Sharing that I’m a vegetarian is trickier than telling people I don’t drink (and, believe me, that’s super tricky). People sometimes ask why I’m a vegetarian—but not as much as they did 20 years ago.
Thankfully, being a vegetarian nowadays doesn’t make me quite as weird. Wait, I’m an Intuitive Animal Communicator. Never mind—still weird.
Where vegetarians are welcome
I have to say I was delighted when I visited my daughter Andy in India in 2012, where there are bunches of vegetarians. Yes, it’s hard to believe that the second largest country in the world finds vegetarianism okay. Especially when I’ve grown up listening to people say “bacon” as if it was the sexiest thing alive.
Veg or Non-Veg?
When I went to a restaurant in India, they’d ask, “Veg or Non-Veg?” Translation, “Are you a vegetarian or not?” I felt so NORMAL.
And the menu choices! India has created outrageously tasty vegetarian dishes.
That was important because one of the gifts of traveling around the world with the Navy was discovering all kinds of incredibly good food. I didn’t want to lose the joy of eating just because I became a vegetarian.
Restaurant choices that get old
Indian cuisine knows that vegetarian does not equal these basic restaurant choices:
- Tofu (fried, plain, mushed up)
- Salad (No, I don’t want to add meat to that. Really! Neither the chicken nor the cow, thank you.)
- A deep-fried vegetable appetizer
- Pasta and red sauce, with–if I’m lucky–some slightly warmed veggies thrown in
Yes, I am cranky when it comes to this subject.
Luckily, the options for vegetarians are much better now. So I’m less cranky. 😁
“I don’t eat meat”
One thing I’ve learned is that I can’t simply say, “I don’t eat meat.”
From what I can tell, to most folks in the US, meat only applies to furry mammals. Except cats and dogs. It doesn’t include animals that live in the sea or have feathers.
So now I say, “I don’t eat animals.” This declaration jars people sometimes, but it is usually clear. Not always.
Sometimes, I can almost see the thought bubbles over their heads as if we were living in a cartoon strip.
“Are fish animals?” “Are birds animals?”
They ponder, “Well, I learned that everything’s animal, vegetable, or mineral. Let’s see. They’re not vegetables. Not minerals. Okay!! They ARE animals! So she’s not eating them. Got it.”
And then there’s that nuance of, “You don’t eat animals, but it’s just beef stock in that soup. It’s not an animal. What’s the problem?”
Uh, where do you think the beef stock came from? A dead cow. No, thank you.
I was a pescatarian for a while. But then (yes, I am still weird), fish unexpectedly asked me, “How come we don’t get a pass on being devoured? How come you’re still eating us?”
I didn’t have a good answer, knowing they are sentient beings, just like the furry critters. See these articles on octopuses and lobsters. So, I gave up eating animals that live in water.
A book changed my thinking
Back in the early 2000s, I read J.M. Coetzee’s (Nobel prize winner in literature) novel, Elizabeth Costello. The book subject is a renowned novelist who, when invited to speak, refuses to talk about anything except animal rights. It drives folks nuts. But her musings got through to my heart.
You can read a shorter version of Coetzee’s novel in The Lives of Animals. And if the topic intrigues you, Google “animal rights books” and get reading!
So my decision to stop eating animals and decrease my use of animal products was and is ethical, not for my health. Although it seems to have helped me there.
As I have jokingly said,
“Talking to animals and eating them is a serious conflict of interest!”
To be transparent, I’m not perfect. But I’m happy I’ve come this far.
Take a few baby steps
As I dig into my Lentil Dahl, remember to do what you can for animals! Here are some resources.
The most laid-back guide to going vegetarian you’ll ever read
Helping Animals: 5 easy ways to make a difference
Read my blog!
10 things to increase kindness to animals
Not trying to be a smart aleck or anything, but how do other animals that are carnivores and omnivores feel about their eating choices? would really like to know. Thanks!
The key difference is that those other animals don’t have choices! We humans do have choices. The science is pretty clear that in addition to being more compassionate, a plant-based diet is significantly better for human health and the environment. We are truly lucky that at each meal we can make a conscious decision to do what is right for the animals, our own health, and the planet.
I love Susan Vitka’s observation, Susanna. The answer I hear from the wild animals is, That’s what we were taught by our families. I hope we are all evolving, both humans and non-humans. And there will be a different way to survive on earth. “Predator and Prey” will no longer be the only way to survive; the wolf and the lamb will live together peacefully. Just a hope.
One more thing. I share your love for Indian cooking. I love, love, love Indian cooking! I could have cried when my favorite restaurant closed (owners retired). Can you recommend particularly favorite Indian cookbooks or recipes?
I’m not a good cook, so I don’t have a personal recommendation. But the cookbooks in this collection look awesome! https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/best-indian-cookbook-titles/
I love seeing comments – it means people are reading!!!! Very interesting comment from Susanna!
I’ve gone back and forth with vegetarianism. Especially because I sense that plants are also sentient (I am a certified forest therapy guide). As of now, I feel best about eating mostly plant-based, and when I do eat animal products, to do it with respect and gratitude for them. Ideally from a humane source.
Yes, I’ve felt the sentience of plants, too. I’ve heard there are Breatharians who live on air and sun. But I haven’t met any and am skeptical, so I’m still eating plants, Debbie.
Uh, I won’t be trying to live on air and sun. I guess awareness, respect, and gratitude for whatever we choose to eat is the way to go. It’s a matter of integrity for you and I respect that. I love that fish communicated with you!
P.S. By “mostly” plant-based, I’m talking 80-90%.
I can totally relate with you Maribeth. I’ve been a vegetarian for over 30 years now, mostly vegan. So when people ask ask me about it, I tell them I don’t eat anything that has a face which covers all types of animals. Thankfully now there is much more variety when eating out and it is easier to find specialty foods at the grocery stores.
That’s a good idea, Liz – no face.