Written by Rupin Kale
“Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”
This interpretation of veganism, from The Vegan Society, is accepted globally as the best way to define the movement.
One thing that’s certain from the definition is that unlike popular belief, veganism is not just a diet, but a lifestyle. The diet that excludes all animal products is termed to be ‘plant-based’. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s dive deep into veganism in India.
In this blog, we’ll talk mostly about how to make the dietary shift, simply because that’s generally the hardest transition for people to make. However, other aspects like clothing and make-up will also be touched upon.
Here’s a one-stop guide to becoming a vegan in India:
Find your ‘WHY’ power
The one single thing that has helped me tremendously through my vegan journey (over three years now) is the reason behind it. Understanding why you want to go vegan will help you tremendously.
While veganism is primarily about animal rights, some people also choose it for environmental reasons. Others stick to a plant-based diet for health-related reasons.
No point of view is right or wrong in this case. It’s all about why a particular reason works for you. Introspection is key.
After I went vegan, meat and dairy were just not food for me anymore, because I had understood WHY I wanted to push them out of my diet.
Research, read and revisit
The American Dietetic Association says that a vegan diet is appropriate for “all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, and for athletes”.
There is material discussing veganism and plant-based diet all over on the internet today, with more content being published every day. Google/YouTube will help you tremendously while you take your nascent steps into this world.
Here are a few things you can dive into to understand veganism better:
One thing that you need to remember while exploring veganism is that you will find enough evidence both for and against the movement. That’s why it’s extremely important to do your own research and recognize which side makes more sense to you.
I would advise you to track your nutrient intake in the first few weeks of veganism, especially if you are transitioning from non-vegetarianism directly. A very useful tool for this Chronometer, which is compatible with both desktop and smartphones. This will help you recognise the nutrients you need to consume more, and you can then find vegan options for the same.
The nutrient that you need to pay special attention to after you turn vegan is vitamin B12, which you will not get on a plant-based diet. The way to get its recommended amounts is to go for fortified vegan foods or take supplementation. I personally take the Unived B12 and D3 tablets. Do not let this put you off the lifestyle – there are many sources that will help you understand why this vitamin can be a problem for all adults, and not just vegans.
Sharan is a great website for beginners in India. It will help you understand various scientific and social aspects of veganism.
If you feel overwhelmed by the idea of turning vegan, remember that you don’t have to make the transition overnight. Give up foods slowly, pay attention to your body through the process.
Remember not to judge yourself: if you end up eating non-vegan food by mistake, don’t fret over it. Eating vegan on most days is still better than not eating vegan at all.
Understand that most Indian food like daal, rice, curry, and roti are made from mostly vegan ingredients. It’s very easy to veganise Indian food if you decide to give it a shot.
Sometimes, you won’t have a choice and might have to make non-vegan choices. For example, the Uber ride you take regularly be with a car that has leather seats. That’s okay. Do not worry about things you cannot control and try your best at a personal level – that’s most important!
Find out about substitutes
Here are some of the vegan substitutes I can vouch for. There will be hundreds of others. Don’t hesitate to do your own research and find brands that work the best for you.
Meat: Good dot
Leather: PETA approved brands
Make-up: Plum, Body Shop, Biotique, Sugar.
In terms of make-up, try to switch to cruelty-free brands initially. These are companies that do not test their products on animals. After you’ve successfully achieved that, you can focus on turning to vegan brands.
Get in touch with vegans in your city
Veganism can be a lot to take in, early on. You might find many people who dissuade you from this decision, and some might even actively try to stop you.
In such cases, it is important to find like-minded people who will help and support you. Try to find vegans in your city; they’ll guide you to the right places and resources. There are a bunch of veganism-based groups on Facebook. Joining them will give you a sense of community.
Do not give up
The best advice I can give you is to remember that the first two months of veganism are the hardest. Don’t get discouraged. You will soon feel the difference in your body and soul; and if you do it right, you are likely to fall in love with the lifestyle.
Remember: Every substitute might not be readily available in your city and it might take you time to get used to them. Embrace everything. Vegan products will be available in abundance as the demand continues to increase, and that will happen only when more & more people turn decide to give veganism a shot.
Here are a few more sources to help you with the transition
Try vegan SHARAN: https://sharan-india.org/try-vegan/
The Daily Dozen: https://nutritionfacts.org/daily-dozen-challenge/