Sally-Anne Bedford finds out if there’s such a thing as a ‘typical’ vegan.
This year I took my son to Vegan Campout with the promise of an endless supply of vegan crêpes and meat-free hot-dogs, and he was more than happy to oblige! We were excited to spend the weekend with 5,000 like-minded souls, but, I wondered, how different (or similar) would we all be? Would there be a sea of tie-dyed T-shirts?
Thousands of balaclava-clad activists combat crawling through the bushes, or would we all be assuming the lotus position while we ate chickpeas and drank green tea? It’s time to leave your preconceptions at the front of the tent, because it turns out there is no such thing as a typical vegan! Here are just a few of the amazing people that we met at the event that help to banish those vegan stereotypes.
Occupation: I work for an ethical fashion brand.
Vegan: 3 years and 2 months, but it feels like forever!
Eureka! I was vegetarian for two years before I went vegan. I guess the more I educated myself and watched documentaries such as Cowspiracy etc, I realised that going vegan was the next thing to do in order to align my diet with my morals.
Outcast? I wouldn’t say I’m treated much differently, but I guess people challenge or question me when veganism is brought up. It’s good though, if they’re the ones asking questions, then they must be open-minded.
Life changing: I feel happier and healthier and, more importantly, I feel so much better knowing I’m not contributing to animal cruelty.
Key Issues: All of them, but after attending save movements and watching documentaries, I’m so disgusted by factory farming. The fear on those animals’ faces before they enter is straight up disturbing. They’re smart. They know what they’re about to face.
Before Vegan: If I’m honest, I hadn’t really heard of vegans much. The word was pretty alien to me. However, the more I learnt what they were and what they stood for – I wanted to make that change too.
Communication: I think it’s important to speak to others on an equal platform. We weren’t all born vegan, so anger and frustration won’t work. We have to be constructive.
Hero: Bianca Taylor, James Aspey and my guilty pleasure – Miley Cyrus!
Big Win: There’s so, so many. Environment, health, but vegan for the animals always.
Occupation: Sea Shepherd Volunteer
Vegan: 2 years
Eureka! I have been vegetarian my whole life, it was social media about the dairy industry that was the turning point to becoming vegan.
Outcast? My mum and brother are both vegan, so that’s easy. I do get into a few debates and I don’t go to parties that have hog roasts and things like that!
Life Changing: My life is better in every way, I feel better and I’m not promoting industries that cause suffering.
Key issues: Farming, as it is on such a big scale, and, of course, fishing and the death of the oceans.
Before Vegan: I thought that veganism was a bit extreme until I realised how easy it is!
Communicating: Be calm and not be militant, I’m a supporter of the campaign group ‘Anonymous for the voiceless’ who promote street activism.
Hero: Rob Stewart (Sharkwater) and Paul Watson (Sea Shepherd).
Big win: I’m not participating in animal cruelty and so I can sleep easier.
Vegan: 10 years
Eureka! I am a fifth generation vegetarian, but I started to find the vegetarian position was, at least, ridiculous. I suffered from ulcerative colitis and, after one week of being vegan, it went – in 10 years I have had just one episode. But that’s not the reason I am vegan, it’s for the animals and the environment, but primarily the animals.
Outcast? No, but then I don’t think they’d be friends anyway if they felt like that.
Life changing: I’m no longer unwell, which is an enormous benefit. Also, I’m always thinking about it (being vegan) and it’s hard not to feel critical of people who don’t want to know or, worse still, have given themselves the right to take away the rights of the animals. Also, I would no longer be happy to live in the countryside as I would feel as if I were looking at ‘killing fields’ all the time.
Key Issue: Farming, because I feel that that’s the area in which we are all most conned. Vivisection disgusts me, as it should anybody, and there must be something very badly wrong inside the mind of a hunter.
Before Vegan: I remember my dad saying to me “there are some people that don’t eat eggs or cheese, but that is just ridiculous” so I was just switched off to it.
Communication: I tend to batter people on Facebook and over the years I’ve had two people who have changed to vegan because of what I have posted. Stop subsidies to farmers that kill animals and harm environments and support plant-based agriculture.
