NaNaWriMo 2021

It is the 1st November which means one thing…

It’s National Novel Writing Month!!!

NaNoWrimo 2021 - Facebook Banner - Design by Andrea Floren

I was first introduced to NaNoWriMo about 5 years ago and since then every November there has been an attempt for me to write 50,000 in the month. This works out to roughly 1700 words a day – which may not sound like a lot but actually is quite challenging when your brain just can’t write words that day.

If you enjoy writing then I find that NaNo is a wonderful opportunity to really push yourself creatively, and it also allows you to create a writing habit. I have worked out over the years what my writing style is like, and also how I best focus when it comes to writing.

NaNoWriMo is a non-profit organisation and honestly everyone I have spoken to and interacted with regarding NaNo have been absolutely lovely. They have so many resources to help you write, so that even if you have never written anything before you would feel completely prepared to take on a 50,000 word challenge. They have some really useless prep tips and writing exercises to use if you ever find yourself in a writing slump, and the forums allow you to connect with other people who are also attempting to write 50,000 words.

Before Covid struck, regional and local groups would hold face to face ‘write ins’ where you would meet up with a load of people and help encourage each other with the writing. I only managed to go to one of these write ins and thanks o their support and guidance – plus just the really lovely atmosphere of creativity and expression – I was able to write about 10,000 words in just one sitting! Unfortunately Covid has put an end to all of these, however local groups will still be running virtual write ins and social events throughout November so you can still take part in the social aspect of it all.

Personally, I absolutely love NaNoWriMo. Every year I am always so inspired by the talks they bring out, and to see so many others talk so passionately about their stories, that I am always super keen to take part. Last year though, 2020 really did a number on me mentally so while I still stayed informed about everything happening with NaNo, I didn’t take part in it. And I really did miss it. It feels really nice to have a challenge again that is so creative.

If you want more information and want to take part, their website is www.nanowrimo.org. As they are a charity they do ask for donations, but it is not mandatory. You can sign up and access all of their resources completely free of charge. The people who take part (and run it) are all super supportive, and just seem to be passionate about people writing and – most importantly – having fun while writing. Yes this is a challenge, but it is meant to be fun above all else. Who cares if you end up writing 50,000 words of absolute carnage story, so long as you had heaps of fun writing it!?

I hope I can see some of you guys there, but I also apologise if my posts get super sporadic! I shall do my best but…we shall see!

T xxx

Can vegans support zoos?

I want to have a discussion with you all, because it is something that I have been very interested in for some time. When I was at university I actually did a whole dissertation on whether zoos were good or bad for animal welfare. I went in thinking that there was no way that zoos could be a good thing, however through my research it actually turned out to be a very grey area of animal welfare. I am therefore very keen to see what all of your thoughts are on this subject.

Now this is by no means a comprehensive essay: My dissertation was 10,000 words and even that required a lot of editing down! But I wanted to bring to light some of the main arguments for and against zoos, and the issues that come with them. I have tried to include as many links as I can to articles and research, but as I say I cannot include every single piece of research that I have ever done on this subject. If you have any other interesting or useful reads, please do leave them in the comments below!

Animal welfare

Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, any animal in captivity is covered by this act. Zoos and aquariums are also covered by the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 although this act was amended in 2002 to create more obligations on Local Councils when deciding whether or not to license a new zoo, as well as to ensure that animal welfare practices were more in line with the EU directives. In summary, the animals are to have a suitable environment, prevention and protection from harm, suitable food supplies and their living must be as close to the wild as reasonably possible to achieve.

