What would you say to the trendy vegetarian?

We just had a young man staying with us who announced he’s become a vegetarian. When I asked why, he said it was because he liked what PETA says about not taking the life of another creature.

I try to be very open-minded but as soon as someone says “PETA says…”, I must admit that the fire doors of my mind slam shut. I was instantly infuriated. Just wanted him to leave but couldn’t say so. Instead, I told him he’d have to go a lot further than giving up chicken, pork and beef burgers.

As the weekend worn on, he ate copious amounts of eggs, dairy and…seafood. Quizzed a little more closely, he said his “vegetarianism” was really for health reasons. I urged him to see a dietician to make sure he has enough iron and vitamin B but he’s okay – he eats corn at least twice a week.

The experience has opened my eyes to the value of nutritional education when it comes to making food and lifestyle choices. Becoming a vegetarian or vegan is trendy. Thinking about supplements and vitamin B12 patches is not. Yet, according to experts cited in Wikipedia, “Poorly planned vegan diets may be low in vitamin B12, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, iron, zinc, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and iodine.”

What would you say? In the meantime, grab a Coke and enjoy this hilarious clip on trendy diets from Mamamia.

23 Comments

Filed under Community, Dairy Products, Farm

23 responses to “What would you say to the trendy vegetarian?

  1. There are well-balanced, traditional vegetarian diets from around the world which are fine, but with a vegan diet, of course, it becomes more difficult to get everything you need, but supplements would help and are readily available – a nutritionist really should be consulted, though. I know PETA has lied and done some awful things, but I also have seen some videos from them that simply couldn’t have been faked. It really does influence me to not eat meat – not with the way that animals are treated at these massive farms, it’s just awful (I can only speak for the US). There is a farm about an hour from me where they raise the animals in good conditions – their milk and meat is more expensive, but imho I think people need to realize the worth of what it is they are purchasing for their meals.

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    • milkmaidmarian

      The good news, Rebelsprite, is that PETA’s exposes do not reflect the reality of farming. We love our cows.

      To put it into perspective, it would also be very easy to make videos of people abusing pets. Even so, nobody would agree that heartbreaking footage of sickos abusing dogs adds up to a culture of pet abuse among Australian families. Yet it is Australian families that look after the cows that provide our milk. In fact, 98% of dairy farms are family farms.

      Our family farms are quite small – the average milks 220 cows – but I don’t think big is necessarily ugly either. Big can be beautiful too.

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      • I think it’s wonderful when farms are run well…but I’m not convinced that some of the videos I saw were misrepresentations – they are not necessarily representative of *all* farms, but certainly some of these really large farms do not raise their animals in a humane way. It was enough to convince me. Again, I only saw footage of farms in the US. While I would never believe everything from PETA, I do think it’s perfectly fair and reasonable for a person to want to be vegetarian from concerns about conditions of mass farming here – but I can’t speak for Australia. I think it is wonderful to hear that in Australia most of the farms are family run and small, and that as a farmer you feel the animals are treated well!

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        • milkmaidmarian

          I’m not suggesting they were all fakes, just that there are bad examples of any endeavour and the messages of hate pedalled by PETA are unconsionable. Why not just buy more thoughtfully rather than apply a total boycott? If we’re going to respond in this way, it follows that pet ownership should also be banned.

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  2. I think there are much stronger arguments for vegetarianism than what PETA advoctes. The work of Peter Singer from the 1970s made a very strong case for not eating meat by way of the global silliness of feeding grain to animals instead of, more effectively, feeding that grain to people. But more importantly, the double standard humans apply to the existence of pain in animals.

    This double standard has been recently displayed in the “abattoir wars” between Indonesia and Australia.

    I have learnt not to argue the minefield of ideologies of vegetarianism and veganism but to try to gain a basic understanding of the ideology and accept diversity.

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    • milkmaidmarian

      That’s an interesting one, Kevin. There’s actually lots of research out there that shows vegetarianism is environmentally more problematic due to the massive areas of farmland it requires.

