Newbie Vegan


Sep 2, 2015
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  1. Vegan newbie

I originally decided to go vegetarian a month ago, but quickly decided that that wasn't good enough and I needed to go vegan. I've been following a vegan diet for 2 weeks so far, although at the moment I am still eating honey because I have half a jar left and see no point in wasting it (but I don't need it so won't buy any more after that). I've been checking labels as carefully as I can but as I haven't quite sussed out E numbers yet so I suppose there's always a chance I may have accidentally consumed some animal byproduct, but I'm sure I'll get the hang of it eventually (I'm a work in progress vegan). My husband and grown up son are still omnivores, although both have been eating mostly vegan meals (they haven't had much choice LOL) and I wouldn't be surprised if my husband eventually went at least vegetarian (in his own time). My two youngest are a bit different as they are very suspicious of new foods and one is an extremely picky eater (due to sensory issues). I plan to just keep trying them out on some veggie/vegan foods so if at some point they want to change they will have some alternatives in their diet already.

I probably live in one of the worse places to go vegan. I live in a crofting/fishing community in a small Scottish island with 2 small shops. I'm trying to keep my transition quiet at the moment because I'm really not sure how well it'll be taken. I mean Thete are sheep out the back and cows out the front (not mine I should add) and people here are very used to raising, killing and butchering their own animals (and in the case of my neighbours animals in the shed at the bottom of my road). Many of my friends' menfolk are fishermen. So I do feel a bit isolated. It also means I don't have have easy access to vegan convenience foods, but then again that might be a good thing, it just means I have to cook from scratch all the time. I'm planning a trip to town soon and will have a look at the healthfood shop and supermarket to see what is available there. I was quite surprised to see that I can get both almond and soya milk here though.

I think I'm doing quite well with the new diet (eating lots of whole foods, beans, lentils, nuts, fruit and veg and adding flax seeds to my muesli In the morning, cutting out caffeine and drinking orange juice with my meals) although I'm a bit paranoid I'm missing out on something. I keep trying to read up on all the nutritional information but i end up just making myself more confused when I'm trying to work out how many mg of this and that I'm actually getting. So at the moment I'm taking a multivitamin/mineral supplement as an insurance policy and so I can stop worrying about it so much. It's just a supplement from the local shop and no idea of it's OK for vegans, so will probably have to look online for an alternative.

Next step is to look at my cleaning products/toiletries. I've found stuff online I'd like to try when I have the money to put in an order, but sticking to vegan friendly stuff might be more of a problem than the diet change. As I can't get any of it here and may only be able to get it online. Might take a while to get organised so that I don't ever run out.

As for clothing etc, I'm going to wear what I have already until it wears out and then plan to replace it with vegan friendly stuff. I don't like waste and I certainly can't afford to replace everything at once. Eventually i would like to buy fair trade/0rganic clothing as I don't like the idea of exploiting fellow humans either or the problems with crops such as non-organic cotton either. But being on a very low income this may be difficult to achieve. I may be able to manage it with my own clothing but may never manage it with my children's clothing (I could go without until I can afford it in most cases) but children grow quickly.

I can't do anything about my medicines (I need them to stay alive and healthy).

One of the oddest difficulties with the transition is probably that, in addition to my day job, I do a bit of knitwear design (writing knitting patterns) ironically my speciality is Fair Isle/ stranded colourwork knitting for which I usually use pure wool (mostly Shetland). I have a pattern just coming out and one to be published soon in a magazine and i also have a few self published patterns still available to purchase. It feels a bit odd to be turning vegan whilst my patterns are promoting British wool. I haven't quite worked out how I feel about that. I also have a stash of wool I've yet to use and I'm not sure how I feel about it. I love working with real wool but I know that that is more linked to a romantic view of sheep and rural life.
If the multivitamin you are taking is a capsule, not tablet, it's almost certainly NOT vegan unless labelled vegetarian or vegan. That is because most capsule shells are made out of gelatin.

I think most new vegetarians/vegan do what you plan to do with old clothes. I have known some who threw out/passed on their leather simply because it was making them nauseous to continue using it. They did not like to be adorned with skin (I count myself among this sort).

As for the wool, there is an argument for the use of wool by some vegans and it comes down to air-miles and imports. I.e. it's an environmental argument, or an argument about local economies versus importing cross-continentally Asian bamboo, Egyptian cotton, etc.. For this reason I spent the first few months of being vegan continuing to buy wool as I wanted the money to stay local and I was concerned about the environmental impact of the import.

But, on reflection, I'm not sure whether I will have saved the carbon doing things my way when you compare this to the footprint of rearing the domesticated animal in question. And those sheep probably ended in the abattoir too, which is why I decided against this policy eventually.

What really clinched it, however, was learning about how wild sheep fare, versus domesticated sheep, all year around. For example, Merino sheep (a domestic breed) are often riddled with disease caused by their wrinkled skin [which they have been bred to have, forcing extra wool production on a wider surface area but posing many challenges of health (less of a concern when their lives are cut short by the meat industry)]. This story just came into the news today:

Then there is also the barbaric practise of mulesing. I have also watched plenty videos on Youtube of sheep being hand-sheared, and that was rough too. Shearers grab, yank, hurl, and suppress the animals into tight spaces often playing loud music to amuse themselves as they go along (the sheep never seem to appreciate this and it seems to make them more scared). I could not find a single example of 'gentle shearing'... I think somehow consumers think shearing is just like giving your dog a trim (it isn't!). Often sheep are transported long distances to be sheared too, which is another stressful process (it's not always done on site). However, given where you live and your profession, I am sure that very little of this is news to you.

But consider the wild sheep of Orkney; their coat is designed perfectly for them all year around. In fact, there isn't a single wild sheep breed that requires shearing - only domestic breeds. We did that to them.

In your case it is a big part of your culture and, clearly, your profession. But in the end the eco credentials are questionable, and you have to know full well that you are encouraging an industry to continue to domesticate and selectively breed sheep until they reach scenarios which, though yielding for the human, threaten the health of the animal. You also cannot escape the fact that wool sales are mostly used to subsidise the cost of the feed etc.... which is all, unfortunately, geared towards getting these animals to the abattoir.

If you would like to continue to use wool I would contact animal shelters and rescue shelters that are committed to guaranteeing the lives of their residents (the sheep). Do sheep need to be sheared? Not if they are left to their own device without human-imposed genetic and breeding manipulation! But once a domestic sheep is born, yes, it will need to be sheared every year in order to avoid all kinds of health issues. Therefore my recommendation would be to source your wool from animal shelters where they have to shear their animals but they are also guaranteeing the lives of said animals. I would also make this a big business ploy and advertise what you are doing quite plainly so that consumers can see the difference between 'rescue wool' and wool patterns versus 'industry wool' (however small or local the industry might be). For instance, The Animal Sanctuary sells rescue fleeces and wool; you might find something closer to home if you look. I do not consider the use of rescue wool as animal exploitation.

Ontologically this may or may not constitute as being 'vegan' but vegans actually routinely lose sight of the original definition of the word (it's not necessarily militant):

Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.
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