With National Vegetarian week coming up from the 23rd to the 29th of May, I thought I would explore what being a Vegetarian is and why people become Vegetarian.
There are so many different ideas and perceptions about what a Vegetarian is and what they eat. People commonly believe that Vegetarians will eat fish, or even white meat.
What is a Vegetarian?
The Vegetarian Society defines a Vegetarian as: "Someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with, or without, the use of dairy products and eggs. A Vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish* or by-products of slaughter."
Different types of Vegetarian include:
1) Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarians – Vegetarians who eat dairy products and eggs (usually only free range egg)
2) Lacto-Vegetarians – Vegetarians who eat dairy products but not eggs.
3) Vegans – this group does not eat dairy products, eggs, or any other products which are derived from animals.
It is always useful to find out what kind of Vegetarian someone is if you plan on cooking a meal for them.
Why might people become Vegetarian or Vegan?
Some people become Vegetarian for religious reasons. Some go veggie because they don’t believe animals should be slaughtered for meat. Being a Vegetarian is better for the environment and reduces the world’s carbon footprint. Additionally, the Vegetarian diet is generally a healthier one. Research suggests that Vegetarians are typically less likely to suffer ill health and diseases such as and high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, some diet related cancers and obesity. Vegetarians are also more likely to eat five portions of fruit and veg a day.
My thoughts on Vegetarianism
When people ask me how I define my Vegetarianism, my answer is normally that “I don’t eat anything with a face”. I became a Vegetarian mainly due to the number of shocking school dinners I had to endure over the years. I vividly remember the fishcakes that tasted like cardboard, the corned beef hash that would invariably contain animal gristle and a token strand of the dinner lady’s hair, and the burgers, dripping with so much grease that you could feel your arteries blocking as you consumed then. When I made the decision to become a Vegetarian, I never thought too much about the political reasons for being a Vegetarian, it was simply that I couldn’t stand the taste of the meat and fish I was consuming. Even now that I am better educated about the political and environmental reasons for being a Vegetarian, just the thought of eating an animal still makes me feel ill. Lately, after visiting Willows Farm and watching the chicks hatch, the thought of eating eggs has sat uneasily with me, but my love of dairy will always stop me becoming completely Vegan.
Thankfully, it is relatively easy to be a Vegetarian in most parts of the UK, even if the Vegetarian menu is limited in some restaurants. However, when I travel abroad, I commonly encounter restaurants with no Vegetarian options on their menu and people cannot comprehend why someone would not eat meat. Vegetarian food can be delicious and full of flavour if as much care is taken in preparing and cooking the dish as is taken in cooking meat and fish. Commonly though for some restaurants, the Vegetarian option is always an afterthought.
National Vegetarian week is being held from the 23rd to the 29th of May this year. For ideas of recipes, visit the National Vegetarian Week website.