Veganism is an art of living which promotes a heathy lifestyle by excluding all forms of exploitation of and cruelty towards animals for food or any other purpose.
Valentine’s Day is recognized as a significant cultural, religious, and commercial celebration of romance and romantic love in many regions around the world. Gift your loved one the growing concept of Vaganism…..explained by Roshni Sethuraman in an interview with www.theearthview.in
1. Who is vegan? Can you please elaborate on this for our readers?
A vegan is an individual who eats a diet, free from animal-based foods such as meat, fish (and other water animals), dairy (milk, yoghurt, butter, paneer, ghee etc.), eggs and honey. The core philosophy of being a vegan is ahimsa and recognising that all animals are sentient beings with the ability to feel pain, form bonds, experience a variety of emotions and it is unfair to use them as a commodity by us. Vegans believe that the lives of animals matter not only from a compassionate perspective but also from the environmental and health stand point. Due to this, many vegans extend this philosophy to their lifestyle by abstaining from using products that contain any animal-derived substances and/or if it causes cruelty to animals such as silk, leather or cosmetics that are tested on animals.
2. What influenced you to adopt a vegan lifestyle?
My journey as a vegan began purely from wanting to regain my failing health. I’ve always been active and used to exercise regularly. I was a vegetarian and considered myself to be healthy. However, in 2009 I started experiencing fatigue, aches and pains in my body. I started experiencing excessive mood swings, borderline hypothyroidism and gained weight that made me very sluggish. Around the same time, I also sustained a knee injury and my active lifestyle came to a grinding halt. It was a painful period emotionally as I had hit a low in my life physically and mentally which continued for 2 years. In 2011, I was done feeling sorry for myself, blaming my health on my genetics and external factors. I decided to take responsibility for my actions and started seeking alternative ways to improve my health. I stumbled upon a book on a raw vegan diet and that was the starting point. I switched my diet, cleaned out my pantry of all the non-vegan as well as processed food and embarked on a food and nutrition journey that healed my body. Since then, there was no looking back.
3. Is it difficult to make a transition to a vegan lifestyle?
For me, the transition to a vegan lifestyle was an exciting one. I used to feel mentally stimulated from gaining knowledge of what foods helped in healing and what foods harmed us. Experimenting with different recipes also creatively inspired me. I was very pleased to see the positive effects that my new food habits were having on my body and health. In an age where vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds are abundantly available plus plant-based alternatives for anything non-vegan are easily accessible, it was not at all difficult to change my lifestyle. I did crave and miss yoghurt initially until I learnt how to make it using almond milk and coconut milk.
The reality is that a vegan lifestyle has an abundance of options and this shift in my focus opened up a plethora of recipes that I had never eaten before. My home turned into a creative space and I became the go-to person for delicious and healthy recipes for my friends and family
4.) Did you notice improvements in your health?
Of course! I regained my energy. I started waking up with freshness rather than the fatigue which I had been experiencing. It also helped me in shedding all the weight that I had gained. My thyroid returned to its normal function. Overall, I felt healthy and well-nourished. The nutrient quotient of my food had improved significantly due to the consumption of plant-based food which helped in healing my knee as well. I resumed running and went on to complete many 10km and 14km runs. I got more than what I was expecting from going vegan.
5) What do you think the most positive result of veganism is?
Raising animals for food requires massive amounts of land, food, energy and water. The by-products of animal agriculture pollute the air and waterways. Switching to a vegan diet reduces your ecological footprint.
For me, apart from the health benefits and increased energy, going plant-based has made me more compassionate towards animals, environment and myself. I am very conscious that we are what we eat, and the body gives you constant feedback on this.
6) What is one thing you wish people would know about being vegan?
Vegans enjoy the same range of food that non-vegans do. They are not deprived in any way. Vegans also enjoy pleasurable eats like chocolates, ice creams, sweets and pizzas. They have alternatives like nut milk, coconut milk, butter derived from olive oil and nuts, soy-based and jackfruit based mock meats, nut-based vegan cheeses, dairy-free ice creams, chocolates, cakes and also Indian sweets!
7) There are lots of rumours that a vegan often does not get nutrients or protein?
