I have followed a vegetarian diet for about three and a half years now. People often ask me how I can live without meat, how I get enough protein, or why I chose to become vegetarian. These answers will be different for every vegetarian, but for me, it was quite a simple choice to make.
The initial reason I chose to follow a vegetarian diet was due to the meat industry’s contribution to climate change. The meat industry contributes greatly to not only greenhouse gas emissions, but also deforestation, to make land space for livestock. I read a lot of articles and watched a lot of documentaries, and they all led back to the same conclusion: that even if the specific numbers may be varied, having a vegetarian diet will help the environment. So I decided to make the switch, and officially gave up meat.
I think one reason that being a vegetarian works so well for me, is that the change from my “omnivore diet” to vegetarianism was not a big change. I remember telling my mum one evening “I want to be a vegetarian,” and she replied with something along the lines of “sure, we basically are already!”. Before officially becoming a vegetarian, our family meals often had Quorn products instead of meat because (to us) they taste nicer. I don’t really feel tempted to have a “cheat day” or anything like that, because for me, personally, meat isn’t something appealing – and that’s not only from a moral perspective. I just think it tastes bad.
That being said, why did I want to write this article if becoming a vegetarian wasn’t even that difficult for me? Well, that’s the thing – I made the change that was easiest for me to make. If I want to do as much as I can to help the environment, I could become vegan, and cut out all animal products from my diet. But that would be an extreme shift. While I do try to eat more vegan alternatives, I cannot commit fully to a vegan diet. I think trying to help the environment is looked at as an all-or-nothing approach, but at an individual level, even the tiniest change is great. It’s so important to remember that in order to help the environment, you don’t have to commit to permanently changing your diet if it is not possible for you. Even just trying the vegetarian option the next time you go to a restaurant is great!
Would I recommend a vegetarian diet? That massively depends on the person asking for the recommendation. If you think a vegetarian diet would be accessible to you in terms of budgeting, time, culture, and health (or any other factors that you think could come into play) – then absolutely give it a try! If you’re not a huge meat-eater to begin with, you could change your diet overnight, like I did; or, you could gradually cut down your meat intake, aiming towards a meat-free diet. But it’s worth pointing out that changing your diet like this is not accessible for everybody, and it’s really important to take your situation into consideration when thinking about this. If you think that changing to a vegetarian diet could cause problems for you, for whatever reason, then I would not commit to it. But, perhaps try having a few meat-free meals now and then whenever the opportunity arises, if this is possible for you. In theory, it seems like the world going vegetarian would solve a lot of problems relating to climate change – but this is impossible, since this commitment to eating no meat is simply inaccessible to a lot of people. If you are unable to cut meat out of your diet completely, that’s OK! There are other ways (unrelated to your diet) in which you can help the cause.