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October 8, 2010 / Zoe

Going Veg.

In recognition of the National Vegetarian Month the lovely Elycia at Love Elycia has asked her readers to participate in some capacity, either by sharing their story of going vegetarian/vegan or if they’re still eating meat, by going veg for a week, a day, a month, whatever.

I’m a long time vegetarian, so here’s my story.

When I was a kid the concept of vegetarianism wasn’t something that crossed my radar. I knew I loved animals, but I ate what my mother gave me. I guess I knew where it came from, but I don’t think many children have the capacity to make the connection between eating meat and killing animals. It wasn’t until my oldest brother brought home his vegetarian wife-to-be that the idea popped into my head, the idea that it was OK to not it meat, that it’s something some people chose to do. Andrea is no longer with my brother, but I still keep in contact with her, mostly because of this huge role she played in my life.

I think I was about 10 when she came into my life, and 11 when I told my mum I was no longer eating meat. I’m so thankful that she was supportive of my decision and provided me with the best food she could. I didn’t really appreciate it at the time, but I surely do now. I’ve had a few blips along the way in my teenage years, they were only one off occasions when I gave into peer pressure, but they still make me cringe. Other than that it’s been 13 years since I regularly ate meat.

A couple of things really cemented my decision, and both of them were pets. Polly and Wally.

Wally is my sweet sweet sheep, I hand raised him and I truly love him. I wrote about Wally a while ago HERE. And Polly was my sweet sweet chook, in year 9 at school everyone got a baby chick to raise. Growing up in the country could be pretty awesome at times! It was unfathomable to me that someone could eat these creatures. I can’t understand how we can put a higher value on the life of a dog or cat to the life of a sheep, or a higher value on the life of a cow to the life of a chicken.

Someone once asked my why I deny myself. To me, it was a really strange question. Deny myself of what? Of the guilt? It’s been over a decade, and I don’t even remember what meat tastes like, so I really don’t feel like I’m denying myself of anything. If anything I’ve opened myself up to a whole new world of food.

Someone once asked me how often I crave meat. Again, another strange question. I don’t really know how to put it into words, but it just feels normal to not eat meat, it’s not about feeling right or good any more, it’s just what is normality to me. My eyes automatically scan the menu for the ‘V’. And now for the ‘GF,’ but that another story. Scanning labels has become normality. It’s kind of like if I asked the meat eater in question how often he craves eating Eucalyptus leaves, or dirt, or plastic! The simple answer is never.

Someone once asked me what I eat, and don’t I get bored.  Vegetarian food is rich and varied, there’s nothing boring about it. There are oodles more varieties of vegetables than there are kinds of meat! Plus tempeh and tofu, people think these foods are bland, but they’re only as bland as the sauce you cook them in. I’ve found becoming gluten free much more of a food challenge than being vegetarian. Another food related reason I love being veg is that I don’t have to think about where I put things in the fridge, our entire fridge is the vegetable section! All our chopping boards are for vegetables! No salmonella for us!

The main reason I became vegetarian was because I didn’t want to eat animals any more. Now, it’s becoming more and more about the environment too. In Australia water is a commodity. I live in the driest populated continent in the world, and guess where all the water goes? To agriculture. I also live in a country with amazing bushland, with amazing unique flora and fauna that is slowly disappearing. And where is the land going? To agriculture. I’m not saying there should be no agriculture, or course not, but imagine if we used the land that we use for tending to cows for growing vegetables, the food output would be so much higher and we could use less land. The Amazon Rainforest is being destroyed so soy beans can be grown to feed the cows in America, to feed the Americans. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Americans just ate the soy beans! Aside from the loss of land, agriculture is the largest contributor of greenhouse gases. All the ‘green’ cars in the world aren’t going to make up for the methane released by livestock, and the other greenhouse gases released in production and transport of meat.

A couple of pet peeves of mine: People calling themselves vegetarian when they eat fish/chicken. If that’s what works for you, then good. But you’re a omnivore who avoids red meat. What bugs me even more is vegetarians who eat gelatine and rennet. Being vegetarian is more than avoiding meat, gelatine is made from hooves and bones and is in some brands of everything from cream, lollies, yoghurt, marshmallows and jelly. Rennet is from the lining of calves stomachs and is used in the production on cheese, a lot of companies use a vegetarian version now a days, but unless they specify I avoid those brands. And lastly, people who call themselves ‘part time’ vegetarians. You’re an omnivore and that’s ok.

I know veganism is the next step. I’m just not quite there yet. My partner has been vegan for 3 years, he ate meat when I met him and one day suddenly decided to be vegan, and he hasn’t looked back. He’s now writing a thesis on animal ethics. Pride doesn’t even cover the emotion I feel. Living with a vegan means I know how easy it is. I also know that the dairy and egg industry contributes to the death of animals in a very real way. What do you think happens to the male calves born at the dairy? You don’t have to be a genius to work that one out. I do a lot of vegan baking too, so I know I wouldn’t be missing out in that area, and I know vegan chocolate tastes as good as the real stuff, and I know I can live without eggs. The one and only thing holding me back is cheese. I know it sounds petty, but vegan cheese tastes terrible and I’ve always been a cheese lover and I’m not ready to let it go. One day I will have my own milking goats and make my own cheese, and the male babies will live out their days in peace.

This is the tattoo I got a couple of years ago.

They’re lyrics from a Muse song, while Muse isn’t my favouritebandever the lyrics really stuck with me. The song goes, ‘and no one thinks that they’re to blame, why can’t we see that when we bleed we bleed the same.’ The song is called ‘Map of the Problematique,’ and is about war and people more than animals. But I interpret the lyrics my way, and for me they’re about all life. Animals and people. When a human bleeds we feel the same pain, the same emotion as when a cow bleeds. We both feel fear. Distress. Hopelessness. And I don’t value the fear of the human any more than I value the fear of the cow. It’s the same.

