Why I Became Vegetarian and Other FAQs

Environmental Issues

I became vegetarian last summer around June. One of the reasons I decided to make the change was because of the impacts on the environment from eating meat.  Before I committed to being vegetarian, I already knew that raising cattle takes a lot of land, which leads to deforestation. Grazing also significantly impacts the quality of land in the long term, not to mention the sheer amount of methane released by the cattle, which contributes to the greenhouse effect. Additionally, did you know what it takes 600 gallons of water to make just one burger? Now think about how much you pay for a burger in a fast food restaurant. Probably no more than $5. This exact same thought made me finally realize the sheer impact I was making on the environment. I could not eat meat and be guilt-free knowing that I was, in a way, contributing to global warming, destruction of ecosystems, and, ultimately, extinction of many species.

Curious what the impact on the environment of going vegan once a week is? Give this short article a read. There are also plenty of other articles that list out the personal health benefits of not eating meat one day a week. Let me know if you’re considering joining the Meatless Monday movement, so I can cheer you on! 😉

Animal Mistreatment
Tofu, the Super Pup!

I got a puppy over two years ago, then I read the news of canine pets in some Asian countries being stolen and killed to be sold as meat. The news created an uproar in the western media with many people saying things, such as “It should be a crime to put animals through such abuse (being locked in tiny changes without food or water) and horrible death.” But how is this different from how cows, pigs, and other animals in meat farms are treated?

At around the same time, I started identifying as an animal lover. However, I knew I was a hypocrite because an animal lover would never contribute to the unnecessary abuse of animals for the sheer satisfaction of human’s taste buds. The fact is that people do not need meat to survive, and eating meat is a conscious choice each person makes, knowing that the meat they consume came from an animal that went through months of pain and suffering. I decided not to make that choice, and I am much happier as a result of that.

 

How hard was it to completely change my diet?

I admit that I was never a meat fanatic. I didn’t feel the need to cook meat, especially because I did not enjoy the process of handling raw meat because of its texture. I tried to not eat meat once a week as well before completely giving it up. This made my transition to become vegetarian much more bearable than it normally is for other people. I did have to find creative ways to cook and make enough food to not go hungry. This sometimes involved spending more time in the kitchen than I would have liked. Fortunately, I have a very supportive and helpful partner who cooks for me when my schedule does not allow me to do so.

 

Cute Grumpy Cat

What benefits have you observed from becoming vegetarian?

One tangible benefit from this is that I spend less money on food now. I spent on average $15 on one trip to the grocery store (maximum $30), and this lasts me one week (not including money spent on eating out). Another benefit is health-related. I do not feel “heavy” after eating like I used to when I consumed meat. I am not too sure what the scientific explanation for this is. Lastly, I overall feel happier, and my mental health improved a lot.

 

What is the common response I get when people learn I am a vegetarian?

People are quick to defend their choice of being a carnivore when they learn that I am vegetarian; I wonder why. Turns out, the most common reason for eating meat is that IT’S TOO DELICIOUS TO GIVE UP. I get it; meat smells and tastes delicious. I still am tempted when I see fried chicken. But, in my opinion, people who claim that meat tastes better than vegetarian food have simply not tried good vegetarian food. Here’s a tip: it’s all about the SEASONING. Meat won’t taste good either if you just boil it and serve it lukewarm like you normally do with vegetables.

Other times I get interesting responses, such as “Humans are on top of the food chain, so we have to assert our dominance by eating animal meat.” This response is as good as saying humans cannot control their animal instincts and do not have the ability to make conscious choices. Nobody will take away your title as the superior animal if you decide to stop eating meat, trust me.

In general, people are very supportive of my diet. Living in Vancouver helps too because it is such a diverse and open-minded city. It is also very vegetarian/vegan-friendly.

The worst response I got was actually from my parents. My dad tried to scare me into eating meat again by saying that I was disrespecting the food that he provided for me, but, knowing how rebellious I get, he soon gave up on that strategy. My mom thought I was being destructive to my health by rejecting meat. Unfortunately for me, it is almost impossible to talk about nutrition facts and health benefits of being vegetarian to her because she does not believe there are any sufficient sources of protein other than meat. I later found out that this was a very common misconception among Vietnamese parents! Those who grew up with Asian parents will probably understand it when I say “fluffy” beliefs, such as animal welfare and environmental sustainability, are all BS to Asian parents. This is understandable because my parents went through a lot of hardship to be able to put enough food on the table, so rejecting meat because I do not want to harm animals just does not register as a logical argument to them. My parents went as far as assuming that I joined some cult that makes me not eat meat (I actually found that pretty funny). I had to fight them a lot when I went back to Vietnam to visit them. And by “a lot” I mean every day before and during every meal for three weeks.

At the end, I had to come to an agreement with my mom that I would eat seafood once a week, and the rest of the week I could be vegetarian. So technically, I am not a full vegetarian. However, I do plan to become full vegan in the future because the dairy and egg industries are also extremely cruel to animals. (This article neatly summarizes everything that’s wrong with the egg industry. I do understand that not all egg producers are like this, but most are. Even those that claim their chicken are free-roaming, here’s what they really mean by free-range. As for the dairy industry, Canada does a pretty good job of making sure the quality of milk and dairy products is good. I can’t say the same about its neighbor in the south though.)

Lola Rosa Milton in Montreal

 

 

Do you know any good vegetarian recipes or vegetarian restaurants in the Lower Mainland area? I’d love to try them out!

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