Hello reader, (the featured picture is most definitely me)
I’m currently sitting in my less than sufficient kitchen with Ellie yelling odd rhyming titles for this post. So far she has Meat to Beets, Cheese to Peas and Dairy to more Care-y .
This is going to be my story from a chicken loving omnivore to a new and improved vegetarian. It’s a story with a ton of ups and downs and excitement and struggles. Maybe it’ll give some insight to those who said I was wrong.
I’ve always been an empathetic person and I adore animals. I love their intelligence, their love, their presence. Growing up, I’ve owned pet mice, fish, dogs and horses. I was always that kid to save the bird with the broken wing. At one point I wanted to be a vet. I actually cried when I was told that I couldn’t grow up and become a dolphin. My dreams were shattered. Animals are friends to me. Not like a species I look down on because they can’t build skyscrapers but like equals. They have the same rights to this planet too. But I never connected those ideas with what I was eating.
The First Attempt
It started back at the end of 2014. One day I saw a video posted by PETA on Facebook that showed graphic images of pigs being dunked alive in tanks of boiling water to sear off the layer of hairy skin. I was traumatized. It’s a hard concept to grasp that this is what my pork chop went through before it arrived on my plate with apple sauce. I started to connect the food on my plate with real beings, with life. I thought “what right do we have to end countless lives to sustain our own?”
At the time I was with my boyfriend and had been for a year and a half. I was so excited to break the news to him, to feel like I was doing good for these animals. I was going to be the Indiana Jones of the animal kingdom. When I finally told him he was utterly disgusted. “I don’t think I can date a vegetarian.” He said. He threatened to end our relationship. My world crashed. He had me thinking that saving the lives of the animals we eat was a crazy, far-fetched idea. I hadn’t done a lot of research at this time so I had no idea how to counter his accusations of “we’ve always eaten meat”, “It’s unhealthy to not eat meat”, “It’s the circle of life.”
A lot of the way he responded was based on his culture. His family is Maori and he was bought up hunting and trapping animals and having massive barbecues with plenty of steak and sausages. He found it absurd and stupid.
However, just because you have been brought up a certain way doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be open to new ideas. If we stayed the way we were brought up, we would all still be cavemen. We didn’t evolve because we did everything the same. He wouldn’t even let me explain myself. I wish I could say I had the strength to leave him then but as a sixteen year old in her first relationship, I didn’t.
My step-father and brother weren’t that keen on the idea either. In fact my brother didn’t talk to me for a few days and my step-dad had that disappointed look on his face when dinner time rolled around. It’s the hardest thing to have your family not support you in something that you really want to do. I blame their reactions on lack of education. They didn’t understand my reasons and therefore didn’t agree with what I was doing. A lot of people who turn up their noses at the idea don’t fully understand the reasons behind it, think it’s too difficult to do, is out of the ordinary and/or inconveniences others. Unfortunately, due to lack of support, I decided to put the crazy idea out of my head so I could focus on pleasing the people around me instead.
Time shifts forward to around May 2015. Over the weeks leading up to this date I had done so much research on being vegetarian. I read articles online, blog posts, watched videos and documentaries, looked up some good vegetarian recipes, what supplements I might need, if any, and I was overwhelmed with all the information. How the chance of getting most cancers are lowered significantly. Heart attacks and strokes are lowered by around 40% approx. Bowel cancer risk becomes barely non-existent. And that was just the health side. I began to associate the food on my plate as real, living beings. Did you know that a fully grown pig has the same intelligence as a three-year old child, but slaughterhouses are still trying to convince us that they don’t feel afraid? I started to understand that these animals have feelings, families and once I made the connection that I didn’t need meat to sustain my life the decision was easy. No animal needs to die to allow me to enrich my life with a food that’ll eventually shorten my life.
“EARTHLINGS” is a great documentary that gives insight into the mass production of meat as well as using animals for clothing and pets. This documentary was the final push I needed to decide on the vegetarian lifestyle. You can find it on YouTube if anyone wants to have a watch. The link is highlighted above.
