Adapting to a Vegan diet sounds incredibly difficult but choosing a meat and dairy-free life is not as tough as it sounds.
Self-confessed ‘cheese freak’, Tamasin MacCarthy Morrogh chose to have her 18th birthday cake made out of brie.
But shortly afterwards she made the decision to cut dairy from her diet – and with it all those wheels creamy of Camembert and blocks of stinky Stilton – by turning vegan.
She’d wanted to be a vegetarian since the age of 14, but growing up in Ireland in the 1980s, her family were somewhat baffled by her stance.
She eventually made the break when she turned 16 – declaring that with the end of her school exams and the coming of adulthood she could make her own choices about what she would and wouldn’t eat.
Fast forward 20 years and her whole family is vegan, including her brother’s daughters and her parents – all of them having embraced and acted upon the concerns Tamasin has shared with them.
Growing up in the countryside, it was the animal rights issues that initially upset her.
“I could hear the animals crying,” she remembers. “And I could see the stress they were going through. I couldn’t understand why humans were still doing this in what was then the 20th century. I wanted to take the killing and the violence out of my life.”
This has remained the key reason behind Tamasin’s lifestyle choice, but other factors like the impact of cattle cultivation on the environment – due to the amount of methane the animals produce – and the socio-economic impact in third world countries are also important to her.
Such a stance also inspired her partner of 15 years, Steven Durrant, to become vegetarian nearly 20 years ago. He has also gradually been turning his diet vegan, a regime he has now strictly followed for five months.
He explains: “In the first place it was to do with the land use issues. If you think about global poverty and starvation, a lot of that is as a result of so much land being used to feed animals rather than humans. So they are using land and grain to raise animals which will be exported, while people in those developing countries are starving.”
Through his relationship with Tamasin, Steve says he has learnt more about the animals, while the Hulme couple are both happy to see ideas about the impact of cattle cultivation on climate change becoming more common knowledge within the public.
Tamasin, an actress and part-time teacher, says: “The shift in the children’s consciousness in the past five to 10 years has been astonishing.
“There’s hardly anyone of them who doesn’t see the connection between meat production and climate change. Forget giving up your car or your flights abroad, the biggest single thing you can do to stop climate change is to stop eating meat.”
Steven has also found people are more welcoming to the idea of vegetarianism today, compared to his experiences a decade ago.
“It was more of a taboo back then,” he says. “When you told people they kind of took it as an attack on them and they’d be a bit sarcastic about it. Now people are more likely to be sympathetic, to say ‘I’m trying to cut down on the amount of meat I eat too’.”
But while awareness is being raised around some of the issues concerning vegetarianism, finance officer Julie Bell believes a lot of ignorance remains around veganism.
Indeed, even she admits she ‘buried her head in the sand’ on the subject until six years ago, despite having given up meat nearly 30 years before.
“I’d convinced myself there was nothing wrong with eating dairy,” the mum-of-two from Wythenshawe admits. “I pushed it to the back of my mind.”
A talk about the dairy process proved the turning point and she became vegan on the spot.
“I used to convince myself they weren’t being killed for me to eat, but the young male calves are shot because they’re useless, so inadvertently I was,” she says.
Although Julie says vegetarian food choices have come a long way since she first turned vegetarian in the seventies – when “disgusting” textured vegetable protein or TVP was the only thing on the market – she still feels a lot more has to be done to take interesting and varied dishes suitable for vegetarians and vegans into cafes and restaurants.
“I’ve just come back from a cruise around Holland, France and Spain,” Julie says.
“I know these aren’t particularly vegetarian friendly countries, but I expected different whilst on board – especially when they knew in advance of my requirements. Instead, I lived on salad and chips for eight days. That’s often what you have to rely on when you eat out.”
However, all three rave about the choice of products now available in the supermarkets to help make going vegan as easy and pain-free as possible.
Tamasin, 40, insists: “It’s easy! If I could do it in Ireland in the eighties then anyone can do it. There are so many products out there now – vegan yoghurts, ice cream, chocolate, burgers, sausages – no-one has to go without anything.”
They say changing their lifestyle in such a way has also made them more creative in the kitchen.
Steve says: “Meat eaters can be a bit lazy – they can just serve up some meat, potatoes and veg. We have to put a bit more thought into it.”
Courtesy of Manchester Evening News