Sunday 21 January 2018

Did I Force My Fiance to Become Vegan?

A question I'm asked pretty regularly is "I want to go vegan, but my significant other doesn't can that work?" This is an interesting question and one I like to try and answer. One thing I hear more often, and like to hear a lot less is "Hey Laura, you forced Tanbay to become vegan right - it was your idea, right?" Like I'm some kind of crazy, controlling psycho (I totally am, but it's irrelevant. Assuming that I 'wear the trousers' is totally sexist towards both me and Tanbay. Stop already. Anyway, this blog post is all about my personal experience with forcing your partner to become vegan, and my advice to couples where only one of you is vegan (or trying to be vegan).

Did I Force My Fiancé to Become Vegan: My Story

In my blog post how travel made me vegan, I talk about my journey and how it took me six months to finally, officially take the plunge. My fiancé, Tanbay, was with me every step of the way - literally. We travel and work together, and barring a short period last year where we went separately to visit family, we haven't spent a night apart in over four years. When I initially thought about being vegan, he was the first (and only) person I told, but still, I also specifically told him that that didn't mean he had to be vegan too. His response? "Okay, cool". Tanbay is very chill. (He's also really into tai chi, buying Litecoin and skateboarding at the moment.)

Of course, there was a hitch - I do all of the cooking*, and if I was going to become vegan, I wasn't going to be cooking him non-vegan food. I told him that he could eat whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, but I wasn't going to cook non-vegan food. His response? "Okkaay, cool". *(not that you care, but I do all the cooking because I like doing it and he doesn't. He does all the shopping and cleaning. Because we're equal.)

I started off 100% vegetarian and started trying to be vegan. Tanbay went through all of the steps with me: he tried raw tofu (lol don't do it, it may look like cheese but it's really not). He threw away said tofu with me. He came with me on a vegetarian walking tour and to a bunch of vegan restaurants. He discovered his love of meat burgers could easily be transferred to a love of plant-based burgers. Then one night we got super drunk, and I messed up and ate a kebab. In the morning I forced myself to watch Earthlings.  At the time, we were making daily YouTube videos together, and so Tanbay decided to watch it with me, record our reactions and make a video that would go on to get 10K views:

(the 10K views isn't relevant, I'm just showing off.) His response, while not as visceral as mine, nor as weepy (lol), was still positive, or negative. Whichever way you want to look at it, the point is he also never ate meat after watching that. His choice to watch it, his decision never to eat meat again, ergo, not forced. Yes.

But we were still very much vegetarians, not proper vegans. We went in and out of it, but it depended on where we were and what we were doing. And whilst I (complete and utter cheese addict) was doing my best to give up cheese, he didn't really see what the cruelty problem with cheese was, so was still eating it. Which is ironic, because out of the two of us, it was far easier for him to take it or leave it. He doesn't even really like cheese.

Anyway, I finally made the big 'leap' in November 16, and went all vegan. Tanbay just kind of went along, but there was one time when I was sneakily eating cheese (addict), and he was like "why are you doing that?" So in the end, it was Tanbay forcing me to be vegan ;). Not really, but the point is, he went fully on board.

It's definitely kind of 'good' circumstances, I think if Tanbay cooked for himself then he would have taken longer to become vegan, but he would have gotten there eventually. As I'm sure you can tell by now, I really reject people saying I forced him into it because it's not true. And it's sexist. Anyway, let's look at how he now feels about some of the specific parts of veganism:

  • Meat, fish, leather, testing on animals: 100% nos after watching Earthlings
  • Dairy: on the whole, views it as fattening and unnecessary, but specifically:
    • Milk: much prefers coconut milk, freaked out by the fact there's pus in cow milk
    • Cheese: was never a fan of, to him, it doesn't taste good
    • Chocolate/Nutella: big fan of, but loves vegan chocolate and chocolate spread just as much
    • Yoghurt: misses, specifically Müller, but still sees it as something that doesn't serve him. (Someone remind me to get that boy some vegan yoghurts)
    • Ice cream: loves coconut ice cream and vegan Ben and Jerry's, but again sees all ice cream as fattening
    • Eggs: never an egg fan, in his own words "I never ate eggs anyway until I came to England and you forced me to" lol. He especially hated the yellow bit of the egg
    • Honey: never liked honey because "it's hard to spread"

Ultimately, Tanbay says that the way non-vegan foods are produced is unethical and there's no need for them anymore. Whenever we go out with people and the unavoidable "why are you vegan" question comes up, I normally go off on a ramble about dead dogs and pus in milk and ask if they'd kill a pig in the wild and make everyone feel horribly uncomfortable. Tanbay on the other hand always handles it much better, his favourite thing to say is this:

"Over 56 billion farm animals are slaughtered every year (around 4500 per second, right now, too) - if we can feed and water 56 billion animals, why can't we feed and water 7 billion people"

Which is an excellent point. And one that's just logical and not really attacking anyone. To Tanbay, things are very black and white. He likes an easy life, and he's happy with the ethics that ultimately we found together. I do think that having very similar morals and goals has always been a key part of our almost 12-year long relationship. Which brings me on to my next point:

Can a Vegan Stay With a Partner Who Isn't Vegan?

