sunnuntai 11. joulukuuta 2011

'Meat Free'. Personal view on Vegetarianism, how You can be 'meat free' 101 and Livestock's long shadow.

 "Many years ago, I was fishing, and as I was reeling in the poor fish, I realized, I am killing him—all for the passing pleasure it brings me. And something inside me clicked. I realized as I watched him fight for breath, that his life was as important to him as mine is to me." Paul McCartney for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)

I feel like Paul every time I think about animals who have been slaughtered either for food or for fun. Why can't people understand that to animals their lives are just as precious as our lives are to us?
Hi you (pardon me but this will be a long entry), I have been a Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian for almost 4 years (9th of March is when I went 'meat free'). The last piece of meat I ate was salmon sushi in a Japanese restaurant in Vienna. It was 8th of March 2008.

There are two stories of why I became a lacto-ovo vegetarian. The first story includes the idea and influence and the second story is the 'pushed-over-the-edge' moment. I believe only my little sister (and possibly her boyfriend) know both stories and the real reason why I became a vegetarian. But I only circle the 2dn story around. People don't really get it when I tell them the real reason. However the second story is equally important and when I say I became a vegetarian for animal rights, it's 100% true. To make a long story short, my family and I were in Vienna celebrating my mom's birthday. Her good friend had invited us over for dinner. She served large junks of cooked chicken. They were practically swimming in some sort of juice and still had their bones and muscles intact. I had to swallow really hard to keep my vomit down the entire dinner. Ergo I had my last piece of meat that night, when we went to have sushi.

My trip to vegetarianism began a long time ago though. At the age of 12 I ditched red meat. It was the year of Mad Cow Disease, and it scared me so much that I decided to never eat cow's meat again. I was never a fan of fish, so the only fish I really ate was fish sticks. So until I was 19, I just ate chicken and occasionally pork and turkey. Even back then, I could never eat like huge junks of meat. It had to be chopped down to small pieces and if I found those weird bits or chances, it'd make me wanna puke.
It's pretty common that people become vegetarians or vegans suddenly. One may learn something nasty which pushes them over the edge, or one has been battling whether or not to go meat free. Mine was clearly a transition and I couldn't be more happier with my decision to ban the meat industry from my life 4ever.

                                                        Pamela Anderson for PETA

Personal view.

I personally have been enjoying being a vegetarian very much. Of course it was difficult at first to figure out which foods would give me as much nutrition as possible and which foods I'd be happy to eat for the rest of my life basically. Later in the 101 section I'll explain what I ate when I started and what I'm eating now. To me eating meat again isn't an option. And this isn't like I'm forcing myself not to eat meat again. I don't want to eat meat ever again and when I quit, it was a decision I made myself. Not once have I been like 'god I miss meat'. Every now and then I'd like to eat prociutto so bad. I used to eat it with croissants. Couple of people have asked me 'why don't you? You don't have to tell anybody'. But that's not how I see vegetarianism works. Even if nobody knew, I would. Then for the rest of my life I'd feel guilty about eating the meat of an innocent pig. Besides, prociutto is very salty so I'm convinced that it was the salt that I so liked back then.

I recently heard a horror story from one of my part-time colleagues. She was a vegetarian for a very long time until her dad managed to bully her into eating meat again. I didn't say anything but to me, her father is a dick you hear me, a dick!!! Of course my parents were confused and worried when I started, (it took them long time to adjust to the fact that I wasn't eating meat again) but they didn't bully me back then, in fact they have never bullied me with meat. They never tried to sneak meat into my food (apparently some people do that, that makes me really really sick). If my parents would do something like that to me, I'm sorry but I would have to cut them out of my life. If someone as close to me as my parents would betray me like that, I wouldn't want to have anything to do with them anymore. However I am a very fiesty person, and I don't care what other people say or think about me. So if someone would try to bully me into eating meat again, I'd just call them an asshole and tell them to fuck off. I'm never eating meat again.