      I think the outcry over the Indonesian abattoirs has been very healthy. It shows that most people don’t accept those “double standards”. Farmers were just as horrified by the footage as urban Australians. Beef farmer friends told me how revolted and betrayed they felt, having looked after their cattle so well only to have them treated in this way.

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  3. Marian, glad to hear of the farmers’ outrage.

    I think it is terrific that you had a vegetarian onto a working farm as a guest. Your guest will now have a broadened understanding of farming as well as an excellent meal.

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  4. Ron Paynter

    Yet another interesting Blog Marian. Our experience with a vegetarian farm worker came about with a lovely Hindu Malaysian student that worked with us for three months while doing her Diploma in Ag project. She lived with us for three months and she and I shared the cooking. I was a (mostly) vegetarian for the three months. Worst part was that I had hoped for exotic Malay vegetarian dishes, but Kass wanted to experience vego food from all of the world except Malaysia!. For me, the learning was that you can eat well without meat of any kind or eggs; thankfully dairy was allowed. It was fascinating to learn from Kass a Hindu approach to life and death, from her culture where there are complex social and economic reasons that people eat or don’t eat this or that, and that the rawness of life is much closer than in our affluent and often mentally partitioned or ‘removed’ society. Although not religious, I do more often spare a thought when preparing food, for the animals and plants that have been used, and those who produce them, and the part they play in keeping me alive.

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  5. I remember about 30 years ago, on a camping trip in a tent in the outback of central QLD, I told my family I was going vegetarian. I cited my reasons of animal cruelty to my long suffering mum, who then scoured every remote supermarket for cans of Sanitarium “Nutmeat” to have with my suprise peas and carrots! I lasted about two months.
    I do understand and respect people’s desire to give up meat, due to the fact that a life must be taken for their desire to eat meat.
    I do eat meat, and yes i have watched animals slaughtered extremely quickly and with as little distress as possible, and animals killed to put them out of their misery.
    The problem I have sometimes is with the portrayal of understandably shocking acts of cruelty being portrayed as the status quo of farming and food production. There are some very sadistic and cruel people who do not deserve to go near an animal and should be punished for their despicable acts.
    There are so many folk who raise their animals with absolute care and consideration; it als makes absolute economic sense to do so.
    I laughed at the video, not in a nasty way. I just thought it was clever, and in fact a few of my city, “foodie” friends found it even funnier.
    A vegetarian diet takes a lot of thought to get the nutritional aspects right; thank goodness there are more products available these days than “nutmeat”.
    The welfare of animals at slaughter is also important, and it is not a static subject. Working towards better outcomes is important for the animals and ourselves as a moral society.

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  6. Ah, someone else who completely disrespects PETA. I thought I was alone in the world. It bothers me that they sensationalize everything and distort facts only to turn ordinary thinking people into pitchfork weilding mobs. hmm perhaps Im too opinionated for a first time commenter? Hi! Im still very new at living the vegan lifestyle. Learning every step of the way.

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    • milkmaidmarian

      Oooh, those are fighting words, Zenmaiden! I don’t completely disprepect PETA because they share my love of animals but find their messages of hate and methods appalling.

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      • Im with you there. I completely dislike their methods yet completely agree with loving and respecting all life. I think empowering through teaching awareness and kindness is the best method. 🙂 oops did I say I was vegan? I meant vegetarian.

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  7. Helen

    The first thing I would say is to beware the ‘trendy’ tag – if your reasoning is vague it can come off as being trendy, but really, is there ever a single reason we do something? Maybe it’s a bunch of things leading to a general feeling that it’s the right, healthful, ethical choice. And sometimes trends arise from current research. ‘Trendy’ is dismissive. I didn’t look at that Mamamia clip, because her recent tirade about food allergies was ignorant and insulting. Just try getting a diagnosis for, and living with, a chronic digestive issue and you’ll soon appreciate why people end up self-diagnosing and trying anything that might work to find some relief. There’s nothing fashionable about chronic illness.

