To go completely vegan was a decision that came to me while eating my lunch. With my chickens! I was having a salad, they were pecking about. I used our relocation to Barbados in 2017, as the opportunity to make the leap. Find out what helped me make my decision and whether I’ve been able to stick to it in the land of the fried flying fish!
We were living in Wicklow, Ireland at the time. We had 3 comical, friendly and unbelievably tame chickens. They were only €15 each from the back of a van at Ashford! Excellent, reliable, one-a-day egg-layers: Michelle, Larry-Ann and Julia. They had become unbelievably tame through constant harassment by the kids, and would put up with almost anything in the hope of peanut butter toast dropping out of the hands of their besotted torturers.
Having our own eggs everyday was bliss. Even when the fridge was completely empty, there was always something to eat. I was having a poached egg every single morning for breakfast at the time. I felt great about giving the eggs to the kids, and I still would be happy to if we had our own chickens. But if that happens, I can picture we will end up having quite a few retirees seeing out the end of their days!
When we first got them, ‘the girls’ laid early in the morning every day, Before breakfast, I’d go to let them out and bring in the eggs, still warm to the touch. But they started to lay later. And later. Until I was finding myself going out and bothering them, reaching under their feathery bodies with my hands to see if they had laid yet. Willing them to get on with it! And that’s where my veganism began!
I began to feel increasingly rude! What was I doing pestering the chickens to get my breakfast? I liked these birds, loved their dotty companionship in the garden with the kids. What was I doing eating their dreams? Chickens too have hopes!
Now, I know this is not entirely logical. Their eggs weren’t fertilised, although I don’t think the birds don’t know that. We had bought these chickens and given them a great life precisely because they were egg-layers. But as I ate my lunch in the garden with them one day, sharing bits of my salad with them and watching them peck happily about, I suddenly knew that I wanted to be completely vegan. And, if I felt uncomfortable about eating the eggs of what might be the happiest chickens in Ireland, then I needed to seriously consider giving up eating all eggs entirely. And meat. And dairy. And then, think of the dwindling fish stocks. It was a dominoes moment, and I knew the whole lot had to go.
We relocated to Barbados in September 2017, and I used our change of set up as my golden opportunity to fully make the switch. When we first arrived, I did try the fish, bought locally right off the beach. We live near the fanstastic Paynes Bay Fish Market, where you can buy flying fish, marlin, tuna, king fish pretty much straight out of the sea. filleted skillfully by Eyon. Maybe, this is the best fish in the world. And, line caught. And there’s not too many juveniles or parrot fish on offer which we sadly saw being sold all the time in Jamaica.
But, I found that I had simply lost the taste for it. The texture felt weird in my mouth. Like decomposing tissue. Which, of course, is exactly what it is. And eating meat when you’ve been off it for a few months is hideous! Even if you like the taste, and can deal with the endless chewing, even if you spend the fortune that ethically raised meat in Barbados costs (a good supplier is Clifton Meats, happiest pigs in the Caribbean), digesting it is another matter.
I also watched the controversial documentary What the Health. This slamming critique of America’s meat and dairy industry explores how the Standard American Diet is making us all sick. There are increasingly indisputable links between meat and dairy consumption and most of our chronic illnesses. I liked it so much I then read the book. I realise the film is highly-biased and some of the facts and figures may be skewed, but I love the overall message and let it help me steel my resolve.
Being vegan is great. The transistion was easy once I’d made up my mind. My brother became plant-based a few years ago for major health reasons, and that helped inspire me, if he could do it, anyone could! He didn’t even use to eat vegetables! As a vegan, I feel healthier, I find it much easier to control my weight and my desire to overeat. I have more energy. Choosing in restaurants takes one second as there’s usually only one option. And, when I see a squealing cartload of pigs being driven off to slaughter, or drive past a stinking chicken-rearing shed, I just feel massive relief to not be part of it anymore.
It’s complicated being vegan and the mother of three small kids. For them, I still cook fish often and meat occasionally, but I always offer them a vegan alternative. I recently started making my own almond milk and they choose it over cow’s milk. Homemade almond milk is creamy and delicious, has no aftertaste and its half the price of what it costs in the stores here. If you are considering it all, do it!!! Go vegan!!! There are no cons (except possibly those uniquely beany farts), only pros. Better for you, the planet, the oceans, the atmosphere, your wallet… And if you need convincing, watch Cowspiracy or What the Health.