Happy World Vegetarian Day! I’ve been requested to post about my eating habits before and today is the perfect opportunity to tell you about my weird diet, which is sort of loca-glegan (locavore, gluten-free, vegan). I want to make the point now that this may seem like a preachy post but presumably you have a passing interest in me to have arrived on the blog.
I’ve cut down this post a LOT as I was originally elaborating on my moral and ethical views and the views I take on animal rights in general. Instead I’ve focused on what I eat, why, and common arguments people present to me. My views apply to more than just food (I apply the same principles below to clothes, books etc) but I’ve tried to focus on the food to keep the post from being 7 pages long!
Firstly to clarify what I do not eat: I do not eat meat, eggs, dairy, soya, gluten, wheat, or some imported goods.*
WHY DO I AVOID THESE ITEMS?
Moral ethics: I personally feel like humans, as the most intelligent species, have a duty to work out a way we can live in this beautiful and fragile ecosystem without destroying, or even disturbing, other species and the environment. The idea that because we are the most intelligent species we are entitled to use other species and the environment for pleasure and entertainment is, to me, like saying the biggest and strongest kid in the class is entitled to beat up all the other kids for pleasure and entertainment. That’s not a view I want to support or a world in which I want to be involved. One recent moral dilemma posed by meat which you may have missed is that scientists are very close to creating genetically modified animals who can’t feel pain. I don’t want to be part of or support an industry where this is a justifiable means to an end.
Environmental impact: Animal products and meat (aka, dead animals) obviously rot and have to be shipped in mad conditions across the world. Weirdly money plays a huge part; for example, in Japan, people are willing to pay more for authentic welsh lamb. All the lamb harvested in Wales has to be flown in huge freezer containers (massive use of energy both keeping the meat fresh and flying the plane, emitting fossil fuels) to Japan, whilst to meet demand in Wales (now free of lamb), cheaper lamb meat from New Zealand is flown in again using huge amounts of energy to keep the meat fresh and fly the plane. Transportation of meat in general is hugely detrimental to the environment as it has to be shipped so quickly (nearly always using fossil fuels) before it rots.
Huge amounts of grain, soy and water resources are given over to feed livestock in the meat, dairy and egg industry not to mention the huge land are used for livestock grazing (over 80% of agricultural land in the US). I think we can agree that’s a huge waste of natural resources.
Eggs/dairy: Just for a moment imagine a female human being kept constantly pregnant, removed from her offspring and force-fed hormones. To me it is gross and unnatural. These creatures end up exhausted, depressed and physically worn out. The quality of the milk is compromised and the animals are usually killed between the ages of 3-5 (in the wild cows have been recorded up to 30 years of age). Male chicks and calfs are killed instantly (usually in front of their mothers) as it’s costly to keep them and they won’t grow up to produce eggs or milk of their own. (Dairy cows are never used for meat or leather meaning that “waste” occurs in all industries). All the above practises occur in both free-range produce and battery-farmed produce. Organic produce is only sometimes free of hormones and the killing of male babies occurs there as well.
Meat: I wouldn’t eat a cat, I wouldn’t eat a swan, I wouldn’t eat a duck, a human, an elephant, a cow, a tiger, a fish. It is madness to me that anyone owning a pet can still eat meat I just can’t differentiate between species like that. Seriously, if you wouldn’t eat a horse how can you justify eating a cow?
World hunger: If we redistributed the resources to humans and also had 80% more space for growing vegetables and crops just imagine how much more food there would be! It is madness. Additionally, nearly half of the grain harvested globally is used to feed livestock (who take up over 40% of land globally). There have been numerous studies showing that a global adoption of veganism would produce a model where world hunger could be completely abolished.
My own allergies: I had a lot of problems with my voice beginning about two years ago and it became apparent that I am slightly allergic to both gluten, wheat and cows milk. I’m also slightly allergic to soya, which is annoying as tofu traditionally forms a large part of a vegan diet. I try not to have tofu more than once a week and never have straight soya chunks or soya milk.
Don’t humans need protein to live? That’s true, but we do not need animal protein to live. In fact many prominent dieticians and physicians advocate a plant-based diet.
Isn’t it unhealthy? There have been multiple studies into a vegan diet, all of which have concluded that properly planned vegan diets are actually more healthy. In the USA it’s often one of the first things to be prescribed for all kinds of health problems. We live longer, have lower BMIs, higher physical fitness, lower cholesterol, fewer cases of diabetes, heart disease, colon cancer and prostate cancer and lower blood pressure.