The issue with legislation though is that it is a blanket. It has to cover so many different species, situations and objectives that it can fail when it comes to practically applying the rules contained within it. A study carried out in 2002 by Clubb and Mason found that elephants die far younger in captivity than they do in the wild. One suggestion is that these animals especially have very complex social structures, one that can be hard to recreate in a captive environment. Their social structures are also constantly changed by the zoo, either to keep groups small or to trade members for a new member to either increase chances of mating or to bring in new visitors to the zoo. Elephants are known to create lifelong bonds with the children and other members of their group, and to constantly have your social group changed undoubtedly has a negative impact on the animal’s emotional and mental well being. They are also huge creatures that are used to walking miles everyday – roughly the same distance from London to Oxford! There is no way any zoo are able to create an environment that really allows for this amount of exercise, and when they do not have the adequate amount of exercise, they can develop a number of physical conditions which they would not have had they been in the wild.

There is also the common knowledge that highly intelligent animals struggle to cope mentally within captivity: If you have not yet watched the 2013 movie Blackfish, I would highly recommend it. It shows very graphically what can happen when a highly intelligent animal is stuck in an stimulating and unrewarding environment. The film highlights very clearly that not only is animal welfare needed for the safety of the animals, but also for the safety of the staff, handlers and keepers who look after these animals. There are countless articles about zoochosis, whereby animals in captivity begin to show symptoms of mental and physical illness: This can include pacing, biting and headbutting the environment around them, heightened aggression towards keepers and other animals in the enclosure, swaying and over grooming to name a few. Some animals, such as great white sharks most infamously, do not even survive a year in captivity: The longets a great white was ever held in captivity was for 198 days.

However this tends to be most common in the larger (usually hunting) animals: bears, killer whales, elephants, big cats and primates. Prey animals, such as meerkats, giraffes and gazelle, tend to do quite well in captivity and are less documented in exhibiting signs of zoochosis. The logical conclusion to this information is that prey animals undoubtedly live longer in captivity because they are not being constantly hunted by bigger animals: they do not need to run and hide at every noise, they do not need to be on alert while eating. For many captive prey animals, the ones born in captivity have probably never even seen a predator. Granted some of this nature will be innately woven into their DNA – to be skittish and scared and on edge at all times – however if you have never seen a lion before, would you know to run? Are these animals still suffering? Of course there is a lack of research surrounding this area and the affect it can have on every animal, but it does make you wonder and is something to be contemplated.

Conservation

A paper by William Conway suggested that while conservation efforts were needed, regulation still is not universal enough to ensure that every single zoo does the same level of work and to the same standard. Every country has their own legislation in place to ensure that zoos carry out a degree of conservation work, however this varied largely across the world. Conway suggests that work needs to be done to create a more cohesive world wide plan, since zoos rely so heavily on other zoos for their animals.

London Zoo, for example, spend a large amount of their profits carrying out conservation efforts, with Woburn Safari Park carrying out multiple conservation projects at their own zoo as well as fundraising to support the efforts of conservation charities abroad. A large part of conservation though is understanding the animals and their natural behaviour and this may not always be possible to monitor in the wild. Zoos allow scientists to observe animals around the clock, to check on their psychical and mental characteristics so that this information can be published to other zoos and experts, and better conservation efforts can be made to suit the needs of the animal in question. Conservation methods can be made to be specific and measurable for that exact animal species in question, rather than trying to use a blanket method for a number of different species.

Education and awareness

This is probably the biggest reason why zoos exist, especially nowadays. I remember going on many a school trip to London Zoo and getting to spend all day hearing about the animals and their different characteristics. As a massive animal lover, there is something truly magical about seeing these amazing creatures in real life. I imagine for some people, it gives a real life animal to put to the horrible stories of deforestation, poaching and climate change that we see on the news. It is one thing to see images of a poacher standing proudly over their kill of a wild lion, but quite another to see that same lion standing before you in a zoo. You see the animals that we as humans are affecting and impacting with our actions and it can really drill home to you the changes that need to be made worldwide to protect them.

