We’re continuing our series meeting members of the Vegan Network, from the vegan veterans to the vegan-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 design simple, clear and accessible online user experiences. We coordinate the website suffolk.gov.uk, and contribute to other sites and portals too. There’s more to it, obviously, but that’s the jist!
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 time, 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?
Like most people, I was raised on animal products. I had no problem with eating food or wearing clothes made from animals as long as they didn’t suffer. For many years I thought I was actually making good ethical choices by purchasing products labelled as ‘free range’ or ‘high welfare’.
The problem was that, like most people, I had no idea where my food really came from. When I learned the truth, I was shocked and upset. The image we have in our collective imagination of happy animals on some idyllic farm is largely a fantasy. Most animals in our food system are factory farmed. They live short, unnatural lives and suffer both in life and when they meet their deaths in the slaughterhouse. It’s a cruel system which bears no resemblance to a natural food chain, and it’s built to satisfy our insatiable demand to consume animal products as often and cheaply as possible.
As I learned the reality of how animal agriculture actually works, I started building empathy and respect for these animals I’d only previously seen in an abstract way as ‘food’. The lightbulb moment for me making the mental leap to veganism was this sudden realisation that we shouldn’t see sentient animals as ours to exploit and kill if we have practical alternatives. Even if farmed animals don’t suffer and they die peaceful deaths, to treat any sentient being as a merely a resource or commodity with no right to life is surely inherently cruel if it’s not necessary.
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’m all about the ethics. Veganism is an ethical philosophy, after all, and I really try to approach it on a moral level rather than talking about the environment or health. That doesn’t mean I’m judgemental of people who aren’t vegan. I didn’t used to be vegan, and I thought I was doing the right thing. It also took me years to come round to veganism completely, so I’m not expecting to convert people from one conversation!
Of course I’ll talk to people about the impact of a plant-based diet for health or the environment, but for me the main reason – and only reason you need – to go vegan is for the animals.
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.