“Animal agriculture is intrinsically and insidiously intertwined with the state of our environment, economy, and government.”

From 16 until 22 May the United Kingdom celebrates National Vegetarian Week which aims to celebrate the stories behind the food we eat. To mark the occasion, the IPF reached out to a young vegan in the UK to hear about her experience of having meat and dairy-free diet. Here, Victoria Kamila writes for the IPF about what it means to be young, vegetarian and vegan as a young Londoner.

In her own words

What led to my first encounter with veganism was what pushes most people in the direction of the lifestyle — vanity. It was 2012, I was 18 and home for Christmas after finishing my first semester of college. I had picked up a book called ‘Skinny Bitch‘, a title that was admittedly used as a marketing strategy, but was otherwise a straightforward, no-bullshit guide to healthy eating.

When I reached the chapter on “going vegan”, I internally groaned and almost convinced myself to skip it before giving the first few sentences a chance.

It was one sentence in particular that caught my attention. It said about how 90% of vegans and vegetarians have been that person who said: “I could never give up bacon” or “I could never give up McDonalds”. If I had said those words before, which I had, then I could, according to this logic, also go vegan. What seemed like an impossible task had now entered the realm of a possibility.

For the most part, I was already convinced by the health benefits of going vegan. It was the last section of the chapter – on the ethics of veganism – that absolutely KO-ed any doubts I had left. Instead of preaching to me about how we are all equal beings worthy of life, the book simply listed quotes taken from slaughterhouse workers detailing their treatment of animals.

At the risk of turning this article into something too graphic, I will only quote one here: “Sometimes I grab it [a hog] by the ear and stick it [a knife] right through the eye. I’m not just taking its eye out, I will go all the way to the hilt, right up through the brain, and wiggle the knife.”

This is not an isolated case.

Nowhere in humankind’s history of enslavement has there ever been a “‘humane”’ form of slavery. There is no such thing as humane slaughter, just as there is no such thing as humane rape.

I realised that any excuse I had for not going vegan was utterly and entirely trivial in light of the suffering of animals. The “struggles” associated with transitioning to a vegan, cruelty-free lifestyle could hardly be considered in comparison to their enslavement and exploitation. I went vegan overnight.

Environmental impact of the meat and dairy industries

I learn something new about veganism almost everyday. You may wonder how on earth veganism could run that deep. What you find is that animal agriculture is intrinsically and insidiously intertwined with the state of our environment, economy, and government. Animal agriculture emits more greenhouse gas emissions than all of transportation combined. It is the leading cause of water pollution and deforestation. We are predicted to face fishless oceans by 2048.

Even if we stopped all fossil fuel energy production and emissions now, we would still exceed our maximum carbon equivalent greenhouse gas emission limit of 565 gigatons by 2030, all from raising livestock. There is nothing that will have a more immediate and effective solution than adapting a plant-based diet.

I am extremely sceptical of anyone who claims to be an environmentalist and is not vegan. Any consumption of animal products vastly negates any activism related to the environment and climate change.

Yet governments continue to subsidise the meat and dairy industries. Meat and dairy companies continue to fund studies in health and nutrition. Companies such as Monsanto, Shell, and BP continue to sponsor “sustainable” organisations, such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

But thankfully, it’s 2016 and people are starting to catch on. Mainstream media outlets report on the benefits of going vegan, which unsurprisingly, are endless. “Munchies“, Vice’s food channel, stated that if the whole world went vegan, food-related greenhouse gases would decrease by 70%. Economically, we could benefit from that by $570 billion.We can conclude: everyday you vote with your dollar. Vote vegan.

A young vegan’s diet (and other) struggles

My daily diet as a vegan consists of one thing and one thing only… carbs. Okay—not really. But a lot of carbs. Carbohydrates should be a staple in your diet if you care about your health, your energy levels, and getting enough nutrients.

I aim to eat more than 2,000 calories a day, the bulk of these calories coming from fruit. Also, any meal involving rice has already won my heart. In the mornings, I sometimes have a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses to keep my iron levels balanced and supplement with B12 injections once a month.

The biggest challenge I face being vegan is in convincing my friends and family to go vegan.

For some reason it’s easier to convince strangers on the Internet to go vegan than it is to convince those within your immediate vicinity. But with time, more of my friends are telling me they’re interested in the lifestyle, or that I have inspired them into transition. It means so much to me to see people I care about making the right choice for their health, the planet, and the animals.

Tips for (potential) young vegans

The best tip I have for them (besides smashing the carbs in) is to always continue educating yourself and surround yourself with support.

Watch “The Most Important Speech You Will Ever Hear” and “The Dairy Industry Explained in 5 Minutes“. Follow vegan accounts on Instagram and subscribe to The Vegan Activist, Legit Nutrition Hawaii, and Mic. The Vegan on YouTube. Watch “Forks Over Knives“, “Cowspiracy“, and “Earthlings“. Surround yourself with the knowledge and support you need to not give in to old habits and stay vegan!

NB: The IPF’s Comment section is a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily endorsed by the IPF.