I was vegan for 6+ years. Then I moved to Serbia, which is really the land of meat and cheese with an occasional tomato or pepper thrown into the mix. Last year, I was considering going vegan again but presented the problem of how much more it would cost me. Soy milk here is as much as 5 times more expensive than cow milk. To get it, I’d have to ride a bus 30 minutes (one direction) and then walk another 15 minutes to get to the health food store. And I’d have to do that with a 2-year old child in tow.
How did vegan advocates respond to my dilemma? One obnoxious girl in a vegan forum bombarded me with hateful emails about how veganism isn’t expensive because “beans are cheap and available everywhere”. I got told I was a slave owner because I bought eggs from the backyard chickens of my neighbor. Needless to say, I did NOT feel encouragement or support to go vegan.
A year later, I finally did decide to go vegan again. What got me to take the transition? Was it all of the guilt trips? Did I decide to opt for the cheap bean-intensive diet that the girl recommended? No. The reason I got the courage to go vegan again was because someone finally admitted that going vegan can be hard.
Telling People that Going Vegan is Easy is NOT Going to Help
The internet is full of all sorts of information saying how easy it is to go vegan these days. They cite facts like “there are lots of meat and cheese alternatives available in stores”, “more restaurants are offering vegan options” and “grains and legumes are cheaper than meat.” This might be true (even in places like Serbia), but it doesn’t mean that going vegan is easy for everyone.
The people who really helped me transition to veganism were the ones who freely discussed all of the challenges they face on a daily basis as vegans. They talked about how much more they spend on food (followed by some tips on how to keep those costs down). They laughed about how their relatives still think they are in a cult (with a hint of sadness beneath the laughter). They talked about how hard it is to go to a birthday party and be the only one not eating the cake.
Yes, veganism DOES get easier. But saying that it is “easy” is just going to make it harder for people transitioning.
So, please, the next time someone says they want to go vegan but are worried, don’t offer up statistics about all the benefits of veganism or some facts about animal cruelty. Instead, tell them the truth:
Going vegan probably WILL cost you more
But it doesn’t have to. Once you get the hang of soaking beans and legumes, cooking in bulk, and how to incorporate cheaper substitutions into your recipes, you might even find that going veganism is cheaper. The reality unfortunately is that meat is heavily subsidized (so you are paying for it with your taxes) so you probably will spend a lot more on groceries.
You WILL feel lonely and outcast sometimes
But you will also be amazed at the support you get from unlikely places. You will also realize who you true friends are. After all, do you really want to be friends with someone who mocks your decision not to eat animals?
You probably WILL miss cheese
But you will probably find some other favorite foods too. And since cheese is so expensive, you’ll save some money towards vegan treats but eliminating this from your budget.
You MIGHT have health problems like nutrient deficiencies or feeling lethargic
But, with proper planning, veganism can also be very good for your health. If done right (meaning you take a B12 supplement, watch your calcium and iron intake, and avoid junk foods in favor of fresh foods), you can look forward to health benefits like reduced risk of heart disease, lower rates of erectile dysfunction for men, and even improved mental health.
You probably WILL have to spend a lot more time cooking
But you will probably learn to love it, or at least get some health benefits from eating fresh foods instead of fast food and frozen dinners.
Going out to eat WILL probably stop being fun when your only choices are potatoes, grilled vegetables or a wrap
But you will probably start attending some great vegan potlucks instead. And you will probably try all sorts of new ethnic foods which just so happen to be vegan, like that great Ethiopian restaurant and the fantastic vegan dahl at that Indian place.
Going vegan WILL feel inconvenient at times
But you will be rewarded for this with the feeling of doing the right thing.
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