In a well-known and well-loved story George Fox the Quaker founder was consulted by William Penn who was concerned about whether he should continue wearing his sword,  something that was customary amongst people of rank at that time. George Fox replied ‘‘I advise thee to wear it as long as thou canst.’ Some time later William Penn was seen no longer wearing his sword, saying, ‘I wore it as long as I could’ (

In the same way, I have been thinking about removing dairy products from my diet for some time, but until now the time has not seemed right. I have been vegetarian for many years and did have a year some time ago when I became vegan. I stopped however because it seemed too difficult for friends to cater for me when they offered me a meal. It was also very difficult to eat out, although relatively easy to cater for myself at home. I could have decided to make this an exception but for some reason took an all or nothing approach, and returned to my vegetarian lifestyle.

So what is different now? Why vegan, and why now? How will I approach this? Will I focus only on food and drink, or think about the use of animal-based products in terms of clothing, etc? What decisions shall I make if I am invited out, and how about cooking day-to-day for my household? And what shall I offer visitors to our home?

In good Quaker fashion I have tried to discern the way forward, also listening to a wise Friend who has been (mostly) vegan for 30 plus years. He feels strongly that it is important to do the best one can, but that this does not mean expecting perfection, which can lead to all-or-nothing thinking. We are all human and in listening to our inner guide, our judgements about behaviour might vary depending on the circumstances facing us. For example, I remember visiting Pakistan in the early 2000s. Although I was vegetarian I was offered generous hospitality as I travelled around. At that stage, I decided that I would try to let people know in advance about my vegetarianism but if this was not possible and I was offered meat, I would accept it. This happened on a couple of occasions and was difficult but I discerned that I did not want to offend my hosts.

So what have I discerned?

  1. Firstly, I am aiming to change my lifestyle primarily for environmental reasons, and this reflects why I became vegetarian years ago. I continue to be concerned as well for animal welfare although the health benefits of a vegan diet are less important to me.
  2. I love the phrase ‘good enough’, and it may be that this is a more realistic aim than perfection. I have much to learn and will try to do the best I can, bearing in mind care of the planet and compassion towards animals. I will also seek the support of others.
  3. I will aim for a vegan diet for myself at home and when eating out, but for the time being, will also cook vegetarian food sometimes for others in my household. I am not sure about what I will offer visitors but will probably cook a vegan meal.
  4. If I am invited to someone’s house for a meal, I will decide at the time whether to mention my preference for vegan food and drink. I have no difficulty asking for vegetarian food, but is asking for a vegan option just too challenging – for them and perhaps for me?
  5. I will continue to try to discern the way forward.