The musings of a fourth year English medical student

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Veganism

Right now I am really stuck in a conundrum. I was born into a omnivorous family, but aged twelve I became a vegetarian. Aged fifteen, I went vegan and then, aged seventeen, I went full circle and started eating meat again. Now, aged eighteen, I have no idea what to do and what my ethe are.

I initially went vegetarian purely for my concerns over welfare of animals. My sister, a year younger than me, was already a vegetarian for several years and my parents love cooking and were incredibly tolerant and supportive. Over the years, I became extremely passionate about the environment. I spent a lot of time researching the topic, and realised that being a consumer of animal products this was contributing a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere. In fact, more CO2 is produced annually from animal production for our consumption than the entire world's transport systems combined. I also realised, through meeting a vegan actor I was costarring with for a production, the disgraceful animal cruelty that goes on in dairy and egg production. So I became vegan and I loved it, truly. I had never eaten more healthily or felt better.

About six months ago, however, I lost the plot in terms of what my opinions were. Although I wanted to protect the planet, I couldn't justify that veganism was the most sustainable. After all, if I still carry on buying avocados and quinoa from South America, rice from the Himalayas and fruits from South Africa what is sustainable about that? Yes, plants are a much more resourceful way of using arable land in terms of yield of produce, but eating loads of quinoa, soy/rice/almond milk, none of which can be grown in the UK, how was veganism really a good idea? Surely eating meat from my county (Gloucestershire is a farming mecca for free range beef and pork) and eating locally grown vegetables was a far better idea?

I don't oppose the consumption of meat. In the UK, there's a lot of stringent regulations and a great variety of free range meat that we can access, so eating 'ethical' meat is a possibility. But outside of the UK I am far from convinced. However, we're gradually accepting that in today's Western society we do tend to eat too much meat, and having spent so many hours researching vegetable proteins I now know for a fact that I don't need to eat loads of meat, if any, to be healthy.

The Compromise
I'm never going to be perfect. If I'm on holiday and there's an ice cream van, the sun is shining and hunger strikes, I am going to have that ice cream. Life's too short. However, I feel that from now on my aim is to make the majority of decisions over of my food conscious ones, with the odd indulgence. I only want to eat meat that is grown in England or Wales and is free range. I only will eat fish that is labelled as sustainable-approved by a reputable organisation and caught on British coasts. When it comes to dairy, I prefer to drink almond milk, but I buy a specific brand that uses Italian almonds, so is a EU product. I do not eat cheese, purely because I don't like the taste. For yoghurt, I only buy from Yeo Valley as it is organic and from British farms. I will endeavour to make the majority of my fruits/vegetables purchased from European farms.
However, none of this is going to be easy. Given that I am about to go university and live in London, money is going to be super tight. In addition, the origin of foods is very difficult when it comes to friend's dinner parties and social gatherings. Exceptions will be made. But it's better than nothing, and I feel much better for being a mindful consumer rather than a mindless one.


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