As a child, I never liked meat and I remember being really tiny and feeling really sad that I was being given animals to eat. My family had meat for every meal and so I was told "If you want to be a vegetarian, you can cook for yourself" so from age 11 I did.
I was happily and ignorantly vegetarian until I was 43!
Then three years ago during a financially tricky time, I took a part time job in our village with anartisan cheese maker. I had been self employed for a long time and following the credit crunch my work as a freelance author had gone really quiet, the picture book industry was really contracting and it was a struggle. So I was employed by them to promote their cheeses at shows and on farm tours.
I am ashamed to say I had never really thought that much about the dairy industry. I had been happy to not look too deeply and to feel that being vegetarian meant I did not harm any animals. It is hard as an animal lover to realise I was totally deluding myself. I only stayed for a few months before I realised, no amount of money was worth me supporting something I fundamentally knew in my heart was wrong.
My own ethics and my love of animals was just too strong to ignore.
So I decided to try going vegan. I was only planning on trying Veganuary for a month...maybe two.... but here I am 2 years later. Running my own vegan food business 'How on Earth Vegan'. We only launched it on the 30th August, but have been so overwhelmed with the enthusiasm for our new food.
My daughter and husband are also now vegan and together we realised that for people to change to a vegan diet there could be a lot of things they would miss. There is a perception that if you become vegan you can no longer eat 'real food' that it is all humus and vegetables.
We wanted to create tasty food with great texture and flavour, so we started experimenting with Seitan.
We now supply around 240 lunches a week to the shop on the campus of Exeter university. The demand for our food is growing and the most interesting part is that it is being chosen by meat eaters, who feel our chicken style shredded chicken actually has more flavour than the meatequivalent.
There are many levels of vegan and I never feel I am vegan enough! One thing I do know though is that it is the best decision I ever made, my health, my weight, my skin are all so much better than they have ever been...and recently at a show, a customer could not believe I was old enough to have a 20 year old daughter...at 46 I am very happy to take that.
We have just had our first booking for an all vegan wedding and I am also talking to a supermarket about the Seitan style meats. I am now writing again and trying to continue to engage young children with the idea that animals deserve our respect and kindness and that our environment is fragile and we should all be actively engaged with looking after it. I am even working on a Vegancook book…remaking all my families favourite meals as Vegan. So we all have the opportunity to eat all the foods we enjoy.
If I can offer people who are not in the mindset for going vegan for ethical reasons, a way to enjoy the meaty tastes they like and it saves an animals life I will be very happy to have helped, even if it is in a small way.
Veganuary is a great idea because trying one small change really can change you whole existence and also change the perception of the traditional farm still being the only option for protein.