“PETA” has a great website and Facebook feed to follow also. They post videos, articles, photos and research about everything from veganism to testing on animals. They really help to keep me informed about new changes.
Also a great blog to follow is Mango Island Mamma. I’ve only discovered her recently but she lives the most beautiful lifestyle on Maui as a raw vegan with her husband and two young sons who are raw vegans also. She has a great way of helping people to understand that the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle is all about love and compassion for others people and beings.
I also went on Pinterest and made a board for all of my reasons and ideas about vegetarianism. (Link to my Pinterest). I saved quotes and pictures and kept them as my phone screen savers to remind me to think about what I was eating. This one was particularly useful to me.
Telling The Family
Once I had set my mind, I was determined to stay away from meat. Then came the part of telling my family that this was what I wanted to do, that I wasn’t going to be swayed this time. I thank my mum so incredibly much for being a huge support in this journey. Being so accepting of my decision even though she didn’t fully understand it. Then being open to me spit out fact after fact because she was willing to try and understand. I don’t ask for people to understand it, just to accept it as a choice and lifestyle that I want to live.
I was so nervous about telling Brent (my step-dad) and the rest of my family based on their reactions last time. But in the end it wasn’t me who told them, it was my mum.
For the nights leading up to them finding out, the meat at dinner had been really easy to avoid as it was cooked separate and I could just eat the veges around it saying “I’m just not in the mood for steak tonight.” Then unfortunately it became less avoidable without letting anyone know. I had already had a few words to mum but had told her not to tell the others because I wasn’t ready to deal with their reactions yet. Brent was cooking tea and he decided to make a one-pot butter chicken. The meat was unavoidable. Faking a sickness I didn’t eat tea that night. The night after that Brent was cooking again and decided to make a one-dish lasagna. Just my luck that the meat was unavoidable again. When the sickness lie had Brent suspicious mum pulled him aside and told him about my decision. I didn’t know how he would take it but he came up to me and apologised about not being so supportive. I cried heaps because I was so relieved that he had decided to accept my decision. The night after Brent cooked a vegetarian corn pie for dinner and I more shocked about that than Brent cooking three nights in a row.
After that everyone in the family became very accommodating with dinner and it even gave mum some new challenges in the kitchen. Her and I started getting very creative with what we were making, changing regular lasagna into a veggie option with grated pumpkin and mushrooms, trying different pizza topping combinations and discovering the joys of falafel (it’s seriously good guys). It really helped my family with the perception of the life style, to see me cook and get involved in making new food.
Eating out wasn’t too difficult either. I’d google the menu before hand to make sure they had some vegetarian options or something that could easily be changed. I never wanted to feel like I was inconveniencing anyone or holding up the orders with my “difficult” one so I tried to know what I was ordering before hand. I feel in love with the vegetarian pizza’s, and had to occasionally fight my friends off them.
Realisations about fish.
For about four months after deciding to be vegetarian I was still eating fish. Don’t go crazy at me saying I was only pescatarian because I am aware of that. However, when I started my vegetarian journey I didn’t have a strong emotional connection with fish/sea creatures. I suppose it’s the same as what most people have to all animals they eat. But I struggled to find my morals when it came to fish. I know that’s horrible to say but I found it difficult to see them as “animals”. You don’t exactly go to the barnyard to pat a fish.
As winter started to wear off, I was spending a lot more time at the beach. I absolutely adore the beach. I’m a Pisces and water is my second blood. It literally runs through my veins. I would take our little dog Maggie down for a run and paddle in the water. Occasionally this seal would flop itself onto the shore and sunbathe.
I didn’t understand why I didn’t have the motivation not to eat fish. Again it started with research. Staring at the computer for hours until my eyes dried out and I got cramp in my pinky finger. Looking at articles and studies of how we are trawling our sea to extinction. How in 2050 there will be barely anything left. I studied the whale hunting in Japan, the work the Green Peace teams do in protecting our waterways and wildlife as well as the treatment of fish, crabs and whales on board sea trawlers. I even watched Finding Nemo. I can’t imagine how suffocating to death feels like. Well, I almost can because my brother nearly did it to me once.
