Being a vegetarian myself I find this to be a particulary odd response to living a meat-free existence. Since when did vegetarianism mean having to starve oneself? I never go hungry! In fact, I find that I have before me so many options that I've moved beyond thinking of animals as food. Afterall, meat only makes up 1 food group - there's still fruit and veg, cereals and grains, beans and nuts, dairy and egg to chose from! So, why do some people find it so hard to remove meat from their diet? Is it purely a preference thing, that deep down they really dont want to stop eating meat? Or is it because they've got into the habit of eating so much meat that they dont know where to start to stop? Or is it, perhaps, that they simply arent putting in enough effort?
I do not have any problem maintaining a vegetarian diet, although I will be honest and admit that it did take effort to develop and change my way of thinking and how I went about choosing what foods to eat on a daily basis, especially to ensure that I was getting enough nutrition. Whilst I still consume dairy (for protein, calcium and iron) and egg (protein) products (organic, of course), I do not eat anything that I like to term "animal flesh". This means that I do not eat any meat whatsoever, including fish and chicken, which for some reason is often classed as non-meat by non-vegetarians, even though it clearly is! Nor do I eat foods containing animal rennet (an enzyme taken from the stomach of young calves) or gelatine (made from animal skin and bones). I use vegetable stock in cooking instead of beef or chicken; I cook in vegetable oil only; and I only eat soft cheeses or vegetarian edam/tasty (which contain non-animal rennet). If I cannot find a suitable product on the shelf of my supermarket, then I go without. I simply do not need meat or meat-products in my diet.
So, why be Vegetarian?
First, there are three types of vegetarian diets. The most strict is the Vegan diet, where a person consumes no animal products at all, whereas others, such as the Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian (to which I belong), still eat dairy and/or eggs. Then there is the Lacto Vegetarian, who still eats dairy but will not consume eggs or egg-products.
The reasons why a person might decide to be Vegetarian are numerous. These may include (but are not limited to) moral beliefs, political views, health reasons, environmental and/or economic persuasions, cost, and the desire to live more simply. As Oxfam so eloquently put it:
"Being mindful of what we eat and how it is grown, harvested, marketed, fed and slaughtered is the key to a more humane and environmentally sound diet".
Because the truth of the matter is that as humans we simply consume far too much meat and meat-products. Neither the planet nor our bodies can sustain a meat-intense diet.
I can already hear the mumblings about protein, iron and calcium!
Also, people who maintain well-balanced vegetarian diets tend to have a lower incidence of cancer and heart disease. Meat-centred diets have already been linked to colon cancer, arteriosclerosis, heart disease and high cholesterol. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that a Vegetarian is less-likely to eat out or have take-away, or even because the human digestive tract is that of a herbivore.
Then there are the political, environmental and economic reasons for being vegetarian:
1. Farmers in first-world countries are paid to produce more than they could ever sell, whilst in less-developed countries the farmers are discouraged from producing and therefore do not meet demand. At the same time it is not uncommon to find instances of communities in less-developed nations starving because the smaller farmers have been forced off their land (or out the water) so that the mass-producers can utilise it to produce stock for export. Hardly seems fair, does it?
2. Mass-production, in turn, has a devestating impact on the environment. Overgrazing, overfishing, and the over-production of grain for animal feed leads to the loss of rainforests and natural grasslands, a reduction in fish numbers, and causes major damage to the environment such as soil erosion, pollution and, ultimately, climate change.
3. It costs a lot to produce (breed and feed), process, transport and prepare a piece of meat for consumption. That is why you pay so much for it at the supermarket and/or butcher. Reducing the amount of meat consumed each week in your household could end up saving you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars each year!
And, finally, the moral reasons:
I have discovered that it is not necessary to rely on meat in order to maintain a healthy, balanced diet. As a result, I cannot agree with the manner in which animals are bred, modified, force-fed, cage-kept, poorly treated and killed in mass-slaughter in order to meet our excessive, consumerist demands. This extends beyond food. I mean, have you considered where the leather on your shoes came from, or what happened to the sheep that provided you with your woollen jumper? Vegetarianism often involves far more complicated issues than just food, but perhaps I'll leave that for another post.
In the meantime, in an attempt to help Shelley and all those who may stumble across my blog, Monday will be dedicated to Vegetarian Cuisine. I can only hope that by doing this people will think more about their current habits and perhaps work towards making a change. I'm not saying that everybody has to or should become Vegetarian, but by simply reducing the amount of meat consumed in a household each week we can all start to have a significant, positive impact.
And if you’d like to know more about Vegetarianism, this website is a good place to start.
"Of course the cynic will reply that it makes no difference. However, the power of the example you will be setting should not be underestimated." - Oxfam
VEGETARIAN BBQ PATTIES
1 clove garlic
8oz grated carrot
2 medium zucchinis (corgettes), grated
1 can of chickpeas, drained and blended
1 egg yolk
2 tspns curry paste (optional)
2 tblspns peanut butter
1C bread crumbs
Salt & pepper to taste
Fry onion, garlic, carrot and zucchinis in pan until warm, but still crisp.
Mix in remaining ingredients and make patties.
Put in fridge for 1 hour to set.
Brush with oil and cook.