Hero: It used to be the Dalai Lama, but I was desperately disappointed to find out he ate meat!
Big win: Seeing more and more people getting on board.
Occupation: Studying animal/human interaction.
Vegan: 1 year. I tried to be for a couple of years, as I struggled with giving up cheese, but since October 2017 I have managed to stay vegan.
Eureka! My partner was transitioning to vegan and she opened my eyes to what happened to animals and then I went to VegFest in Bristol and that was good. Until these things happened I kind of knew what happened, but it hadn’t clicked.
Outcast? Yes, everyone thinks I’m an awkward being and I feel like an outsider most of the time. None of my family are vegan. I find it hard, so coming to things like Vegan Campout really helps.
Life changing: It has made me more compassionate and I love the food, I should probably be more plant-based though, but I love chips!
Key Issue: I think it’s mainly farmed animals being killed unnecessarily, when you can eat perfectly fine without it.
Before Vegan: I was vegetarian for seven years previously and I thought ‘I’ll never go vegan because I love cheese’. I didn’t think badly of veganism, I just thought I could never be one because ‘why would you not eat cheese?!’
Communication: In a non-aggressive way, street activism and talking to people and handing out leaflets. I think we all get tarnished with the perception we force things on people, but I don’t.
Hero: My partner Eithne and James Aspey.
Big win: To know I’m not harming innocent beings and I can live perfectly fine not doing that.
Occupation: Nurse/care industry
Vegan: 2 years vegan, lots of procrastination before then, cutting out dairy first, then fish and eggs.
Eureka! I have become more compassionate as I have gotten older. I joined vegan forums and it was the fear in the eyes of animals being led to slaughter that really hit me.
Outcast? Family take the mickey a bit. Friends are OK – in fact I have one friend who is following in my footsteps. I don’t like to talk about it too much with friends, as it gets to a point where you have to justify yourself and I can’t be bothered sometimes.
Life Changer: Massively. I struggled for the first six months to become more aware of what was going on and facing up to what was happening to animals. I’d never ever go back now, I just feel better about myself.
Key Issue: The farming industry, anything that contributes to the suffering of animals. Exploitation of animals in circuses and Seaworld. Selfies with wild animals and elephant riding.
Before Vegan: I thought vegans were all hippies and extreme in all honesty! I remember thinking ‘how on earth would you do that?!’
Communication: Activism, the headsets that Animal Equality use are very effective. Education, talking to people informally can be beneficial, it all depends on the person.
Hero: Juliet Gellatley, founder of Viva!
Benefits: Healthier and happier knowing I’m not part of animal suffering any more. Not just food and clothing, but all my lifestyle choices are happier and more positive now.
Vegan: 1 year
Eureka! One day I just decided to be vegan. My wife was vegan, which made me think about it more. I knew what was happening to animals, but I just ignored it. I was always an animal lover, I just hadn’t wanted to think about it before I just went for it and then that was it, I was vegan.
Outcast? People take the mickey, but I don’t mind, I just laugh because that’s what friends do. I still get invited out the same.
Life Changer: Healthier and I’ve lost weight, which is good.
Key Issue: Farmed animals. I don’t like any of it, but mainly the way animals for food are treated, it’s disgusting.
Before Vegan: Didn’t bother me, everybody has a different opinion, it’s their life. I thought about it a couple of times, but didn’t do anything until my wife did.
Communication: Protest and Facebook as it gets the word out, the debates are good. You put something on Facebook and someone doesn’t agree with it, but then more supporters come along and support you.
Hero: I’ll say my wife!
Big win: Knowing that I’m saving some of the animals and feeling healthier and helping others get into it and that saves even more.
Sally-Anne is a writer and animal artist who has written for international, national and local print and digital publications. A vegetarian since the age of 12 and vegan since 2005, her passion is animals and, in particular, dogs, who frequently pop up in her pet portraits. She shares her life with four dogs, five pigs and a hamster called Ricardo. Follow Sally-Anne on: Instagram: @sallyannebedford, Facebook: @gretalovesmabel and Twitter: @gretalovesm.