but still my conscience wasn't totally pleased.
My life changed overnight: how it finally happened
As a `typical´ Portuguese person I was really obsessed with cheese and thought I could never give it up. Well... any vegan person will tell you that they recognise this conversation! 'I will never make it!!... until the day it suddenly happens! I never looked back or missed it ever again (although now I am `obsessed` with plant-based cheese, hehe!)
I decided to shift into a vegan diet overnight and the way it happened is a funny story! I fell and broke my ankle severly. This meant way too many hours staying home alone with my own thoughts after the surgery. After a few days, I told my partner: 'Tomorrow I will start being vegan!' He looked at me very astonished and asked: 'Are you high on painkiller medication?!' I wasn't!!
I remember vividly a video from Earthling Ed (I think), I saw the night before, (I tried to retrieve it, but possibly was removed from YouTube), (this one is a good example too). In this footage, it was winter and we could see a calf that was so tiny that, for sure, was taken from the mom a few days before, staying outside in the ice, trying to suckle on human fingers expecting milk. It was too heartbreaking to leave me indifferent!
I became vegan for animal welfare and environmental reasons but, I could also see, almost immediately, that my health improved and even my skin started to look better!
Vegan Meals are Inclusive
It's a fun challenge and a pleasure to cook plant-based meals and discover new recipes! A vegan meal is also the best option to get people together because regardless of their preferences, allergies, other heath restrictions or religious beliefs, plant-based meals can be consumed by everybody! At Loads Club Tanker, the co-working space where our lab is located, we have vegans, vegetarians, omnivorous, gluten-free and halal diets that needed to be combined. What was the solution? You guessed it: we all share inclusive and delicious vegan meals and everybody's happy!
I always get inspired when I see the spark in the eye from non-vegan friends when they tell me that they love my cooking and that they didn't even notice that no meat was included!
My Vegan Cosmetic Brand
I created Primal Essence some months before becoming fully vegan, because I truly believed (and I still do!) that all skincare should be cruelty-free and vegan! This also helped my vegan journey: I owned a vegan company and made more sense to me that vegan companies are run by vegans! Plus, and very important to me, vegan cosmetics are (also) inclusive as everybody regardless of their preferences and values can use them!
Movies on Veganism and Sustainability
If you would like to know more about veganism and sustainability Cowspiracy, Seaspiracy, Milked, Forks Over Knives, The Game Changers, Our Planet, Chasing Coral, A life on our Planet,What the Health and Kiss the Ground are great starting points!
In the Economist from 28th January of this year, was stated that ''If everyone were vegan, only a quarter of current farmland would be needed. Most is currently used to grow plants to feed animals. Beef farming produces 31 times more CO2 emissions per calorie than tofu production does and generates only 5% of the calories that go into producing it''.
If we cut out the middle creatures, our animal friends, from our food chain, the impact on soil recovery, rain forest restoration, regain of biodiversity and wildlife would be tremendous!
As suggested by Nadine (our dearest blog co-author), I thought it would be fun to introduce a Vegan Calculator, based on the idea that a vegan lifestyle saves animals, environment and our global access to resources. Of course, there are other websites offering more detailed parameters.
These is how much I have saved. I am curious to know how much you did! Please share it with me in the comments section!
Regardless, we are all in different journeys and small victories should always be celebrated! If you still eat meat but started to reduce your consumption, that already represents an immense environmental impact, if you are vegetarian you are already contributing on a large scale to the reduction of CO2 emissions of our planet.
It took me only 17 years! Haha! If I could do it, so can you, if you wish!