I remember being very environmentally conscious growing up. I interpreted that when my dad complained about lights being left on, the world might run out of electricity, not that he was worried about the energy bills.

Ericka Durgahee

Ericka Durgahee

I even remember the day I went vegetarian. It was my twelve birthday, and a group of friends and I had gone to laser tag (like you do). We’d gone to a famous fast-food place after, and I’d automatically ordered my usual sandwich. While biting into it, I proudly proclaimed that I was going vegetarian, “for the animals,” I bellowed to my friends…who looked back at me, holding a chicken sandwich, bewildered. When they pointed out to me that I had made this grave error, I simply shrugged and said, “okay, after this”. So officially, I went vegetarian the day after my twelve birthday. With my mum’s help, who had also become vegetarian because she didn’t like the taste anymore (she was in her 50s at this point), I managed to make the transition quite easily.

Of course, it was the early 2000’s at this point, and the restaurants barely had one vegetarian dish on their menus, and the TV was adorned with adverts of happy cows in fields. I hadn’t even heard the word vegan until I got to university.

I had a couple of vegan friends while there, and it sparked many a conversation about ethics and sustainability. I hadn’t clicked back then, though; it all just seemed too inconvenient. I would vehemently demand my mum only buy free-range and fell for all the marketing around my choice, thinking I was only using an animal’s ‘waste.’ I would shield myself from sad images of animals caught on camera in slaughterhouses, thinking I was part of the solution in boycotting paying for these practices.

Fast forward another decade, and I was finally hit with a YouTube video about the milk industry and what free-range actually meant. That was it. How could I have not seen this before? I felt like a fool. I decided to sign up for Veganuary in 2018 and have never looked back. Despite having some lowered confidence at first, I felt like I’d become part of something truly impactful for the sake of my health and the planet.

I’ve been to countless events, joined all the Facebook groups, and constantly looked for other ways to align my ethics with my purchasing decisions. I’m now trying to buy secondhand, make some of my own products, and even started a compost bin in the garden! I spotted the job at The Vegan Society in June last year, and now I work every day in my dream job, managing marketing and promoting veganism to be mainstream.

It really is a never-ending journey, though. I continue to discover new things that someone snuck animal exploitation into, but it’s the trying that matters.

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Growing up the youngest of 4, I accepted early on that many of the decisions about my life would be made for me, from what I ate and wore down to what music I liked. Maybe it was because my mum, a strict Glaswegian, already had a good routine with my other siblings, or just because I’ve always had quite an easy-going personality....