We’re starting a new series of posts introducing some of our staff network members – from the veteran vegans to those simply vegan-curious (we’re a very inclusive bunch). To kick things off, let’s get to know one of our Co-Chairs, Vanessa Gordon.
What do you do at Suffolk County Council?
I work for the Suffolk Trading Standards Imports Team as an Imports Surveillance Officer. I’ve been working in this department since 2013 and in my current post since 2015. My team assess the safety of certain items (toys, machinery, electrical goods etc) that are entering the UK via Felixstowe Port.
How long have you been vegan?
I have been vegan for 12 years.
Why did you go vegan, and how did it happen?
For me it was a slow process. It begun when I was about 17 (2005). At the time I was following Buddhist philosophy and did not want to contribute to the suffering of animals. I moved to Suffolk from Kent and it felt like a new beginning and the right time to stop eating meat. I stopped red meat first, then white meat and finally fish.
At the end of 2008 I started to reassess my diet and questioned whether buying and consuming dairy was contributing to suffering. I decided that it was and I couldn’t, in good conscience, consume these items any longer without trying alternatives.
As a new year ‘trial’ in 2009 I decided to swap out the dairy in my diet for alternatives, slowly finding alternatives for each. This was quite tricky because at the time local supermarkets did not have alternatives, I had to travel to specialist stores for yoghurts, cheese and milks.
What sort of challenges have you faced as a vegan, especially at work?
I get a lot of questions when I started my job, especially while eating my lunch. I didn’t mind but sometimes I just wanted to eat my lunch.
I’d always have to bring milk in to have tea/coffee. When colleagues did a tea round I would always feel embarrassed when I had to explain that my milk was the separate one in the bottle I’d brought in. Sometimes I’d just make my own, which felt a bit like segregating myself, which I didn’t want to do, but it was the least embarrassing option.
How do you approach veganism with others?
I generally let people approach me. I don’t hide that I’m vegan but I’m also very aware how and why people can feel defensive when I mention it. I like to make food and make vegan food accessible, tasty and interesting for people to try it and see that it can be nutritional, tasty and easy to make.
What does it mean to you to be part of the SCC Vegan Staff Network?
I enjoy being part of a network with likeminded people, even if we aren’t all vegan. I feel supported and like I’m not the ‘odd one out’ any more. I feel that I can express my views on ethics and question SCC policies in line with these beliefs while having that support network there.