I’m no vegan, but…

There’s no way to explain why I’ve stopped eating meat, eggs and dairy without sounding like a supercilious, smug, judgmental shrew.

It’s now been over eight months since I ate meat, and obviously the first question I’m asked is “why?”

I’m never sure how to explain it, so I usually opt for the ‘health’ reason – although my close friends know that ‘health’ is typically low on my list of Reasons For Doing Stuff. Likely to be higher on the list are “it’s cheaper,” “I’ve had nine tequila shots,” and “I need to impress this guy”. My reasons for giving up the delicious animal flesh are almost the same justifications I used to stop buying new clothing a couple of years ago – I don’t particularly want to feed into an exploitative industry, and it simplifies my life. Most of my life-changing decisions have been geared towards simplification – at heart I’m just a girl who wants to live in a tin shed with nothing more than a billy can, a still and an endless supply of 90’s mix tapes. Sadly I’m not in a position to do that right now, so I make do with cutting out complications. Like first-world moral angst.

I grew up in a region where primary industry is almost a religion. I’ve eaten many a t-bone steak that had previously been a doe-eyed calf I’d named when it slid out of its mother. I believe it’s perfectly natural and ethical for people-folk to eat animals. It’s how I was brought up, and it’s how millions of humans have been raised for thousands of years. However, when I left behind my comfortable bucolic upbringing and poked around in the greater world, I had to acknowledge that those juicy meat packages in Woolworths don’t come from a steer that’s been gently lured into the home paddock with some sweet potatoes, then shot in the head before he even knows what’s happening. Eggs don’t come from chickens that have been fed scraps every morning by a hollering four-year-old with fresh beak-welts on her tender fingers. Milk doesn’t come from patient ol’ Bessie having her teats squeezed every morning into a tin bucket. Small family-run holdings are quickly becoming extinct, and the encroaching corporate-funded alternatives are gross bastardisations of an industry that’s supposed to be inherently wholesome, transparent and connected to the earth.

The farmers I know are kind, ethical people with passion for their chosen profession. I say “chosen”, but it’s probably all they’ve ever known. These men and women live and breathe agriculture and animal husbandry. They deserve to make a damn good living, firstly because they work really bloody hard, and secondly because they’re literally putting food on the tables of everyone in the nation. Sometimes it feels like I’m betraying them, and subsequently my heritage.

On the other hand, there MUST be a better way to do things. I have no idea what that way is, so I’ve quietly extracted myself from the machine.

Not everyone cares about this stuff. I don’t think everyone should care about this stuff. There are plenty of issues to go around, and everyone cares about something. This is merely what’s important to me, and it’s what I’ve chosen to base my lifestyle on – albeit a bit later that I should have. I don’t begrudge anyone their porterhouse steaks or their bacon double-cheeseburgers. We all know that shit’s delicious. By the same token, I don’t want anyone to begrudge my choices, but it seems people can’t help but get weird and judgmental when you tell them why you’re suddenly ordering your coffee with soy milk. Suddenly my iron, protein and calcium intake is everyone’s business. I guess it’s something I’ll need to get used to.

Health-wise, I donate plasma every few weeks so I regularly have my blood work looked at – and I’m firing on all cylinders, thank you very much. By which I mean my iron levels are fine and I don’t have HIV.  I like to think that my Papua New Guinean lineage is assisting this whole transition – after all, my ancestors weren’t exactly chasing game animals the size of my Ford Fiesta across sweeping savannahs. Their red meat was limited to whatever they could gnaw off a tree kangaroo, and the odd reptile. Probably the odd human, too, but don’t mention that to my next date.

It’s a steep learning curve, but I’m having loads of fun with new ingredients and recipes I’d never have glanced at twelve months ago. Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Frothed rice milk in coffee is delicious. Admittedly, rice milk doesn’t froth at all – so by ‘frothed’, I mean ‘warmed up and agitated.’ Somewhat like myself after watching Fast Five. Pedantics aside, I actually prefer it to cow’s milk now.
  • You can function perfectly well on an omniverous fast food diet, but don’t attempt it on a plant-based diet. There is no protein in vegetarian fast food. You can’t live off Nando’s vegie burger meals all week without becoming lethargic and angry.
  • That said, a good serve of oily McDonald’s fries at 4am on a Saturday morning is every bit as satisfying as a cheeseburger, and you’re less likely to find a pickle down your bra when you wake up at 2pm the next day.
  • Pizza has always been my default reward/cheer up/hangover food, so understandably I’ve been anxious about how to replace it. Then I discovered – and no, I don’t expect anyone to believe me, but – pizza doesn’t really need cheese. I know I sound like a lunatic right now, but if you throw the right toppings on there a cheese-free pizza can be a very happy thing. Of course, it helps if you have a nice pinot gris to wash it down.