Then something just clicked. I am so in love with the ocean and the beauty within it that I have no idea how it didn’t click sooner. I just understood that it needed to be protected and cared for not used as an all-you-can-eat buffet. Because natures “chefs” can’t cook enough food for the demand to keep this buffet running forever. Because we aren’t waiting for our fish to be fully grown before we catch them, they don’t have time to mate and have offspring therefore aren’t reproducing to make more fish. Soon enough there will be none left. Ever heard of endangered tuna? Well you’re about to. Part of this “clicking” was Mum and I going to Vanuatu to film a documentary. During our stay we got to snorkel and truly enjoy all the wonders nature had to offer. My heart broke so much at the thought of it be destroyed that I’m ready to join Green Peace. I decided then that I was finished giving my money to companies that are ruining one of my favourite places.
Everyday Vegetarian Life
Life is simple despite what people think. Meat doesn’t even cross my mind anymore. I only craved it a few times during the first few weeks as my body was flushing out the hormones, chemicals and toxins found in meat that my body was so used to. I started to feel a lot better. I didn’t feel gluggy after eating tea, stopped getting my occasional stomach upset and my skin cleared up a bit to. I started to feel a lot healthier like I’d been on a six day juice cleanse. There was not a negative about the way it made me feel. I always found new ways to make food that was inspiring to me and it excited me to cook. When mum made a stir fry she would scoop my bowl out first then add the chicken for the others. When she made lasagne she’d give me my own small dish and make a grated pumpkin one for me. Brent even altered a few of his classic recipes to make a version that I could eat. I would make zucchini and carrot muffins and vegetarian sushi that taste so fantastically good I could drown myself in them.
I have had a few issues with people being rather rude about my choice to not eat meat. Someone close to the family, their first response was “well that’s f***ing stupid.” It’s hard to hear things like that but as I said before, it is usually out of lack of education/understanding. That particular person is definitely fine now and has accepted my decision.
My brother and I have multiple arguments about my lifestyle choice. He doesn’t understand or like the idea. He believes that it is something we have been doing for centuries, the circle of life, and I’m stupid for doing anything different. I’ve tried to explain to him my reasons but he doesn’t want to hear them. I tend to disregard his reasons because they are more opinions and they aren’t backed up by research. This doesn’t mean I don’t respect his decision to eat meat, I do, and I’ve always said if he came to me with some good research on why eating meat is good/beneficial for us then I would listen. I would never force this lifestyle on anyone but I also won’t listen to people whose reeasons that I should eat meat consist of “You’re stupid not to cause it’s normal.” I love my brother to bits but I guess we just don’t see eye to eye on some things. We don’t fight about it anymore, he accepts me but doesn’t understand it.
I just try to reinforce that i’m doing this out of love and compassion for the animals we share this planet with. A good way of explaining how I feel is asking people if they support animal abuse like the neglect of dogs, cats and horses. 100% of the answers I’ve gotten have been no. Then I go on to explain that I don’t support ANY kind of animal abuse. Whether they live in a paddock or in my living. This generally gets people understanding and thinking about why they are only against certain forms of animals abuse, which it turn explains to them why I don’t eat cows and pigs just like they don’t eat dogs and cats. A true supporter of kindness to animals should support ALL animals.
Also it’s important to make sure you are being smart and healthy when living this lifestyle. Always listen to your body and whats it is telling you. I make sure I get regular blood tests to make sure my iron levels are okay. I do not take an iron supplement as every blood test I’ve had shows I have sufficient iron levels. I’m lucky that my body can absorb the iron from plant foods easily enough to keep my levels up. Although I still get tests done every now and then as, with age, my body’s iron absorbing powers may fade.
That is the end of my tale of woe and wonder. I hope that this gives some insight to those wanting to go down the same path or those who don’t understand why I did it. Feel free to comment with any questions you might have and i’ll see if I can answer them. Please remember to respect my choices the way I accept yours and don’t use this as a chance to attack my lifestyle.
I should probably end this with something smart and catchy like xoxo Gossip Girl or Be Kind To One Another but falling short of a great idea,