Is it vegan?

Changing old habits is always hard, and taking the step towards becoming vegan is no different. It’s hard to know what to cook instead of your old favorite dishes, which cosmetics are animal-friendly, or which fabrics you should avoid when buying clothes. Finding the vegan alternatives in the jungle of products is confusing and might seem overwhelming. On top of that people around you are most likely questioning your decision.

All in all, becoming vegan is not easy. But it’s worth it – for the animals, the environment and your own health – and there is a lot of information out there to help you on your way. Here in Finland we have a great website that lists most of the vegan foods sold in normal grocery stores (click the picture to get to the website):

Vegaanituotteet

Apart from listings of most of the vegan foods, the website also contains different lists that can help you as a new vegan (or even as a long time vegan!), such as a list of animal-friendly cosmetics, and lists of non-vegan E-numbers and ingredients. The website is kept up by an individual person so it’s of course not perfect and all available vegan products are not necessarily mentioned. For example, the website doesn’t contain products sold in organic food stores or other specialized stores. However, it is still incredibly helpful for anyone living in or visiting Finland, not only for you as a vegan but also for your families and friends. Giving them this link might help them to know what to buy when they want to treat you for a meal or a coffee, but they are unsure what you will eat.

The website is of course in Finnish, but there is a short summary in English under the link “In English”.

Do other countries have any similar website? It would be interesting to know!

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Four years vegan

Today is World Vegan day.

It also happens to be my fourth year as a vegan. I didn’t know about the World Vegan Day back in 2008, so the choice of date was a complete coincidence (but an interesting one). I had already eaten mainly vegan food for some time before the 1st of November; in school I had changed my diet to a completely vegan one and at home I had exchanged products containing dairy and eggs into vegan alternatives. On October 31, however, there was a school party to which you had to order your meals long time before, which in my case was a lacto-ovo-vegeterian one. It didn’t feel great to eat that meal after mainly eating only vegan, but I made a decision: That would be my last meal containing dairy and eggs, the day after I would go vegan – all the way.

How I became a vegan

My road to becoming a vegan started in 2004. I was 14 years old and had started to learn about how the animals we eat end up on our plates. I felt disgusted by the fact that what was on my plate once had been a living being, and I decided never to eat animals again. I did not take it up for discussion with my parents at that point, I was just too scared to tell them, straight to their face: “I’m going to become a vegetarian”, so I just stopped eating meat until they got the point and we started buying vegetarian alternatives for me instead. It was never a problem with them, they never told me I couldn’t become a vegetarian, they just accepted that it was my decision and supported me in that, helping me find and cook new types of food. I love them for that.

I didn’t go completely vegetarian at first though, for a while I still ate fish. It took me some time to realize that fish are able to feel the pain inflicted to them just as any other living being, that the only difference is that we can not hear them scream. Eating them would be just as wrong as eating pigs or chickens. It took maybe a year before I also took out the fish out of my diet.

I stopped using animal products also in my clothing at the same time I stopped eating meat, it just felt like a natural thing to do. Why should I continue wearing someone elses skin if I was opposed to eating their flesh? I also started to look for non-animal tested cosmetics at this time.

I remember that at some point told my brother that I will never go vegan, that I don’t understand why you would do that because “you don’t need to kill anyone to get milk or eggs”. I didn’t realize then that it was about more than just the actual killing, that animals in any production suffer a great deal. I didn’t realize, like so many others, that cows need to give birth to calves to be able to give milk, and things similar to that.

With time I also learned more about the living conditions of all type of farmed animals; I watched documentaries, read books and magazines, read discussions in different forums, and I became more and more convinced that veganism was the right way to go. In fact, it was the only way to go. After this realization it still took me some time before I actually stopped eating eggs and dairy products completely. I changed my diet in school into a completely vegan one, and at home I ate more vegan food than before, but I planned to not become completely vegan before I moved away from home.

I couldn’t wait that long though. It didn’t feel right to keep on eating something I knew was wrong and unethical. So I became a vegan in october 2008, and around the same time I discovered the local animal rights group, and joined them. I haven’t even once felt regret, taking that step, going on this journey, is probably the best thing I have ever done. It has given me so much, I have explored to many new flavors, met so many amazing people, become more compassionate in other parts of my life and developed a much stronger personality, and I would not have achieved those things if I wouldn’t have taken that step eight years ago.