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The Culture of Vegetarianism
I am not a fan of salad nor most vegetables. Bananas make me wrinkle my nose in disgust. I think the majority of the ways tofu is cooked still results in a boring, bland dish. Despite my distaste for most of the foods typical vegetarians consume, I still practice a vegetarian diet on a daily basis. Vegetarianism often envelops more than simple dietary changes, however. The behaviour of those who practice the diet often extends to similar virtues regarding animal byproducts to other facets of their lives, forming a way of living. This way of life affects everything from clothing choices to what shampoo one is willing to buy. Aside from physical aspects of the lifestyle of vegetarianism, there are also mental and emotional characteristics, teaching everything from patience to wit. The attitude and values of those abstaining from meat have formed a diet into a culture for quite a few of its participants.
Astounding to me is the fact that someone can claim to love animals yet support companies, brands, and food chains that directly and indirectly harm them. Unlike what most people might assume, I am not against people eating meat. Rather, I am against the process the meat goes through to reach people. From factory farm, in overcrowded conditions on a poor diet, to the slaughterhouse– the method in which meat reaches your local supermarket is not a pretty picture. Educational documentaries on the industry such as Food, Inc, attempt to reveal the behind-the-scene reality. Animals are also harmed in animal testing done by hair and body care brands and cosmetic companies.Uncaged Campaign, an anti-vivisection organization, urges consumers to boycott Proctor and Gamble, which produces popular products such as Pantene, Olay, and Herbal Essences. “P&G admit that guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, ferrets, rats and mice are among the animals used in their ‘product safety research’, as well as cats and dogs in pet food experiments.” (Uncaged Campaign.) Knowing that animals are being harmed unnecessarily makes a commodity extremely unappealing to me.
I regularly hear people complain that they wish others would “practice what they preach.” Going to an environmental school, I have been astounded at the amount my animal-loving friends seem to enjoy ridiculing my dietary choice and pushing me to eat meat, well knowing I refrain from it due to how the meat industry works. They claim that my diet is the cause of everything from low body weight to sniffles, and try to persuade me to eat meat. However, a reduced meat intake has shown to be beneficial. “The chances of developing chronic diseases including high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary heart disease, obesity, kidney failure, osteoporosis and cancer, is markedly decreased among vegetarians and vegans by as much as forty percent.” (Wisegeek,) Despite any evidence I bring up that portrays vegetarianism as being a healthy diet, friends are still highly critical, and more than willing to voice their discontent in my choice in a less than respectful manner. Being vegetarian in this society requires a certain amount of wit, tolerance, patience, and knowledge. Exhausting those virtues when dealing with critics, I’ve also learned how to say “fuck off” and tune someone out.
Having a specific diet such as vegetarianism requires some modicum of self control. There are specific nutrients gained in meat, such as iron, which the human body cannot absorb as well from plants or supplements. I need to make sure I am getting enough to support a healthy lifestyle, and that requires me to take active note in what I am eating. I feel as though this enables me to be more aware of what I am eating and putting into my body. Even if one was not a vegetarian they should be aware of what she/he eats regardless, but I honestly doubt I would be if not a vegetarian. Perhaps this concern over my diet also piqued my interest in keeping both my mind and physique healthy. During high school I also became an avid yogi (practitioner of yoga) and cross-country runner, developing flexibility, increased concentration, and stamina. In effect, I took values I learned from these two activities and began applying them to my life. Cross-country allowed me to realize the value in not giving up and finishing strong. Yoga taught me that discomfort means growth, and that the more I stretch myself, my beliefs, opinions, and notions, the more I will benefit.
While it is true that food can shape who you are, I believe who I am also shapes what I eat—or more accurately, what I don’t eat. Vegetarianism has unquestionably played a large part in helping form who I am today, both by igniting my interest in holistic and organic alternatives and in teaching me how to proficiently respond to controversy and engage in debate. I do not believe I would consider myself the same person, or respect myself in the way I do, if I consumed meat. Vegetarianism may not implement itself into the formation of a culture for all vegetarians, but it certainly does for me.
Uncaged Campaigns: Against Animal Testing and Experiments. Web. <http://www.uncaged.co.uk/>.
“Has It Been Proven That a Vegetarian Diet Is Really Healthier?” WiseGEEK Web. <http://www.wisegeek.com/has-it-been-proven-that-a-vegetarian-diet-is-really-healthier.htm>.