A vegan is someone who abstains from eating any animal product. In spite of what some café and hotel chefs think, that means no milk, cheese, fish, eggs nor honey. Veganism is a philosophy that encompasses a vegan diet and a lifestyle of respect for animals. Hence not wearing leather or wool, not using animals as playthings, for entertainment or transport.
I responded to a call for short essays on Why I will always be vegan* for an anthology of that name. My piece was not selected because I refer to diet in a paragraph whereas the editor wanted a near-100% piece on the philosophy of veganism rather than why a plant-based diet is right for me. Fair enough. Even so, my desire to be vegan has come from a idealistic abhorrence of the way most human societies and individuals treat animals. From slavery (rabbits in hutches) to wholesale imprisonment, torture and murder in farms, would we treat other species the same if they could all talk English? I’d like to think not although the way some terrorists / freedom fighters treat their human captives perhaps there’s a latent insane nastiness in humans that sometimes overwhelms the latent good in us.
The following 400 words is the essay I wrote for Why I will always be vegan. Perhaps it is too lightly written. I have a tendency to use graveside humour too much these days.
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When your wellingtons become stuck, sucked down into deep mud and the only feasible extrication before a bull reaches you is to stomp with socks through the field, your mind elevates beyond the mundane. As a teenager I worked on a farm. I found Friesian #582f to be the most curious, while Friesian #411d enjoyed a sense of humour, nudging my back and knocking over buckets. Numbered but each with an individual character.
What a shame we had to eat them. Imagine my shock in Cheltenham library when reading The Ethics of Diet by Howard Williams (1883), I discovered that humans do not need to eat animals to be healthy. My father, engineer by day, illustrator of a science fiction magazine by night, quoted his favourite playwright,
George Bernard Shaw: “Animals are my friends—and I don’t eat my friends.”
From then on, eating animals became the new obscenity and I couldn’t understand why intelligent, free-thinking humans would do it. Until I challenged them. They didn’t want to think about it. Even when I pointed out the only reason for eating meat was for the taste and not the nutrition, many winced and turned away. Even so, I didn’t become vegan overnight. I ate dairy products as a compromise for family, until in a Geography class I found out that 8 million calves were killed each year in Britain so people can drink their milk. Not long afterwards (1973) I joined the Vegan Society.
However, life isn’t straightforward. A keen cyclist I assumed my veganism and activity would assure me a long life. I hadn’t bargained on genetics—in particular, the Nelder love of cake. It astonishes people how many vegan foods are unhealthy: sugar, crisps, some ice-creams, salted peanuts, jam, and much more. I ate healthy stuff too, but too much fat led to damage in endothelial cells furring up my arteries. I popped into A&E last year to enquire if these odd pains in my sternum meant anything. They rushed me to Broad Green, Liverpool where the nice doctors put stents in my coronary artery. They said my cycling and veganism mitigated the damage and has aided my recovery but fat is fat whether it’s vegan or not. It helps that I consume zero cholesterol but the liver makes it when you eat sugar anyway! Thanks to the Caldwell Esselstyn diet, which is vegan and only 10% fat, I now have to be vegan forever to reverse the CHD damage.
That bull, ironically named Butcher, tried to eat my wellingtons and turned out quite friendly afterwards. He was vegan too.
I get asked if there are vegan or vegetarian characters in my books. In general I try not to use my fiction writing as propaganda. It is hard enough to gain respect among readers for my writing style, wayward three-dimensional characters and fascinating plots without trying to force my own lifestyle choices onto the pages. However, now and then it is only natural to include a character with a veggie stand. One example is Jena, the feisty woman astronaut in my ARIA Trilogy.
Another is a short humorous story, Vampire Non Sequitur, in which a vampire makes the mistake of biting, Claire, a vegetarian. This has devastating consequences for both characters. This story is published in Twisted Tails VIII available as a Kindle and edited by J Richard Jacobs
The delightful book cover is from the children’s book, Vegan Love by Ruby Roth
* See the blog on Why I will always be Vegan including purchase links to the ebook already available
I won a Kindle Fire in a writers’ competition to write a pithy book review at Books Go Social here
To grab a copy of one of my ARIA books here are the links
Kindle – Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/ARIA-Left-Luggage-ebook/dp/B008RADGYC/
Publisher’s website with more details and formats.http://www.ll-publications.com/leftluggage.html
Buy it quick before you run out of memory!
You tube video trailer