A large part of zoos (and I know in some of them they do this anyway) should be to show the impact that we humans are having on these animals. Yes these animals should be in the wild, however these are why animals cannot survive in the wild anymore: orangutans are losing their habitats to deforestation and rhinos are being poached to extinction for the belief that their horns hold medicinal remedies. More awareness needs to be raised around these issues, and it is up to zoos to not only educate the general public to take action, but to also step up and demand better protections are granted to these animals so that they do not end up in zoos as the only means for these animals to actually survive. In 2020 alone, roughly 50 species of animals went extinct (not including the 100s of species of plant life which also went extinct), and the number of animals classed as endangered rose by 16,000 in the last year alone. There are now around 40,000 endangered species around the world, and for many people the only time to ever see these endangered species in the flesh will be at a zoo.

Animal trade

This links very closely to conservation and animal welfare, because unfortunately the trading of animals amongst zoos is necessary for conservation efforts: The European Endangered Species Programme is made up of a number of zoos across Europe, who all work together to increase managed breeding within their endangered species. It is quite obvious therefore that animals are constantly being traded between each zoo, especially when you think that without trade between these zoos, the risk of inbreeding heightens with every new generation born – and this is clearly not going to be helpful for conservation plans.

Now I think we all know that the animals are not transported in first class accommodation: of course there are laws in place to say what an animal must be transported in, but I doubt they are in a luxurious plane all to themselves with entertainment and food available whenever they wish. They’re not on Qatar Air right? Unfortunately that is just a reality of the industry, and way more work needs to be done to ensure that these practises are improved and sustained for the future. But as with all of these things it is a work in progress and it will take more than this blog to kick the whole world into implementing change.

Is the trade industry necessary? For conservation plans, yes, undoubtedly it is. Without these trades, managed breeding programmes would not be able to exist past the first new generation as the risk of inbreeding becomes far greater and harder to manage in one zoo on their own. However, would the entire EEP even exist if better measures were put in place world wide to stop the unsustainable killing, deforestation and poaching of these animals in the wild? Another debate for another time but it is something that needs to b e weighed up when discussing this issue.

Economic/tourism implications

Something that also needs to be considered is the economic impact that zoos have on a city. London Zoo alone have roughly 1.25 million visitors every year and with a day ticket costing around £35.00, that is an obscene amount of money being raised. That doesn’t even include the amount of revenue brought in for the food and drink, plus donations from supporters. The taxes that they pay must be in figures that the likes of us may never even imagine. Zoos are also a massive tourist draw, with people travelling all over the world to see different animals. San Diego zoo on its own is an entire day out – look at the size of this place! Every country in the world relies heavily on tourism to bring people into their country and to show off their what their country has to offer, and a massive part of that may be their world renowned zoos.

This also doesn’t even begin to cover the amount of people it takes to run a zoo and the amount of jobs that a zoo creates: Aside from the actual keepers and handlers, you also need to account for chefs, waiting staff, retail assistants, security, account teams, corporate managers, HR staff, garment makers for the clothes on sale and the toys which can be bought, the graphic designers for the zoo signs and information boards and the architects and labourers who build the exhibits and the enclosures. Millions of people world wide are employed by zoos, so to get rid of them completely would mean millions of people lose their livelihood. Even I worked at a zoo while I was studying at uni, as a part time waitress, and I was just one of a team of 50 people. Zoos are a massive industry and for many keepers, I imagine their entire life has been in training to work at a zoo, to care for these exotic animals that very few people ever have the chance to see let alone care for.

My thoughts?

Personally, I am still so conflicted. I know that zoos are important and I think it would be incredibly damaging to abruptly close down an entire industry. I also believe that zoos are beneficial for some animals and actually provide a better quality of life than they would have had in the wild. But that does not mean I am happy that these animals can’t live in the wild. In an ideal world, these animals would all be left to live, thrive and enjoy their environment without us humans barging in to take from them. I try my best to always advocate for animal welfare, but it would be naive of me to ignore the impact that zoos have on this work. The donations they provide to other charities that carry out real groundwork in other countries is fundamental in helping create change.