Isn’t it expensive? No! Go into any restaurant: I guarantee the veggie option is cheaper than the meat one (your veggie friends will testify to this). Also, with home shopping, removing anything which is from a dead animal and therefore rots mean food keeps a lot longer; vegetables have a longer shelf life than cheese and meat, and ingredients such as rice and lentils last for AGES.
It’s just for teenage girls and ageing hippies. Well I’m essentially both those things, but these people aren’t.
I saw a documentary about meat, yeah it is gross isn’t it. But then I got drunk and wanted a kebab/I went veggie for a bit but I love McDonalds too much! People say this kind of thing to me all the time! I can’t help but get frustrated what do you want me to respond with? “Have more commitment”? I’m not going to be rude!
But how is you, one person, being vegan going to change anything? My Dad is fond of this one. He frequently tells me that me being vegan isn’t going to change the country. True. But you have to be the change you WANT to see. If me being vegan makes just one person think about it and become vegan, that’s double the number there was if I hadn’t done anything.
Isn’t it really hard to cut all that out? It’s not as hard as you might think if you cut things out bit by bit. The first time I attempted being vegan I just chopped out everything I ate and that was really difficult. Cutting out certain food groups bit by bit is easier and finding alternatives you like as you go along is far more manageable. Also, find other veggies or vegans to chat too as they will have encountered it all before. You can e-mail me if you like!
You’re making it hard for anybody to cook for you. Ah, guilt-tripping. I get this ALL THE TIME and I never, ever, ever expect anybody to cook for me or cater to me. If I’m going to a dinner party or a barbecue or anything I will ALWAYS offer to bring my own food. Since my red-meat free childhood (when every birthday party seemed to be a minefield of pepperoni pizza and sausage rolls) I’ve learnt how easy it is to say “It’s ok, I’m not hungry right now thanks” which spares the guilt of the host and doesn’t cause a fuss.
The main problem with living in the UK is that the UK is obsessed with wheat, dairy and meat. Vegans fare better in nearly every other country for example, in Indian cuisine (lots of lentils, chick peas, spinach, potatoes, rice), South-East Asian cuisine (rice, vegetables, wheat noodles – no good for me but vegans are ok, miso, tofu), Arabic cuisine (chickpeas, tahini, aubergines, peanuts, flat breads), Mexican (beans, rice, corn bread, vegetables) etc etc. The UK, Italy and France seem to be the worst places to eat because so much of the speciality involves, cheese, wheat, dairy and meat.
When I first went vegan it required lots of checking of labels as “dried milk whey”, “lactose”, “egg white”, “dairy solids”, “soy solids”, “barley”, “gluten solids”, “wheat flour” etc are all hidden in the most unlikely of foodstuffs. Additionally lots of beer and wine is brewed using isinglass (fish bladder) which apart from being gross is obviously not vegan. I now have a massive list of places I can eat and recipes I can cook particularly based around the cuisines mentioned above. (If you’d be interested in some recipes or a restaurant guide then let me know!)
Being allergic to soya, wheat and gluten doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to follow a vegan diet but it is very hard and whenever I get sick or am travelling and not cooking for myself I tend to fluctuate a bit with soya, wheat and gluten (if I’m not near a performance) or occasionally goats milk as described above. To clarify: vegans don’t eat animal products (meat, dairy, eggs) but are fine with wheat, gluten and soya. I’ve not met anybody following the exact same diet as me, but since following my strange diet plan I’ve found the actress Zooey Deschanel who has the same problem of being vegan and allergic to many food groups.
I hope you found this post interesting and if not, then don’t fear we shall return to sparkly shoes and animal-print dresses in the next post! If you’d like to find out more please feel free to drop me an e-mail, leave a comment or have a click through some of these: A report from The Guardian, The Vegan Society, a guide on going Vegetarian or Vegan from PETA and this interesting documentary on BBC R4 about Rethinking Veganism and you can follow me on twitter/bloglovin/facebook.
*I used to be militant in avoiding anything imported and but it is incredibly hard to sustain when applying this philosophy to every item you encounter, so I now mostly try with food and luxury items (clothes, home decor etc). The technical term for this foodwise is locavore and I would say I mostly adhere to local things wherever I can especially with food, vegetables. I also never knowingly buy new clothing that’s been imported (goodbye, high street) because I don’t want to contribute to the demand for importing clothes, but if it’s in a charity shop for example then I’m not directly contributing to importing those items and I feel ok about that.