Renāte – Everyday Vegans
Renāte works as a Sales & Marketing Manager and studies photography. She is married with 3 (adult) step-kids and at the age of 35 has been vegan for almost a year following a long journey through various vegetarian diets. We caught up with Renāte to hear her story and get some great tips on transitioning to a vegan diet. She’s one of our ‘everyday vegans’.
Why are you vegan?
Short answer– I don`t believe I have the right to torture and kill animals, nor would I ever want to do such thing. I don`t think anyone wants to hurt animals, we have just been brainwashed and conditioned to do so.
Long answer– My journey to veganism has been long and winding. Like many vegans I wish I had reached the destination sooner and without some of the “detours”.
I think it all started when I was a young child. My family used to spend a lot of time on a farm owned by distant relatives. They had lots of different animals- cows, sheep, horses, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats etc. I was friends with all of them and would spend countless hours playing with them, talking to them, bringing them some tasty greens from the garden..
One day I saw one of my friends cut in half and nailed to a wooden door. It was one of the pigs. I was probably not even 10 at that stage and the sight shocked and upset me very deeply as you can imagine. Things got worse- I was expected to eat my friend for dinner.. I refused, of course, but it didn’t change things for me long term at that stage. Coming from a cultural background where everyone ate whatever they were served, there was no option to be “picky” and you just had to accept that life was cruel, animals ate animals and people ate animals too.
When I was 16, I read an article about live animal transport, it brought back painful memories of my slaughtered friend, but it also made me realise that many animals had to suffer even more, so much more. I turned vegetarian pretty much on the spot. My mother didn’t take it seriously at first, then tried to force me to eat meat, but finally gave in as I would just skip meals otherwise.
I was a vegetarian for 5 years, pescatarian for another 5 and then even started eating free-range chicken as a compromise after I first met my husband. It is painful to admit to “going backwards” like that. I guess the reasons were a combination of a lack of knowledge in nutrition which lead to deficiencies and cravings, influence from people around me and perhaps even some of the marketing by the industry (ads showing free range chickens having such a fantastic life dancing around in green paddocks and that sort of thing).
Things finally changed last year. I was travelling to Europe and had ordered diabetic meals for my flights (I am not diabetic, just have a lot of diabetes in the family and a high risk of developing it myself, so I try to avoid sugar). I got served chicken twice and I knew quite well these would have been cage chickens. The thought of the poor birds in cages broke my heart, I couldn’t eat the meals. I also started thinking about whether free range was that much different, after all they all ended up on somebody`s plate. And fish as well, how come I hadn’t eaten beef or pork or lamb in 18 years, but thought it was OK to eat fish? How and why were they less deserving to live?
After coming home I started educating myself about the animal industry, and realised I had been very naïve not only in regards to thinking free range birds had happy lives, but also thinking that eggs and dairy were OK, because you didn’t need to hurt or kill any animals in the process. Nothing could be further from the truth!
I transitioned to veganism within about a month which was only difficult because of the resistance that came from my husband, he is still learning to accept it, but I must say he has come a long way and even enjoys many of my vegan recipes now.
What interactions, both positive and negative, have you experienced that you would attribute to your vegan lifestyle?
I have received a lot of negative, ignorant and also rude comments from even very nice people, including my husband, but I have also received very positive comments too. A lot of people say to me “wow, it is fantastic you are vegan, I`d love to be too, but I could never do that”, my response to this is “that`s what I used to think, and now I think it is super easy”. It is all about challenging and changing our mindsets, that`s all it takes plus a bit of effort to educate ourselves and change our habits.
I think peer pressure and family traditions are one of the things that make it more challenging for many people to go vegan, but there are certainly ways around it. I recently went to an (overseas) family dinner for the first time since going vegan. Looking at the dinner table I realized my aunt had spent the entire day preparing different traditional dishes and none of them were vegan. I had told my aunt about going vegan previously, but she must have forgotten or not quite understood. Normally I would brought some food, but this time the circumstances prevented me from doing this. I ended up drinking tea and cognac and eating strawberries, the tea was fantastic though and so was the cognac!
I knew my aunt had noticed I hadn’t eaten anything and I felt bad because she had put in so much effort and I didn’t want her to think her food wasn`t “good enough” for me. We caught up a few days later and I invited her to a vegan café for lunch. We had a good chat and I had the opportunity to explain myself. My aunt was very understanding. I could also see from her reactions that she hadn’t considered things from this perspective previously and hadn’t known some of the things that I mentioned either. She tried some vegan food, loved it and was surprised how filling it was.
What’s your favorite food?
I love all veggies and fruits, beans, lentils, big fan of mushrooms too. Oh, and tempeh, of course! One of my favorite recipes is rice paper rolls filled with tempeh (cooked with garlic, chilli and tamari), veggies and herbs plus a home-made peanut dipping sauce, yumm
What are your views on raising vegan children?
I haven`t raised any children myself, so I don`t have any experience in this, but I certainly wish my parents had raised me vegan!
What are your top 3 tips for transitioning to veganism?
- Educate yourself in terms of nutrition and health as well as the animal industry, the environmental implications etc
- Take it slow, it can be too overwhelming if you try to make too many changes too quickly. Give your body some time to adjust as well.
- Talk to people who are vegans, join a Facebook group or attend some vegan events. It is a good opportunity to get some advice and support
What animal do you most identify with and why?
I love all animals, especially my cat and dog girls Tiger and Lucy. Having said that, my husband gave me a nickname- Roo- after I moved to Australia, I was just so fascinated by these beautiful animals, I could spend hours observing them!
Do you think it is ever too late to go vegan?
I think it is never too early or too late to start eating healthy and guilt-free.
A Note From The Raise Vegan Staff
Don’t forget to check out the Facebook Group Vegan Eats For Smaller Feet, for some great ideas on easy peasy meal ideas for that amazing plant based family! If you’re looking for other like minded parents, we have the main group, Vegan Pregnancy and Parenting, over thirty thousand parents, all Raising Vegan! From homeschooling, to food and everything in between. We have you covered for every over asked question that may come your way. Check out articles such as Help Explaining Veganism To Children and Dear Birdy: Family Interference & Disagreeing With Vegans.
Raising children vegan is sometime wrought with worries about nutrition, and doubts from outside influences. You are doing an amazing thing for your kids, the planet, and most importantly, the animals. We thank you, we are grateful to you, and we admire you! Keep on rocking vegan parents, we are changing the world together!