I am vegan. There, I said it out loud. (Sort of.)
And I love being vegan. I've been operating covertly for the last two months, partly out of embarrassment, partly out of fear of judgment, and partly out of experimentation. I was veggie for a few months prior to this, but if you'd asked me at Christmas whether I'd ever go vegan I'd have laughed at you.
So how and wherefore did this happen? I slowly stopped eating meat after moving into a veggie household (well, mostly - two hardcore veggies and one occasional meat eater). The less I ate it, the less I wanted to, until eventually I realised I just couldn't bring myself to do it anymore. During this time I also started seeing a vegan, and had more contact with a heavily vegan community. So many people asked me when I told them about my exciting, ethical new lover, if I'd go vegan, and I vehemently denied this possibility, hence feeling slightly embarrassed. Plus my family weren't exactly supportive when I told them I was giving up meat, let alone the whole animal shebang.
Still, I never though I'd be able to give up cheese. Plus, yannow, I hate raw tahini. And that's obligatory eating for vegans. But as I cut down (due to the company I kept, and in my new quest to rid myself of excessive bad habits - also renouncing caffeine, cigs and later alcohol) I found, just like with the meat, that the less I ate the less I craved it. Where once it would have been the first step before consuming a meal to smother it with cheese, I reached a point where I didn't even think about doing that unless asked, and even then I wasn't over-enthusiastic. My suspicions about the addictive qualities of cheese are confirmed. I've never liked milk, cream or butter, and soy yogurt is basically the same as dairy yogurt.
At the same time, I was beginning to look into the values and details of veganism - why people did it, the nutritional facts and so on - and the more I found out the more I felt that I couldn't be vegetarian without being vegan. (This site had a big impact - the philosophy of living with the planet rather than pillaging it struck me.) It's all the same big factory-animal-killing-exploitation-unhealthy pie. The dairy industry creates just as many, if not more, problems as the meat industry. We'll discuss this later.
So I decided to give it a go and see if I could do it, and if so, how I felt about it. I'd already stopped eating eggs and honey at this point so it was pretty rare I actively ate large chunks of animal product. Soon I was checking packaging for lactose and whey powder like any seasoned vegan. The only thing I really found tricky i not being able to just eat whatever is sitting around - biscuits at work being the main problem (unless some kind soul has bought hob nobs instead of custard creams :D). Though I'm definitely better off not eating them!
Since discovering the magic of vegan cakes I've pretty much been sold. It wasn't so much a desperate animal rights issue that spurred me to do it as a knowledge that I was questioning the right way to live, being healthier and greener, and eschewing the general horrors of commercial farming. Though since making the transition the reasons seem more and more clear to me. Sometimes I sit and wonder that everybody isn't vegan. The physical and mental clarity is liberating, cooking is a new and marvellous challenge, and a new vista of previously unknown ingredients and techniques has opened up.