This weekend, I went to Veggieworld Utrecht. It was awesome to see so many people who are interested in a vegan lifestyle and so many sellers showcasing the future of vegan food (or fashion, or whatev.!).
Shoutout to Charly’s all is fair which has the best vegan cheese I had ever tried (and I’ve tried many, totally obsessed with vegan cheese). If there was a seller in Utrecht, oh my! I would spend all my money on their cheeze (or do we say Gary now?).
I stopped at the Even Geen Vlees (loosely translatable by “simply no meat”) stand and talked for a short while with Armanda Govers (the lady pictured next to the bus stop ad). She’s lovely, and it was interesting to see the amount that the meat industry spends on advertising. I ended up signing up to support them through a small monthly donation, which would probably have been larger if I wasn’t starting to get worried about being unemployed from next month on :p
Their main goal is to promote veganism and/or a plant-based lifestyle by advertising vegan athletes (cf the poster of Sanne Visser, the Dutch powerlifting champion), thus showing that you can build muscle and perform well without meat! It resonated with me since one of the reasons I started caring a little more about how I look is because my way of promoting the vegan lifestyle is by being happy and looking hot, huh, I mean, healthy.
I’m an introvert. I hate heated discussions. I hate talking about veganism in a way, because a) it’s impopular b) people usually start thinking I judge them and c) if I actually speak my mind, people think I’m crazy because d) people don’t actually listen to scientifically sound arguments. And oh, e) sometimes I feel like a bad vegan (which apparently is a common thing).
I’ll quickly get back to points d) and e). There’s ample evidence that eating animal products is both unhealthy and terrible for the environment. Yet, veganism is seen as an extremism. So let’s agree here that the decision of eating or not eating animal products is not a logical one, but one governed by feelings. When did you decide to start eating animal products? If you’re like me, you didn’t. It was never a conscious decision from my part to eat animal products, but something linked to my cultural upbringing, and “justified” by culture, taste, and (wrongly informed) health claims.
So why do I feel like a bad vegan? Why do I even hesitate to use the word vegan at all when talking about myself? I became vegetarian when I realized that the only reason I wasn’t was because I was afraid of the reactions of my family. And I finally decided that if my family shunned me for wanting to be living a more ethical and compassionate lifestyle, then maybe there was something wrong with them, not with me. I became vegan soon after. I had already not been eating dairy for a while due to my casein allergy, and after watching a couple of videos on egg factories and male chicks being ground alive, I stopped buying eggs. BUT! I sometimes, very rarely and usually buy mistake, buy prepared goods which contains eggs. They’re sneaky and easily find their way in gluten-free products. Same with palm oil (though technically not an animal product, palm oil is often not considered vegan because of the problems linked to deforestation to plant palm trees). Sometimes I’m out eating with friends, and there are no options for me. Sometimes I won’t eat at all, but sometimes I’ll end up getting something that is gluten/dairy free and vegetarian, but does contain eggs.
BUT! I’ve decided that that’s it. I’m gonna stop caring about being the annoying gluten-free vegan at the restaurant and start voicing my questions. I’m not gonna transform into an extrovert, probably like, ever; so it’s unlikely I will ever become a vegan activist PETA-style. But that’s ok. I’ll convince people one at a time, which delicious heaty food, a fit healthy body, contagious happiness and respectful discussions. And maybe wearing a cool T-shirt promoting veganism or something 😉
To finish, I’d like to thank my boyfriend who unknowingly is the first person to have ever called me a vegan. Positive reinforcement: it works! Somehow knowing that he considers me a vegan also helped me calling myself so. I know for most of you it’s probably making a big parade out of nothing, but for me it was a big deal, because there is a lot of bagage which comes with the vegan label – and after 1.5+ years, I finally feel ready to wear it proudly.