Selene Nelson, author of new book Yes Ve-gan!, tells us about her journey from meat eater to vegan activist.
Writer and journalist Selene Nelson shot to fame in 2018 after pitching a vegan cookery article to Waitrose magazine editor William Sitwell. His scathing response went viral and led to his resignation. Since then she has appeared on various news programmes and has now published a book on veganism.
When did you go vegan and why?
I went vegan in August 2017. I’d just spent 16 months travelling the world and had seen a lot of animal exploitation that made me question my belief system.
I knew I was against animal cruelty, so why was I turning a blind eye just because I enjoyed the taste of something? I knew I had to align my values with my actions, so I spent one night watching vegan videos (Gary Yourofsky’s speech and Earthling Ed’s street activism) and that was it: I became vegan on the spot.
How has this impacted your life?
It’s changed the way I view the world. I was a writer before I was vegan, but I wrote about food, travel and crime. As soon as I went vegan my priorities changed, and I began working to shed light on the horrors of the meat, dairy and egg industries.
I wanted people to know the truth of what went on in farms so they could make informed decisions about what they bought. I also wanted people to know how delicious vegan food was, so I relaunched my food writing — but now it’s all plant-based!
Did you experience negative reactions to your pitches, other than William Sitwell’s?
No, not at all. I’ve never received a negative response to any of my pitches so that’s why it shocked me. A lot of editors who’ve commissioned my work have told me they’re not vegan — and even said they don’t think they ever would be — but they recognise the growing interest in plant-based food.
What prompted you to write your new book?
When I first went vegan, I was surprised by how much I loved the process. Initially, I made the change because I felt I had to — because I loved animals and had learned the truth about animal agriculture — but I thought it would be a chore, a sacrifice. If I had known how easy it would be, and how happy it would make me, I would have done it years ago!
I wanted my book, Yes Ve-gan!, to convey what a positive, empowering, and fun decision going vegan is. I also wanted people to know the reality of farming, and to understand that ‘humane’ or ‘ethical’ labels are just marketing taglines. And I also wanted to help people want to make the change… not to do it out of guilt.
What advice would you give to new vegans?
Going — and staying! — vegan is much easier when you have knowledge and conviction. Motivation is key, so make sure you do your research into the health, environmental and animal rights sides to veganism.
When you realise there are three different reasons for going vegan, it’s easier to stay dedicated. Yes Ve-gan! covers all these points, and also gives guidance on talking to non-vegans, and what to say when people question you or give you a hard time. There is no meaningful argument against veganism in 2020, but learning how to talk about it is a learning curve.
Where do you shop for fashion and beauty?
For my hair, I like to use products from Lush’s vegan range, particularly because they’re made with natural ingredients and packaged sustainably too. Charlotte Tilbury does great high-end vegan make-up, and on the cheaper side, Superdrug has a great vegan range too. For shoes, you can’t beat V.GAN’s amazing vegan leather shoes. I love to go to vegan festivals and buy clothes from the stalls there — it’s great to support smaller companies.
What measures do you take to live more sustainably?
Being vegan is the biggest step, but I try to minimise plastic as much as possible. There’s a great refill shop in Bristol called Smaller Footprints, so we go there to stock up on things like soap, washing up liquid, pasta, beans etc. We take our jars and containers and fill them up again. Simple but effective!
FIND OUT MORE…
Yes Ve-gan! by Selene Nelson is available now, published by Gaia (£10).
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