As you may know, today sees the launch of National Vegetarian Week and this is my first time celebrating it as a vegetarian. I decided to go meat-free towards the end of last year and while I’m completely happy with my decision, it’s not something that I have written about – for me, being vegetarian, vegan or a meat-eater is a personal choice. But as National Vegetarian Week is all about celebrating and sharing stories about the food we eat, I wanted to share my story.
I became vegetarian quite abruptly; it’s not something I ummed and ahhed over at all. I just decided. While that may sound like a decision made on a whim and something that I may regret, I couldn’t be happier. For me, being vegetarian just feels right.
From a young age, I’ve never really enjoyed eating meat. It was more out of necessity, my mum cooked it and so I ate it. But as I grew up, I actively chose to eat less meat and completely cut out fish and seafood. I only really ate chicken and even then, I wouldn’t cook it I’d just eat it while I was out. Overtime I grew to like burgers and tried to get myself to eat fish but I just didn’t like it. After a while, I questioned why I wanted to go against my natural instincts to just eat veggies.
In the last year or so, my interest in spirituality has grown and eating animals just didn’t sit right with me for quite a few reasons related to my beliefs – which are very personal to me. Spiritual or religious beliefs aside, documentaries like Cowspiracy and Forks Over Knives have shown me the environmental impact of animal farming and the negative effects meat has on our health. And of course there is the humane element. We should all be aware that animals are kept in crowded, squalid conditions and injected with growth hormones, antibiotics etc. For me, it’s worrying that I didn’t know what was going into my body. And it goes without saying that the idea of mass animal slaughter, almost in a conveyor belt style, doesn’t sit well with me.
After I made my decision, I went cold turkey – excuse the pun. I very rarely cooked meat anyway so going meat-free was pretty smooth. In fact, it a natural and totally seamless transition. Friends have been very accepting but I got asked why quite a lot, which I found funny as it’s just a personal life choice. I haven’t really felt any different after becoming vegetarian, people often ask if I feel fresher but to be honest my diet was about 80% vegetarian anyway so the extra 20% hasn’t made a huge impact to my life or health.
It’s sometimes tricky to find something nice to eat in certain restaurants (why it is always mushroom risottos and goat’s cheese tarts?!) but waiters are quite accommodating. While I was staying at Desert Palm Per Aquum in Dubai, I had dinner at the hotel’s fine dining restaurant, which happened to be a steak restaurant. Whoops. The lovely team very sweetly rustled up a delicious beetroot carpaccio with a butternut squash risotto. It’s not hard to eat out as a vegetarian. Having said that, I do miss burgers. And no, Portobello mushroom burgers are not an acceptable veggie alternative!
There you have it, a little snapshot about my decision to go vegetarian. I know it’s very brief but there are a lot of very personal spiritual beliefs behind my decision, I’m happy to go into more detail via Twitter or email if you’re interested in hearing more. I didn’t want to go into detail about the conditions animals are kept in or how they are slaughtered because, honestly, I’m not an expert and I don’t feel qualified to quite about it. But I think we all have a responsibility to ourselves to be aware of what we are eating and where that food comes from so please do your research; I’d highly recommend Forks Over Knives and Cowspiracy as a starting point.
Happy National Vegetarian Week!