Now would I chose to go to the zoo if I had a day off and nothing to do? Probably not. But if my nephew or my family wanted us to take a trip to the zoo as part of a family day out? I would go, not only so that I could spend time with my loved ones and see these beautiful and majestic creatures up close, but also because again it is the education and awareness that zoos can create that can inspire new people to take a stand to protect an animal they have just fallen in love with. I hope one day every animal can be at peace and at home in the wild, but until then I want to support conservation and education efforts.

As I said, this is by no means meant to be comprehensive, and it is only meant to provide you with a basic overview of some to the main issues surrounding zoos and the work that they do. But I hope it has at least inspired a thought in you, and has inspired you to do more research into what you as an animal lover can do to help protect them – both in captivity and in the wild.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments, and if you guys have any other interesting articles to read, then please do leave those in the comments as well!

T xxx

Why perfection is a myth

Following on my previous post, I wanted to take another little opportunity to reiterate that veganism is not an all or nothing lifestyle. That just because you are vegan does not mean that you also have to try and right every other wrong in the world. The idea of the ‘perfect person’ is a myth and it is not something I would ever tell people to try and aspire to be.

I have met so many vegans who burn themselves out because they try to do too much. The reality is, the world is a very messed up place and there will always be someone in need of help. I have nothing but admiration for those people who do try to help everyone they meet and to fight for every cause under the sun, but I also see these people burn out so quickly and get so bogged down in the badness that they don’t ever stop to just enjoy even the smallest things.

I try to help the homeless as much as possible, but I also do not earn that much money and at the end of the day I still have my own bills to pay, my own pets to support and my own roof to support. I give food when I can and spare change when I have it, but I will never advocate for anyone to bankrupt themselves just to help others. Because that doesn’t help solve the larger situation nor is it a long term solution for the homelessness crisis.

I try not to support big corporation businesses, but if the only place available for me to meet my friends for a coffee is a Starbucks then so be it. I make sure to always have a reusable mug in my bag or to use my own metal straws. But no matter how good a person you are you will never be able to do everything, and I think it is so damaging to have that perfectionist mindset.

As I have mentioned previously, one of the most damaging parts of the vegan community is the idea that veganism is about being perfect. That if you cannot be perfect then you might as well not even bother being vegan. The reality is though that everyone has their own life outside of their vegan one: We all have hectic jobs and busy family lives and complex social circles that we are constantly trying to juggle. So yes, you may want to only go to a locally owned, completely plant based bistro, but if your family want to go to a chain because it’s the only place that offers an option for everyone, then it doesn’t mean you are a ‘bad vegan’. If you work somewhere which involves working with a lot of paper or plastic, then you are not a ‘bad environmentalist’.

Over the years I have tried my best to help as many as possible in the best way that I can. I cannot financially support every homeless person I see, but I can donate old clothes to homeless shelters, and share resources with my wider community in the hope of inspiring them to also assist. I donate to charities that can provide long lasting support to those in need and I try to always educate myself on how these situations come to be. It can be anything from drugs, to mental health issues to just bad luck and tough times. I do my best to signpost people to charities or resources that could help them get back on their feet and to move forward with their lives.

I also cannot save every single animal from torture. At least not over night. If the most I can do is simply not eat meat and dairy and eggs, then that is still a powerful statement to make. I share resources on my social media, on this blog and in my general discussions with people that I meet who ask me about why I’m vegan and sometimes those little acts can inspire someone else to start refusing meat products or to swap their dairy for nut milk. In the grand scheme of things I am not on the picket lines protesting against factory farming, but I am still doing what I am able to do in my current situation.

And I think that is the most important thing to remember when it comes to any type of activism, is that you can only do what you can do. In many cases you simply sharing resources or information online is more than enough. One of your followers could see that picture of a baby cow being torn away from it’s mother and change their diet there and then. They could then forward it onto to other people who also decide to change their diet and to stop supporting the meat industry and it snowballs from there. All because you shared one little picture. Sometimes it can be so hard to see the far reaching influence that we as individuals have, even though there is literally an entire career market based on being an influencer. If someone can convince you that you need to try this new make up product, what’s to say you can’t convince someone else to give up eggs?