 

Trust me, it was delicious. So was the pizza.

Trust me, it was delicious. So was the pizza.

 

  • Plant diet = cheapest grocery bill ever. My food budget is half what it used to be, and that’s taking into account all the pretentious gourmet fluff like free-range cacao butter, shade-grown tofu and fair trade tempeh.
  • Apparently B12 is the only vitamin that’s lacking in a plant diet. Fortunately we don’t require huge quantities of it, and even more fortunate it’s abundant in this stuff:

mightymiteCall me un-Australian, but give me Mightymite over Vegemite any day. It’s owned and manufactured by wholly Australian Three Threes, as opposed to that Kraft conglomerate. Plus it tastes better. YEAH, I SAID IT. I’ll hand back my Aussie Card now.

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24 thoughts on “I’m no vegan, but…

  1. Very interesting! I love where you are coming from and you have lots of good info here.
    I am in grave need of simplification and ridding myself of angst.
    Lots to think about. Thank you for an informative and (as always!) entertaining read!

    • Well there’s a fine line between simplification and deadset boredom! Angst is no good though…perhaps it’s a good time of year for some life spring cleaning. Or just house spring cleaning, that always gives me a buck up 🙂

  2. I think it’s fascinating that you gave up meat for close to the reasons I did except that I did it for health…
    Hang on.

    In my teens, They noticed that I was in the family way and I don’t mean having a baby. I was showing all the CVD signs of my family — but I was a teen! I read everything I could about healthy eating for avoiding dropping dead of heart attack or stroke and Everybody said basically: vegetarian.

    Whilst READING Everything, I ran across the hellaciousness that was done to animals. I didn’t know about that as a kid on a ranch because our animals weren’t treated like that and lived a happy, jumping and galloping, grazing, farting life until they didn’t know what hit them. It made eating vegetarian MUCH easier and I continued to do so for almost 17 years.

    I stopped due to learning that wasn’t the best lifestyle for my genetic issues, no matter what They still say. If you can do it, more power to you! I’m pro-vegetarian in support of pro-healthy-animals-to-eat. I’m choosing ya know, my health over theirs now. I enjoyed being vegetarian.

    • Interesting! Did you find it hard to enjoy meat again after 17 years? I’m not sure how I’d go even now, after only a few months.

      • I found it hard to DIGEST but I also have genetic issues digesting a bunch of stuff. Digesting meat after not eating it for even a relatively short time is a bit difficult. I didn’t know that or I’d have added slowly!

        Meat is delicious. I do try to buy organic and non-grained but certainly any meat grown by us or people like us is absolutely a gift from the gods.

          • Since I can’t eat ‘out’ due to the Celiac thing, none of that stuff bothers me BUT food pics on the internet (of ‘whatever’) will get me drooling!

  3. This is all a very good thing. I went veggie for health reasons, too, when I learned about what goes on in slaughterhouses. If all animal foods were raised like they were in your family, then we’d all be so much healthier.

    But you lost me on the cheese. You’ll have to pry my cheese away from my cold, dead fingers.

    Believe it or not, I’ve used up most of my little jar of Vegemite. Maybe next time we exchange packages (not for a while or hubby will blow a gasket), you could include a wee jar of Mighty-Mite? 🙂

    • I do adooore cheese, but decided it really had to go. It’s expensive and fattening, and with only myself in the house I’m prone to devouring an entire wheel of brie in under 10 minutes. I mean if it turns up in a restaurant meal without me expecting it then of course I’ll eat it, but I just won’t buy it any more. You can eat cheese for the both of us 🙂

      For sure! I think you’ll find the Mighty Mite a bit more palatable. It has less of a bite, so you can really slather it on. I still can’t get over that Buzzfeed video, where the poor Americans were trying it by the spoonful. By the way, I just had some of your angostura peaches on toast with coconut yoghurt. Divine.

  4. This is a wonderful post Inga. Life is about making choices and it’s interesting to see the thinking behind yours. Some folk seem to make theirs based on a kind of religious fervor and when they do the last thing you are going to see is respect for those who think differently to them. The farmers know how that works. 🙂

    I love a latte but apparently that raises suspicions of being a closet Greenie, as does hating development at all costs, but I can’t stand the pontificating a lot of them engage in. Really I just shamelessly cherry pick the best bits and don’t sign up for the kool-aid.

    I can’t help thinking that if more folk followed your process the world would be a much less stressful place to live in. 🙂

    • I try to avoid the comment sections when I visit vegan recipe websites – invariably there’s an argument between the omnivores and the veggies over which diet is ‘right’. Any kind of fervour is really blinding, religious or not, I suppose.

