A family of five has spoken out about losing friends and being bullied – because they are all vegan.
Jacqui and Ryan Robins, and their three children Skye, 15, Skipp, 14, and Cadan, 5, are all happily vegan, and enjoy a range of delicious meals without meat or dairy.
But the family has admitted that the transition to a vegan lifestyle has not been the easiest – and that they have lost friends over it, and are often met with hostility and aggression.
Jacqui, 44, who was just 8-years-old when she gave up meat, has said that other parents turn their backs on her when she goes to her children’s schools.
And Ryan, 37, has even had online trolls say his dietary choices are disrespectful to his late father, a “highly-respected” butcher.
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Meanwhile, middle-child Skipp said he is targeted at school over his veganism, and regularly has meat waved in his face.
But despite this, the family, from Probus, Cornwall, England, passionately defends their lifestyle – and hopes to an end to the misconception that vegans are “militant” or “crazy”.
“Passion is misunderstood to be aggression or hatred,” Jacqui, a nutritionist, said. “There seems to be some kind of divide where people meet vegans with aggression and resistance, when you are just trying to raise awareness about practices that people should know about.”
“I know there are so many good, kind people making choices that they wouldn’t make if they knew the reality,” she explained.
It all began when Jacqui went vegetarian at age 8 after realizing for the first time that animals went into her shepherd’s pie.
But two years ago, after watching “horrifying” documentaries and researching the “reality” of dairy-farming processes, the mom decided to ditch dairy, too.
“I saw a video that went into the reality of the dairy industry. I was horrified and straight away I didn’t want anything to do with the dairy products,” she said. “I thought, if I couldn’t cope with watching it happen, but I was buying the product, I was inadvertently funding it.”
Her son Skipp soon followed suit, after watching 2017 documentary “The Land of Hope and Glory” with his mother – all about the UK’s farming practices.
“All of the kids have made their own decisions and have recognized why they are vegan,” Jacqui said. “Some parents say ‘you’re not having that and that’, but we wanted the kids to understand why we do it, take on the information and decide for themselves.”
For oldest child Skye, the transition took a little longer – because she was afraid to watch the documentaries.
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But the teen said: “Once I watched them it was easy. I now want to know where my food has come from and how.”
Youngest sibling Cadan was switched to vegan milk alternatives when he was younger, after suffering a variety of digestive issues from dairy milk.
But his mom said: “Even Cadan understands exactly – he knows that the baby animals suffer and are taken from their mommies and he doesn’t believe in that.”
And as well as the immediate family, the Robins’ influence has encouraged Jacqui’s father John, 75, and his wife Sarah, to follow suit.
But for dad Ryan, the journey to veganism was very different – as he grew up surrounded by the farming industry, and was a frequent visitor to slaughterhouses.
“Dad was a highly respected butcher and worked part-time on a farm and neighbors would bring animals around to be skinned and plucked,” he said. “It wasn’t abnormal for me to be around dead animals for much of my life.”
“I would help put animals on trailers and get the animals into the slaughterhouses and it was all normal to me,” Ryan continued. “I witnessed chickens being killed on the farm, I worked on the turkey line just before Christmas and I always just thought ‘we need animals to be healthy and strong’.”
He initially went vegan for health reasons – after his father passed away, and Jacqui’s mother was diagnosed with bowel cancer.
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“I wanted us and our family to live a life as healthy and as nutritiously as possible, so that we could live as long as possible,” Ryan said.
The family says that a common misconception about vegans is that they are “militant” and “crazy.” But they claim that their problem is not with other people’s decision to eat meat, but the refusal to understand the processes behind meat and dairy.
Jacqui says she doesn’t want vegans to be perceived as these things, but that she wants to inform people, by explaining the processes to them. And the family often does this through social media – but this has led to relationships with friends and family breaking down entirely.
“A lot of people don’t realize, and I think we are manipulated by the industry to think everything is happy and everything is great,” she said. “I think that it is corrupt to sell a product without transparency.”
“So when I started posting about it and raising awareness, I lost a lot of my friendships – because they were telling me to be quiet about it,” she continued.
“If I had just gone vegan and kept quiet about it, my friends would have probably left me alone,” Jacqui elaborated. “But the breaking of friendships was mostly because we wanted to inform people.”
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“Passion is misunderstood to be aggression or hatred. I have been to parent’s evenings and had people turn their backs to me,” she said. “They would rather do that than engage in a conversation that will make them feel uncomfortable.”
Living in Cornwall, the family are faced with an added pressure being vegan as they are completely surrounded by agricultural farming. Many of the children’s classmates are from farming families and farming backgrounds.
But the parents want to put to bed ideas that all vegans are anti-farmers.
“We are not against farmers, they are intelligent people that we need in this world – it’s the process we are against and the lack of transparency,” Ryan said. “If we are moving towards a vegan world we will need farmers and we want to work with them – because we need them.”
“My friends are supportive but people do view vegans as wanting to take down farmers, and I understand it because farmers are their families,” Skipp added.
Jacqui and Ryan said that, for their family, veganism is as simple as replacing meat with chickpeas, lentils and beans now that vegan alternatives are so readily available.
“The main thing we do is swap meat for beans, lentils and chickpeas. We eat lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds,” the parents said. “We then replace meat with legumes and swap dairy milk and cheese to plant-based alternatives.”
“A lot of people think a vegan diet is expensive and if you were buying processed vegan food, it would be, but just replacing meat with things like lentils is really simple,” they went on. “You can still have a processed vegan diet and not be healthy but we try to make ours whole foods and plant based by utilizing nuts and seeds.”
“As long as we do that we seem to be thriving. Everywhere we go to eat out we can have pretty much anything,” the couple said. “We don’t feel like we are missing out.”
This story was originally published by SWNS.