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10 things vegetarians are sick of hearing / your vegetarian friends want you to know

I became a vegetarian on my ninth birthday. This usually elicits shock and the assumption that I am vegetarian because of my family / culture / religious beliefs. But, no – I was just a child who was interested in where my food came from and when I knew the facts eating meat (read meat, fish, poultry) didn’t make sense to me, even at nine.

Having been a vegetarian for so long the biggest thing I’ve learnt is that you cannot convince someone to change what they eat. It is a personal journey and people will either get there or they won’t. So I will not be doing that. Instead, I’d like to use this opportunity to appeal to my meat-eating friend to think before they say any of the following things to the next vegetarian they meat…I mean meet.

1. Why are you vegetarian?

Firstly, you probably know the answer before you even ask. But I’m not saying don’t ask – I love sharing my beliefs about food with people who are genuinely interested and like many others who have written his week I strongly encourage people to educate themselves about all the food they are eating (meat and otherwise). What I am saying is please don’t ask if your plan is just to argue with me about the answer I give you.

This happens to me all the time…so much so that my first response to this question is usually “do you really want to know or are you just making polite conversation?” Most people think they really want to know. So I explain. And then the “debate” starts, or I get accused of trying to make someone feel guilty, or told that the conversation is “not cool” while people are eating meat. But, um, you asked??

I’m going to start ranting soon so enough said on that point.

2. But how do you get your protein / isn’t that really unhealthy / don’t you have a poor immune system?

Again, do your own research. But I can honestly say I don’t know any vegans or vegetarians who struggle to get enough protein in my diet. We have been brain washed into thinking that protein only comes from meat, when in actual fact it is one of the least healthy sources of protein. I heard a dietician describe it like this once – I have spent my career (of over 20 years) treating patients with cholesterol, gout, kidney problems, etc, conditions that we know are associated with a high-meat diet. But I have never treated a vegetarian or vegan for protein deficiency. Pretty interesting if you ask me.

3. Do you eat fish? And chicken? No meat at all??

Fish = still an animal (and that would make me a Pescetarian)

Chicken = also an animal

Yes, I really meant no meat at all.

4. But BACON

I have a pet-hate of the recent bacon craze that appears to have spread throughout the world. Firstly, pigs are really intelligent, affectionate animals (just youtube search “clever pig” if you don’t believe me) who know when they are being taken to slaughter. They literally scream when they are being killed. Secondly, even if that doesn’t bother you and you make the decision to continue eating pig products, what you are doing by supporting the “bacon-with-everything craze” is celebrating and glorifying the fact that an animal has died so that you can eat it. It is excessive, insensitive and barbaric.

5. Ja, but you eat eggs and cheese – what about the poor chickens and dairy cows

Don’t make your guilt my guilt. By being vegetarian I am not proclaiming that I am perfect and superior to all others. I have a real conflict with the fact that I still eat eggs and cheese and going vegan is something I think about daily. It is something I am trying to rearrange my life towards. But at least I’m doing something.

6. But our bodies are designed to eat meat, and paleo, and banting and stuff

No, they aren’t. Watch this TED talk for some pretty convincing arguments from an Archeological Scientist. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMOjVYgYaG8

7. Vegetarian food is boring

Again, not true and a pretty strange comment coming from a non-vegetarian. Have a look at the wide range of veggie cookbooks out there. I will happily share recipes with anyone who is interested.

8. You don’t know what you’re missing out on

Yes, I do. I get this from my dad all the time – even all these years later he still seems to think I’m a vegetarian because I don’t like the taste of meat. (Although after all these years I probably don’t). I don’t miss or crave meat at all anymore but some vegetarians do and this kind of statement is not very encouraging to them. (For any new struggling vegetarians reading this – it gets easier, I promise!)

9. Sorry for eating this meat in front of you

I think different vegetarians have differing opinions on this, but I personally am not bothered by the sight of someone eating meat. My philosophy is very much – it’s a personal decision – so as long as I don’t have to pay for it or eat it myself you are not offending me. I love enjoying meals with my friends and take pride in the fact that I can braai better than many of the men I know.

10. Yes this dish is vegetarian.

It might seem shocking but I have been told a number of times by friends and family that a dish is meat-free, only to take a bite and taste immediately that there is definitely meat inside. The explanation is usually “Oh well I just used some for flavor”. Please don’t. Just be honest – I’ll be happy bringing my own dish or eating the side dishes.

[For a number of other great stories relating to people choosing to go vegetarian, click here]

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