Why I became vegan… (you won’t believe it!)
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By Hiren Chohan, Founder, Where to Vegan
Oh it feels great to finally be able to write this blog! I’ve been wanting to write this for as long as I can remember! If I had a pound for every time I got this question I’d be worth more than the meat and dairy industry. Okay maybe that’s a slight exaggeration but I’m sure you’ve guessed the question already and I’m sure you all get it a lot too…. It’s:
Why are you vegan?
Let’s start from the beginning then shall we? My change from an omnivore diet began aged 11 when I woke up from a troubled sleep. I was simply questioning everything: why do I brush my teeth twice a day, why do I accompany my parents to the temple? Who is this “God” that I pray to on a daily basis? Why do I live my life with certain rules and restrictions?
I have been blessed with having an Indian mother who has been a vegetarian her entire life. Having never seen my mother consume meat made me question her actions even though vegetarianism was never something that was ever discussed in my household. My father consumed meat and dairy several times a week so it was normal to be surrounded by non vegan products. Vegetarianism was not something my parents pushed upon me.
And so aged 11 I asked: “Mum, why do you not eat animals?”
She replied: ” My parents brought me up that way because they didn’t believe in harming animals.” I soon learnt it had a lot to do with, as a lot of Indians do, following Hinduism. Hinduism does not require a vegetarian diet, but many Hindus avoid eating meat because they believe that it reduces hurting other life forms. Indeed, in some Hindu texts vegetarianism is considered a harmonised way of living, purifying the body and mind.
Soon after that conversation, I successfully put the two and two together. I worked out what animal had died to attend to my taste buds.
I always loved animals and realising what had happened to that poor animal so it would end up on my dinner plate was too traumatic for me to ignore. So, I turned to vegetarianism, not knowing what veganism is nor how the dairy industry worked.
As the years went on, I continued living my vegetarian lifestyle thinking I wasn’t hurting a fly.
Finally at the age of 23, I kept hearing a word pop up everywhere I went. Cowspiracy.
I didn’t think much of it until I’d heard it so much I thought: I have got to find out about what this Cowspiracy http://www.cowspiracy.com thing is.
If you haven’t watched this incredible documentary by Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn about the impact of livestock farming on the environment, you must. This documentary slapped me right in the face and changed both my lifestyle and my diet.
It made me regret every bit of meat and dairy I had ever consumed. I felt so ignorant and narrow minded but as soon as I finished watching this documentary I felt a certain energy come about me. It opened my eyes more than they had been open before. I promised myself to turn vegan from then on.
I got in contact with the three vegan people I knew at the time and asked them how I could best such a lifestyle. Seriously. I’ve lost count of the amount of Quorn Hot and Spicy burgers I was eating in a week.
As the months went by I was fine being vegan but there was something missing. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. It makes me sad to even type this now as I know I should’ve been stronger but I’d be lying to you if I just sat here and wrote that I was vegan from the age of 23. Because within a few months I had turned back to vegetarianism.
And I’m kinda disappointed in myself for this, because it was actually a pretty lame reason for falling back into a vegetarian lifestyle. I have always been one to eat away from home a lot. I lived a very fast London lifestyle, meeting friends every other day so going to a restaurant for dinner every other night was the norm.
The excuse was: I found the vegan lifestyle extremely troublesome when I was eating out. We could never agree on an eatery that would suit both of our needs. So in order to maintain my social life, I selfishly chose to move back to a vegetarian lifestyle.
A few years passed and at the age of 26, I found myself touring the Galapagos Islands. It is unique place on many levels but mainly famous because Charles Darwin’s visit in 1835 on the Beagle and the resulting theory of evolution by natural selection.
Visitors today are equally amazed as he was at the diversity of wildlife, completely free from any fear of humans.
Whilst in the Galapagos Islands, I learnt a vast amount about co2 emissions which furthermore went on to how veganism has a large effect on the environment. To see how much of an impact global warming was having on the species there, it really made me consider my own carbon footprint. As Robert Giaquinto explains “…the Marine Iguana has shrunk over time because of rising ocean temperatures. Their main food source is Algae, which doesn’t do so well in warmer waters. A decrease in algae means that the iguana would starve, but by shrinking, the animal is able to survive on less food.
However, not every animal can adapt fast enough. Sardines, the main food source of Sea Lions in the area, disappear as the water becomes warmer. Most of the Sea Lions that suffered through the 1982 El Niño starved to death and were unable to feed their puppies. This essentially wiped out a generation of Sea Lions in the area.”
Many animals have very specific conditions or seasons when they mate and when the sea temperatures rise, they stop mating.
The Galápagos Islands are a very special place on Earth. These islands see the mix of three ocean currents which allows both a tropical and temperate climate. Thanks to these unique traits, the animal life is extremely diverse.
As you may or may not know, eating a vegan diet could be the “single biggest way” to reduce your environmental impact on earth researchers at the University of Oxford suggest.
Pictured at Galapagos Islands by Founder of Where to Vegan, Hiren Chohan, September 2018
Upon arrival back in the UK on Boxing Day 2018, I turned to veganism and have not looked back since. In fact I am so passionate about veganism that I founded the company Where To Vegan. The reason I began this company was to truly help promote the demand and supply of veganism. There are so many reasons why veganism is the way forward and I want to enlighten people with that.
I think it’s important to note that I had many experiences to make me realise that the vegan lifestyle was for me. Not everybody has their eyes opened the way I did. So many things needed to fall in place for me to realise that this lifestyle for what it is such as the society I was brought up in, my education, my family, the ability to travel.
I do not wish to excessively preach, but I do wish promote veganism. I answer questions politely and enlighten people by telling them about the shear amount of delicious vegan food options which are out there, the trailblazing vegan chefs cooking at fabulous restaurants, the fabulous vegan cafés and food stalls which are all out there and in growing numbers too!
There is a vast amount of information already available in the world on why you should be vegan. I’m not saying it’s not important to educate people about these facts, but it is not my way to shove it down their throats. Some people are not ready to acknowledge veganism yet so I respect that. At the end of the day, you can never force anybody to do anything. I instead show them how fun, easy and sociable acceptable it is. I am trying to set a good example. There was a time that I was not ready either.
I’ll end with these comments from The Vegan Society https://www.vegansociety.com which I think are truly beautiful and echo exactly what I stand for:
“Vegans avoid using animals as far as possible and practicable….We are aware that many forms of farming involve indirect harm to animals but it is unfortunately not possible or practicable to avoid the destruction of other animals in most farming at this time…However, we do not consider that just because it is not possible to avoid one hundred percent of the cruelty, suffering and exploitation to animals that we should not bother at all…Vegans make a huge contribution to the reduction in suffering and death caused to animals and we would welcome any changes made to farming practices that support this.”