I am a committed vegan and my husband and two children are vegetarians. We live in a peaceful household, where everyone’s choice to be vegetarian or vegan is respected. When we do all sit around the table to eat a meal together as a family, I make something that we can all enjoy and sometimes need to adapt my meal so that it’s vegan friendly.
It hasn’t always been this way; in fact, my children have tried a completely plant based diet with limited success. The truth of the matter is that they enjoy dairy products too much and trying to wean them off the stuff is met with a barrage of complaints, groans and dramatic displays of resistance. Am I disappointed that my children cannot manage to be vegans? No, not really. I understand that children have to attend many social events at school and are often put in a position where even gaining access to a vegetarian option is an achievement in itself. Moreover, becoming vegan is a process, and many vegans started off as vegetarians before they took that final step to banishing all animal products from their lifestyle.
As for my husband, he loves pizza. He is an unstoppable pizza guzzler. Don’t get me wrong: I have encouraged him to try vegan cheese, but the truth of the matter is that he hates the stuff. When I was vegetarian myself (two years ago before I became a vegan), I also loved pizza, but it wasn’t difficult for me to give it up, having discovered for myself that cows and calves suffer terribly in the dairy industry. I also had no problem giving up eggs when I learned that male chicks are ground up alive and discarded as useless by-products in an industry that exploits chickens until they are exhausted then sends them to slaughter.
However, for some people the prospect of going that step further and becoming vegan is daunting, and I honestly don’t blame them for this. After all, we live in a non-vegan world, and perhaps vegetarians stand a better chance of ‘fitting in’ than vegans. This really shouldn’t be the case, and many determined vegans are trying to change this by requesting that vegan friendly options are made available in restaurants and cafes. But as it stands at the moment, the world of restaurants and dining out can be slightly more tricky to navigate as a vegan than it would be as a vegetarian.
When I watch my husband tucking into his giant mozzarella pizza, there is a little voice in my head which always speaks up in his defense, telling me to not judge him or other vegetarians. After all, are they really less dedicated to animal rights or are they just not in a position to make the transition to veganism? The truth of the matter is that some vegetarians just aren’t ready to take the next logical step by cutting out animal products from their diet. They need time and space to figure this out for themselves. I like to think of veganism as an evolution: first of all giving up meat and becoming vegetarian, and then (because you feel so great!) ditching animal products such as milk, eggs and honey from your lifestyle as well.
This discussion puts me in mind of a fierce argument that I observed on an internet forum that was focused around this very issue. A newbie vegetarian was asking other vegetarians for advice on making the change to a meatless diet, and an angry vegan had viciously attacked her ethics. This vegan had argued that as the vegetarian in question would still be supporting the egg and dairy industry, which are founded on the enslavement and suffering of animals, she might as well just keep eating meat! I doubt most vegans would share this opinion, but it did make me reflect on how important it can be to welcome vegetarians. After all, we are all on the same side and there is a reasonable chance that if vegans are supportive and set a positive example, maybe more vegetarians would give veganism a try and find out why an entirely plant-based diet is so great for animals, humans and the planet.
If you know any vegetarians who are interested in switching to a completely plant-based diet, here is the link to Viva’s free Vegan Starter Kit offering advice, support and tasty recipes sent straight to your doorstep free of charge.
Main image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons / Zach Taiji
Second image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons / Abel Pau