Abida Tasnim, BA Economics
Photo Credit: Abida Tasnim
Why go vegan in the first place?
Animals, just like humans, feel pain. What’s to say they do not share other neurological processes with us? For this reason, vegans believe in preventing the exploitation of animal rights for the benefit of humans. It has been found that 95 percent of animals are killed prematurely for food production. For example, cows are usually murdered at the ages of 3-4 of a potential 20-year life span in order to capture the milk in its ‘profitable’ stage – even earlier for cows bred for meat. In addition to the injustice animals face in these industries, an opportunity cost is posed to society. The subsidies on non-vegan markets are pivotal in their survival. Without them these markets would collapse. Therefore, these subsidies (coming off the hard work of tax payers) could be better utilised in perhaps plant-based horticulture, or given the current predicament of the UK, the NHS. The vegan lifestyle has both ethical and economic motivation.
How did I find going vegan as a student?
A common misconception of healthy eating is that it is expensive, and whilst this generally proves to be true, it is not always the case. There are £3 meal deals available at Tesco and Sainsbury’s where vegan options are available. Still, there were times when the selection of vegan meal deal’s available at these supermarkets were extremely limited, and at times, there were none. Luckily for SOAS students, we also have vegan options available in the JCR, although these tend to be slightly pricier. For these prices I would prefer to go to YoSushi/YouMeSushi/Wasabi/Itsu for a vegan sushi box. Honestly, I find that, we as young people don’t mind spending a little extra money on food, especially around friends.
I often found myself having to come in and out of restaurants trying to find a suitable place to eat”
In terms of the social aspect of going vegan, it never failed to be a great conversation starter and would also spark some debates about the ethics behind it. Furthermore, at social events or gatherings, the vegan aspect did prove to be more of a challenge especially considering that going out to eat is everyone’s go-to plan with friends. Although it does require planning ahead of time, such as checking the menu, this usually doesn’t pose much of a problem. This tends to make spontaneous food ‘motives’ slightly trickier and I often found myself having to come in and out of restaurants trying to find a suitable place to eat. In fact, for my sister’s birthday brunch, we decided to go to the Pie Factory, and at the time I was so busy and forgot to check the menu and just hoped they would have options for me. The reality was, one vegetarian pie with feta cheese, hence non-vegan. I ended up ordering two side dishes (the only two vegan options on the whole menu) chips and onion rings.
Controlling your diet is much easier at home where you can easily substitute for plant-based foods. I switched to almond milk for the month and although I didn’t try it with cereal, I did try it with tea and baking. Both times I could barely tell the difference. This month gave me the opportunity to be adventurous with my cooking and the recipes I tried have already been used as part of my weekly dinner routine due to the convenience and taste.
Of course, veganism extends beyond food, it includes cosmetics and clothing as it is, as mentioned, a lifestyle. Lush has amazing vegan cosmetic products, ranging from toothpaste to deodorant to shampoo and now, even make-up. More and more companies are joining this plant-based movement, making it easier to switch to this lifestyle. One of the key factors that has kept me going on this journey were the effects to my health. The change in energy was undeniable, rarely feeling tired during the day. My skin also reflected the cleaner eating habits, which, as shallow as it may seem, provides a strong incentive to continue on this path.