Veganism is about living a life that causes as little pain as is possible. No matter what you do, you will never be perfect and someone who obsessed over ‘Perfection’ for the majority of my teens and twenties, let me tell you it is never achievable. There will always be an injustice somewhere int he world that will need righting and so you will never achieve that utopia you chase after. Sometimes, when I get so depressed at the state of the world and the issues that are so prevalent within my society, I stop and I just sit for a moment. I try to remember that even if I was the only vegan in the entire world, by not eating beef I saved at least one cow’s life. By not eating eggs, I have saved at least one female hen from a life of demand. By not eating dairy, one baby cow gets to stay with their mom. And if I never achieve anything else in my life, I know that at least I have done that.

If you ever need a reminder of the impact that you as one person can have, even by simply changing your eating habits, see this calculator. Even the smallest of acts matter and over time those tiny acts can have massive impacts across the world. Veganism is going from strength to strength and the number of people changing to a vegan lifestyle are doubling every month, let alone every year. Below is my impact and…ignoring everything else, 1915 animals are alive today because of me. My goal in life has always been to save animals, so I am pretty bloomin’ chuffed!

Above all things I want people to remember to look after themselves. If you don’t look after yourself, you will not be able to do as much as you want to do and it will inevitably lead to you to feeling nothing but disappointment and sadness. Their is a wonderful phrase which says that when you are on an aeroplane, the first thing they say to you if there is an emergency is to put your own mask on first. Once you have your own mask on, you can then help everyone around you. It is a phrase that I have been hearing more and more, especially with 2020 and the whole COVID19 malarkey, and yet it is such a true statement. You need to look after you first, and everything else will come together easier.

I made this blog as a little way to share my vegan journey, and if I happen to help a few people come to grips with the lifestyle then I consider this a success. I want this blog to be a place of open and free discussion, so if you have questions, or resources or thought that you just want to share, my comments and emails are always open to you.

Stay safe everyone, and I shall see you all soon!

T xxx

Dealing with the loss of a pet

On Christmas Eve, our Pippin finally crossed over the rainbow to be with his brother Merry. We had noticed him slowing down for a few days – not as energetic and a bit unsteady on his feet – and when we woke on Christmas Eve he was in his final moments. As with most pets, it happened quite quickly, and we sat by him and held his paw as he took his final breaths in his home. He was home, he was safe and he was loved more than anything in this world.

I’m glad the last picture I ever took of him was such a handsome one.

Needless to say, our Christmas didn’t feel the most Christmassy. Add on top of it all COVID and the Tier 4 restrictions we are currently under, and we couldn’t even be around our family. I am very lucky though that I and my partner at least have each other, and we still have two very healthy, happy and trouble-making bunnies in our lives. But the house already feels a bit too big now. After Merry back in May and now Pippin, I think I am well within my right to say this one f-bomb on my blog: Fuck 2020.

People sometimes say that when a pet dies it is not the same as when a human dies, and to some degree I agree. But at the same time, it still hurts a whole bloody lot when the little creature that you have loved and cared for and played with and shared a home with for the last 3 years does pass away. The average age for a gerbil is 2, so our boys making it to 3 makes it a bit easier to deal with, as I know that both Merry and Pippin had long and happy lives with us.

Literally stopping everything to say hi to us

I think that is the main thing that you can take away with you when you own a pet. There is the knowledge that in almost every case, you will outlive your pet. Nature is a cruel and unforgiving thing and try as we might we cannot stop it from taking it;s course. All we can do, is ensure that we give our pets the best life possible, even if it is only for a small amount of time. Give them as much love as they will let us and make them comfortable when that rainbow bridges finally beckons for them.

