Elena Orde is the Communications and Campaigns Officer at The Vegan Society and Editor of their in-house magazine; The Vegan. We caught up with to ask her about her role and why she enjoys promoting veganism to others.
Please tell us when and why you decided to become vegan.
I was brought up vegetarian, and for years I thought I was doing my part and that avoiding meat was enough. I used to wrongly think of veganism as 'extreme'. When I met a vegan at university, this opened my eyes to the fact that vegans are healthy, happy and normal. I then searched out tonnes of YouTube videos and documentaries, and gradually removed all other animal products from my diet until I was vegan. That was almost three years ago now. I would never go back - going vegan is probably the best decision I ever made.
You studied English and Creative Writing at University so please tell us about your journey from there to The Vegan Society as the Communications and Campaigns Officer.
After studying English with Creative Writing I did a masters in English Literature, as I thought I wanted to go on to do a PhD and become a lecturer. I was studying in Birmingham which is where The Vegan Society's offices are, and it seemed too much of a good opportunity to miss. I got in touch to find out about voluntary opportunities, and was taken on as an Editorial Volunteer. I worked on a huge number of tasks, from proofreading and editing to research, writing articles and conducting interviews. I still enjoy reading literature, but by following this path I feel I'm able to make more of a difference to a cause I'm very passionate about. I couldn't imagine a job I'd be better suited to.
Can you recommend any good fiction on with a vegan character or theme?
To be honest I can't think of a novel with a positive vegan main character, perhaps with the exception of Dave Loves Chickens, a children's picture book about an alien who can't understand why people eat other animals. Thinking about it, I recently read The Humans by Matt Haig which had a subtle pro-vegan message. It's a great story about an alien living among humans, and one of the ways he can't relate is in the way they eat other animals. This seems to be a prevalent trope among vegan authors!
What is a typical day like at The Vegan Society?
Every day is different! We're a relatively small team, although we've grown a lot recently, and so as well as editing The Vegan magazine and our other publications, I often find myself pitching in with a variety of other tasks. For example, today I've been researching a blog I'm writing for us on why animal lovers should avoid the Grand National, as well as creating an image to go up on our social media platforms on avoiding eggs as part of an Easter campaign. This is alongside the day to day tasks involving answering questions and providing support over the phone and email.
What are your top tips for transitioning into veganism?
Don't do it all at once, unless you're sure you know what you're doing. Don't simply remove animal products from your diet without finding other ways of getting the same nutrients. It's better to go vegan over a few weeks and make it a lasting change, rather than go all-in and then fall off the wagon later on. Also, forgive yourself if you slip up, and just keep going. Find other vegans, whether a local group or online. And remind yourself why you're doing it.
What did you find the most challenging part?
Many vegans agree that the most challenging part isn't to do with diet, it's to do with other people's reactions. It can be frustrating to have the people you care about not understand something which is so important to you. That's why it's a good idea to have a group of vegans you can chat to about these things, to provide you with support and to remind you that you're not alone.
It's Easter soon so what is your favourite vegan chocolate and what would you suggest as an alternative to milk chocolate at Easter?
Dark chocolate is more often than not suitable for vegans, and I love dark chocolate with added nuts or fruit. The Co-Op do a great dark chocolate with orange, which I love.
Do you think it's possible for vegans and non-vegans to live together in harmony in families and relationships?
Yes! And by having good relationships with others, we give them the opportunity to see how healthy and happy we are, and how much we enjoy being vegan. It doesn't make sense to look down on non-vegans - unless we were raised vegan, we were all there at one point in our lives.
What is your favourite vegan dish to cook at home?
I'm a big fan of comfort food. At the moment I'm enjoying making pasta with a creamy sauce made from blended cashews. I also really like spaghetti and beanballs with a tomato sauce. That last one is from Veganomicon - a great recipe book.
What is the most common question you get asked at The Vegan Society?
It's probably about nutrition, and whether someone can get everything they need from a vegan diet. I love answering this question because it's very straightforward - yes we can. And it's not just us saying this, the British Dietetic Association agrees.