At the end of the month I will have been completely meat and cows milk free for three months so I thought why not share some background on how we currently eat as a family.
I guess the purists would say I’m a crap vegetarian because I still eat a bit of fish and the vegans would think it’s pointless not drinking cows milk if I consume eggs and cheese but I don’t think you have to follow anyone else’s rules – you can decide for yourself what you are comfortable with eating or not eating. I know that plant based is the way to go. It’s taking me a while to get there but I’m doing better than most.
My journey to giving up meat has been slow and steady. Over the course of the last 4 or 5 years after watching many documentaries on TV about poor animal welfare standards particularly in terms of mass supermarket meat production I started only wanting to buy the highest quality, organic meat that we could afford. Then, when that felt too extravagant for everyday meals I stopped buying meat at home altogether. Eventually, at the start of this year I plucked up the courage to tell our families that I’d decided to give up eating all meat. I was only really eating it to be polite. I was nervous that they’d think I was being faddy or high maintenance but they’ve been exceptionally supportive.
I’ve watched all the major documentaries when it comes to veganism – Earthlings, Forks over Knives etc… but it was Cowspiracy that ended up being the one that tipped me into making a permanent change.
If you haven’t seen the documentary I highly recommend watching it. You can watch it on Netflix or YouTube. These are some of the stand-out facts:
- Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation.
- Animal Agriculture is responsible for 20%-33% of all fresh water consumption in the world today.
- Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction.
- A farm with 2,500 dairy cows produces the same amount of waste as a city of 411,000 people.
- Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon destruction
- We are currently growing enough food to feed 10 billion people
- 82% of starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals, and the animals are eaten by western countries (Source)
It’s such a no-brainer to me that we should we should be giving up (or cutting down on) meat and dairy to stop humans from completely destroying the planet with their selfish appetite for eating meat, especially when plants can provide all of our dietary needs and are so abundant. It also feels entirely wrong to be eating meat when there countries where people are starving but grain is being fed to their animals for the West to eat. If we could ensure that no one in the world is going hungry and also be kinder to the planet, why wouldn’t we just give up eating meat?
As the main cook and food shopper in our household, the rest of the family happily go along with my preference. My husband will occasionally choose to eat meat if he’s out and we decided that the children should experience a “standard” diet while they are still young enough to not know the difference, so they eat a bit of meat outside the house.
Edward is 3 now and knows what “meat” is but doesn’t fully understand that is is the flesh of a dead animal. He interchangeably uses “lamb” or “chicken” to describe any meat. He doesn’t distinguish between the food he eats at home versus meals containing meat that he might have elsewhere. I was brought up to feel like I was being short-changed if there wasn’t animal protein on my plate at all times so I’m happy that he would probably choose broccoli over a piece of meat if it was offered to him. I don’t doubt that when he’s old enough to understand that he’ll want to follow my example and choose not to eat meat as well.
I can hand on heart say I’ve not missed meat one bit or felt tempted to cheat. We eat pretty much the same type of food that anyone on a meat eating diet would, but without the meat – our curries are made with chickpeas and vegetables, our stir fries with tofu or nuts, our bolognese with lentils, Sunday roast with nut roast. We still have lazy freezer food nights, I challenge anyone to tell the difference between a Quorn nugget and the real thing. I’ve never been a massive fan of bacon and I genuinely prefer veggie sausages over even the most artisan of meat versions. I’ve even replaced the milk in my beloved cups of tea with soya. It doesn’t feel restrictive at all and now that mainstream restaurants like Zizzi are offering such wide ranges of vegetarian and vegan options it feels like the winds of change are turning in terms of vegetarianism and veganism not being seen as “out there” or weird but in fact the socially responsible choice when it comes to diet.
I’m eating less and less fish, eggs and cheese. In fact just last week when I popped out of work to get lunch at Itsu I grabbed a veggie sushi box instead of my favourite spicy tuna rolls or salmon sashimi. I’m consciously cutting these out of my everyday diet (slowly) but I have to admit, having them as an option does make life easier when it comes to eating out and especially when we eat with our families.
The point that I would like to stress though is anything is better than nothing. Don’t feel like you need to be conform 100% to the “rules” or “label” of vegetarian or vegan. If you decide to do meatless Mondays or have the odd vegetarian Sunday roast then that’s a start and change always has to start somewhere.