We are also trying to think of ideas of what to use their cage for. It feels wrong to throw it away, but it also feels wrong to just put it in some dark storage room. We are thinking of using it as a sort of terrarium to grow some herbs in the house? If you guys have any other suggestions, please do let me know in the comments!

In honour of Pippin, please give all of your fur babies extra treats and as many cuddles as they can stand today. I know that Pippin is now with his brother and they will both have endless chocolate drops and loo rolls to chew on, and that while they both may have become grumpy old men in their old age, they knew how loved they were and how loved they will always be by us.

My Boys

On a slightly lighter note, I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and all got to forget about the mess that 2020 has been. It is suffice to say that I very much spent Christmas eating my feelings, so I have a lot of good stuff for you guys moving forward.

T xxx

Merry Christmas!

A slightly earlier post than normal, but as it is Christmas tomorrow I intend to spend all day tomorrow in my Pjs, watching Christmas movies and eating my body weight in food.

This year has been a manic one and I know I am not alone in feeling like this madness is unlikely to end anytime soon. But in all of this madness, this little blog has been so helpful for me – something to focus my attention on and to keep me busy on these now empty weekends. I hope that me stuffing my face has helped bring at least a tiny bit of joy into your day.

Thank you all so much for being here and for being apart of this little project with me. I can’t wait to see what 2021 brings to us all. Please also know that my blog is a totally open and safe place, and if you ever feel alone or stuck or just want to chat about life, I will always want to hear it. So comment away and I will make sure you respond.

Merry Christmas everyone. Have a wonderful day tomorrow and I shall see you all very soon!

Lots of love, Taylor xxx

NaNoWriMo 2020!

November is National Novel Writing Month and NaNoWriMo is a worldwide charity that helps people write their novels and pieces of literature. November is the big month, where WriMo’s aim to write 50,000 words in 30 days. This works out to an average of 1667 words per day.

I have taken part in NaNo 3 times previously, and have also done their CampNaNo’s in July and August, where people are encouraged to write whatever they want, for whatever length, for the whole month to encourage people to create something new and exciting for the world of writing. I talk about my previous experience in this blog here. 2020 has undoubtedly been a tough year, and I have actually had some pretty bad writers block for most of it: It can be hard to truly escape the world when the news is constantly bombarding you with the latest figures and depressing stats. But as England has now gone into another 4 week long Lockdown, I thought now would be the time to truly dive into my imagination and try and get back to creating something new.

If you want to find out more, you can find the website here. If any of you are taking part, please do connect with me online! My NaNo username is TailsMcleod. And if you have any writing prompts to throw at me to help with the writer’;s block please do let me know!

Stay safe guys and I’ll see you soon!

T xxx

100 Followers!!!

GUYS!

What is happening?!

100 of you lovely people have decided to follow my little vegan blog. I am so grateful and excited that you guys wanted to come along on my little foodie outings, and I hope that my posts bring a little bit of joy to your days. I am seriously so excited that 100 people have connected on this little corner of the internet. Warm fuzzies all round!!

Thank you all for being here. I look forward to trying many many more vegan treats for you all. As a slight thank you, here’s a funny picture I took of me and my cat a few weeks back. It is not aesthetically pleasing in the slightest, but it makes me giggle so hopefully it will give you guys a good chuckle.

No make up, lying on the living room floor, with my cat pulling a face at me. My life in a nutshell really…

If you guys also want to see anything else from me, please do let me know! Do you want debates? Essays? Funny pictures of my cat? Photos of me in a food coma after eating too many Wenzel’s donuts? Comment your ideas and I shall do my best to accommodate them.

Stay safe everyone and I shall see you all again soon!

T xxx

100 POSTS!

How strange to think that this is now my 100th post on Taylor Tries Her Best! To think that I started this blog purely to talk about my newest vegan discoveries and now look at where we are!

