Considering Veganuary? Sean O’Callaghan, author of Fat Gay Vegan: Eat, Drink and Live Like You Give a Sh!t (Nourish, £8.99), is a blogger and vegan events organiser who could help you out, but is likely to slap you with a slab of wet tofu if you’re in it to lose weight.
New year, new you. What are your top tips to new vegans to make it beyond January?
My number one tip for anyone looking to stay with a vegan lifestyle is to come to an understanding of why you want to be vegan. Once you have an ethical understanding of how your choices can improve outcomes for non-human animals, it becomes a lot easier to live as a vegan.
Vegans are often perceived to be smug – how come you’re not?
I think the perception of the smug vegan is quickly disappearing as vegan lifestyles and plant-based foods become more widely accepted. The idea we were smug was due to the idea that it was a strange or difficult way to live and that anyone who made that choice must think they are pretty special. Now that the general public is getting more familiar with vegans and what we stand for, they are seeing we are not smug at all!
Do vegans tend to fall down in remembering that our social responsibilities should extend beyond animal welfare?
I think vegans can become single-minded about veganism and the role it plays in lessening the suffering of animals and this can sometimes come at the expense of the attention we spare to other social justice causes. Thankfully there are wonderful groups such as Food Empowerment Project in the US, Made in Hackney from London and Growing Together Levenshulme that are working to broaden the vegan communities’ approach to compassionate causes so our caring reaches beyond simply caring for animals.
How do you reconcile the desire for a vegan society with the future of the farming industry, which so many people rely on for their livelihood?
Large-scale animal commodification systems have historically been worker-unfriendly, with poor wages, unsafe working conditions and loss of job security due to the modernisation of equipment replacing manual labour. I think we need to work hard at replacing these exploitative industries and practices, not only to address animal suffering but also to end the exploitation of workers within them. I don’t think we should replace mechanised abattoirs with mechanised seitan factories!
Do you think we need to move away from the divisive “all or nothing” or “us and them” conversations that often lead meat eaters to reach for a Big Mac rather than consider even cutting down on meat, and leaves vegetarians or pescatarians feeling inadequate?
I don’t think all or nothing conversations lead meat eaters to reach for a Big Mac – I think market domination, subsidised food practices and big budget advertising force people to reach for Big Macs! We can still be all or nothing when it comes to veganism but make sure what we are replacing Big Macs with is accessible, affordable and non-exploitative.
Is it a mistake to assume veganism is a healthy diet or a good way to lose weight?
Yes, because veganism is not a diet. It is a broad lifestyle choice that works to lessen dependency on non-human animals and animal by-products. As I say in my book, try to tell a vegan their choices are a diet and we might very well slap you with a wet slab of tofu!
How do you know if someone is vegan?
You find out by having a respectful and open-minded conversation with them about it!