Profile of a new vegan: Em Lew first went vegetarian at age nine, after watching an animal documentary. Here is her vegan story.
I've never considered myself an 'animal lover'. When I was younger I was scared of animals and wouldn't like to go near them. Despite this, animal rights have always been a concern of mine. The first time I went vegetarian I was nine, after watching an animal documentary. I stayed vegetarian for around three years but throughout high school started eating meat again. I just put it out of my mind and chose to ignore the pain the animals were in.
When I was seventeen I watched the documentary 'Earthlings' and decided to stop eating meat again. I hated the idea of animals dying for our food. About a year later I thought about it again and didn't think I could any longer justify the eating of dairy, eggs or any other animal products. I didn't think it was our place to use animals in this way and hated the thought of animals suffering. What gives us superiority over animals? If it's our intelligence, aren't we intelligent enough to feel empathy and compassion towards these animals?
I didn't think I'd be able to give up cheese, I was a massive cheese eater. While I've never actually found a substitute that's quite like cheese, I've found it wasn't nearly as hard to give up as I thought. I also worried about giving up milk chocolate, but surprisingly I now much prefer dark chocolate and even find dairy free milk chocolates much too sweet. Eating out was a concern but I have found it is very rare for there not to be a vegan item on the menu, even if it's 'accidentally vegan'. There has also been a massive increase in the number of cafes and restaurants that specifically offer vegan options, even in the short time I've been vegan.
Cooking is one of my favourite things about being vegan. I love experimenting with different foods and creating new combinations. My favourite go-to food blog is 'One Ingredient Chef', which has helped me stay vegan.
While I became vegan for ethical reasons, one of the biggest changes I've noticed is with my health. Before giving up animal products I was tired all the time and getting out of bed was a struggle. I now have a lot more energy and haven't been unwell at all. I don't take any extra vitamins or supplements and since having tests done it turns out I'm not low in anything and actually have high iron levels. My mood has also improved and I am now a lot happier with myself and life in general. I consider veganism one of the most positive changes I've made in my life and love making even a small difference.