The term “vegetarianism” can mean many things, and I continually run into the issue of what type of vegetarian to call myself. The title “vegetarian” is a broad term for many types of plant-based diets. For me, what to call myself in the larger realm of vegetarianism is always changing depending on what specific diet I’m following at the time.
Giving up meat was only the first step of my diet transformation into this highly criticized, popularized, and questioned lifestyle. I constantly find myself going through different phases of this diet. One week: I’m vegan because I won’t eat any animal products whatsoever. The next I’ll be vegetarian because I start eating cheese; if I were to have any fish I’d be considered a pescetarian. It can get complicated as I switch around a lot from label to label. So, does this make me a bad vegetarian? Well, maybe, depending on your reasons for not eating animal products.
My decision to stop eating meat comes down to a few things I hold larger than myself. For starters, there’s the issue of our environment, and eating meat doesn’t do it any favors. 18% of greenhouse gas emissions come from animal agriculture. Everything from the 100,000,000 tons of methane emitted by livestock each year, to the un-biodegradable packaging and the actual transporting of meat, make it an eco-enemy.
At this point, I’ve heard every type of response to my diet choice, from the perpetual “what do you eat” question to “being a vegetarian is un-American.” If anyone now casually asks me what my reasons are for being vegetarian, I tend to answer sarcastically with “I like the taste of cardboard and tree bark.” There are only so many times I can get into the same discussion.
In all fairness, I can understand most meat eaters’ rationales. In my more carnivorous days, I even used to say, “if the world ends tomorrow, I wouldn’t want to go having not eaten that steak I wanted.” So take it from a girl that once ordered veal on a first date with a vegan guy—I get it, meat tastes good, and is one of the hardest things to give up—in theory.
The question remains, what type of vegetarian am I? Vegan? Pescetarian? Ovo-Lacto-vegetarian? Fruitarian? I don’t know what to tell you, but let me rephrase my earlier statement as a vegetarian: If the world ended tomorrow, I wouldn’t want to go having consumed something that lived here with me, because no longer do I value life as something exclusive to humans. This diet has taught me to look at life in all its forms equally, and challenges me to get creative with food. If I haven’t persuaded you to consider vegetarianism, I guess I’ll have to leave it to Albert Einstein, who said: “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” Wanna argue with Einstein?
It might be overwhelming to think about never eating meat again, but try vegetarianism for a week as an experiment, simply to see if you can do it. My week turned into 3 years, and I’m still experimenting everyday.