Thank you if you read all this, it got a bit longer than I intended. And please don’t feel attacked or insulted if you do eat meat, these are my opinions and I don’t force them on you, please pay me the same respect. I don’t believe in preaching or simply telling meat eaters to go veg, people have to come to their own conclusions and act on them from the information provided.

Check out love elycia for more going veg stories.

 

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8 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. kala / Oct 9 2010 5:37 am

    Great post! I love your tattoos too 🙂

  2. elycia / Oct 9 2010 12:39 am

    fantastic post, i really enjoyed reading it! you said so many things that i agree with 100%. as a vegan, i do not want people telling me to eat meat so i give them the same respect and i do not try and force others to give up meat. all you can do is educate people if they are interested. no one likes to be forced into anything.
    like you, i don’t miss meat at all. it was an easy decision for me and i will never go back. the people that ask probably include so much meat in their diet that they can’t imagine their plates without it. there are so many amazing things you can put on you plate instead of meat, and they are sooo yummy!
    thank you soo much for sharing your story. i am beyond thrilled that people are participating. it is making me so happy 🙂
    ♥elycia

    • Zoe / Oct 9 2010 1:46 am

      Thank you for motivating me to write out my story! I’m looking forward to reading others.

  3. Ashley Vance / Oct 8 2010 11:53 pm

    I love your tattoo. It’s amazing how fast you even forget meat is an option. I know a lot of people who eat meat don’t believe me, but I don’t see meat as food anymore… just as if it were dirt or plastic.

  4. mandaray / Oct 8 2010 11:48 pm

    I really wish more vegetarians and vegans were like you. While I’m not a vegetarian myself, one of my best friends is, and I’ve never had any problem with the lifestyle. At least, not until those living it seem to feel the need to shove it down my throat. I can’t tell you how many angry conversations I’ve had with vegetarians trying to get me to feel guilty and ashamed about what I eat. They trot out bloated statistics and compare my food to every kind of disgusting thing you can think of in an attempt to get me to renounce my evil way of life and tell them how right they are. Which, ironically, usually makes me want to do the exact opposite of whatever they’ve said.

    I much prefer reading about vegetarianism from your point of view–it actually makes me contemplate a vegetarian lifestyle more than anything those other nut jobs have thrown at me. What’s funny is I’m already pretty close…I’ve never been a great fan of meat, especially not beef or chicken. I don’t like the taste and whenever I eat it, my stomach makes it clear to me for the rest of the day that I made a bad decision. Basically all I eat is turkey these days, and a little smoked salmon now and then. I love seeing vegetarian options on menus, and there really aren’t many veggies I don’t like. Soy products I’m a little pickier about, but I’ve always been a great fan of tofu. I hear you about the ickiness of vegan cheese, though. =/

    I’m also happy to see a mention about gluten-free food in your post, since I do something very similar myself and have for years. Lately GF stuff has become popular, which on the one hand is great for me, but on the other I’ve noticed GF food is getting a lot of unnecessary hype, mostly from people advertising their foods as gluten-free when there’s absolutely no way it could have any gluten in it in the first place. (e.g., a piece of ham, or bottle of honey.) It saddens me that people don’t really understand what gluten is or why it can have an effect on the body.

    My life is not entirely GF, since I have a wheat intolerance (among many other strange food-related issues) and not a gluten intolerance, but GF food is often a sure fire way to make sure I’m not eating anything that’s going to make me very sick and I love seeing it so much in restaurants and grocery stores these days.

    One more thing I wanted to point out before I end this gargantuan comment–I sympathize with people asking you “How often do you crave meat?” with that sort of incredulous tone of “How could you possibly do that?” Any time I tell people I don’t eat sugar or wheat they look at me like I’ve started growing horns out of my head and ask me “How do you live?” to which my response is generally “Better than you.” as I look at their shopping carts full of frozen Jimmy Dean sausages wrapped in pancakes on a stick and family sized boxes of Pop Tarts, knowing they can barely bring a pot of water to boil while I have a fridge full of delicious food that I made myself waiting back home. Oh, but I can’t have wheat or sugar like they can…therefore my life must be an endless parade of starvation and self-loathing. LOL.

    Anyway, sorry for the huge comment. Great post and thank you very much for sharing! 🙂

    • Zoe / Oct 9 2010 1:43 am

      Thanks for the gargantuan comment! The trendiness of GF bugs me, people seem to do it because they think it’s healthy, but it’s only healthy if you have a intolerance! I can eat some things too, like spelt, but when eating out I always go for the safe option, better safe than sorry!
      And I’m sorry that other vegetarians guilt you, it really gets them no where!

      • mandaray / Oct 9 2010 4:31 am

        Yay, someone else who eats spelt. =D I practically live off the stuff. It’s the only wheat product I can eat safely without getting awful headaches and really nasty mood swings. I wish there were more bakeries and restaurants that cooked with it; I’d love to be able to go out and eat a sandwich made with spelt bread, or buy spelt donuts or bagels somewhere. What’s funny is I went to my boyfriend’s hometown in North Carolina once and found a pet store where they make spelt dog treats…but nothing for humans! 😦 I was sad.

      • Zoe / Oct 9 2010 9:28 am

        Have to tried Kamut flour? It’s the only other wheat product I can eat, it’s the same ancient grain deal as spelt. I don’t understand WHY I can eat spelt, but I can. So no complaints!

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