Here are several Frequently Asked Questions about going vegan and transitioning to veganism. If you have a question and you don’t see the answer here, send us an email at email@example.com!
Why shouldn’t I eat dairy?
Cows only produce milk when they’re pregnant or they have a newborn to feed, so milk that should be solely for baby cows is taken and humans consume it instead.
For this to happen, baby cows are separated from their mothers almost immediately after birth. A mother cow’s bond with her baby is very strong, much like a human mother and her baby, and they have been known to cry out in search of their calves and follow vans and trailers taking them.
If the baby is a boy, they are sold at a few weeks old to countries where veal production is legal. If it’s a girl, she is destined for the same fate as her mother.
Dairy cows are kept pregnant their entire lives to ensure lactation, which takes a huge toll on their health. When the cow is so exhausted she can no longer bear calves, she is of no further use to the dairy industry and is sent for slaughter.
The natural lifespan of a cow is between 20 and 25 years, but they are commonly slaughtered at four or five years old.
What is so bad about eggs?
Naturally, hens produce about 12 eggs a year for reproductive purposes, but they have been bred to produce upwards of 200 eggs per year, which leads to exhaustion, osteoporosis (as the calcium required to make the shell comes from their bones) and fatty liver disease. The latter is caused by hens’ livers working constantly to produce the fat and protein required to make egg yolks.
The EU banned the use of battery cages in 2012 and it was replaced with what is called the “enriched cage“. It offers a little more room, a place to scratch with litter, a nest and a small perch. However, they come in several sizes. Small ones may have less than ten birds, but larger versions (called “colony cages”) can house approx. 60 birds.
Much like dairy cows, hens are over-worked until their rapidly ageing reproductive systems no longer work and they are finally sent to slaughter. Hens are typically allowed to live for approx. 72 weeks, which is 16 months.
The egg industry also has no use for male chicks as they are not considered to be the right breed for meat. These day-old chicks are killed by gassing or by a machine with rapidly rotating blades.
Chickens are social, intelligent animals and have sophisticated forms of communication, and by keeping them in “enriched cages” they do not have enough room for their natural behaviours. This often results in hens pecking each other. The egg industry’s solution for this is de-beaking, which is the removal of the tip of the beak using a red hot blade. This is a painful process.
If you want to learn more, take a look at this excellent video created by Erin Janus on the truth about the egg industry:
But it must be different in Ireland, right?
If you have the time to watch this video, you should, as it’s a fact-based approach that explains exactly why Ireland isn’t that different from the rest of the world:
I’m vegetarian and I’m interested in transitioning to veganism. Where do I start?
As a vegetarian, you’re probably used to ordering in restaurants and shopping for meat-free foods. Being vegan will be familiar, but it will also be a little different, as veganism isn’t as widespread as vegetarianism. Yet!
If you haven’t made the decision to change yet and you want more information on veganism, check out the documentary Earthlings, as it covers the health, environmental and moral benefits to going vegan. Another great resource is the book How Not to Die by Dr Michael Gregor and the website NutritionFacts.org.
Regarding food, things to look out for will be dairy and egg in otherwise vegetarian products. You’ll also have to make sure you increase your intake of calcium-rich leafy greens and calcium-fortified orange juice and vegan milk to ensure your calcium levels are sufficient.
Overall, don’t worry if you don’t go vegan overnight. It doesn’t happen like that for most vegans. The decision is an overnight one, but putting that into practice can take time. You can cut out milk first and then eggs and then honey, or you can cut them all at once, it’s up to you.
The destination is what matters, it doesn’t matter how you get there or for what reason.
I just went vegan but I’m worried of becoming deficient. How do I make sure I’m getting the nutrients I need?
First, congrats on your decision to go vegan! Secondly, it’s great that you’re conscious of your health at the start, as many well-meaning vegans can choose a plant-based life without researching properly and this can cause deficiencies.
A well-planned vegan diet is suitable for all age groups, from babies to the elderly, but emphasis is on planned. It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with vegan food sources of the essential nutrients your body requires. Write out a list (or you can check out our sources of vitamins and minerals here) and tack it to your fridge.
You don’t have to try too hard to get everything you need as long as you eat a varied diet full of beans, lentils, tofu, leafy greens, vegetables and fruits. If you’re feeling tired, you may be deficient in Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin. Most people in Ireland have low vitamin D because of a lack of sunshine, but you can take a supplement to rectify this.
