We’re continuing our series meeting members of the Vegan Network, from the vegan veterans to the veggie-curious (we’re a very inclusive bunch). This time round, it’s the turn of network co-chair Andy Tipp.
What do you do at Suffolk County Council?
I’m the council’s Lead Content Designer, and I manage the Digital Content Team. We’re all about trying to make it simpler, quicker and easier to access local government information and services online. We co-ordinate content on suffolk.gov.uk, and support owners of other Suffolk County Council sites too. We’re passionate about trying to improve user experience (UX), especially digital inclusivity.
How long have you been vegan?
I’ve been vegan since the start of 2021 when I took part in Veganuary.
What was the transition to veganism like?
Before going vegan I was vegetarian for three years. But looking back I can see that was sort of all one long transition to veganism. During that phase, I swapped out animal products for plant-based alternatives one by one, to the point where Veganuary was basically just giving up cheese. It was like building up to the final boss level of a video game.
Why did you go vegan?
It all started with this growing feeling that it was wrong to eat animals if I didn’t need to. Why should animals have to die if I could just eat something else? That’s what led me to vegetarianism initially. Which was a weird change for anyone who knew me, because I’d always been such a huge meat-eating advocate. It definitely wasn’t like a switch flipped overnight; for years I just became more and more uncomfortable with the idea of eating animals.
So I became vegetarian, and that’s where I thought I’d stay. I was aware of veganism, but I thought it was a bit extreme and unnecessary and, I’ll be honest, didn’t sound like a lot of fun.
But the way our world works now is if you show an interest in a certain topic (e.g. vegetarianism), algorithms start suggesting related topics (e.g. veganism!). And the more you click on that related content the more your various recommendations start suggesting it. Without really intending to, I found myself deep into Reddit posts about veganism and reading articles about farming and fishing, and how animals are used in the clothing and entertainment industries. Eventually, I was brave enough to click the links to watch documentaries like Dominion and Land of Hope and Glory that showed the reality of intensive animal agriculture.
This all had a profound effect on me. I was deeply disturbed by what I learned, and genuinely shocked by the cruel practices that are standard in conventional animal farming across the meat, dairy and egg industries.
Over time, I realised I’d completely changed how I saw animals: instead of seeing them as a resource for us to use and treat like a commodity, I saw them as sentient beings. I developed a new-found empathy and respect for these beings I’d only ever seen in an abstract way as ‘farm animals’ and ‘just animals’. I came to understand that every sentient animal – farmed or wild – is a unique, intelligent, socially and emotionally complex individual. We’re all animals, we just apply arbitrary and cultural distinctions to some.
I finally understood the concept of veganism as an ethical philosophy and why it made sense: how can we morally justify the continued exploitation and killing of sentient animals if we have practical alternatives? The more I thought about it veganism not only seemed rational, but felt like a moral obligation: we shouldn’t exploit or kill sentient animals for our benefit if we don’t need to. And it’s doubly wrong if we inflict suffering in the process.
And so in a nutshell that’s how I went from enthusiastic meat-eater to committed vegan.
What sort of challenges have you faced as a vegan?
Going vegan is a different challenge for everyone. For me it took time to adapt, and to feel confident in what I was doing – both from an ethical standpoint and the practical day-to-day of cooking, shopping and everything else. In a way, it’s an ongoing learning process.
A lot of people think that adjusting to a vegan diet will be really difficult and restrictive. But my personal experience is that it’s not as hard as you might think. My top tip is to expand your horizons and cook food where a lot of the flavour comes from spices and seasonings and meat isn’t a focal point of the meal.
How do you approach veganism with others?
I explain it like this: I don’t think you’re a bad person if you eat or buy animal products, but I do believe you’re doing the wrong thing. There’s a difference. I was a non-vegan for decades, but that didn’t make me an immoral person. Consuming animal products is a choice, and if you’re not making an informed choice you’re not fully accountable for those decisions.
However, I do think people should take responsibility for informing themselves. Everyone should watch these films that show the reality of what life (and death) is like for animals we exploit. Because when all of the suffering and killing happens far away from us and we never have to see or question it, it’s very easy to say “I could/would never go vegan”. But you might find that when you’re confronted with the consequences of your choices you’ll feel differently.
Thinking about the big picture, I like to talk about the fact that what’s considered socially normal and acceptable isn’t set in stone. It changes over time. In the past, things that most people now consider unthinkable were considered perfectly natural for the majority. It’s not because people were evil back then, it’s because they just went along with the cultural norms they grew up; they were ignorant of the suffering that they were removed from and couldn’t empathise with.
I genuinely believe in future the fact that we exploit and kill billions of land animals and trillions of marine animals even though we don’t need to will be one of those things people look back on with horror. Except unlike the past we don’t have be ignorant, we can decide to inform ourselves – just use Google or YouTube and find out.
What does it mean to you to be part of the vegan network?
The most difficult about veganism for me is that it can feel a bit isolating having views that are very different to most people.
That’s why the Vegan Staff Network is such a great concept: whether you’re vegan already, transitioning to veganism or simply curious about it, the network is a resource that’ll offer support, advice and encouragement without judgement. Our mission is to promote veganism within the workplace in a positive, inclusive and empowering way. Everyone is welcome, no matter where you are in your journey.
I’ve personally found it incredibly beneficial to be part of the network, and to have access to that support when I need it, for example by posting questions and reading responses on our Teams site. It reminds you that you’re not alone in your beliefs, and there’s a community of people there to help you.