I’ve been vegetarian for somewhere in the ballpark of 13-14 years. My transition from meat-eating to vegetarian was a gradual one, so I don’t have an exact “anniversary” date. With the exception of a brief flirtation with pescetarianism a while ago, I pretty much fit the standard definition of a lacto-ovo vegetarian. I justified continuing to consume dairy and eggs by telling myself things like “well, cows need to be milked” or “chickens lay eggs anyhow” and “it isn’t like these animals are being killed for their milk or eggs.” Right. The more I learn about just how eggs and milk go from the animal’s body to the supermarket shelf, the more hollow these assurances sound.
I’ve been thinking a whole lot about animals lately. In my academic work I’m embarking on a major new research project that has me reading a lot of the ground-breaking literature on animal welfare (i.e.: Henry Salt’s 1894 Animals’ Rights). In the evenings I’ve found myself reading books like Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer.
Enter the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and their 21 day vegan kickstart. I’ve decided to take the challenge this year. It is day 4 and so far so good — only one minor “slip up” to report. I had a handful of almonds the other day, the seasoned kind. Well, imagine my surprise when I discovered powdered sour cream on the ingredients list. *blech* As a vegetarian and someone with allergies I’m normally a pretty careful label reader, so I’m not sure how that one slipped by me. Lesson learned though!
Conceptually I don’t find the switch from vegetarianism to veganism that much of a stretch (seasoned almonds notwithstanding!) — sometimes it is just a matter of finding a vegan version of an old favourite (like this amazing recipe for cornbread!), and many of my favourite recipes are dairy and egg-free anyhow. However, the big stumbling block for me has always been cheese. I’ve been regularly buying soy milk instead of regular milk for a long time now, but for some reason I haven’t made the switch to dairy-free cheese. I’m going to give it a try this month though. My fridge is currently full of several brands of vegan cheese but I’ve yet to settle on one that I really like. Maybe it will just take some getting used to.