Why I eat the way I eat

I’m surprised I haven’t written about this on the blog thus far, but in case I haven’t mentioned it at all, I’m a vegetarian. I have been a vegetarian for over two-and-a-half years, will be three years in September.

Naturally, when people find out that I am one, the very first thing they say following their finding out is “why?” I know not everyone intends it to sound the way it does, but every time someone asks, it’s as though I’m being interrogated. As though not eating meat is way beyond the boundaries of normal.

I used to give a few default answers. Here are two:

  • I had slowly been falling out of love with meat for years before. People always say “I’d totally be a vegetarian if I didn’t love bacon so much.” I probably haven’t eaten bacon in over ten years. I used to love the taste of bologna as a kid. Hate it now. Ditto liverwurst (my family has German heritage which is why it was around in my house so much) and ditto ham.
  • I’m not a very healthy person. By that I mean I hate most physical exercise. I’ve tried getting into a running routine but that’s never materialized, and I also have never had the commitment to working out (not that I’ve ever gone to a gym as it is).

Both of these are true, by the way. But neither are really the one true reason why I stopped eating meat. And the reason is simple: I became a vegetarian because I wanted to. I’ve started to tell people the whole truth more often now, and I’ve found that it works like a charm. There’s very little further questioning people go into after that.

For the past two years I’ve been going to the Vegetarian Food Festival in Toronto with a good friend of mine who is vegan. When I went last year, we attended a talk that interested me a little bit. It was clearly aimed at people who were already vegans themselves, but there was one point the speaker made that really stuck with me.

She got into the tricky part for vegans, which is explaining to others why they’re vegans. She joked (but it wasn’t really a joke) that vegans are expected to be have advanced knowledge of nutrition, environmental sciences and so many other things. Her solution to the problem: simply say that you’re doing your part to not participate in violence toward animals.

That seems really sensible to me, and the wording is important. The first part is the statement of choice, as I’ve been telling people; you’re choosing to be vegan. And in the second part, using the word “violence” instead of “slaughter” or “murder” will shed the notion that many people have of vegans as aggressive and militant.

I’m not a model vegetarian yet, I should say. I haven’t put as much effort into eating well as I should, but now that I have much more free time to cook, I think it’s just a matter of finding recipes and following through with cooking them.

So it’s that simple. Be a vegetarian or vegan if you want to, and don’t feel the need to go into nutritional or health benefits. It’s your choice, not anyone else’s.

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