What’s even weirder to think about is that I have written 100 posts, of which at least 90 of them have been about a vegan meal in some way, and yet I have only just started to try everything that is available out there. Which is why I find it so hard to answer the question ‘What do vegans eat?’ because – clearly – we are just as spoilt for choice as the rest of society is. The idea that vegans are super lean, super green, animal loving machines that only eat salads and fruit is so alien to me: If this blog teaches you anything I hope it’s that vegans come in all shapes and sizes and get their food from the exact same places as everyone else does…we just don’t use animals to do so.

But mainly, thank you to everyone who has joined me on this platform. I appreciate every single one of you and hope that over the many years that I hope I can run this blog for, we can discover new and exciting recipes, treats and meals together as a team.

Be safe out there guys, and I shall see you all soon for another day of me stuffing my face!

T xxx

Can vegans use non-vegan products that they already own?

One of the big misconceptions that I have found with veganism is the idea that if you want to go vegan you have to do away with everything non-vegan that you own in your life. While this method may work with other lifestyles, such as minimalism or decluttering, I have found this way of thinking to be hugely detrimental to the vegan lifestyle.

For me, when I decided to go vegan I too felt the need to throw away anything non-vegan that I had. From make up, to clothes, to products in my kitchen. But when I looked at everything that I had still in my possession that were not vegan friendly…it was A LOT. And to throw it all away almost made me feel more guilty, because not only is it really wasteful but, to me, it also made me feel that any animal suffering that went into this product was going to all be in vain if I was to just throw it out.

As my previous posts may suggest, I tend to take really good care of my stuff. I have items of clothing that I have owned for YEARS that I know contain wool or silk. But I keep holding onto them for the following reasons: They still fit, they aren’t broken, and they still bring me joy when I wear them. Why throw them away if they are still in perfect condition, and especially when I am now making more informed decisions when it comes to my shopping habits.

Which also applies when it comes to my make up. As I have said before, I am not a big make up guru and I work in an industry where loud and powerful make up looks are not really allowed. As such, I have nail polishes and eye shadow pallets that I have owned – again – for YEARS because they still work and they still look gorgeous when I do get to wear them. Such as this colour, which is a Maybeline New York colour that I have had since I was about 14. And I love it and it is such a pretty blue.

img_20200524_205431Please ignore my sausage fingers….

So if you are thinking of transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, do not feel bad if you still own non-vegan items. The whole point of veganism is to live as kind a life as possible, not beating yourself up because you can’t part with your favourite leather bag or your comfiest pair of suede heels or your warmest wool jumper. Look after these things, and wear them to remember why you have made the change to a vegan diet. I own a pair of original Doc Martins that I bought about 5 years ago for work and Docs are a brand of shoe that will last forever. So now whenever I do wear them, I think of the cow that gave their skin for those shoes and I don’t let myself forget that. I cannot go back and not buy these Docs, the damage has already been done, but now I know that if and when I do buy a new pair of shoes, I know what to look out for and can make the conscious effort to make the kinder choice.

So in summary, veganism is a learning process and you will find new alternatives for every one of your favourite items. It does not mean that you are a ‘bad vegan’ because you own non-vegan things. Everyday you will learn something new and each decision you make will be more informed and more conscious.

T xxx

Dating a non-vegan

One of the most common questions I get when I mention that I live with my boyfriend and that I am vegan, is whether or not he is vegan too. When I say no, they immediately respond with ‘then why are you with him?’. And to this day I never know how to respond to that question. So in an attempt, here follows a rather soppy post of appreciation for my boyfriend, Henry.

fb_img_1584870579028Henry and I at 19, in my university halls

For background, I met Henry in secondary school. We have now known each other for around 10 years at this point, and have been dating for just over 5 of those years. We now own a home together and are slowly but surely filling it full of fur babies to grow our little family together. But before we dated, he was (and still remains to be) one of my best and closest friends. He was my best friend long before he ever became my boyfriend. He has been by my side through all of life’s ups and downs, from going into university, to entering the job market, to moving out of home for the first time. And to this day he supports me in everything I do, which also includes my veganism.