Vitamin B12 is something you probably hear a lot about. You can get it from some vegan sources, like algae, but this isn’t reliable unless you’re very careful about how much you consume. Take a B12 supplement so your mind is at ease.
If you’re unsure about your health status, get a blood test at your local GP.
I live with my parents and they won’t buy vegan food. What do I do?
Unfortunately, people are not always supportive when someone in their life goes vegan. If you’re underage and/or you rely on your parents for money, there isn’t a lot you can do until your personal financial situation changes.
Although they may not buy vegan meats and milks etc., they probably buy vegetables as part of their weekly shop. Eat as much veg as you can, but make sure not to deny your body vital nutrients. If you can’t get them from vegan sources because of reasons outside your control, you have to get them from animal ones.
The good news is that you won’t be living with your parents forever, and you can eat 100% vegan once you’re independent. For now, do the best you can. That’s all you can do.
How do I get my family to understand veganism?
There is no right way to go about this, although it’s probably not a good idea to accuse your family of being complicit to mass murder. People don’t tend to like that! Your best bet is to gently correct them when they say things like “People need meat to survive” and other such myths, as well as asking them to watch a documentary like Earthlings to see your point of view.
Mostly, be patient. Most people don’t change overnight, but almost everybody is capable of change. It can be frustrating at times, but arm yourself with knowledge and keep chipping away. There is a logical answer to every question they can throw at you, just make sure you do your research.
How can I eat out as a vegan? I’m finding it hard.
One of the most stress-free solutions for vegan dining out is to be prepared. If you’re going out with friends, research the restaurant you choose beforehand. If there’s no online information, give them a quick call and ask if they can facilitate a plant-based option. Chances are, they’ll be happy to help.
However, if all that is being offered is a vegetarian option, just ask for them to give it to you minus cheese/ mayonnaise etc. If you’re still unsure whether a vegetarian burger patty or bread is vegan, it’s up to you whether you still want to eat the meal.
Some vegans believe that fussing over the minute traces of dairy in a veggie burger patty while ordering at a restaurant can damage the image of veganism in the minds of the waiter and the people at the table with you. Making it seem like veganism is a difficult lifestyle only hurts animals.
The Happy Cow website (and app) is an excellent resource for vegans looking for vegetarian/vegan restaurants abroad and at home.
Why can’t I eat honey?
Vegans are a diverse group of people, but we share one common goal: to eliminate animal suffering to the best of our ability. The vast majority of vegans do not consume honey, but it would be dishonest to claim that none do.
The main reason honey is not vegan is because bees create honey for their own use, and humans take it from them. When an animal product is commercialised, profits almost always come before animal welfare. In the case of bees, they are often killed, mutilated and starved – whether intentionally or not – during honey production. Peta gives good insight into what happens to bees in the honey industry. You can read about it here.
Is it okay to wear leather?
As a rule, neither vegans nor vegetarians wear animal leather. However, if you are transitioning to vegetarianism or veganism, continuing to wear leather is understandable.
Many vegans are environmentalists as well, and few would see the point in throwing away a perfectly good pair of boots just for the sake of it, particularly if you can’t afford to purchase a vegan pair. Veganism is for everyone, not just those with money, and it’s important to remember that someone on a budget will require more time to make these changes.
Many people who have been vegan for a year or more still have yet to completely overhaul their skincare/beauty/clothing/cleaning products to be 100% vegan. Cut yourself some slack. As long as you don’t purchase animal leather again, wearing out your current animal leather shoes is absolutely fine.
Why do vegans talk about being vegan a lot?
Vegans are passionate about animal rights and animal liberation, and are deeply sad that the majority of the world do not see the damage that animal agriculture causes. When people are passionate about something, they tend to talk about it.
A friend of yours who loves politics might often steer conversations in a political direction, or your friend who is big into recycling probably talks about it every time you pass a stray water bottle or aluminium can. Veganism isn’t that different.
People tend to remember an aspect of a conversation that they don’t want to talk about, and it can often stick with them for a long time. And when someone brings up something that calls into question a person’s morality, the exchange can become quite heated. Nobody likes to think about being on the wrong side of the ethical coin.
If you feel we have missed a common question, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know!