Why It’s Ok If You Can’t Go Vegan Overnight


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Going vegan is the most significant single positive transformations one can make for the benefit of non-human life, one’s health, and the environment we all share. 

Yet with so many advantages, why is it that some struggle to make their vegan transformation overnight?


Vegans generally have to deal with a lot of inquiries from others. Puzzled looks coupled with questions about lions, teeth-shape, desert-islands, protein, and post-nuclear holocaust suburban living are popular recurring themes from the curious through to the down-right derogatory.

There is though one question that many vegans often have to ponder. And no, it’s not from inquiring colleagues at the works’ pot-luck, asking just how you can get by without “real hot-dogs” (which of course, there are a whole lot of problems with, in many different senses of the word “whole”…), or concerned elderly relatives who want to know why you can’t have the occasional ham sandwich “to get all of your vitamins” as long as you don’t tell anybody?

No, the question in question is actually asked by vegans to themselves:

“Why didn’t I go vegan earlier?”

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As children, our world is dominated by parental and adult sources, influencing and directing us to stay safe, healthy, and how to generally determine right from wrong.

Likewise, we self-learn from our own experiences, what we should and shouldn’t do, and what is good or bad for us. 

I only ever had to fall in the thorn-bush at my parents’ house just the once (well, maybe two or three times) before it sank in that I should avoid playing football in its proximity.

Our parents offer their wisdom, their cautionary tales from experience, and, crucially, more often than not, their standards and cultural norm were handed down to them by their individual parents. 

Add to that external societal norms and cultural influencing, and one sees how the hard-wiring of a young adult as they move into a life of decision-making, responsibility, and societal contribution (or burden) is extensive.

As we become adults, we like to think that we have been well equipped to deal with the realities of the world.

Similarly, as adults, we like to think that we get most of our decisions right. Or at least try and get those decisions right.

However, deep-down in that hard-wiring, some of those decisions are already pre-determined for us by those factors that fed us we grew up.

The vast majority of vegans, including many of you reading this article right now, may have eaten meat and animal products when we were younger.

It was only just the way things were done. Both for adults and children, that was “normal” even though now, we know that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Consequently, making the change to something as fundamentally seismic as going vegan is, for a lot of people, harder than it may first seem and not a simple “wake up the next day vegan” transformation.

That’s because there can be a lot of baggage to overcome what we previously accepted without question.

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When I was a child, my mother and now late father would take us all out for Sunday lunch once or twice a month.

That was when I was in England and often times; we’d go to a restaurant in the nearby picturesque village of Bewdley.

One of Bewdley’s features is that it straddles the River Severn and, unsurprisingly, has a local duck population bobbing about on the river. 

The location is very well spoiled and cooed over by converging tourists. We were no different in that before we ate at the nearby restaurant, we would feed and photograph the ducks.

Half an hour later, as we tucked into our Sunday lunches, my eleven-year-old self had a sudden outburst of self-evident and instrumental innocent logic - the kind that makes adults immediately drop whatever they are doing, run up a white flag and head for the hills.

My father (who I hasten to add I still love very much) had chosen duck from the menu one particular Sunday. Confused, I put it to him: “Dad, why did you feed the ducks earlier, but you’re eating one now?”

Cue lots of adult reddening from the neck up, inter-parental sideways glances and clearing of the throat, all the while why I, oblivious to the cognitive dissonance I had just rained down upon my unsuspecting father, quickly had my attention drawn away by the passing dessert trolley.

Now the vegan point that I, the eleven-year-old non-vegan, had made, I still didn’t think that through to its natural conclusion.

Sure, I was eleven years old at the time. Again, that logical short-circuiting is something I carried on into my adult life as do so many others.

For years afterward, I carried on eating meat, dairy, and eggs. It wasn’t until my thirties that I started to change that. Even then, I went vegetarian in 2004 and didn’t move to veganism until 2012.

So, what do I now, of course, ask myself:

“Why didn’t I go vegan earlier?”

I’m just glad I eventually did.

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Robert the Bruce was a Scottish King of old who had had a bad run of luck fighting his English neighbors to the south.

So much so, that after one defeat, he took refuge in a cave to avoid capture by the marauding English. 

As he waited, he watched a spider try to make its elaborate web.

The spider tried and tried to make a connecting thread to hold the web to the cave wall, and each time it failed and fell.

Undeterred, the spider continued until it managed to attach the web to the wall successfully. 

Inspired by this arachnid display of determination, Robert the Bruce rallied his forces one more time. He was finally victorious over the English in the next battle.

By Otter - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4877345

Moral of the story? First, spiders are cool and do cool stuff? Yes, absolutely! But second, it really is a case of try, try and try again for those trying to make any transformation based on fundamental change.

Likewise for those struggling to make a vegan change overnight, it really is a case of persistence and never losing sight of that ultimate goal.

Often times, we know what the right thing to do is. That nagging voice inside our heads that never really takes a break from pestering us ensures that we make the transformation, sooner or later.

Some, a few, will have the will-power, the resources, and support-structures around them to make the change overnight. And that should be applauded, absolutely. Many, though, will not.

So, better to try something and fail, then not to try at all. The analogies about this are abundant, spiders aside – Rome not built in a day, learning to ride a bike, and so on.

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Veganism is about doing everything that one practically can to reduce animal suffering and exploitation.

Vegans make their day-to-day decisions on that basis.

However, many, if not all vegans, will have had unfortunate moments when they have inadvertently consumed non-vegan food in some way. 

It’s almost an occupational hazard of veganism. So, when those inadvertent slips occur, do vegans wish that hadn’t happened? Of course.

Do they then cry “Failed!” drop everything they ever believed in and head out for a Big Mac? Absolutely not.

Likewise with those trying to go vegan for the first time. There likely will be slips that need to be worked through until vegan awareness and knowledge get stronger and more established.

Ideal? No. To be expected? Likely.

It’s all good.

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In the last two decades, the growth in veganism around the world has really started to accelerate.

By any number of metrics, more and more are rejecting animal exploitation and choosing mercy over misery.

Several factors have contributed to that, most of which I will not linger upon, bar one.

The rise in social media and online vegan support sites, providing ideas, inspiration, recipes, and more, are growing all the time.

If one is trying to go vegan, but falling short, these resources offer a vast support network that twenty years or so ago did not exist. There now to be taken advantage of in full? Oh yes!

Sharing personal experiences, including vegan successes and failures, is a great way to compare notes with others and keep inspiration levels high. 

If you are trying to go vegan, but you haven’t quite got there, don’t give up. Anything worthwhile takes effort, perseverance, and yes, learning from past slips and mistakes. 

Once you make it, your vegan-self will be forever grateful that you hung on in there.


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2 Responses

Beth Foye
Beth Foye

This is so true. And so important for people to remember. Living in an area with little awareness for vegan life, I frequently experience situations where I must choose to either eat food with some dairy in it, or possibly insult my hosts. I choose to eat the food with dairy by taking a small amount. This is my lifestyle choice, not those of my family and friends. To expect them to alter their lives to fit mine would be selfish and alienating. Thank you for this. It affirms my view and approach to coexisting with carnivores!

Bobbie Hayes
Bobbie Hayes

This is so how I feel!! As a child I wanted to not eat meat but coming from a large Irish catholic family, I ate what I was given😿 After having children I wasn’t thinking so much in that direction, just wanted to make sure they were fed! My oldest son went vegetarian before me, I was 40 when I did it! I will say, I’d sooner die then eat another sentient being again!!!! I still struggle a bit with complete Veganism but I won’t give up!!! Thank you for the inspiration 😻

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