To me, what that colleague did just clarifies the line between wannabe vegetarians and real vegetarians. I appreciate and respect those who take time off from eating meat. Even if it is just for 2 weeks or a month it shows that they must be thinking about the benefits of vegetarianism. Although, I wish that all those 'part-time' vegetarians would do it for the animals' sake. My cousin from Austria, doesn't eat meat during lent. I was very impressed when I met her in Vienna in 2008, and she told us that she wasn't eating meat because she was fasting. I felt very proud of her. But she's only 'a part time' and she does it because of her religion. None the less, she saves about 8 animals if she's 'meat free' for a month. I have saved about 400 animals soon =)
Most new vegetarians can find eating out difficult. After all, not many regular restaurants offer a variety of vegetarian dishes. I don't care about food that much (I have a massive sweet tooth so I care much more about sweets and desserts), so eating out has never been a problem for me. I just eat something little like chips or a salad. Japanese restaurants usually have a good veggie sushi variety. I can understand that some vegetarians can find it bothersome to go out with meat eaters because the vegetarian variety is often very small (or perhaps having to watch people eat meat hurts. Some times I get that feeling too). However my friends are very considerate and they always let me know where we are going out to eat, so I can check out the menu and see if it would actually be better to eat a big meal at home and then have just a little something at the restaurant (^_^ quite often my friends let me pick out the place). To those who find this frustrating, I encourage you to hang in there. Make a pack with your friends, that you get to choose the place to eat every now and then. When your friend is having a dinner party or a regular party, ask them to include a few vegetarian dishes/snacks. What I still need to do, for ex. is to host a vegetarian dinner party =D This way one can introduce a lite yet delicious diet to one's friends. I bet the overweight meat eaters would be interested to know that by ditching meat, they'd lose a few kilos within a week. Seriously vegetarian food has far less fat and calories than meat alone. I suppose it's a given to say how much healthier and beneficial vegetarian food is compared to meat.

Up till now, I wasn't very aware of people eating meat. I wasn't really paying any attention to it because I didn't want to be one of those 'preachy' people who preach about their life style or religion. I know it's annoying and quite frequently upsetting when someone starts preaching about your chosen life style and what might wrong with it. All my friends eat meat. I only know a few 'part-time' vegetarians. I choose to ignore the fact that when we go out, they are eating animals. I'd most likely eventually lose my mind if I saw it like that. But all that changed this week. I saw a horrible short 'document' on fur farms, and I snapped. I kept crying for 2 days. I'll be talking about animal testing and fur farms later. I know I can't tell people to stop eating meat, but I can encourage them to come to a vegetarian/vegan restaurant with me, or try my restaurant's burgers with soypatties. I'm hoping that this entry arouses people's curiosity to try being a vegetarian for a while. PETA has a lovely program that encourages meat eaters to try being a vegan for 30 days. I totally support this program and I'm so hoping that atleast one of my friends will take up the challenge.

Vegetarianism 101.

For those who don't know anything about vegetarianism, there are several paths you can take to become a vegetarian. My way is Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian, it means that I can use dairy, egg and honey products, but as Phoebe in F.R.I.E.N.D.S said "No food with a face". Hence L.O.V's don't use any meat products. No --__-- we don't eat fish either. That's the most common question I get when people learn that I'm a vegetarian. Tossers! I thought the meaning of  'vegetarian' was common knowledge. Obviously not. Other options are Lacto-Vegetarian (dairy products) or Ovo-Vegetarian (egg products). Vegan, I reckon, is the most extreme way of being meat free. Being a Vegan means excluding all animal products, eggs, dairy, and honey. Most Vegans don't even eat plants that have their own roots, such as carrots and potatoes. I have considered of becoming a Vegan, but chocolate and ice-cream are still holding me back. Perhaps one day I'll snap totally and go Vegan =)

