Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Life As A Vegetarian

In March 2016, I decided to become a vegetarian. I transitioned to pescetarianism (still eating fish but not meat) for the first 6 months, to allow my body and mind to gradually get used to a new diet before going full veggie. One day I'd love to become vegan but I'm definitely not ready yet, so I just try to reduce my dairy consumption. Despite it being a relatively new lifestyle to me, I've quickly become so passionate about it. My lovely friend Charlotte just posted a fantastic youtube video which inspired me to share my own thoughts. For more veggie meal ideas, follow my foodie Instagram.

I'll disclaim here that I recognise vegetarianism isn't a plausible option for everyone, due to a variety of issues, but I'm aiming this at the people who do have the option and are simply ignoring it.
The Bohemian, Newcastle. A delicious shredded jack-fruit pitta with sweet potato fries and spicy bean nachos.
I was inspired to become vegetarian when I noticed a lot of my friends making the change early this year. It wasn't about copying them and jumping on the bandwagon (this isn't primary school), but seeing so many of them discussing their reasons and experiences on social media really opened my eyes and helped me to better understand the issue. (Shout out in particular to Charlotte, Zoe, Charlotte, HayleyJasmine and Julie for this.) Having support and encouragement from others made the process a lot easier and because I'm constantly reminded of the negatives of meat, I never crave it.
The Shed, Knutsford. Falafel, salsa and mixed salad
If I'm completely honest, I never 'got' vegetarianism before this year. I literally didn't know any real life vegetarians and the few I saw on TV were portrayed as weird hippies. My family, school and general surroundings raised me to believe that eating meat was necessary and healthy. Evening meals would always be based around meat and no one would think twice about it. In school I was taught that a "balanced meal" required a slab of meat for protein - no one mentioned that vegetables and beans contained just as much, often more. Turns out cattle are fed excessive amounts of protein and vegetation, which we could just eat directly and cut out the harmful components of meat. 

I obviously knew that animals were killed for meat but I was told it was "humane" and a normal part of the food chain (spoiler: it isn't). I had absolutely no idea that the dairy industry was harmful, I didn't even recognise that cows had to be forcefully impregnated then have their babies stolen to give us milk until I was 19! I also had no clue about the impact of animal agriculture on the environment. On reflection, it's ridiculous that I'd made it all the way to adulthood without anyone mentioning this! Why are we all in denial?
Brown's Lane, Loughborough. Sweet potato and quinoa burger with hummous, salsa and fries.
After watching Vegucated and Cowspiracy on Netflix, I immediately knew I had to change. I decided there and then and cleared my freezer of all meat that night. I don't buy leather, suede or fur and I've stopped buying cosmetics that test on animals - if you're struggling to cut out meat but still want to help, try cutting animal products out of your wardrobe and makeup bag.

Some things you might not know about the meat industry:
- Animal food production is one of the world's leading causes of climate change
- Veganism could end world hunger
- Consuming lots of processed meat (such as bacon and salami) significantly increases risk of cancer
- Commercially fished species will become extinct within decades
- The legal minimum cage size for a battery farmed chicken is the size of A4 paper
- Cows naturally live for 20 years, dairy cows live to less than 5
- Sheep naturally live for 12 years, lambs for meat are slaughtered at just 3 months
- Male chicks are crushed to death the day they're born
Vegan Indian Streetfood stall at YNOT Festival. Curry platter with rice and mango chutney.
"I'm just one person, I don't make a difference"
Everyone is just one person, demand does impact supply. Vegetarianism and veganism are rapidly growing so you won't be the only one, we all contribute. The UK's biggest dairy farm recently closed due to such a drop in demand! I don't eat meat because I believe it is wrong, stand by your morals regardless of what other people think. People are murdered every day, do you murder people just because other people do? Does that make a difference?

"It's my own choice what I eat. Vegetarians are so preachy!"
Of course your own diet is your choice, but should you really have the choice to murder living creatures against their will? It's also your own choice whether or not to murder a person. I don't believe the taste of a quick Big Mac justifies your actions. I'm sorry if I come across as preachy, but why shouldn't I promote something I strongly feel is right? Every other post I see on social media is about how much people love chicken nuggets or bacon - is that not preachy too? I've actually found vegetarians to be generally supportive and positive, whereas meat eaters often go out of their way to mock us.

"Do you only eat leaves?"
No, obviously not. There are like 10 meats, all the other foods are not meat, there's so much choice! Vegetarianism has encouraged me to discover so many new foods, culinary skills and delicious recipe books (recipe post to follow). It can be a healthier lifestyle, but you can also stuff yourself with fast food if you fancy. It's easier for me because I love lentils, beans and roast veg, but I also love mashed potato, cheesy chips, Linda McCartney pies and all the dessert. It baffles me that my people, even actual chefs in restaurants, struggle to come up with interesting veggie options! I find that vegetarian meals still leave me satisfied and full for a long time, without ever bloating or feeling sick.

I urge you research the impact of animal agriculture and consider reducing your intake. Slaughter is never humane.