WHEN Amanda Weston decided to become vegan almost 26 years ago it was almost unheard of.

There were hardly any products you could buy which would provide a short cut to cutting out animal products from your life and rarely any options on any restaurant or cafe menus.

“You rarely met anyone at that time who was vegan outside of the animal rights environment. It was almost unheard of,” explains Amanda, who lives in Colchester.

“I made a conscious decision when I was 11, and had just started secondary school, to be vegetarian. I got involved with an animal rights group there and it just made sense to me really.

"As a result my parents and sister became vegetarians after a while too and when I was 21 I became involved in an anti-vivisection group who had a stall in Harlow every Saturday.

"It was at this point she decided to cut out all products made from animals including those created by them.

“I thought I was being really good being vegetarian because I was not eating meat and then I read their leaflets on what chickens and cows, for example, go through just so we can have eggs and milk.

“I was mortified. I actually thought cows just produced milk, that it was something that always happened and then I found out the females are just continuously impregnated and their babies taken from them so that their milk can be sold.

“And the male calves are not needed so they are killed or go into the veal trade, and the females follow the same plight as their mothers.

“Because they are mammals, they grieve for their babies like we would. I just did not want to be part of that cruelty in order to have dairy products,” she explains.

Amanda realises there are many who disagree with her vegan philosophy and she says while social media and the internet have allowed a supportive community of like-minded people to share information, it has also opened them up to trolls.

“In the past I have been accused of being ‘preachy’ if I talk about it but I have to listen to people talking about the meat they are eating.”

With hindsight, she admits she would prefer to never have eaten any meat in her lifetime. 

"I do feel quite sad my parents fed me meat for 11 years when I did not really know what I was putting inside me.

"I have friends who are raising their children vegan and even if they decide, when they are old enough, that they want to eat meat, at least they have made that decision themselves."

To find out more about trying a vegan lifestyle click here to visit the Vegan Society's website.