When I became a L.O.V I was most concerned about my nutritional needs. Funny story, a new colleague I met in summer had become vegetarian 2 weeks ago. She didn't wanna tell her reasons, which is cool, but then I asked her 'What protein source do you use'. She just looked at me dumbfounded and asked me to clarify. 'Are you eating, tofu, soy beans, soy mince or quinoa?'. She said she just eats the soyburger patties at work O_O Now, it's OK if you have no idea what you should eat when you become a vegetarian, but indifference is not an excuse. If you do not know where to get all the essential nutrients, you are going to be in big trouble soon. Disregarding your nutritional needs will cause your body and the nervous system in your brains severe damage in a long run. Below is my simple 101 guide to vegetarianism.
First step: Research. and (<- Finnish Peta) offer great guides to what you need to know about vegetarianism and how to make the best of eating vegetables and soy products. First thing I did was ask my vegetarian flatmate about her food routine. She became a vegetarian when she was 8 years old. She stressed about the importance of tofu and soy beans, and for the longest time, I ate soy beans. Now I eat tofu or quinoa. (see cooking instructions after this section). There, soy beans, tofu, soy mince or quinoa is your nr. 1 protein source (do not neglect this group!). I use all of them regularly, except soy beans, I have had enough of them after eating them 2 years solid. Even if you have figured out all the important foods you must eat, you still need to take several supplements. Calcium & Vitamin D supplements. Cheese and dairy products are good, but even if I eat yogurt and cheese daily, I'm still taking Cal. & D supplements daily. Iron rich foods you might wanna include to your diet: Oat, Apricots, boiled Lentils, Hazelnuts, Almonds and Cashew nuts and soy beans. Also you should take Iron supplements as well (again I do too). But the most important supplement you need to take, which my indifferent colleague doesn't care about, is B12. It's a vitamin with a key role in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system, and for the formation of blood. Soy products are probably the highest source of B12, however it's still not enough to keep a vegetarian's brains and nervous system going, hence take B12 supplements. I cannot stress enough how important it is to take these supplements daily. Vitamin C is also important, expecially to Finns. We don't get that much sunlight. For vitamin C, oranges and orange juice are a good call. I drink a lot of orange juice in the winter.
Second step: Tasting.
For the first 6 months I kept experimenting with different vegetables. I ate cabbage, eggplant and sunflower seeds. I ate a lot of lettuce and salads with peppers, carrot, sprouts, tomatos and cucumber. I also switched from white bread to whole grain bread. Now I eat Finnish dark rye bread all the time. Dairy procucts are good source of calcium and vitamin D. What you really need is patience to figure out what you like and what works for you. If your family/care taker/partner/friends are really supportive, you can have veggie nights together and make and sample different veggie dishes. I mostly did the 'figuring out' all by myself, but at one point mom and dad were reading various Asian vegetarian cousine cook books =)
Third step: Adjusting.
I did a lot of research when I became L.O.V. I had to make sure I could survive as a vegetarian (and to assure my mom that I would be fine). I encourage you to feel out vegetarianism by trying out different veggie foods and vegetables. Read different vegetarian cousine cook books (India and Asia cook books have good recipes). The internet is also packed with vegetarian recipes =) My first ever home made veggie dish was Ratatouille xD But I didn't like it. Because my food buds are very simple, I mostly eat salads and frozen food. Sometimes I make veggie curry with tofu or veggies and tofu in pasta sauce. I don't eat pasta or spaghetti, but I do like mushroom risotto. In my parents cabin we sometimes have like Asian themed dinner. My mom makes this mean peanut sauce, we dip noodles in it ^_^ My dad makes mean veggie lasagne <3. At work we have massive salads (goat cheese, tofu, gaucha bread and so on) and massive burgers (notice our restaurant can make all our burgers with soypatties, just need to switch sauces that have meat ingridients in them). So I'm well fed at work =)
Most grocery stores sell soy products such as: tofu sausages, soypatties, soy and sesame seed nuggets etc. Soy sticks are my favourites ^_^ they are easy to prepare and they taste good with sweet chili sauce. I have had tofu sausages too and they were good, but rather greasy. Try making lasagne with soy mince and serve it to your meat eating friends. Trust me, they'll like it =D

My soy product cooking guides:
-Soy beans are tricky to prepare. If prepared wrong, they become quite poisonous. *Prepare the whole bag in one go. In Finland many local grocery stores sell soy beans, but for ex. in England, I had to buy soybeans from health stores. Pour the beans into a large pot and fill to the top with clear cold water. Let them soak up to 12h. Then boil them 9h-10h in mild temperature. You can tell when they are ready by tasting them. They should be easy to bite on, and yet remain a bit crunchy.*
-Tofu is ready to eat, in Finland we have hard tofu and soft tofu. I use hard tofu when I'm making for. ex. veggie-curry.
-I was recently introduced to Quinoa. This grain-like crop actually beats soybeans in its protein content, set of essential amino acids, dietary fiber, phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. *Put water to boil. Wash quinoa in hot water, when the water is boiling pour in. Let it boil for 15min.*
-Soy mince is easy to cook as well. *Put water to boil. Pour in soy mince and let it boil for 10-15min.*

Livestock's Long Shadow and enviromental issues.

