Right at the start of the process of gathering peoples’ stories for 31 Vegans’ First 31 Days we knew we couldn’t ask people to lift the lid on their lives without us doing the same – so here’s my story. This is the most honest account I can give. It’s not pretty.
I’ve cheated a little and talked a bit more openly about my journey to veganism. Something which I’ve been quite reluctant to do in the past because it means I have to re-evaluate some pretty shady moral decisions I made. Hopefully, it might shed a little light on why Laura and me decided to start Pig Out and create this website with the aim of normalising the vegan lifestyle.
So here it is, my first 31 Days and the bloody lead up to it.
Let’s start at the beginning with the first 22 omni years of my life
I spent my formative years in a very small village in the Northern English countryside. It was beautiful. I spent my childhood climbing trees, running around fields, swimming in reservoirs and eating meat. Lots of meat. In many ways, the village was (and still is – sorry mum) stuck in a time warp. Meat was the focal point of any meal and men were expected to go to work with their hands. The coal mine didn’t close until I was 4, and I’m a 90s kid.
I got a job working in a pub kitchen at 16 and quickly found a love for cooking. I learned how to cook traditional meals like pies and grilled meat and learned more ‘exotic’ dishes like lasagna and stir fry. I worked in pub kitchens for 6 years and prided myself on eating nearly-raw steak and my skills in butchering animals (I would never kill anything, but there would always be a knock on the kitchen door from the local framer who had just shot some rabbits or ducks).
Even during my time in the village, I knew I was different. I didn’t have the same values as most people. I made a point of my individuality and my acceptance of people who didn’t fit the normal models of society. I guess throughout my childhood I always knew there was another way out there, but didn’t have the means to access it in such an insular environment.
I always knew there was another way out there, but didn’t have the means to access it in such an insular environment.
Moving to the city and meeting like-minded people
I relocated the the city at the age of 20 and instantly felt more connected to the people around me and the available lifestyle. Suddenly, I was talking about politics at a house party rather than telling people in the pub to stop objectifying women. I found a close group of friends and we all claimed to be forward-thinking, environmentally-conscious, animal-loving people. We’d sit and watch nature documentaries all evening, marvelling at the wonder of animals while filling our faces with animal products, completely blind to the irony.
After a few years I ended up leaving this group of people behind and sleeping on a friend’s sofa. The house I was crashing in was full of ethically-driven, accepting people who welcomed me into their home without knowing me. They were all vegetarian or vegan, and they never once judged me for bringing my leather jacket and shoes into their house.
Sitting at night in that living room, I’d watch our breath dance around in the candle light while we all drank tea, played board games and ate from a communal pot. On one of those nights, I realised there was a massive disparity between my beliefs and my actions. That experience opened my eyes like nothing did before – I’d watched Earthlings and carried on eating meat – and I’m eternally thankful to that group of people for helping me on my journey.
I realised there was a massive disparity between my beliefs and my actions.
Being vegetarian, and learning to cook again
Shortly after, I went vegetarian and I realised I couldn’t cook anything without meat or fish. The whole process was like learning to cook again and I fell in love a second time. Standing over the hob has always been my calm place – a space to evaluate the day and my hopes for the future. I started trying foods I’d always claimed to hate, but in truth had never tried. I found food tastier than ever before.
And then I got offered the job as the head chef in a burger restaurant. And I took it. I was stuck in two dead-end jobs that I loved very much but needed to leave. I knew cheffing wasn’t the answer but it was a half-way house and so I said yes on the condition that I wouldn’t have to eat the meat.
For three months I literally cooked tons of meat every single day.
For three months I literally cooked tons of meat every single day. Talk about dodgy ethics and compromising personal values. At first I didn’t see the the issue, those 22 years of meat eating took hold. But as time went by, I realised that I’d reverted back to being that hypocritical person who claimed to be an animal lover but was actively contributing (and profiting from) their slaughter.
I started looking for another job and started eating vegan at home. Laura was very supportive. I think she was a little sceptical at first, but as she started researching the topic I could see her passion for it growing. I am very thankful that we were able to share our discovery of veganism with one another.
I got out of the food industry and got a job as a copywriter (another job which comes with its own moral challenges). The day I stopped cooking for a living was the day I promised myself I’d never eat another animal product.
I realised that I’d reverted back to being that hypocritical person who claimed to be an animal lover but was actively contributing (and profiting from) their slaughter.
Finally finding a lifestyle with meraki
Unfortunately, I found that promise hard to stick to. I’d come so far from my meat-eating roots that I was struggling to see how a life without animal products could be possible despite knowing it was what I truly wanted to do. Twice, I bought a block of cheese and made a greasy fried cheese sandwich.
When I wasn’t doing that, I was falling in love with cooking a third time. This time I’d realised I couldn’t make anything without cheese and was trying yet more foods that I’d claimed to hate (now bananas and pears are the only two foods I won’t touch, and that’s not going to change).
Laura and I muddled our way through our first month, eating lots of variations of beans, avocado, rice and pepper. But it was endlessly fun and, what’s more, it felt right. For the first time in a long time, I felt content with myself and the world around me. I no longer felt like an impostor who was outwardly projecting a different image. The fraudulent feeling had left me.
I no longer felt like an impostor who was outwardly projecting a different image. The fraudulent feeling had left me.
The third, and last time, I made a grilled cheese sandwich I had a single bite and spat it out. It tasted wrong. That was two years ago. These two years have been the most amazing two years of my life. I’ve been happy. My body and my lifestyle have changed completely for the better. Now I enjoy climbing and cycling and slack lining at any given opportunity.
Food aside, I guess the most important thing I’ve learned is how wonderfully positive, supportive and open-minded the vegan community and its people are. The majority of us have eaten meat at some point during our lives. We have made a decision to drastically alter our lifestyles and made a choice that 99% of the population don’t agree with. That takes guts and an open mind.
Laura and me created Pig Out as a way of giving back to this wonderful community that we’ve become a part of. It helped our transition no end and I’m still humbled by the people who have given their time, opinions and advice to us two complete strangers.
So Pig Out is here for anyone who feels the same, or for anyone in need of a little help. I don’t know where I’d be today if people hadn’t done that for me, but it certainly wouldn’t be here.
If you haven’t already, check out everyone else’s 31 Days stories. It’s really inspiring stuff.