Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Am I "hip" for going vegetarian?

Vegetarianism has been a topic of interest for our society for many years. Plenty of studies have been released showing good and bad aspects of the diet, and many people have made small fortunes releasing vegetarian or vegan cookbooks. But why? Here's my own story about my vegetarianism--the question: Is it "hip?"

I was recently at an on-campus event that was being catered by a restaurant. There were not a lot of options to begin with; the entire amount of catered food fit on a small party tray that sat in the corner of the room. Attendees from the event queued up to get a piece for themselves, but I didn't.

A good friend of mine, who was partially responsible for the event, had recently told me he thought I looked like a hipster--one of those people who dresses in popular clothes and who prides themselves in knowing about things before they go "mainstream." I'm really not like that, but it was funny to hear.

The line had died down, but he noticed that I still had no food in front of me.
"Why aren't you eating?"
"Well, I'm.."
"A vegetarian?" he quipped. "I told you that you're a hipster!"

So really, how hip is being a vegetarian? Not only that, but what makes people think being a vegetarian contractually obliges you to being an underground-obsessed twenty-something faux-connoisseur of everything?

I think the attitude of some vegetarians--and even some vegans--can be (and usually is) seen as disgustingly rude. Just because they don't eat meat, some vegetarians and vegans feel like they're much more intelligent, much more aware of the world around them, and much more important than other people around them. It seems like many vegans are especially rude since they go out of their way to buy and/or make vegan foods. In my opinion it seems like many vegans and vegetarians look down upon the rest of society. For some strange reason these people think that they're more important than you and I. It's silly. Really, what does that blind sense of entitlement afford anybody? It makes people assume that all vegans and vegetarians are part crazy, which isn't good for anyone. Several years ago two friends of mine dated. One was vegetarian before she met her boyfriend. The boyfriend was raised by his family as a vegan, so he always had a lot of support and knew a ton of great recipes. Once the girlfriend started, I felt like she got a little cocky about it like being vegan meant you were the best at everything and that other people were inferior. It was NOT fun!

So is being a vegetarian popular? Some people do it to save animals, others do it just to try it. I agree, as many may not realize, that vegetarianism is pretty popular. Celebrities like Paul McCartney and Pamela Anderson support vegetarianism and veganism respectively, which has given the movement even more acceleration. But why did I go vegetarian? Here are my reasons:

1. When I did eat meat, I didn't eat that much. When we made tacos, the ground beef disgusted me. I didn't like how it tasted. Really, I don't like how many meat dishes tasted. When my fiance made me a plain slab of chicken it looked like skin to me--I couldn't eat it. The only steak I really liked was from a restaurant (Arigato's sukiyaki steak--delicious)  but it's nothing I'd spend money on constantly. I just decided to stop eating meat.

2. I'd rather not eat fast food. Think about it. I rarely ate fast food to begin with, but now it's absolutely not happening. There are salads and vegetarian options--typically unhealthy with all the dressing and side items included--but why bother with those? This helped me save money, and also kept me away from tempting foods like milkshakes and french fries. It worries me that fast food restaurants don't use 100 percent white meat in chicken nuggets or 100 percent beef in a burger. It's obvious that the use of other food stuffs dilutes the price of each entree, but still. Ew!

3. The way meats are processed scares me--some meats have residue of hormones. Here's something I found from

"According to the European Union’s Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures Relating to Public Health, the use of six natural and artificial growth hormones in beef production poses a potential risk to human health. These six hormones include three which are naturally occurring—Oestradiol, Progesterone and Testosterone—and three which are synthetic—Zeranol, Trenbolone, and Melengestrol. The Committee also questioned whether hormone residues in the meat of 'growth enhanced' animals and can disrupt human hormone balance, causing developmental problems, interfering with the reproductive system, and even leading to the development of breast, prostate or colon cancer."

It's a personal choice to go vegetarian or vegan, so it's up to you. I've gotten a lot of questions about why I decided to go vegetarian, what I think it's worth, and why I ever considered it. I was a vegetarian in high school for over a year, stopped, and four years later I decided to give it another try. I may end up giving up again, but I've definitely learned a lot. I gave up previously because I wanted to donate blood and my iron was always low; I wasn't anemic but I may have been close. This time around though, I feel like I've learned a lot more and I have a good amount of support. We'll see what happens.

On the record, I don't think vegetarianism is a fad. It takes a lot of work, time, and effort. Maybe it's the "hip" thing to do if you just want to go vegetarian because you think it's the cool thing to do, but just because you love animals doesn't mean you can stick to the diet. It's not something easy, but it's definitely rewarding.

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