lifestyle

9 questions about vegetarianism, answered by a very mellow vego.

Melissa, enjoying vegan pho. SERIOUSLY. It was really delicious.

Ahhhh, vegetarianism. A topic only outdone in its divisiveness by veganism.

I know that many people don’t like vegetarians very much.

No, don’t protest. I know.

We’re always the person at group dinners who makes the table order a vegetarian option, when everyone actually just wants six plates of butter chicken.

We’re always harping on about free range eggs. If you come over to our house, we WILL serve you tofu (sorry).

I try not to talk about being vegetarian all the time – because, you know, I like having friends – but when the Mamamia office started asking me questions the other day about vegetarianism, I realised that were a lot of… misconceptions about non-meat eaters.

So without further ado, I give you ‘Everything you always wanted to know about vegetarianism, but were too afraid to ask (because you were worried they would never shut up about it)’.

“Why are you vegetarian?”

I’m a vegetarian for ethical reasons. I don’t think I should cause any loss of life if I can absolutely help it – and given that what I eat is a conscious choice, I can help it.

But people are vegetarian for lots of different reasons. Some people are motivated by concerns about their health, some by concerns about the environment and sustainability, and some people just want to save money (meat is expensive, y’all!) – all of which sound like pretty good reasons to me.

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“How can people say, ‘I’m a vegetarian’ but still eat fish? Or chicken?”

Okay, so these people might be stretching the truth a leeeetle bit when they call themselves vegetarian. They would be more accurately described as ‘pescetarian’ (meaning they eat fish) or ‘flexitarian’ (a hilarious word you will not find in the dictionary).

However, I don’t think people who are only kind-of-sort-of-vegetarian deserve any judgement or derision. Movements like ‘Meat Free Mondays’ and ‘Meat Free May’ point out that even reducing your meat consumption a little bit, can have a positive environmental impact. I don’t think that everyone needs to be hard-line about their beliefs; people just do the best they can.

“Eating meat is just the circle of life. Cats eat mice. Lions eat antelopes. Didn’t you watch The Lion King? How are we any different?”

Firstly, OF COURSE I watched The Lion King. Secondly, that’s a big question. I think what people are asking is: shouldn’t we just do it because it’s natural?

The thing is, humans do plenty of things that require us to curb our natural instincts. Among cavemen, it would have been totally natural to punch some bloke because he ate your mammoth hide. Or club your woman over the head and drag her back to your cave. But as a society we have decided that’s not really appropriate anymore, and so we make our decisions using a higher level of reasoning.

“Have you even SEEN The Lion King?”

A related point to this argument is that people often ask me, “But humans have a greater capacity for intelligence than animals, so can’t we just eat them?” I’ve got to say, if a genius alien species took over earth and started eating humans because they thought they were smarter than us, I’d be pretty put out.

But I also agree: humans are capable of a kind of rational thought that (many) animals aren’t. But I think with that higher level of thought, comes responsibility. If I can recognise that eating animals might be causing them pain, and can see an alternative, I personally feel like I should take that alternative route.

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“Is not eating meat good for your health, or something?”

Plenty of people feel this way. There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that the standard Western diet features entirely too much meat, and generally not enough vegetables. And becoming vegetarian is a pretty good way to ensure you eat more greens, trust me.

However – as with anything health-related in life – look after yourself. You can’t become vegetarian, and then try to live off M’n’Ms and Cheerios (hello, my 18-year-old self). If you’re vegetarian, you have to think about what you eat – and make sure you’re eating the right things.

“Where do you get the necessary vitamins and minerals? Do you have to take pills?”

Aside from when I first became vegetarian, and wasn’t looking after myself properly, I have been fit as a (herbivore) horse. Getting the necessary nutrients, basically just requires eating the right things. Lentils, tofu, eggs, beans, and leafy greens are a good place to start.

I also take an iron supplement (for the obvious reasons), a multi B vitamin supplement (which is supposed to assist with energy delivery, or something), and an omega-3 supplement (so technically, I suppose that means I’m not a ‘real vegetarian’ either). I’ve never been iron deficient – or deficient in anything, actually.

Where do I get the necessary vitamins and minerals? Right here, y’all.

“Would you ever date somebody who ate meat?”

Well, I live with my meat-eating partner, so yes. I do, however, encourage him to buy free-range meat products wherever possible (and try to push for locally-produced products too, so that the meat has a smaller carbon footprint).

“Would the meat industry suffer if everyone stopped eating meat?”

Well, yes. Although that doesn’t seem particularly likely.

But plenty of industries have evolved and changed over time. Back in the day, cobblers were in big business. They’re not so much any more. Some industries disappear over time, and others will replace them.

“If everyone stopped eating meat, would the country be overrun by cows?”

Ummm, I’m not a cow population scientist, but I think as long as we didn’t have a wild cow population we’d probably be okay.

A lot of people bring this up with me, in regards to kangaroo overpopulation, so I thought I would also mention: meat-eaters, give kangaroo a go. The general scientific consensus seems to be that they’re better for our environment, and a more sustainable choice for Australia.

“Do you miss meat?”

Oh god yes. I was essentially a carnivore before I became vegetarian. I miss meat pies, and beef jerky, and anchovies, and oysters, and ribs, and chicken wings, and… But I also don’t find being vegetarian hard. You get used to it. Whenever I have a serious meat craving, I just eat some of those fake, soy “chicken nuggets”.

And the great thing is? It’s been so long since I tasted real meat, I can’t even tell the difference.

And it’s not just hippies. Some famous vegetarians and vegans include… 

Are you vegetarian? Or do you have a problem with some vegetarians, or their arguments? 

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