Wednesday, 23 May 2012

How To Be Vegetarian Without Alienating Everyone Or Having To Eat Rabbit Food

We're half way through National Vegetarian Week in the UK so here is a bonus update!

I'm guessing you're reading this because you're interested in vegetarianism, possibly considering it or already are a vegetarian, or you're just interested in seeing what I'm going to say. I hope this is helpful!

A little back ground information
I've been vegetarian for about four years. My fiancé has been vegetarian for about three years. I have friends who have been vegetarian for most of their lives, some who have been vegetarian since birth and some who are only recent converts. But I also have lots of friends who are not vegetarian and I am the only vegetarian in my family. I love animals and I don't want to harm something that I love. But I also understand that not everyone feels that way. We all draw the line in a different place.

Becoming A Vegetarian
I'm a big advocate of just doing things, especially when it comes to diet changes. No weaning. No 'one last bacon bap'. Just cut it out right now. I think that weaning yourself off something can just make things harder. I'm not saying don't use up what's in your cupboards, there is no point in throwing away perfectly good food, but personally I would just donate any leftover meaty food to a friend or family member who will eat them. But that's just me. Also, don't worry about not being able to eat anything, you'll be surprised by just how much of what you eat everyday is already vegetarian.

Do Your Research
Most of us know someone who says that they tried being vegetarian and it made them sick. It's much, much more likely that they just didn't do it properly. You can't just cut out a big part of your diet and not expect to feel the effects, and you can't just carry on eating the same things minus the meat. The Vegetarian Society and The Vegan Society are packed with information on how to ensure you're body is getting everything it needs and they also have tons of delicious recipes, so check them out.

It Doesn't Have To Be Hard
Being a vegetarian can feel pretty isolating at times. Like I said, I'm the only vegetarian in my family and I was also the only vegetarian at my old job, so I often had to put up with annoying and sometimes just really stupid questions. The most common being "but how can you live without bacon!?" or people telling me that it's pointless. So join forums. Get on Facebook and join groups. Get on Tumblr and follow people, this is also a great way to find yummy recipe blogs. Read vegan and vegetarian blogs. Read books.  

It can also be hard to be civil with people who have views that are in such contrast to your own, but I've always had the view that if you treat others with respect, then they will do the same to you nine times out of ten. But I'll talk more about this further down the page!

If you live in a small town then it can be difficult to find the foods you want, but don't forget that the internet is packed with online shops so you can always order the more obscure items. You also don't really need a lot of the fancy ingredients some people talk about, you can create simple, cheap and delicious dishes with just the basics!

Eating out can be hard as a vegetarian, and even harder if you're vegan. Asian restaurants and Italians tend to be pretty good though and don't be afraid to ask. When I was on holiday in Dublin we went to an Indonesian restaurant and they didn't have anything vegan, so I asked the waitress if there was any way they could alter some of the dishes and she asked the chef. The chef created me my own vegan dishes that weren't on the menu and said that he really loved the challenge! So it's always worth asking and if they're rude then just leave and go somewhere else.

Living With Parents
If you still live at home then it can be difficult to be vegetarian because your parents are still calling the shots. When I first decided to be vegetarian my parents were iffy about it. Eating out was a pain. But over time they've realised that this isn't just a silly phase, that it's important to me. Nowadays when I visit my parents the fridge is packed with veggies, fruit and vegetarian meals for myself and my fiancé, and they have realised that I'm really not fussed if we go somewhere and all I can eat is a salad. My Dad is also really lovely and will ask waitresses questions on my behalf and my Mum will check menus before we go into places. So, if your parents are giving you stick about it now, they'll get used to it. It also helps if you refrain from pushing your beliefs on them, just like you wouldn't want them pushing their beliefs on you.

By Pawel Kuczynski
Don't Alienate Everybody
When you first launch yourself into this new, exciting vegetarian world it's easy to get carried away. You've learnt so much and you want to enlighten other people. But, not everyone appreciates that.

I think that meat looks and smells disgusting. I avoid the meat and fish aisles in the supermarket because the smell actually makes me feel a bit sick. But, I'm not about to point to a friend's bacon sandwich and tell them that the sight and smell of it makes me want to wretch, that's just rude.

It can be hard to keep your mouth shut when people are acting like jerks and it's fine to point out if someone is hurting your feelings. But, when your friend says how it's so horrible that someone would abuse a dog, try to refrain from shrilling "but animals in the meat industry are abused everyday and you EAT them!" or when someone is eating a chicken salad, try to not point at them and say "it's really no different to eating your cat!", it's just not going to win you any friends and very few arguments. Even if what you're saying is completely true, a lot of people just don't want to hear it and it often ends up in arguments where no one wins and everyone gets their feelings hurt.

I'm not saying don't be honest and don't feel like you can't express yourself, of course you can, but try to be a grown up about it. I don't tell people that I'm vegetarian unless they ask or it's relevant, like if I'm going to a party and there will be food. If someone asks me why then I will simply tell them I don't want to eat animals. If they keep pressing me then I might explain further if I feel that we can have a proper conversation about it. 

People are often genuinely interested, and most people don't mean to hurt your feelings or offend you. So next time someone asks you why you choose to not eat anything with a face, explain it like the sane, rational person you are! 

But if someone is waving a steak in your face, then I fully support you smacking it out of their hand. I also fully support activism, whether you're striding about with a placard or just signing petitions, and sharing information with people through blogs, websites and social networking. But again, do it with a little style and please, please don't post horrid images of abused animals. I know that's the last thing I want to see when I log into Facebook and it doesn't really achieve anything, except for upsetting people and making them angry.

 I've always been a firm believer that it's far easier to win people over if you're calm and explain things, rather than lose your rag and accuse people of being awful for not thinking the way you do. Quite often you just come across as a nut-job, and no one is going to want to agree with the crazy person. Who are you to say that your particular choice is better than anyone else's? None of us are perfect and it's our differences, ability to change and ability to discuss arguments that makes us so interesting.

From Scott Pilgrim
A Few Pro Tips
Vegetarians don't eat fish. If you call yourself vegetarian and you eat fish, you're a pescetarian, not a vegetarian. This is one of those little things that bug the hell out of a lot of people.

It's never funny to tease people about their beliefs.

Not all vegetarians and vegans are crazy hippies, the majority are normal. But it's always the weird ones who shout loudest.

The point of all this?
 Being vegetarian isn't hard, but it does take some effort and it's fantastic that you've decided to be vegetarian, but don't be an ass about it. Simple really.

If you have any questions then feel free to hit up the comment box or my email!

Are you vegetarian? What are the best and worst aspects of being vegetarian? If you're not vegetarian, have you ever tried it?

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