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Vegan or Vegetarian?

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I turned vegetarian when I was 16. I saw a goat being slaughtered on television. I saw chickens with their feet tied to the handlebars of bicycles, their beaks grazing the wheels. My taste buds kinda died that day. I lost my taste for mutton and chicken and even seafood. I went a bit extreme and gave up leather footwear and handbags. Handbags I wore well but my feet blistered the moment I wore PVC shoes. Jute shoes and online shopping were not popular back then. Heck! I had no credit card. So I reluctantly went back to leather. I reckoned they used the hides of cows that are slaughtered for beef anyways! Wrong! The beef and leather industry haven’t made the connection. I thought until recently that all dairy products are manufactured humanely. After all no animals get killed right? Wrong again! Cows have their calves taken away from them so they can be milked solely for human consumption. Some calves are shut away in cages to make them veal entrees at fancy restaurants! So last month I decided to become vegan and then I realized how hard it is. It meant giving up eggs, milk and yogurt which is about the only protein I get apart from lentils. So I started by giving up milk and then I realized I don’t drink black tea. So a little milk trickled back into my diet. Then I was making pancakes and eggs were included in the recipe. So I had that as well. Being South Indian means yogurt is a big part of my diet. So I couldn’t suddenly stop eating yogurt.

Then I decided I should just not buy milk and yogurt anymore. But then what about the kids? They need 2 glasses of milk everyday and yogurt to go with my spicy cooking! So I took my daughter grocery shopping with me and told her I was going to buy soy milk. She screwed up her face and said – please Ma! I don’t want it! Then my husband’s face flashed before me. He would not approve of soy milk tea – not in a million years! It’s a good thing I didn’t buy soy milk because a few days later I read about genetically modified products in the very same soy milk I was tempted to pick up. So right now I’m swimming in information that makes me feel guilty every time I have dairy! Sometimes I just wanna scream. As you may have guessed my stint as a vegan was short lived and very unsuccessful.

I remember someone I met long ago who was relating to me why he had turned vegetarian. When he was a kid he had a chick in his backyard that he raised as a pet. The chick soon grew into a hen and he was really attached to it. One day he came back home to find the chicken gone and guess what was for dinner? His uncle had come for a visit and was craving chicken. The boy was crushed, mad, angry. Of course he would have rather starved than eat his own pet chicken. So that day he swore off meat.

I know many people who love animals but still eat meat. It’s like they would never dream of hurting their pets but as long they don’t kill the animals they eat, it’s fine. Some say if we don’t eat fish the oceans will have too many fish. Actually the opposite is true. Over fishing is rampant everywhere and if we don’t stop we’ll run out of fish soon. Some think the vegetarian diet is not wholesome. Again we are not true carnivores. We cannot eat raw meat and survive. Our teeth and our intestines are designed for plant based diets.

Sometimes I wish I never knew any of this. Ignorance is truly bliss and peace of mind and easier times at the grocery stores. I  think it’s up to people to decide what they put into their mouths. So for years I have been a passive vegetarian – I don’t go around trying to get people to stop eating meat. But the problem is not about what you put into your mouth. There are bigger issues than that. It’s about being humane, saving our oceans, saving species from extinction and in turn saving ourselves. There is too much information out there and in the end no one can force you to make the decision. Read about fishing and the meat industry and dairy and make a conscious choice. Even if you don’t become vegetarian or vegan at least support farms that treat animals well. If we have a choice when it comes to what we eat I think they have a choice too. A choice to live, be treated well and die a natural death!

5 thoughts on “Vegan or Vegetarian?

  1. He he reminds me of one episode where my mom attended this “cleansing your soul” workshop where they fed them with “why do you drink milk and deprive the calves of their food?” and mom went vegan like you , She was told to substitute banana and raw banana as sources of calcium and after about a week she had blisters on her mouth from some deficiency milk was fulfilling and decided to go right back to where she had been earlier..guess its easier for the westerners to adapt vegan diets more easily than us Indians more specifically south indians with milk and curd rice a sustenance in our diets!

    • That’s a funny story Ranjani and it is supposed to be easier out here what with soy milk, rice milk and almond milk (lots of Calcium added to all of the above). But like I said many soy products use genetically modified substances…ugh! Making my life very difficult. I have to go shop in a whole food store and they don’t have one in my city!!!

      • I am so glad that I found your blog today. About 8 weeks ago I went vegetarian (mostly Vegan with the extiocepn of mozzarella cheese which I have no good reason for still wanting and eating) I had been breastfeeding my daughter for the past 8 months and when my milk supply changed and her sleeping habits changed I got worried, called my doctor and asked if it was about the vegetarian shift and I was basically chastised by every one. I became so worried that I was harming my baby I started eating meat and cheese again. The milk supply and the bad sleeping continued and I felt so angry that I had given up something that was making ME feel better. Thank you for re-inspiring me.

      • Thanks Jaime. I nursed my kids on a mainly vegetarian diet. I did drink milk and eat eggs. You need calcium to make milk or your body uses calcium from your bones. If you are vegan you can have soy milk or almond milk, which has more calcium than regular milk. Always check with your doctor before making changes in your diet especially if you are pregnant or nursing. Also vegetarians need to take vitamin B 12 or B complex, something we don’t get from our diet. Good luck and go with your feelings about it. Don’t let anyone tell you what is good for you – you know best! Keep reading and sharing your thoughts:)

  2. I heartily endorse the last line! But, yes! we can chose organic farms, humane and green products etc. In India Ford executives from USA do not touch meat because the abattoirs in India are inhuman AND unhygienic.

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