Veg*an FAQ

Why are you a vegetarian?

See the “No Meat” rules page for an (insufficient) explanation.

 

Why do you feel you have to advertise it?

Hrm.  Fair point.  Generally I don’t appreciate missionaries, but…I do feel like there’s a difference between pressuring someone to take on your views and simply being open about what those views are.  I have a feeling that lot of people are interested in finding ways to live more eco-friendly lives, but feel that it’d be too hard, or that it’d be pointless to do alone.  If I could play a role in helping them come to think otherwise, awesome.

Also, aside from the flag, I do my best to advertise with actions, not words – cycling, ordering veggies, and carrying around my begging bowl are part of my daily routine, while getting into debates is not.

Finally, my blog needed a title!

 

Aren’t you tired all the time / Do you have enough energy? In my experience, being a vegetarian is easier the longer you’ve been at it; this means that making the initial change is the hardest part.  In addition to the psychological difficulty of changing any habit, there’s also (so I’ve heard) a physical change involved in going vegetarian: your stomach needs some time to learn to produce different acids that will more effectively process the different nutrients in your new diet.  Thus, being tired and hungry for the first couple of weeks or month and a half is probably to be expected.   Now, though, it’s been about five years and my body’s used to it.  I have ridden with omnivores day in and day out for months – we keep the same hours and the same pace; I just have less traveler’s diarrhea.  

Aren’t you hungry all the time?  I do eat a lot, but I think that’s a cyclist thing, not a vegetarian thing.   Like every other animal in existence, every calorie I burn has to come from somewhere.  Still, three meals a day and a couple of snacks usually suffices.

Where do you get your protein?  This is still a bit of a mystery to me.  I certainly don’t count my protein, nor do I take any particular supplements.  I do eat tofu from time to time, but not daily, and not when fresh beans are available.  I usually have a stock of peanuts with me, but I don’t make a point of eating them every day.  Just when I’m hungry.  Sometimes a 300g tub of them will last me a month.

I am far from an expert on these things, but I’ve read that the American FDA, under the influence of various meat corporations, has vastly overstated the amount of protein that you need to consume in order to live a healthy, active lifestyle.  My experience over the last five seems to have corroborate that;  so far, even without particular attention to protein (or any other nutrition stuff), I’m fine so long as I eat a wide variety of grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes.  I’m also somewhat convinced by the argument that the stage of a human life when protein is most crucial is when we’re growing fastest: that is, when we’re babies and our only source of nutrition is mother’s milk, only three percent of the calories from which come from protein.  Plenty of non-meat foods, non-dairy foods (even some greens!) contain proportionally more protein than this.

Do you miss meat?  Sometimes it smells good – thankfully, even the most gigantic sniffs are free and doesn’t hurt anybody.  But, no, I never want it so much that I’d be willing to pay for it.  Nor do I look longingly at things that other people ordered.  Actually, I’ve come to enjoy a wider variety of foods since I stopped eating meat.  That, and there’s a lot of meat that I wouldn’t want to eat, even if I didn’t call myself a vegetarian.  SPAM

What about eggs and dairy?  True, they don’t directly cost an animal their lives, but they still generally necessitate a great deal of animal suffering, and they eventually end in premature death.  That, and they resemble meat in their impact on the environment.  Cheese, in particular, is almost as bad as beef itself!  So, I eat them sparingly, particularly when I have other good options.

Fish and seafood?  I stay away from big fish and shrimp, which have big footprints and lots of externalities.  I’m not so sure about local fish, so I just stick with vegetables if they’re available.  I don’t have strong feelings regarding other sea creatures – I’ve heard that clams, oysters, mussels, and small fish like anchovies and sardines are actually very efficient, eco-friendly sources of healthy protein.   If only I could get them fresh and not in tin cans!  And from water not polluted by runoff from factories and conventional farms…

What about Freeganism?  In an effort to be a sensitive, gracious and grateful guest, I do sometimes accept gifts of meat (goat brain, one time, in China), though I generally try to make sure my host knows I’m a vegetarian before the gets the chance to buy or cook anything for me.  That said, if the damage (economic, that is – I’m referring here to the purchase, which gives the vendor more incentive to buy meat, which gives the producer more incentive to produce it) is already (mostly?) done – say, in the case of leftovers, or unintentional orders, or a buffet that someone else is treating me to, I may have a few bites.  Partially out of curiosity, partially out of weakness.  I’ve had bacon a few times since going vegetarian; it tastes nice, but not that much nicer than the best vegetables, and it’s still a pleasure I’m content to live without.

What about other foods that aren’t good for the environment?  It’s true, there are lots of them.  I make an effort to know what they are, and not eat them.   That means, for the most part, sticking with local food, eating seasonal stuff (which is also usually the cheapest), and stuff from small or organic farms when I can.  I also don’t drink coffee or fruit juice, don’t eat much chocolate, don’t frequent fast food restaurants, and try not eat anything with a brand name on it.  The less processed, the better.  If there were a word for this sort of eating philosophy, I’d replace “vegetarian” in a snap.

One of my friends calls herself a SOLE eater – sustainable, organic, local, ethical.  Not bad, but it doesn’t have any currency yet, perhaps because it’s so vague.  How do we know what’s sustainable?  Who certifies it organic?  How far away still counts as local?  What does it mean to be ethical?  Vegetarian is just easier to say.

 

What about other things/acts  that aren’t good for the environment? Well, this isn’t strictly a related to vegetarianism, but it is a fair point – someone who eats raw vegan but flies regularly is almost certainly doing more harm to the world than someone who eats a meat lover’s pizza every now and again.  After all, greenhouse gas emissions contribute to desertification, which means that animals have to search for new habits or compete more fiercely for old ones; there can be no result except struggle for all and death for some.

In other words, vegetarianism is one of many possible commitments that one can make to the environment.  It’s also an easy one and a good place to start, since it doesn’t affect your commute to work (like stopping driving), your ability to visit family (like quitting airplanes), or your ability to earn money (like moving to a farm), or your ability to participate in modern society (like quitting computers).

If that’s not enough, please go look at one of the many posts I’ve written about all the incredible vegetable dishes I’ve come across!

 

 

Other resources:

Animal Liberation by Peter Singer – Arguing convincingly that a human pleasure and pain are similar enough to those of most animals that if former are worthy of moral consideration, the latter should be, too.  Down with speciesism!

The Ominvore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan – How our system of industrialized agriculture is damaging the environment, ruining our health, and just a big stupid waste.

The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Kieth– a powerful book about how naïve vegetarianism and tofu burgers, despite good intentions, will not solve the environmental, political, and ethical crises we face.  The author’s suggestion: local living and integrated permaculture.

Food, Inc. – A documentary narrated by Michael Pollan, covering much of the material from The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Our Daily Bread – A narration-free look inside various modern, mechanized food and meat processing facilities.  Creepy but not zealous.

Earthlings – a shock dock depicting all sorts of mass-scale animal cruelty and arguing passionately for a compassionate lifestyle.

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