The change was as sudden as it was unexpected.
Walking through a dairy farm for a story on milk production, I stumbled across a large herd of day-old calves, torn from their mothers and put in a separate pen where they mooed pathetically liked their mothers across the way.
“We give them the first day together but then they’re removed so that they don’t drink the milk,” the farmer told me.
“They scream for each other for a few days, but you soon get used to the sound.”
I drove home in tears and switched to soy products immediately. I don’t know that I’ve ever recovered from what I saw, or what I heard that day.
Although I stopped eating beef for a long period after that, I eventually went back. But then I read a wonderful book titled The Secret Life of Cows by UK farmer Rosamund Young and discovered cows form life-long friendships (most have a best mate within their herd), babysit each other’s calves and enjoy hobbies as varied as their unique personalities.
"They scream for each other for a few days, but you soon get used to the sound."
The next time I went to eat beef, Young’s words echoed in my mind and I simply couldn’t go through with it. Somewhere between pages one and 136, cows (and as I soon discovered, every other animal) had gone from packaged goods at the supermarket to joyful souls with families, friends and final hours filled with absolute terror.
Changes were clearly going to have to be made.
I don’t know if there was any kind of rational decision-making in changing my diet, I simply let my feelings lead the way. As weeks progressed, I noticed the items that made it to my shopping trolley were mostly fresh fruits and vegetables, pulses and nuts.
Some products were better than others. While I couldn’t get enough of the roast vegetable burger patties from Harris Farm, other vegan items such as soy “cheese” and vegan “sausages” painted my whole world black and I yearned for the old days before I was any wiser about the lives our animal friends lead.
Dinners out became strained as I endlessly searched menus not for something I desired, but something I could eat.
Although my skin glowed and I felt happier about the food I was ingesting, I also quickly realised becoming a vegan when you live in a household of four is not particularly easy.
Dinners out became strained as I endlessly searched menus not for something I desired, but something I could eat, and nightly cooking became a lengthy chore as I had to cook a separate meal for myself most evenings.
As for telling my Turkish parents I wasn’t going to be eating any of the delicious bôreks and çôreks they take great delight in baking for me? I’d be better off telling them I’d left my career in journalism to work on the streets as a sex worker.
Once again, I could see changes were needed.
Today, I’ve found a balance that works well for both me and my family: Throughout the day while I’m alone working and most evenings, I eat what you would class as a vegan diet, free of meat and dairy products.
Other days (predominantly when I go out for dinner, visit my parents, attend work functions or I’m just too darn tired to make a different meal), I relax my stance if my conscience allows me to (sometimes it doesn’t).
I don’t know if there’s any label I can put on this way of eating. It certainly isn’t true veganism and it isn’t vegetarianism. The only thing I can call it is an instinct-led diet that’s as kind as I can be.
It isn’t perfect and it’s far from where I hope to be (100 per cent vegan), but it’s what works for me.