If you have travelled across the world or at least outside your region or state of residence, one exciting and glaring difference you may have found is the lifestyles and food habits of the natives. In fact, at times, that is the reason some people travel – to explore the nuances and differences in cuisines, flavours, ethnicity, and cultural heterogeneity.
Most of these diversities are indeed influenced by various factors like natural habitat, region, culture, religion, local availability, and personal choices! However, of these differences in lifestyles and dietary choices, the argument that hits the hardest is that of Vegetarian vs. Non-Vegetarian food!
Vegetarian vs. Non-Vegetarian
It is a very tricky and sensitive topic. While dietary choices are very personal, they are influenced by several factors, some of which are outside the control domain of an individual. Therefore, to say that a specific diet is necessarily better than the other is a bit of self-flattery and delusional.
Today’s argument is not about which diet is better –veg or non-veg … But it is about the people that uphold a diet preference as ‘Holier than thou’!
It is about those who cringe at the sight of non-vegetarian food and may sometimes step on others’ feet to declare how the others must drop their preference and choose a diet similar to the propagators themselves. It is about the people who carry ‘The Vegetarian Halo.’
The Vegetarian Halo
The vegetarian halo refers to the positive perception and assumptions associated with individuals who follow a vegetarian diet. It refers to the idea that some vegetarians see themselves as more virtuous, compassionate, and environmentally conscious than those who consume meat. These rare but present people feel their vegetarianism accords them with a sanctity that makes them a breed holier, more spiritual, and more sacred than others. Almost as if they walk with an invisible HALO above their heads.
You may routinely hear some joint statements from them, like:
“How can you be so heartless to eat meat?”
“I don’t contribute to the suffering of animals.”
“I’m more conscious, superior, and enlightened ….. because I choose not to eat meat.”
“Vegetarianism is a more compassionate, pious, and ethical choice.”
They walk the earth’s surface almost as if they were the chosen ones entrusted with the moral task of carrying the burden of all existential HUMAN SANCTITY.
At this juncture, where I can almost sense debates arising, let me reiterate – The problem is not with them choosing a specific diet and style. The problem is the vegetarian narcissism they feel entitled to unleash onto others. They think that by merely choosing to eat vegetarian, they acquire moral rights to school the ‘unholy’ spirits about how wrong they are in choosing anything that is not plant-based.
What they forget in the bargain is that dietary preferences are a person’s personal and fundamental right and that they need to approach such discussions with mutual respect and open-mindedness. Individuals need to realize that they may exercise their dietary choices without belittling or judging others who make different choices. What is an ‘unbearable’ sight for you is ‘FOOD’ for the other. It commands respect!
They must understand that more than any personal choice, a food preference is primarily dictated by a fellow human’s cultural, geographical, and religious contexts. E.g., The natural habitat, geographical location, and climate of the region may affect the availability or abundance of certain foods. Like in the case of people living in coastal areas often have easy access to seafood, while inland regions may rely more on land-based produce. These shape dietary preferences.
Similarly, different cultures have their culinary traditions and food preferences. These cultural practices are often passed down through generations and shape routine dietary habits. So, suppose your ancestors were natives of Afghanistan. In that case, you are still more likely to continue savouring Mantu, Chapli Kebab, or Mahi Sefeed, even while nestled in a cozy-busy city in the plains.
Regional food preferences are also heavily influenced by the local availability of ingredients. So, if you are an Afghani living in Japan, your Kabuli pulao may include Wagyu beef, or your Mahi Sefeed may be prepared with sashimi-grade tuna or even Unagi. Or if nothing non-vegetarian is available, a person might switch to vegetarianism based on what is quickly and locally available. Choosing local produce over specific food items is always advisable to maintain the sensitive ecological balance of the region you call home!
The ‘holier than thou’ tribe needs to realize that while vegetarianism is acceptable, it is more important to prioritize environmental sustainability and respectful mutual existence before discussing morality based on food preference. While vegetarians may pride themselves in leaving lesser carbon footprints, non-vegetarians can boast about restoring ecological balance by participating in ecosystems that rely on natural predator-prey relationships for credit. Imagine if all humanity were to eat only plant-based foods – you would soon run out of the earth’s natural resources. Or if everyone were to start eating meat or fish – the entire food chain would get disturbed, right?
The truth is that the diversity in food preferences works to balance the universe’s delicate and fragile mutual dependency. So, the next time someone tries to guilt-trip you about choosing to be non-vegetarian, show them this article!
Did you know that the diet you consider ‘vegetarian’ may not be as vegetarian as you would like to believe? Take a look at different diets that are considered ‘vegetarian’ the world over…
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: This is the most common type of vegetarianism and involves avoiding meat, poultry, and fish but still includes dairy products like milk, butter, ghee, cheese, etc., and honey and eggs (animal products) in the diet.
- Lacto-vegetarian: This type of diet involves primarily plant-based food, avoiding meat, poultry, fish, and eggs, but still includes dairy products like milk, butter, and cheese in the diet.
- Veganism: Vegans avoid all animal products, including meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, and honey. They also avoid any other products that come from animals, such as leather or wool. Some even practice raw veganism, which involves eating only foods that are not cooked or processed.
- Plant-based diet: This refers to a diet consisting mainly of plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Depending on the individual’s preferences and needs, it may or may not include small amounts of animal products.
- Flexitarianism: Also known as a “casual vegetarian,” this approach involves reducing meat consumption but not eliminating it from the diet. Flexitarians often eat meat only occasionally or in small amounts.
- Fruitarianism: This type of vegetarianism goes a step beyond raw veganism and involves only eating fruits, nuts, seeds, and other plant-based foods that can be harvested without harming the plant.
- Jain vegetarianism: This type of vegetarianism is practiced by Jains, a religious group in India, and involves avoiding all animal products, including honey. They even avert vegetables that grow underground and those believed to contain microscopic life.
With so much going on with just defining a vegetarian diet, how does one even define one “right” way to be a vegetarian?
Veena Gupta, a homemaker, doting mother, and a loving wife, who takes pride in a long-standing career in Banking and Finance. While her life took shape and as she was pursuing all this, something kept tugging her creativity. This pull lead her to decide to express her thoughts through writing. True to her name, her words flow from her pen to resonate with the reader’s mind like the soothing music that the musical instrument Veena creates! For someone who likes to experiment in life through adventure sports, trekking, and other varied interests, Veena likes to bring her experience, background and perspective to her readers through her simple yet effective writing to push the fact home!
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