C’est la Vegan

Sorcha Lanigan dispels the myth of the lute playing vegan

For some, veganism is a decision made to benefit personal and ethical beliefs, and for others it’s more of a self­congratulatory label that people are quick to roll their eyes at. The old joke: “how do you know if someone is a vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll f**king tell you,” is something a friend says she always feels horribly self­conscious about and hears in her head whenever mentioning her diet to people.

For those who are unclear ­ ignorant cavemen I can only imagine rotting in caves gnawing on chicken bones and pig carcasses over a roaring fire ­ veganism is vegetarianism except that in addition to not eating meat, other products such as eggs, dairy, honey, leather, silk, fur, wool, and certain cosmetics and soaps deriving from animal products are also off the metaphorical dinner table. Veganism is often adapted for health, environmental, and ethical reasons.

When I first proffered the idea of turning vegan to my mother, as I had it in my head as something I’ve always wanted to try, she smiled uncomfortably and delicately dismissed the idea as “nice, but ineffectual.” In other words, extreme and impractical. My father, perhaps more astutely, put down his paper and grumbled that veganism was for people who “do be having notions about themselves.” Admittedly, I understood where he was coming from, as a lot of the time this perception comes with the territory.

Yet, I can safely say that after a few weeks of telling people about my diet, my hair hasn’t grown and curled into crusty, waist­length dreadlocks, and henna tattoos appropriating various cultures have not bloomed along my arms. My skin has yet to feel the delicate embrace of handmade hemp kaftan, and my fingers do not ache to play the lute.

‘I’m a postmodern vegan. I eat meat ironically’.
Bill Bailey

These are such stereotypes that I, as newly practising vegan, struggle to break down almost everyday in my, as of yet thoroughly short­lived, crusade on the path of righteousness. (Too much? It’s never too much).

All jokes aside, the main reason as to why I’m trying veganism is less so that I can smugly glance at you over my plate of mouthwatering meat­free lasagna with a distinct air of superiority and disgust at your thoughtless lifestyle choices, and more for the health benefits that come with the diet.

After a few weeks of cutting out dairy and meat products, the dry rashy patches of eczema I’ve always had on my elbows, wrists and toes (yes, I tend to overshare; what of it) have remarkably calmed down and become more smooth and less blotchy. That isn’t to say veganism is some sort of cure­all dermatology spell but it definitely helped.

Another reason I decided to give it a go (other than the fact that dark chocolate almond milk is basically the elixir of the gods and now I get to drink a lot of it) was because of some facts about the animal industry and the ways certain products are made, which I had previously been unaware of.

For example, because male baby chicks cannot lay eggs, they are often ground up alive or suffocated in plastic bags by egg production manufacturers.* Dairy cows are often kept pregnant for most of their lives so that they can produce more milk, and when born, their calves are taken away from them.*

Now, one could argue that everything comes with a price and facts like these are easy to dismiss. Particularly so on a night out when you’re plastered and your heels are hurting and the lure of the golden arches is calling. Probably not a great sign either that a pool of saliva just gathered in the hollow of my tongue thinking about sinking my teeth into a juicy Big Mac….but I digress. I wonder how long it will last.

(*These facts taken from animal ethics.com, along with other sources such as The Guardian newspaper and animalaid.org).