Veganism and indulgence are not things you’d necessarily associate with one another, but former Made In Chelsea star and influencer, Lucy Watson, is trying to change that.
The 27-year-old, who grew up feeding the ducks on her parents’ farm and became vegetarian aged six, switched to veganism two years ago – but got bored of being stuck in a cycle of just eating salads and soups. “I was a bit clueless about what I could eat,” she admits, “and I did miss indulging myself.”
Hence why she’s put together her cookbook, Feed Me Vegan, to help make other peoples’ “journey to being vegan a little less daunting”, and prove that “food can still be amazing, even if it’s vegan”. Think cruelty-free mac and cheese, banoffee pie, chocolate fudge cake, chilli, cheeseburgers and carbonara – yes really.
“This sounds silly, but I didn’t really realise cows didn’t produce milk naturally,” says Lucy, on what triggered her shift to veganism. “I forgot the fact they had to have a baby, and one day it hit me: What happens to that baby? What happens to the calf? Because if we’re using all the milk, the baby won’t survive.
“It was a weird realisation – I think it was after I watched [Netflix documentary] Cowspiracy, I researched it. I remember saying to my boyfriend, ‘I think they kill the calf’. He was like, ‘No, no definitely not, they don’t’, but I researched it and sometimes it is the case.
“I was just like, ‘Oh my god, I can’t contribute to that’.”
Cutting out dairy, she says, wasn’t a challenge in itself: “I don’t miss the food at all, it would actually make me feel a bit sick if I ate it now.”
However, she does occasionally miss the ease of being able to walk into a restaurant – and order anything off the menu without having to go through the rigmarole of explaining veganism to a bemused waiter. But awareness has massively improved, even in the couple of years since she made the switch.
In fact, it’s a growing trend – between 2006-2016, the number of vegans in Britain increased by 360%, and Lucy reckons veganism “will eventually become mainstream”. Partly because “the planet can’t cope with the pressure we’re putting on it”, and partly because “we all have compassion within us”, she says.
“I think eventually, people will realise that veganism is the only compassionate option,” Lucy adds passionately. “Eventually they’ll change laws around the situation, and it will become a lot harder to access non-vegan products. I hope to see it in this lifetime, and if not, I’d hope to leave behind some sort of influence.”
She believes we need to change how we talk about animals in relation to food. “It’s completely fabricated to us at school. If anything, we’re taught to love animals; we’re never taught the connection between them and dinner,” she says, describing how distancing terms like beef and pork can be. “If we were educated from the get-go, I think a lot of children would be opposed to it straightaway.”
By adulthood, she says it’s often too late: “A lot of people don’t even want to know by then.”
Lucy’s household is not entirely vegan though – her pets still eat fish (her German Spitz Digby keeps barking happily in the background during our chat). “I feed them all-organic, ethically-sourced fish. It’s the best I can offer for them,” she says. “I don’t even know if they should really be living under my roof, the domesticated animal thing is all a bit baffling – so I don’t really want to force them to live a life I would probably adapt to a lot more easily than they do.”
And what about her boyfriend, model and fellow MIC alumni James Dunmore? He was a meat-eater, however, Lucy reveals: “The other day he was like, ‘I’m going to go pescatarian’, and to be fair, he’s pretty much been pescatarian since. Before that he had chicken in his life, which was in our freezer.”
Lucy’s sister Tiff and mum Fiona are vegan too – so what are they going to eat at Christmas, with turkey off the menu? “Christmas is an interesting one, but it’s just one day, it doesn’t really matter,” she says with a laugh. “I’ll just be eating a s***-load of vegetables.”
Feed Me Vegan by Lucy Watson, photography Mike English, is published by Sphere, priced £16.99. Available now.