I want to start by saying, I'm super grateful Tanbay is now vegan. Because although I said right at the beginning it was something I was doing and he didn't have to, that's definitely changed now. Being vegan is a big part of my personality and something I don't STFU about ever.

I think, in a parallel world where we weren't together, I would now never ever date someone who wasn't vegan - it's like saying I'd never date someone who is racist or abusive or stupid or  heartless or homophobic or transphobic or claps when the plane lands... basically these are basic morals for me (especially the last one), and I can't imagine myself loving (or even sleeping with) someone who was cruel or evil. But I can totally understand that love isn't so black and white, and really if Tanbay started clapping at the end of flights I'd still find a way to love him. Maybe.

UPDATE: due to some polyamorous updates in our lives I've had to re-read this statement, laugh at myself and update it: Nowadays I could defo be with a partner who wasn't vegan, as long as they respect my decision to be vegan (aka don't secretly put meat in my meals or dairy in my hair or whatever).

So what do you do if you want to become vegan and your partner doesn't? Of course, you can still love someone who's not vegan. And that extends beyond life partners, to your family and friends too. Yey. This is a big question though, and I feel the answer is unique to every couple and every type of vegan -  you certainly can be vegan and still cook meat, I personally wouldn't, but I wouldn't judge anyone that does.

One thing I will say though, if your partner doesn't respect your decision to be vegan, or respect your choice to no longer want to do certain things (like visit a steakhouse), then that's not cool. I'm not judging, I appreciate you know your relationship better than I do, but I'm looking out for you and your well-being dear stranger whose reading my rambly blog.

Tips for People Who Want to Persuade Their Partner to Be Vegan.

#1. Try to get them to understand why you're vegan in the first place

Something that's obviously easier said than done... and if getting people to understand why I was vegan immediately led to them becoming vegan, my life would be so much easier. BUT, here are my suggestions for you: ask them to watch Earthlings, or visit a dairy farm, or try vegan food for a week. I do ultimately feel that the only person who can force you to become vegan is you yourself, but I also think that you only get there with helpful kind pushes from other people. Different things push different people over the edge, both Tanbay and I initially gave up dairy because of vanity - I wanted to get rid of my acne, he wanted to get a six-pack. Find what works!!

There are a tonne of pros to being vegan, you know what makes your partner tick, find the best one and hit them where it hurts - maybe it's health, maybe it's the environment, maybe it's a love of animals. If they're a singer, tell them about how dairy isn't great for your vocal chords (a well known, non-biased vegan fact); if they're into spots tell them how many athletes are vegan, like this guy: 

Patrik Baboumian, all muscle, all vegan. Reiterate, that you simply can't love animals if you contribute to their torture/death. And that you can't be ethical if you're not vegan (though you still can be vegan and not ethical, that's fine). Ditto with being environmental.

#2. Take Baby Steps & Be Patient

Okay, so they're not going to go vegan with you overnight, and you don't expect them to. But what about little baby steps? Will they switch from cow milk to almond milk in their cereal or Oatly in their tea (some people prefer it).

#3. Don't go for fake meats and cheeses though

On that note, I actually don't recommend going for fake meats and cheeses,  at least not straight away. I feel like this was a mistake I made when I first tried to become vegan - by replacing some foods I loved with foods that mimic it but just aren't the same... (although apparently Beyond Meat is working on this)

#4. Perfect your cooking skills

I also don't recommend taking your favourite recipes and just taking out the meat/dairy/fish aspect - another mistake I made. It just makes for bland cooking where you know something is lacking. I really recommend starting new - start cooking with lentils and tofu and find an amazing recipe that you love, then show your significant other. Indian and Thai food are great meals to cook - they're easy and they're so flavourful in their own right. Three specific recipes I recommend are:

  • lentil bolognese - very filling, very home comforting and I've had meat eaters tell me they prefer it to actual meat :O (I've also had meat eaters tell me it's missing meat, but hey you win some you lose some).
  • this chickpea and aubergine curry is something I absolutely loved even before I was vegan, I didn't actually even realise it was vegan until I checked. Nothing lacking there.
  • I also love Vegan Tom Yum Soup - it was my favourite meal as a carnist, but now I've got this vegan version which I can biased-ly say I prefer.

Some people will make a meal, but not tell their significant other it's vegan until the end of the meal. I'm not sure if that's the best thing to do trust wise, but if it works it works!

#5. Ask them to try vegan restaurants

But maybe you're not the world's best cook, I know I'm not. Why not take your significant other to a vegan restaurant and ask them to try out some yummy dishes? If they're reluctant to try, get them to go as a favour for you on your birthday, or when they've done something shitty. If they still won't budge, go out to a non-vegan restaurant, let them order all the meat and cheese they like, whilst you order your vegan stuff. When your meals come, ask them to pleasssee try what you're trying. Baby steps!

Wrap Up: Did I Force My Fiancé to Become Vegan?

As usual, I don't have all the answers, but I appreciate your questions - keep them coming! Ultimately, I think it's totally dependent on you and your significant other, each couple is unique and needs different things. Let me know how you get on! We got on just fine, as you can see:

P.S.: If you're interested in an app designed for vegans & wanna support the vegan movement and us, veganvstravel as well, use this link plz to download Abillionveg. When registering, please use our referral code: TRAVELLINGWEASELS. If you wanna know why we think this is a great app, read here.

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