If one eats a nutritionally poor diet, be it vegan or non-vegan, one is at risk to be nutrient deficient. When I first transitioned, I put in a lot of effort to educate myself, so I knew what to do and what not to do. I also completed my training in plant-based nutrition and raw vegan foods so that I can help others who want to transition to a plant-based life. Indian cuisine is naturally rich in vegetables and protein from lentils. Additionally, if you include calcium-rich green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, broccoli and nuts and seeds like almonds and sesame seeds, eat a rainbow of colours in the form of vegetables and fruits and consume sufficient calories in a day then it is super easy to be a healthy person with no deficiencies.
8.) Do you think it is possible to be vegan on a budget? It is a common myth that veganism may add an extra cost as the product-related with that is far beyond the budget of a common man.
It is possible to be a vegan within your budget. If you mostly prepare your meals at home, it is easy to keep the cost down and it is also healthier for you. Some products like dairy-free milk and cheese can be more expensive than the dairy ones. However, even these items can be made at home. They are not time consuming and are also pocket-friendly.
Ultimately, being vegan is like an investment in your health for the long term. By taking care of your nutrition now, you are preventing future medical bills.
9.) What is the general reaction people give on you being vegan? Have there been times when it was difficult for you to explain it to someone because they were so against it?
Since I live in Australia, which is pre-dominantly a meat-eating country, my being vegan invites a lot of intrigue and curiosity with questions such as how do you get your daily intake of calcium and protein? A lot of people are already aware of the harmful impacts of meat and dairy and are inspired when they meet me. They are interested to know about the alternatives to non-vegan foods and recipes. Some think that vegans consider themselves to be morally superior and so are already defensive when I engage with them. It does get difficult to explain why I am vegan and the benefits of being vegan to them as they have closed their minds. It is important to keep the communication and dialogue open and not take criticism or ridicule to heart. Apart from my health, I am vegan for the animals and the environment. I am the spokesperson for the voiceless (animals). Getting offended, by making it a clash of the egos and closing the channels of communication when I face criticism are the worst possible things that I can do for this movement. Therefore, it is important to show up with compassion and keep the dialogue open.
10) What is the reaction of people in India on your advocacy of veganism?
In India, people have thrived on a vegetarian diet for centuries and the transition to a vegan diet is not that big a leap. People who know me are at first surprised at my choice of becoming vegan as they consider a vegetarian diet to be healthy already. After that, they are curious and ask extremely pertinent questions concerning the health benefits, time for meal preparations, alternatives, cost and how the other family members like the food. What I found is that they are interested in being healthy and are moved by cruelty to animals.
In my experience, people are inspired by continuous and sustained actions that give results. My friends and family can see that in me and some have gone vegan, and many have started making more and more vegan choices. Every person that goes vegan is a role model for someone else.
11. What would you like the masses to know about the animals and the kind of suffering they face being part of animal agriculture?
Animals are not commodities and their purpose on this earth is not for our use. It is undeniable that they suffer intensely and feel the pain being part of the “supply chain” of animal agriculture. You only need to watch some of the footages of the slaughterhouses to understand this. However, we’ve normalised their suffering and have become immune to their plight. At one-point racism and slavery were accepted as normal but now we are appalled by that history. By using animals in this manner, we are subscribing to the idea of speciesism, a misguided belief that one species is more important than another. Why harm animals when it is possible to get all your needs from a plant-based lifestyle.
12. Do you think there will ever be a time when our society will accept this concept and the majority of people going vegan?
Since I became vegan in 2011, a large number of vegan businesses have cropped up from food products, vegan restaurants & cafes, clothes, shoes and accessories made from Pinatex (a form of plant-based leather made from pineapple leaf fibre) as well as vegan cars by Tesla and luxury car brands. People have started acknowledging animal agriculture as a major contributor to climate change. They also understand the health benefits of going plant-based diet. People are more aware now. Veganism is not a short-term trend. It is going mainstream and will only grow further from here.
About Roshni Sethuraman
Roshni Sethuraman is a certified plant-based nutritionist and a vegan health coach. She runs workshops on vegan food preparations for groups and one-on-one health consultations. Roshni has been a writer for the Australian Vegan Magazine and has modelled for vegan products.
She also has a full-time career as an IT professional. To unwind, she likes singing, long coastal treks, swimming in the ocean and traveling.