I will never be the type of person who will ‘force veganism’, but I also do not hide away from the facts behind it. That chicken on your plate was once a living being, with it’s own life and thoughts and interpretation of the world around it. It didn’t have to die, but by continuing to buy meat you add to this cycle of killing animals for your own consumption. If after I tell you all of this information you still choose to eat meat, then fine. But then don’t sit there and say you love all animals when your food choices clearly state otherwise. And this realisation was something that Henry never shied away from: He knew that his actions and his words would sometimes contradict each other, but he has been so open to learning new things that he inspires me everyday to try something new and to be open to new opportunities.

IMG_20181116_111630Henry and I at 25, being cheesy tourists on our trip to LA in 2018.

When me and my partner moved in together, he agreed that we would not have any meat in the house. The only exceptions I have made are for fish fingers, eggs and cheese, but even these are a rare occurrence. Everything else is vegan friendly, so the majority of our meals together are vegan. Recently he has decided that he wants to go vegetarian: My partner loves to cook and as such watches very many a YouTube video about how to prepare stunning dinners. But he watched one where it involved preparing lobster and he made the connection between the living animal becoming the dead meat on your plate. I also like to believe that he has seen how easy it is to avoid meat products and animal products all together, and so never feels like he has to miss out on any of his favourite meals. Yes I have helped to show him alternatives, but he made the conscious decision to give up meat on his own terms and in his own way. Which is really all we can do sometimes.

Veganism is not about living the perfect life. It is about living a life that causes the least amount of harm possible. And this is a concept that is constantly changing and evolving as more and more information comes out and nowadays people are going vegan for a whole variety of different reasons: for the animals, for the environment, for their health, for fitness reasons, for cultural reasons. Every single vegan has their own story and their own journey into veganism and it is not my place to force someone to follow veganism for the same reasons that I do. I have found that veganism only works, and only becomes a true lifestyle choice, when you have a very clear and personal motive for going vegan.

But the reasons why I am with him are not simply determined by his willingness to go vegetarian. And I don’t think that veganism should be the only reason why you are ever with a person. Yes your morals and values need to be compatible, but the biggest thing for me has been the amount of respect he gives veganism. When I said I wanted to go vegan he simply said ‘ok, if that’s what you want’ and has never stopped supporting me. Whenever we go out for dinner, he makes sure that I can eat something there first. If he is out somewhere and sees a new vegan treat for sale, he will pick it up for me to try. He doesn’t make me sit in steak houses, or attend spit roast dinners. He will take me to rescue centres and nature reserves rather than zoos or aquariums. He respects that veganism is an important aspect of my entire personality and accepts and encourages this without any caveats.

So why am I dating a non-vegan? Because he is funny, kind and caring. He is one of the loveliest people I have ever met and he inspires me everyday to be the best version of myself possible, be it in the gym or in my career, or even in my vegan culinary pursuits. It also helps that he is makes me cry with laughter on a daily basis, and always knows how to cheer me up. He is also insanely handsome and still gives me butterflies even after all of these years. The fact that he eats eggs or cheese once a week barely registers on my radar, and it is not something that I would ever consider a deal breaker. This doesn’t mean that I care about animal welfare any less, or that I am not that committed to veganism, it simply means that I have a partner who is learning and growing and we are building a life together that helps to promote all of the ideologies that we as a unit share. Henry is passionate about health care policy and mental health initiatives, and while I am not as clued up about this as he is, I am still learning so much from him that is helping me to understand more of the world around me and how I can help different causes that I would never have known existed were it not for him. We grow together. Slow progress is still progress and we are learning together every day.

Also, people need to stop thinking that a person’s relationship defines who they are as a person. Both Henry and I are separate entities that have our own ideologies and desires that are separate from each other, but the joy of a relationship is learning how to mix these together and to build a lasting relationship with someone that is based on mutual respect and understanding.

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So that is why I am dating a non-vegan. 

T xxx