      I’m a big fan of cherry-picking. It doesn’t seem like a good move to label yourself and rigidly follow a particular political dogma without question.

  5. When I was a kid the most exciting day of the week was when Dad killed a sheep, we couldn’t wait to get off the bus to help. Then I moved to Sydney and those little styrofoam trays of meat in the supermarket didn’t appeal to me – (who can afford lamb these days anyway). Did a bit of research into factory farming and decided – nope, not for me. I don’t really get into it with people because a lot of meat eaters seem to take it as a personal attack on them that I don’t eat it, they get all defensive and narky. I still like my eggs though – we found a farm where we buy them. The woman rescued hens from a factory set up so I feel happy enough buying them. I still eat free range chicken now and then but not so happy eating fish (always feel sad about fish being dragged out of the sea). Don’t like dairy but if I have cheese I have Nimbin Natural as they don’t use rennett. So I have a lot of food rules but they allow me to live with a clear conscience.

    You know who annoy me – those people who eat beef, lamb, pork etc but get all weird and offended about others eating camel or kangaroo or rabbit etc. What’s the difference! As the book title asks – Why do we love dogs, eat pigs and wear cows.

    • I like the idea of your rescued hen eggs. It’s interesting how all the farm kids seem to grow up with this idealistic view of where meat comes from. It’d be interesting to find out the point of view of the kids of actual factory farmers – I wonder if there’s any literature on that?

      I do find it strange that people are so up in arms about pet abuse, but turn a blind eye to anything that’s a food animal. Everyone’s so horrified at footage of what the Chinese do to dogs, but what exactly do they think is happening to our cattle and lambs and pigs?

      • They probably grow up to be serial killers.

        People are great at denial. I read another book called The face on your plate, people just see the meat but don’t think of it as ever having been a personality. Or like to think of it anyway.

        Don’t know if you’ve seen any of Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s cook books but they’re worth a look, she has some really nice recipes out there.

        • I just had a look at her website – so much info and so many recipes to try! Not that anything I make ever looks like it does on the internet, but eh what am I, Jamie Oliver?

          • When my family are lurking about asking whats for dinner I’m always yelling out – Don’t look at the picture because it’s not going to look anything like it!

            This chick has some nice things as well – really nice sandwiches and salads and she makes smaller servings, sometimes just one or two which is handy because if something says serves 8 it’s not much good to me.
            http://kblog.lunchboxbunch.com/

  6. Congratulations. I have no doubt your thoughtfulness on this matter spills into all other corners of your life, and that’s reflected in the happiness of your friends and family. I was a vegetarian for 20 years. I started as a teenager; so all these reasons sound familiar.

    I remember the day well. The switch was for ethical reasons; I told my growing brain: “I think eating meat is unethical, and no one should do it. Unless someone has some health problem where they must eat meat. Then it’s okay.” at the time I had no idea that someone would be me.

    I returned to eating meat after I developed a wheat allergy and both modified diets combined were just too hard. But I had forgotten all the former problems. Extreme exhaustion, crabbiness, urges to chew someone’s arm off every time I smelled bacon.

    Be very careful. Some doctors believe supplemental and plant based B12 is not bioavailable and others think a long vegetarian diet robs us of the ability to absorb it at all.

    That’s not to say it’s a bad diet. I’m many other ways it’s wildly healthier than eating meat. We have Humane Certified here (which probably has a long way to go) so that’s what I buy but a vegan or veg diet is far more than a change in scenery. It’s a revelation, so make it your own. Bless.

    • Thanks lady! 🙂 It always interests me when I hear that people started in their teens. One of my close friends is the same – started when she was 18. Me, I had zero empathy or social awareness at that age. I took a really long time to become a (mostly) thoughtful human being. You must’ve been one of those mature kids!

      Hmm, I’m not sure that we have Humane Certified here. We have RSPCA approved, but it’s a ridiculous standard and means barely more than ensuring your chickens are distracted before being scalded to death.

      Yeah, I found all the B12 information very confusing! Maybe that can be another ‘science’ post 😉 I gobble down my Mightymite, and also throw B12 fortified nutritional yeast into everything (whoever decided it’s a replacement for cheese is out of their goddamn mind). Mostly I just pay attention to my energy levels and mood, and I’ve yet to notice any negative effects. Check up on me in another six months though…

  7. An excellent discussion here, and I’m very proud of the dietary decisions you have made. Just to add another dimension, cattle production is an incredibly inefficient use of the world’s land and plant resources so in the long term it will probably be replaced by more sustainable methods of producing protein.

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