Following countless documentaries about how meat affects our planet, how badly animals are treated, and how bad it is for your health, I’ve noticed a huge interest in reducing meat intake or taking steps to vegetarianism or veganism. Needless to say, I’m thrilled about this trend. Finally even Denmark, the land of pig meat production, is following the trend and I no longer feel like the weird Swedish (feminist) vegetarian at parties and dinners, constantly being interrogated and/or mocked about my choice not to consume meat. I gave up meat almost ten years ago and it’s something I am very proud of. Why proud? Well, cutting meat out of my diet was a hard choice because I truly loved the taste of meat. However, at some point I realized that I am not entitled to another animal’s flesh simply because I think it tastes good and I quit cold turkey (pun intended) overnight. Since then, I’ve become more aware of how many things actually contain animal derived ingredients – my favorite candy, many cakes, makeup, shampoo…oh and chicken/fish stock in basically every thai restaurant I’ve been to. I had no idea about this before I started. I did no research whatsoever (which is very unlike me, nowadays I research restaurants, books, movies, clothes, hair spray…basically everything else) and so had no clue about all the extra stuff. Truthfully, I think knowing all of it would have put me off going vegetarian at the time, so I am glad that I took it in steps and realized that while I did give up meat and fish, I did not give up good, tasty food. I learned along the way, even if it took me a few years. And this is exactly my point – you don’t have to do it all at once and there are no rules to stopping eating meat.
Of course, I would love it if everyone stopped eating meat, but I also realize that’s not feasible for everyone. In the veg*n communities that I am part of, there are so many questions from people on how to do it right: “But what about medicine, can we consume that despite it being tested on animals?”, “If I go vegan do I have to throw out all of my leather shoes and bags?”, “Can you be vegan and still go horse riding?”, “Can you be vegan and have a cat/dog/rabbit?”. And of course, we can discuss these things from a personal and ideological level but there are really no rules for you, unless you really want to wear the label of being a vegetarian or vegan.
However, you don’t need to have a label and call yourself a vegetarian or a vegan to cut down on meat (and/or eggs and dairy) and you don’t necessarily need a guidebook on how to “do it right”. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. If you’d like to cut down on meat, then do that. If you’d still like to wear your leather shoes while chewing down a vegan burrito then do that – it’s better than if you were eating a chicken burrito after all. You can skip meat on Mondays and Thursdays or all together. The important thing is that you don’t just do nothing at all, because you can’t commit to an all vegan lifestyle, which I can see a lot of people are doing.
“But if I stop eating meat, I would be a hypocrite to wear my old favorite leather shoes, and if I give up meat then I would be a hypocrite to eat eggs because male chickens die, and if I stop eating eggs, then what about milk? And if I stop consuming milk, do I have to throw my wool jacket out?” But I repeat; It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Maybe one day you’ll take more steps towards a vegan lifestyle and maybe you won’t. Because let’s be honest, cutting out everything at once is no joke. It takes research and willpower. If you don’t have the motivation to become veg*n, you might just think it’s all too hard and go back to your old ways, but remember that every meal counts. Every meal that you try to cut down on animal products is great, even if it isn’t your every meal.
I know that many veg*ns are frustrated that the rest of the world doesn’t seem to care about animals dying, pollution etc. and the reality is that we can’t expect everyone to care. We can only lead by example and inspire others to do the same, but ultimately it’s an individual choice and it is better to do something than to do nothing at all. After ten years of being a vegetarian, I’ve faced criticism from both avid meat-eaters who think I’m down right stupid and naive (“But what if you were stranded on an island and there was a pig/chicken/cow?“), and vegans who claim I might as well eat meat because vegetarianism doesn’t change a thing. Except it does. Every single meal is a choice that makes a difference – some more than others, but it is still a change.
PS: I’m not particularly into tofu, and you don’t need to be either!