    Having said that, I’d suggest this excellent post at The Conversation for a roundup of reasons that a veggie diet isn’t as ethical as people think it is – http://theconversation.edu.au/ordering-the-vegetarian-meal-theres-more-animal-blood-on-your-hands-4659
    and for further reading, Liere Keith’s ‘The Vegetarian Myth’.
    While it’s possible to be healthy on a vegetarian diet, there’s many ways to get it wrong. From a nutritional standpoint, you really need to do some solid research. There’s a lot of outdated, correlational population studies around, and just because something gets published doesn’t mean it’s right. Even experimental research isn’t foolproof. Very often, nutrition studies treat all fats as equal, or focus on one single effect – such as weight loss – without observing other effects, such as immune response or longevity. The ‘control’ lab mouse is actually obese and bored out of its little social brain, and since when do rabbits eat meat?

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    • milkmaidmarian

      Great references – thank you Helen. And thanks for the opportunity to clarify myself: my apologies to anyone who thought I meant all vegetarians were just being trendy. Not at all. There is, however, a subset of young people who adopt the lifestyle because it seems “alternative” and therefore cool. It worried me that this man in his 20s had not investigated what he needed to do to look after himself. To improve his well-being, he decided to cut out meat rather than the 1.5 litres of Coke a day he drinks.

      I and baby Alex have a host of food intolerances and my mother has peanut and chocolate allergies, so I know you’re not kidding when you say it’s serious.

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      • Thanks for the clarification, Marian. You were guilty of quite a generalisation.

        I too grimace when somebody announces that they have gone vegetarian or vegan due to PETA. I expect a bit more of them. For the sake of defending themselves from ardent omnivores more than anything.

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  8. Helen

    I know you didn’t mean it unkindly. I think there’d be very few who make such a lifestyle change just to be ‘cool’ – or even so, I think that ‘coolness’ isn’t superficial – it’s about pressure to be socially acceptable/desirable, to be part of the in-crowd, all that – we might see it as lightweight, but really it’s a pretty fundamental need.

    Really good point on the coke. There’s a similar issue someone mentioned in the media just last week – to stop stressing about miniscule amounts of toxins in this or that and fix the big stuff – alcohol, smoking. Though there’s a lot of “evidence” out there that meat is bad for you. You can support pretty much any position you care to take if you select your references carefully!

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    • milkmaidmarian

      Yes, belongingness is important but when it comes to health, I reckon we should take a little more responsibility for ourselves and do some research before knocking out an entire food group. Sadly, he said he didn’t understand what different food groups were “for”.

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  9. I guess I would say, either check what you eat to make sure it has the right stuff in it (vitamins, iron etc) or eat animals but make sure they’ve been treated decently. My son’s not a vegetarian, my daughter is – but we try to eat cruelty-free meat when we do eat it. I know some people don’t like PETA, but who else is sticking up for food animals?

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    • milkmaidmarian

      Sorry for the delay, butimbeautiful, just rescued your comment from the spam folder!

      My issue with PETA is that they are often misleading and generally quite savage with farmers of all varieties, not just the rotten apples. In Australia, the RSPCA and the Department of Primary Industries does a good job of sticking up for farm animals and have the respect of most farmers. We hate animal abuse, too.

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  10. “The experience has opened my eyes to the value of nutritional education when it comes to making food and lifestyle choices.”

    I’m sure it would have. But I hope you feel that way about anybody, irrespective of their being vegan or vegetarian. My omnivore friends are some of the unhealthiest people I know. One, who works in hospitality, considers cheese and wine a meal several days a week, and the rest of the time eats pub food. The vegetarians and vegans–and free-range / organic types for that matter–that I know tend to be the most conscientious people when it comes to diet. I’m not saying that there are not unhealthy, ignorant vegetarians and vegans out there; I’m just saying, from my experience, that hasn’t been the case.

    Everybody needs to be mindful of fuelling their body properly. Vitamin and nutrient deficiencies aren’t unique to people that follow a “different” diet than most.

    As for your PeTA friend. Hmm. I’m a vegan and I’m somewhat suspicious of PeTA. I understand why you got a bit… uncomfortable about what he had to say.

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