Veni Vidi Vegan - World Vegan Day, November 1 2020

Vegan burger with vegetable filling and a black bun

Photo by Creatv Eight on Unsplash

It's World Vegan Day this Sunday, so Alfa’s Green Team would like to celebrate by encouraging everyone at Alfa to GO VEGAN this weekend.

To mark the day, Alfa’s Matthew Beadnall discusses his experience going vegan - and in the process becoming yet another vegan telling everyone about how they're vegan. Please forgive him.

Veganism. It's a pretty contentious term, and still a source of confusion to many. Over the years, it's gone from seeming like a crazy idea to me, to a bit excessive , to something I aspired to do , to something that I was starting to regret something that I wish I'd always been. So, how did I become one of those "weirdos"? I present the 5 stage (0-indexed) ladder to vegan Nirvana...

Matthew Beadnall

Stage 0- Omnivore

Me, from 1992 - 2016. Anything goes (especially cheese).

Stage 1 - Flexitarian

I started putting serious effort into cutting out meat from my diet in 2016 - primarily due to environmental concerns. This is a fun stage of exploration, of trying new foods and feeling good about starting to make an impact, and I never really intended to go beyond this stage. Experts state that we need to cut meat and dairy consumption by just 20% in the UK to free up enough land and reduce emissions for the government to meet "Net zero" by 2050.

That's surely easy for everyone to do (and there are many signs that people are), but I think we can all do better than that, and personally I kept pushing to see how far I could go...

Stage 2 - Going Cold No-Turkey

On Christmas Day 2018, I finally decided to go full vegetarian. The initial cravings for meat that followed were often overwhelming. It's very tempting to have a cheeky Nandos or steak as a "treat". I'd almost encourage this early on, it will stop you becoming overly frustrated and snapping back to an omnivore diet. I came to accept that it's ok to have meat (in my case, usually just fish) when there's no other option, or had grown tired of broccoli side dishes when eating out.

In time, I found meat urges became less and less frequent, as I found meat-free foods that replaced those cravings. For example, halloumi is a more than adequate substitute for bacon (or just vegan bacon!), and there are plenty of meat substitutes if you still want those meaty textures.

Once I'd overcome meat cravings, and adapted to the inconvenience of there not always being veggie options, I then started to look into veganism seriously. What had started as just being a health/green issue, became so much more, and I could no longer ignore the cruelty behind every animal product on the supermarket shelf. So, I attempted to go full-vegan...

Stage 3 - Plant-ish Based

Where I'm currently at! It is at this stage that you realise just how much our society depends on animal products, and how hard it is to break away. They are everywhere: cake, pastries, pizza, ice cream, leather... giving these up and finding alternatives around me took time and effort.

Eating out and buying snacks suddenly became a lot harder. Being a vegan in London isn't too challenging, but still can be frustrating. For instance, there are usually only one or two vegan options of sandwiches at supermarkets/cafes, if you're lucky. Go out of London, and things get harder still. The only real solution is a higher degree of independence in your diet, i.e. not depending on pre-made food when out, becoming a lot better at cooking and a lot better educated about what your body needs to thrive.

After a year of being vegan, I've completely lost the taste I had for animal products - it would be difficult to return to my previous diet, so it's definitely not just a short term phase. I'm definitely past the point of no return, and it feels like a huge achievement!

Stage 4 - Ascension to Plant-Based Nirvana

This is the point where every aspect of your life is animal-product free. You're even zoo and pet free - animals exist free in the wild where they belong.

I'm not yet at this stage -  I don't ask a barman which pints are vegan, and I have a pet fish (Archduke Fins Ferdinand). I recently gave up honey (see FAQ, on the right), but I haven't chucked out my leather shoes just yet, though I won't buy any more. I'm still on a learning journey, and working out what works for me.

On a slightly more serious note, this powerful video perfectly sums up how many vegans feel now about their past habits / the food industry as it stands today.

"So, I'm Interested in going vegan, what can I do?"

Nobody will ever succeed at being vegan if the food they eat makes them miserable and leaves them hungry. Thankfully, I guarantee you that this does not have to be the case if done right. A vegan diet can safely support any kind of food requirements/preferences people have! I'd recommend moving over gradually, tackling one food type at a time.

I'd suggest finding other vegans to talk to as well, this helps immensely with motivation and recipe ideas.

Here are a few of the key inspirational vegan food channels on Youtube:

And here are a few compelling documentaries:

Thanks for reading! Hopefully everyone can agree that we should all try to land somewhere beyond stage 1 to help protect the planet and the beings within it. Perfection should never be expected - it would take next-level discipline to reach level 4! But by all means aim for it!