The word ‘vegetarian’ and ‘vegan’ stir up different emotions for different people, whether they be positive or negative. But for me, those words have been a huge part of my life for years. I have been vegetarian for around five years and dabbled with veganism on and off within that time frame.
Since I was a child, I have always been compassionate towards animals- even the spiders that I found in the sink in the bathroom would be taken outside and left unharmed. What I realised when I grew up and started learning more about the world is that despite the fact that I claimed to care about animals, I was contributing to their exploitation by buying and consuming meat and fish. I felt like a hypocrite. I was also contributing to the current unsustainable demand that our society has for meat, which is having a considerable impact on our environment. I knew I had to take the leap and I became a vegetarian overnight.
This article, however, is not to discuss the problems with the meat industry or even to discuss my own reasons on becoming a vegetarian. It’s about discussing the fact that some meat-eaters- note how I said some- feel the need to ask me questions about vegetarianism when all I want to do is eat my veggie burger without having to give an interview. Just let me eat my food in peace. I’m sure its simply out of curiosity but I don’t want to have to explain myself every time I buy lunch or a snack at Avenue cafe. There are a variety of questions vegetarians and vegans get asked, and there are a variety of colourful replies they would like to offer, but probably never would out of politeness. I am going to forget politeness for now and answer the most commonly asked questions.
‘Did you know there are certain vitamins and minerals that you can only get from meat?’
Actually, this is untrue. Every vitamin and mineral found in meat and animal products, in general, can be found in plant-based foods, including vitamin B12 and iron. From B12 fortified cereal to spinach that is literally full of iron, vegetarians and vegans are healthier than ever with all the information available to them on how to incorporate all the vitamins and minerals they need into their diets.
‘Where do you get your protein from?’
In tofu, beans, almonds, chickpeas and seitan- I could go on. People are too concerned with protein and most of us get too much of it. Vegetarians and vegans get more than enough in their diets; in fact, more than the recommended daily intake. We should be more concerned with vitamins C, B12 and iron, which many people, meat eaters included, aren’t getting enough of in their diets.
And finally, ‘I could never become a vegetarian, meat tastes too good!’
I suppose this is more of a statement than a question, but I will discuss it nonetheless. Being a vegetarian in the UK in 2019 has never been easier and the options are endless, from veggie bacon to veggie chicken, vegetarians and vegans can eat a varied and balanced diet with all the tasty options available in UK supermarkets. If you decide to ditch the meat substitutes, being a vegetarian is cheaper as well; after all, meat is a lot more expensive than fruit and vegetables.
If you compare the options available to vegetarians and vegans in the UK compared to other countries, we are so lucky. After living in Madrid during my year abroad, I realised this even more and appreciated the options that we have in the UK so much more when I came back. When entering a supermarket in Madrid, there were rarely any meat substitutes. I would actually get excited if I found a veggie burger in a new supermarket! The only thing they really sold for vegetarians was fruit, vegetables and tofu. Sometimes I craved a veggie burger and chips or veggie chicken nuggets because, after all, vegetarians and vegans crave unhealthy foods just as much as the next person.
However, if you do decide to eat meat, that’s completely fine and it’s your decision. Now you know the answers to the most common questions you have for vegans and vegetarians. Please let us eat our veggies in peace.