Why aren’t more students Vegan?

We all love a bit of sausage

The stigma surrounding veganism, especially at university where girls and guys alike love a bit of sausage, is explored from the point of view of a vegan student and her experiences, aiming to debunk myths about an animal-free lifestyle. 

The growing popularity of veganism, the abstinence from all animal products whether or not the animal remains alive, has been hailed as one of the healthiest (and most environmentally friendly) ways to live if you’re doing it right. At uni, where money is tight, meals are simple, and judgement runs high (“bacon is love. bacon is life”) is it worth the faff following such a strict diet?

If you’re anything like me, considering veganism (or at least vegetarianism) has crossed our minds every time we see a picture of Jared Leto. Don’t we all want to look that fabulously youthful at 43, while our peers are going through a mid-life crisis? And apparently the secret is all down to staying away from animal produce.

I had a brief twelve-hour stint experiencing the vegan lifestyle myself, and then someone offered me a Babybel which brought that chapter of my life to a close… however I’ve collected the experiences of Julia and Hasini, students with considerably more willpower than me, to find out about their experiences as a vegan.

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How long have you been a vegan?

Julia: Three years

Hasini: January 1st 2015, but it was a transition for a year prior to that

Did you find it difficult at first? How would you advise people considering veganism to ease themselves into it?

Julia: I wouldn’t use the word difficult, I’d probably just say that it was a huge learning curve, so my advice would be to, first of all, do extensive research on nutrition and the ethical aspects of this lifestyle (I believe this is the best way of preventing yourself from ‘falling off the wagon’), and then learn some cheap and easy recipes to stick with.

Hasini: I think the first step is to be conscious of what you’re eating. So to look at the ingredients of each food item you eat, and notice whether or not it has animal products in it. The more conscious you become about what is in your food, the more you’ll connect that food item with your ethical position.

How did you find being a minority (with regards to food) in your friendship group?

Julia: It doesn’t bother me since I know that it’s the right thing to do.

Hasini: It depends on your company. Some friends are incredibly supportive, others don’t understand. I think being judged was the most difficult thing, but I stayed strong, and when asked questions about it I’d answer and keep in mind why I was making my lifestyle choice.

How much does veganism affect your eating out?

Julia: This really depends on the location. For example, London is great for vegans in this sense as it has numerous vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants and cafes, and the likes of Southampton doesn’t. Having said that, I am generally not a huge fan of eating out anyway so I don’t really see it as an issue.

Hasini: It’s made it better. Now that me and my friends go to vegan/vegetarian restaurants we’ve discovered hidden vegan gems! If I wasn’t vegan, then we wouldn’t have ever thought of going to places like Tibits, Vanya or Nama.

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Hasini (second from left), in the Southampton Kandyan & Bharata Natyam Society

How does being a vegan affect your bank balance?

Julia: It’s cheaper than a vegetarian diet and definitely cheaper than an omnivorous one.

Hasini: I have more money! I noticed a big change when I went from eating animals to being vegetarian. Animal meat is expensive. I’ve also noticed that I buy a lot less junk food – i.e. chocolate, cake etc. which also means I save money. It’s great!

What do you feel are the main benefits of veganism?

Julia: Not contributing towards animal cruelty through my lifestyle choices, it’s healthy and it’s an ecologically sound lifestyle.

Hasini: I’m healthier. I cook more, so I am conscious of what I am putting into myself. People always ask me ‘oh, how do you get your protein?!’, like protein is only found in animal meat… WHICH IS RIDICULOUS! The herbivorous animals that humans consume get protein from plants, just like we can! So I actually eat a far more balanced diet now than I did before, because I am aware that I need complex carbohydrates, protein, fat, fibre etc.

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Is it easier to be a vegan in the UK or abroad?

Julia: I would say that this depends on how much you want to eat out as some countries are more vegan friendly than others. I tend to stick with a whole foods diet, thus I tend to eat more at home and most supermarkets have fresh fruit and veggies so for me personally it’s more or less the same.

Hasini: It is easy to be vegan anywhere. If you learn to cook there’s not a problem. However, if you like eating out London is a very easy place to be vegan. I currently live in Bulgaria and being vegan whilst socialising at restaurants is very difficult here since they even put ham in some sauces!

Where were the best vegan hotspots in Southampton?

Julia: Rice Up Wholefoods grocery shop, The Art House Cafe. The Rockstone serves good vegan burgers and other vegan friendly options (remember to mention to leave the cheese out).

Hasini: The Art House, Bridge Bar, Bar 3 (you know the diner place)

Are there any spots on campus (Bridge Bar, Stags) that are vegan-friendly?

Julia: Bridge Bar has some options like The Warm Seasonal Salad and The Bridge Salad, not a lot though.

Hasini: Yes! Bridge Bar, Bar 3, The Cafe

Which food did you miss the most? Do you still miss it?

Julia: I don’t really miss anything, there are vegan options for any imaginable animal derived products and meats but I never tend to buy them. When I first transitioned to veganism it was mayo but I don’t even buy the vegan option anymore since my eating habits have changed so much.

Hasini: Milka and Lindt chocolate.

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What are some simple, cheap dishes you can recommend?

Julia: Creamy butternut squash/broccoli/cauliflower soups, lentil dahl, stews, pasta, smoothies, burritos, fajitas.

Hasini: Mushroom, Pepper and Chick-pea curry (use coconut milk) it’s amazing!

Are there any vegan sites in particular that could help a student become, or maintain, a vegan lifestyle?

Julia: YouTube has tonnes of vegan vloggers that offer nutritional advice, advice on how to transition to veganism, cheap and easy recipes, etc. All you have to do is to Google it, there’s plenty of information out there. I mainly used YouTube and read books such as The China Study and Starch Solution, but again the general summary of both of these books can be found on the internet without even having to read them.

Hasini: Instagrams, such as @thehappyvegangirl, @dateswithlove, @the_vegan_goddess and @badassvegan

The lifestyle you choose is up to you: couch potato, gym rat, vegan or meat-eater, but if you’re considering cutting out animal products for whatever reason, don’t be intimidated by the stigma surrounding the difficulty of a vegan diet. If you can get up for your 9am on a Thursday after Ocies, you can do this too.