health trends · the vegan series

Veganism, meat eating and tough ethical questions

australian-vegetarians-dont-live-longer-cartoon

Veganism is a buzzword these days – a trendy bandwagon onto which many people jump without really thinking it through. I’ve heard horror stories of kids parties where newly vegan moms serve mountains of oreo cookies and doritos chips, proudly proclaiming the lack of animal products in the ingredient list. Their kids dinners tend to consist of potatoes, salad and more potatoes. The idea behind veganism is usually threefold – health reasons, ethical reasons and environmental impact (there are more I’m sure, but I’m going to focus on these for the purposes of this series). These moms might be able to look cows in the face, but when their kids are battling child obesity by the age of three, they might need to rethink their strategy.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to explore the concept of veganism in detail, including interviews with vegans and people who are on a journey to become vegan. Why, you ask? Because I’m curious. Because we live in a world that is very fucked up a lot of the time, but one good thing about being alive today is that people are becoming more conscious of their choices and the resulting consequences. 50 years ago, no one thought twice about buying steak in a supermarket. Now, we have documentaries that show us exactly where that steak comes from, often in heart-breaking detail. We are more educated, both about the realities of the food industry and the state of the planet. The digital age means we can no longer claim ignorance. Conversely, the digital age also means there is a lot of conflicting and mis-information out there. Trying to find the truth can feel like wading through quick sand.

A few months ago, Mark and I stopped eating all meat except free range Elgin chicken and fish. We came to that decision slowly, driven mostly by the sadness we felt when driving past a field of gambolling lambs and gentle cows on one of our frequent road trips. It sounds trite, but it affected us. It didn’t feel like a joke anymore that the cute piggy in the viral video was going to be bacon at our next breakfast fry up.

Let me clarify my stance on eating meat, because if I’m going to go down this road, I want to do it with full disclosure. I have no judgement against anyone, regardless of their diet choices. I still eat meat. If I go to a dinner party and someone is serving steak, I’ll eat it. And yes, I will enjoy it – I like the taste. But I won’t buy it. I want to eat less meat, and I’m making a conscious effort to do so. We picked Elgin chicken because they practice ethical farming (you can visit their farm and see for yourself – a quick google search tells stories of people who have done so), although I am aware that it doesn’t change the endgame, which, regardless of how good a chicken’s life is, is no less frightening. At this point it’s not about health for me – I feel and believe that I am very healthy (feel free to disagree on that one). It’s about ethics and compassion, and it has an added bonus of reducing my carbon footprint, which we should all be trying to do in small ways wherever possible.

I called my blog Part Time Veggie because it’s something that I aspire to be, and I’ve been varying degrees of ‘part time’ over the past 5 or so years. I’m aiming to get to the point where I’m ‘most time veggie’ and for now that’s enough. I don’t know if I will ever go completely vegetarian, nor am I sure if I want to. I’m very sure that I don’t want to be vegan, for now. And that’s ok. Life is a journey, not a destination. Where I am now is not where I’ll be in 5 years’ time. But I think what’s important is making mindful choices. To think about what we’re doing, and what it means for ourselves and our surroundings.

As much as we have knowledge at our fingertips, we live in arguably one of the most selfish periods of all time. The concept of the selfie really says it all. Being less selfish starts when we look for ways that we can make a difference, no matter how small. Maybe for you that has nothing to do with eating meat – maybe it’s refusing to use plastic. Maybe it’s doing something practical, like volunteering. But since my blog is about health and food, I’m going to explore making a difference through food choices.

It doesn’t have to change your mind – indeed, I’m not expecting to change my own mind from my current standpoint. But I’m curious enough to explore. Are you?

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