I was 16 when I first decided to slow down my consumption of meat products. A trip to the Philippines and a few short interactions with farm animals were enough to fuck with my perception of food forever. I became obsessed with watching food documentaries, juicing vegetables, and finding ways to make chlorella taste less like shit. For a while, things were going pretty smoothly, I was steadily decreasing my meat consumption until I was strictly vegetarian for the entirety of 2 years.
However, a particularly trying few months bogged down my mental health to the point where my food consumption decreased in general. I was frail and extremely lacking in nutrients; my body was struggling to function. So, much to mine and my loved ones’ dismay, I reintroduced (organic) meat into my diet; having it once a week really helped boost the vitamins and minerals I was lacking. While I definitely didn’t have to break my 2-year streak, I could’t be bothered to think about self-care, let alone what to eat multiple times a day.
Personally, I don’t believe humans should stop eating animal products cold turkey (pun not intended). Health-wise, I think we’re meant to be on a Paleo diet of lots of raw produce and a smattering of animal protein. But, with capitalism and the commodification of food thrown into the mix, our society has learned to consume animals at an alarming rate (not to mention with a ridiculous amount of cruelty), and it’s only getting worse.
This is where vegetarianism and veganism comes in. A whole wave of people are converting their lifestyles to accommodate the fact that the rest of the first world is on a cruelty-ridden, nutrient-lacking diet. I think it’s wonderful (granted I myself switch sides like a manically flickering light bulb), but many look at it as some sort of elitist cult *cue slideshow of ignorant anti-vegan memes*
People who don’t eat meat are pigeonholed into a stereotype: they judge everyone else for their food choices and can’t resist talking about theirs. As somebody who avoids meat as much as possible, but comes from a family of zealous carnivores (I’m Filipino), I am exposed to both sides of the spectrum. I think it’s incredibly flawed that plant vs. meat eating is so black and white; you’re on one end or the other, and there’s absolutely no wiggle room. Enforcing such a strict binary between vegans and omnivores is counterproductive; it intimidates people from participating, at any capacity. Veganism especially is so all-or-nothing that most inevitably end up choosing nothing.
While it’s completely respectable to maintain the rigidity of the vegan label, in the grand scheme of things, I think it perpetuates the unethical food practices vegans are fighting against in the first place. What we should be doing is encouraging everyone to be mindful of their consumption, not just for ethical reasons but because it’s quintessential to health.
We should be congratulating one another on any step towards conscious eating; not wagging our fingers at meat eaters or crucifying vegans who slip up on their diet. Wouldn’t convincing the entire population into consuming less meat (and choosing organic, if it’s available to them) be infinitely more impactful in the battle against factory farming?
Of course, the battle is long and complicated with many moving parts to be addressed, but the public perception of vegetarians/vegans plays an important role in getting people to consider tweaking their food choices. Currently, I don’t eat meat but I still don’t identify as vegetarian; I guess you could call me a bridge between the wary meat eater and the unsparing vegan. Feel free to cross over.