If you are still hesitant if becoming a vegetarian is a good thing, let me pitch you a few facts of the harms the meat industry is causing. Livestock's Long Shadow is a UN report which you can read at, or you can google it. I'm just quoting it here but basically we should all be aware of these facts --__-- seriously if you didn't already know all this once you've finished reading, you seriously need to read your high school geography books again, this is basic knowledge.

"The livestock industry is one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global." Just think about this for a second. How much crop we need to grow to feed the livestock. How much fresh water we need to supply the livestock's needs. How much space the livestock requires and lets be frank, most of the livestock live in horrible and dismal premises. According to PETA, a vegetarian saves up to 100 animals per year, imagine how many animals a meat eater EATS per year >_< What I make out of this is basically that all the vegetation, pasture and clear water we could be giving to people to use, is going to the livestock and then into meat eater's mouths (I was good in this kind of geography, I still remember all of this, even if it has been almost 5 years). Imagine this, when eating a piece of stake one is actually eating around 7kg of grain and drinking 9085 litre of water. That much of our precious resources is used in the making of a piece of stake. Someone has to keep up the energy in the mills and premises and slaughter houses and transport the animals. All this trouble and harm just by eating meat, any meat.
And it goes on, "The findings of this report suggest that it should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity." We all should be aware that the livestock industry causes much more greenhouse gas emissions than the private car alone. The report says that it causes 18% more than that of transport. (You'd think you'll be saving the planet just by recycling and turning of the lights).
According to PETA's letter to Al Gore a change to a vegan diet is the single biggest change an individual could make to counter the effects of climate change. I agree 100%. Even if I'm not a vegan I know I'm much closer to 'saving the planet' than any meat eater. Naturally I'm not a saint, the vegetables and soy beans (tofu is made of soy beans) I eat are grown somewhere and I can't be sure that they are grown with enviromental friendly techniques and in enviromental friendly premises.

The West takes great pride in their infallible education system. And yet we are still so very uneducated when it comes to keeping our planer well and save. This report considered the observations made in the US. I can only imagine what goes down in China and South America. Atleast in the West attention is paid to the production of the livestock. People are slowly becoming aware of where their meat is coming from and how it was 'raised' (we have free ranged chicken and happy chicken's eggs). However you are still eating something that had a face and a beating heart once. Meaning that we should know what is ethical and what is not. To me, killing a living creature for food is unethical. All the vegans and vegetarians can agree with me on this one. We know that eating meat is bullshit because we can survive perfectly well without it. We are happy an well. Every single one of my friends (and myself) have received higher education. My friends are either college graduates or college students. Hence we should know better. We should know what goes down in the livestock industry.

I really don't want to go into too much detail of how those animals wind up on one's plate. I'm a sensitive person and I just might flip tonight if I keep doing research on what goes on in slaughterhouses and how to slain animals. I'll just give you this, how they kill cattle (I have no idea how those people who slain animals live with themselves day after day):
  1. Cattle are rendered unconscious by applying an electric shock of 300 volts and 2 amps to the back of the head, effectively stunning the animal or by use of a captive bolt pistol to the front of the cow's head. Swine can be rendered unconscious by CO2/inert gas stunning. (This step is prohibited under strict application of Halal and Kashrut codes.)
  2. Animals are hung upside down by both of their hind legs on the processing line.
  3. The carodit artery and jugular vein are severed with a knife, blood drains, causing death through exsanguination.
  4. The head is removed, as well as front and rear feet. Prior to hide removal, care is taken to cut around the digestive tract to prevent fecal contamination later in the process.
  5. The hide/skin is removed by down pullers, side pullers and fisting off the pelt (sheep and goats). Hides can also be removed by laying the carcase on a cradle and skinning with a knife.
  6. The internal organs are removed and inspected for internal parasites and signs of disease. The viscera are separated for inspection from the heart and lungs, referred to as the "pluck." Livers are separated for inspection, tongues are dropped or removed from the head, and the head is sent down the line on the head hooks or head racks for inspection of the lymph nodes for signs of systemic disease.
You still want to eat animals after this?

