In the past few years, vegetarianism has increased in popularity so much it has become the new norm. Many people change to a meat free diet for cultural, religious, ethical or health reasons but whatever the excuse this trend has definitely grabbed our attention. If you are thinking about becoming a vegetarian then this article explains all the dos and dont’s involved in making this big lifestyle change. The interviewee Lucy Coles gives us her opinions on the topic and all the relevant information required.
How long have you been a vegetarian for?
I have mostly been a vegetarian my whole life, but only became fully committed in September 2016 after starting university.
Why did you decide to become a vegetarian?
I never really enjoyed eating meat anyway, I didn’t particularly like the taste or texture. I also would refuse to eat meat that “looked like an animal” (e.g. on the bone) because it made me feel so sick. So I guess I knew inside that it was wrong because it made me feel so uncomfortable. After my boyfriend became vegan and lots of my friends became vegetarian, I started researching into why meat was bad for you and how it is actually produced, and decided I did not want my money to be funding such a cruel industry. As someone who also cares about the environment, I found out about how cutting meat out of your diet greatly benefits the planet. For example, the leading cause of pollution is animal agriculture.
What would you say the major health effects of being a vegetarian are?
The first thing I noticed when I stopped eating meat completely is how much more energy I had. When you put good food into your body, your body really thanks you and can run so much more efficiently. I think when you make the switch to vegetarianism it has such benefits for your mental health as well, because it makes you feel good knowing that you’re not contributing to the suffering of animals and you know that you’re looking after your body.
There is a common misconception that vegetarians and vegans don’t get enough nutrients, particularly vitamin B12. However, most people are lacking in B12 anyway as it is generally found in the dirt on food, but this gets washed off before being sent to the shops. You can easily take B12 supplements if that is something you are concerned about though. Also, according to the World Health Organisation, the optimum diet for a human is a plant-based one, so long as you ensure you are still getting the right nutrients. Lastly, humans aren’t even designed to eat meat; we share the same teeth structures as herbivores, (carnivores also lack our flat molars), our stomachs are much less acidic than animals who eat meat, and we have soft fingernails.
What would you recommend to someone who is trying to cut out animal products from their diet?
Not everyone has the willpower to cut all animal products out straight away, so I would suggest doing it as a gradual process, perhaps starting with red meat, then meats you don’t eat as much, then meat that you eat more regularly. I think on days where you feel tempted it really helps to do some research, look again at the health benefits, or even watch some videos about the life of animals bred to be eaten. It can be very eye-opening, but it will really make you think “do I really want to be supporting this industry?”
Once you had become a vegetarian, did you miss meat?
Personally, I didn’t really miss meat at all, because especially as I started cutting it out more, whenever I did eat it it just made me really ill, and I would feel guilty.
Do you have any difficulties with being a vegetarian?
No, there are so many amazing alternatives to meat that there isn’t really an excuse, and if you’re prepared to put a little more thought into planning your meals then there’s often no need to use a meat substitute at all. My mum has been vegetarian for over 40 years, and she told me how hard it used to be to find vegetarian food in restaurants; your only options would be salad or an unhealthy cheese-loaded dish. But now, with people becoming more ethically and environmentally aware and the rise of vegetarianism/veganism, more independent food stores are opening that cater for us, and also most chain restaurants have several vegetarian/vegan options on the menu.
Would you become a vegan?
Absolutely, I’ve done enough research now to have learnt that the dairy industry is just as cruel and unsustainable as the meat industry. I have been eating almost entirely vegan for around 3 months now, and have been trying hard not to consume any dairy products although I have failed on a few occasions (that Mozzarella, Tomato and Basil panini from Costa is so easy and tempting sometimes!) However, one of my new year’s resolutions is to be vegan by the end of the year, however I would love to achieve this sooner. Similarly as I did with meat, since cutting out dairy I have been experiencing symptoms of lactose intolerance so it is clear to me that my body is not happy with dairy, and I know it is best to avoid it.
What has been your opinion of restaurants in Liverpool for serving vegetarian culinary?
From research that I have done when looking for vegan places to go when my boyfriend visits, it seems like there is a large selection of places that cater for vegetarians/vegans. We love Wagamamas, and can always rely on them for great vegetarian food (my favourite is the yasai katsu curry). Pizza express, another fave, has recently brought out a delicious vegan pizza (Pianta) which has no cheese, but also says that if you bring along your own vegan cheese they will put it on any pizza for you! Along the same lines, Maguire’s pizza bar has quickly become a favourite of ours! They have a very large selection of vegetarian and vegan pizzas, and so far we have tried 4 of the vegan ones. I can honestly say they’re the best pizzas I’ve ever had, and very reasonably priced at £2 a slice if you’re undecided, or £10 for a massive 15”.
What about the fake meat revolution?
The first real alternatives to meat that taste like the real thing surely contradicts the whole point of not eating meat? Personally, I don’t think that it contradicts the point, as you’re not actually consuming meat. For people who maybe do love meat but want to be vegetarian, realistic fake meats could be a great place to start! I personally have only ever tried substitutes such as Quorn or Fry’s, which, let’s be honest, don’t exactly taste quite like the real thing. (They are still great though!) I think it is important to support any attempts to reduce meat consumption, so if people want to eat fake meat, then that’s something I can totally get behind! We shouldn’t bash people for trying, even if we don’t want to ourselves. As someone who didn’t particularly enjoy real meat anyway, I’m not sure I would like them, but if someone did and this is a way of them switching to vegetarian whilst still experience the taste of meat, then fabulous!
Does the pleasure that humans experience from eating animals justify the immense suffering inflicted upon those animals as a result?
Absolutely not, in no way, ever! Like I said, there are enough tasty alternatives that you do not have to cause horrific pain and suffering to other sentient beings. People who learn the facts, and see the fear in those animals eyes, yet still choose to support the industry, are just being completely ignorant and showing a lack of compassion.
Thank you Lucy for answering these questions, it was really interesting talking to you and getting to know your opinion.