All You Need To Know About Vegetarianism And Why You May Be Wrong To Judge

I’ve been a vegetarian for around ten years, so long in fact, that I can’t recall quite how long. In that time, I’ve had to listen to people spout endless drivel about what they think it means to be a veggie but clearly they are clueless. This article will help educate people on the different category of vegetarian there are, the differences between them and why it’s not a contradiction to eat veggie “sausages”.

The Categories

I use the term “categories” instead of vegetarian as it would be inappropriate for some of the terms to be classed as meat free. Let me explain.

  • Pescatarian

This is widely considered to be the first level of “vegetarianism”. A pescatarian is someone who does not eat meat from any animal other than fish. It derives from the Italian word for fish, “Pesce“. If you have ever wondered why someone calls themselves a veggie but then adds “I only eat fish” then this is the term they should use. Pescatarian’s usually also eat dairy products. They may also eat foods containing animal byproducts.

  • Vegetarian

These are the people who eat no meat from any animal at all. Not only do they not eat meat, they do not eat animal products. These include gelatin(e), rennet, drinks brewed in isinglass. If you haven’t heard of these products before, fear not, I shall explain further on. People who claim to be veggie but eat foods containing these willingly are not vegetarians in the real sense as they are knowingly consuming animal products which usually come from dead animals. They may avoid wearing leather, silk, suede and other animal rich clothing. However, vegetarians do eat dairy products such as milk, butter and eggs.

  • Vegan

These are people who eat no meat, no animal byproducts and no dairy. They also avoid wearing or using animal products in clothes and furniture and so on. They believe in using absolutely no animal products whatsoever.

Products To Be Aware Of

If you choose to go down the “absolutely no animal” route, there are certain things you will need to check food packets for as they come from dead animals.

Gelatin(e): the result of boiled down animal bones, this is a gelling agent that keeps food together. Often found in jelly/chewy sweets, some deserts and other foods. Keep an eye out for this on your packaged foods.

Rennet: an enzyme taking from the stomach of animals which is used in the production of some cheeses. This is a big ingredient in cheese in America but not so much in Britain. Be sure to check for vegetable rennet or cheese which states “Suitable for Vegetarians”.

Isinglass: This is a product obtained from fish bladders and is used in brewing of beers, ales, ciders and other drinks, such as Guinness. Be sure to research the alcohol you drink to make sure it’s vegetarian.

–  Cochineal: Food colouring which is made up from crushed beetles. Often red
colouring. Sweets or food with red colouring may well have crushed beetle in. Check the packet for ingredients listed and a V symbol on the packet so you know it’s suitable.

It’s Content Not Design

I have lost count of how many people have said “you say you are a veggie but you eat meat substitutes like soy sausages”. That is incredibly small-minded and hugely naive. It winds me up to hear it. Non meat eaters are opposed to the content of food, not the shape or design of it. The meat “substitute” is just a marketing term. It also makes it easier to whip up something for the whole family. For example, there are three veggies and two meat eaters in my family. If we’re cooking chips and sausages, we stick in meat ones and veggie ones (separate trays), they cook the same way and time, it’s easy. Same for spaghetti Bolognese. To start ranting and raving about how it’s a contradiction to eat meat “substitutes” only makes you look a fool, not the vegetarian.

We Don’t Preach

I’ve never told anyone to stop eating meat and nor do I expect people to cater for my needs. I know we can be awkward to cook for. We also don’t just cook for ourselves. As mentioned above, there is a mix of meat eaters and vegetarians in my family. We all cook for both sets meaning we cook them meat as much as they cook us veggie food. To think we are all tree hugging hippies after peace and love is a misguided mistake. We choose not to eat animals on a personal, educated reasoning. It’s purely subjective. We don’t judge you for eating whatever you like, we’d appreciate you not to do the same!

~Image sources: http://www.flickr.com/photos/philocrites

~ http://www.flickr.com/photos/eugene

~ http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidorian

~ http://www.flickr.com/photos/lollyknit

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