The livestock industry is causing massive harm to the enviroment and kills around 300 million animals (EU) per year. Imagine that, 300 million animals and every single one's destiny is to wind up on people's plates. Imagine that.
This is a tricky subject because as much enviromental harm and personal health issues the livestock industry causes, it also emplyes a lot of people. Again I don't know how these people live with themselves, but I suppose every one of us has to pay our dues. I have already had very heated conversations with my best friend, and he (a meat eater) thinks that if livestock and meat was taken away completely, it would be a disaster. Thousands, even millions of people would lose their jobs and what would happen to all those animals. Well obviously that is a transitions as well and it would have to be done slowly.

I hope you found this entry on vegetarianism insightful and hopefully helpful as well. I wish you good luck with your new animal and enviromental friendly diet. And to you who are still eating meat, care to take up PETA's 30 day vegan challenge?  =^_^=


2 kommenttia:

  1. Didn't know you're writing a blog :D (want to start a beauty blog

    Really like this post! It's really good and anyone who's considering being a vegetarian or vegan should read it!!
    I do remember the incident in Vienna...To be honest it was one of the worst food experiences I had as well...Eating the meat from animal's bone is the MOST horrifying thing ever! The most terrible thing also was to serve the pork ribs at work and just see an animal's ribs on the plate...I don't want to say what I wanted to do with the person's ribs who was going to eat the portion -_-

    I have to admit it has been harder for me to become a full vegetarian since I never liked vegetables that much...But there's no way I could cook meat myself anymore...I can eat chicken or seafood in a restaurant. But nowadays I actually eat chicken or fish maybe twice a month? O_o Because I have learned how good vegetarian food can be!

    We've had a lot of dinner parties and just used vegetables in the dishes and they always turn out amazing! Me and my boyfriend's friend (who likes to eat a lot sausages-_-) admitted that vegetarian dishes are often a lot better than meat dishes so THERE! Vegetables are amazing if you know how to cook them! (And a lot cheaper than meat btw)

    There will be a day when I won't eat chicken or fish ever again...(Can't say the same for prawns though -_-) Have to remember that most of sweets contain gelatin....whoops

    Keep up the good work! Power to the animals! Lol :D
    NO BEEF! A funny song...don't know if it has anything to do with eating no beef though :D

  2. Aaawww thank Imoutou-chan! It's good to know that it was insightful and could actually be useful to someone :3

    Yeah Austrians are such cave people, they'll eat a boar's carcass and suck its bone marrow for dessert -_- I'm trying my best not to think about the animal whose meat I'm serving at work >_< the ribs do look mortifying. I can't believe that someone would actually like to eat that and could live with themselves afterwards.

    Yup, especially in the UK Tesco for ex. has a really good selection of frozen and ready made vegetable meals and soy products =D Peppers can be really nice when mixed into pasta sauce and salads are always fabulous.

    Many meat eaters admit that the vegetarian meals they had eaten at a friend's house or in a restaurant, were much better than most of the meat dishes they had ever had. For my graduation party I made 6 veggie-crepes, only 1 was left (I had 1 and my cousin had 2, so where did the other 2 go? xP). Dinner parties are a good way to introduce veggie meals to people.

    Gelatin is a tricky one O_o some foods, sweets and desserts contain gelatin. I'm trying my best to avoid it. However when you are in a restaurant, you can't be 100% sure that you aren't eating any animal 'ingredients'. Even some medicines have gelatin -_-

    Cheers! Power to the animals!
    You can figure out during your Christmas break when you wanna start your beaty blog =D
    (That did sound like Steve Aoki's song xD)