Going meatless may be daunting for some but that’s usually a result of a lack of thorough understanding and information
In a meat-loving nation such as ours, the idea of going vegan or meatless seems like a tall order.
Giving up dishes like adobo, lechon, or crispy pata feels unnecessary, especially if biting into a piece of meat feels so satisfying. Thus, it’s no surprise that vegans are often misunderstood, and there are snap judgments about the so-called vegan diet being too limited and restrictive.
But for vegans, it’s more than swearing off animal-based food; it is embarking on a new lifestyle. According to The Vegan Society, “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.”
“I learned more about animal rights and how animal agriculture also affected the environment,” says Jaq Abergas, founder of Vegans of Manila, on how she became vegan. “I gave up animal products one by one, starting with red meat, dairy, then white meat, seafood, and eggs. In eight months, I went from vegetarian to vegan.”
For Richgail “RG” Enriquez, creator of Astig Vegan, it was a nutrition class in college that made her more aware of what she was putting in her body. “Eventually, I’ve incorporated more vegetables in my food,” she recalls. “One day, I naturally felt bad eating meat and didn’t feel comfortable eating it anymore.”
Through Vegans of Manila and Astig Vegan, Abergas and Enriquez seek to increase awareness about the lifestyle, especially to the Filipino audience.
“Filipinos definitely find it challenging, especially since it’s been ingrained in our minds that eating meat is the norm,” Abergas says. “A lot of them still resist and refuse to try even a bite of vegan food. But every day there are more and more Filipinos who learn to become more open to exploring vegan food and veganism.”
“Compared to other cultures like Indian or Thai, Filipino food is very meat-heavy,” explains San-Francisco based Enriquez. “Veganizing Filipino food is a welcome challenge that I love. In fact, I was never into cooking until I became vegan.”
Veganism can indeed be a challenge, especially for those new to the lifestyle. Not everyone is fully informed about what it takes to be vegan, and they end up not doing it properly. Here are some common misconceptions:
Sticking to just one dish
“Some new vegans might just stick to one dish or a few dishes then later on feel deprived or weak,” says Enriquez. “New vegans should eat an array of varied vegan dishes to be healthy and satisfied.”
Vegan is expensive
“If you stick to whole foods and unprocessed vegan dishes, it’s easy to create vegan dishes at P10 to 15/rice meal,” says Abergas. “The reason it gets expensive is when vegans buy processed food, imported ingredients, or certain ingredients for their food restrictions.”
Being pressured to be 100 percent vegan
“Vegans have committed themselves to living a life that doesn’t intentionally harm animals,” Abergas says. “Besides food, this also includes not using any product that was made with material from an animal or tested on an anima… but there is no such thing as a 100 percent vegan, unless you live in the forest and never move,” Abergas clarifies. “There are a lot of things that all people use that are made from animals or their by-products, like the road we walk on or the tires on the vehicles we ride. There is no such thing as a 100 percent vegan but it doesn’t stop vegans from creating the least harm on any creature.”
When they eat something made with an animal product, they can never be vegan anymore
“Some new vegans get mad at themselves because they accidentally ate something that was cooked with dairy or meat or any other animal product,” Abergas says. “And I tell them it’s an accident.”
“Progress not perfection,” Enriquez says. “They shouldn’t beat themselves up for not knowing everything right away.”
Research goes a long way in becoming vegan. It can help you avoid common pitfalls and myths that newbie vegans might encounter. “Always try to learn something new about veganism every day,” Abergas says. “There’s so much to know and it’s impossible to know everything all at once. So always read up, always research, always learn.”