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Posts Tagged ‘vegetarian’

Ghent, Belgium attracted world wide publicity when they announced that from May 2009 every Thursday was to be a ‘meat free’ day in an attempt to encourage people to eat less meat. This idea has been taken up globally with the introduction of ‘meat free Mondays’. Sir Paul McCartney has led a campaign in the UK to reduce the amount of meat that is eaten in an attempt to address issues of animal welfare and also reduce the amount of carbon created by food production.

I applaud these schemes and ideas. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that many families ate far less meat than we do today. After the lean years of rationing, where meat was a scarce luxury and families ate many more vegetables and pulses than we do today, a meal with meat was a luxury. And not something that had to be eaten two or three times a day. However in recent times, where food availability and mass production has changed our eating patterns, suggesting that someone has a meal with no meat in it can often be met with incredulity.

I’ve been reflecting on these issues recently as my child gets older and is making his own choices about what he eats. My whole family are vegetarian. However when I tell other people this, I am often met with a surprised response. The usual question I get asked from well meaning but ill-informed people is “what do you feed him?” when they find out my son is a vegetarian. As much as I might be tempted to reply “smiley faces and baked beans of course, minus the fishfingers”, I try and be more constructive. However, I do sometimes feel that making the choice to raise a vegetarian child is tantamount to child abuse to some people. “How can you deprive him of meat and the essential nutrients?” they ask. “Aren’t you enforcing your views on your child rather than letting him make a choice for himself?” is another common question.

I became vegetarian about 18 years ago. I did so for moral and ethical reasons. Not because I didn’t like meat. I did. I loved it. A rare juicy steak? Delicious! A salty gammon rasher topped with pineapple and a side of peas and fries? Yum yum yum! Southern fried chicken wings? Hell yeah! However after watching a couple of documentaries about slaughter houses I put two and two together and decided I didn’t really want to eat animals any more. So I stopped and became a lacto-ovo veggie. I dabbled with pescetarianism (also known as a fish eating veggie) for a while but ditched the fish eating a couple of years ago. So when I became a mother it seemed natural to me to raise my child as a vegetarian. Why on earth would I want to wean him on to meat when my husband and I don’t eat it?

Why indeed! My health visitor was non-committal about it “you might want to try feeding him some meat every now and then to make sure he gets enough iron”. I don’t think so! He gets enough nutrients from the varied fruit and vegetables he has and the pulses and nuts he eats. My mother-in-law was a bit more worried to begin with “here, give him some of this as a treat [offering a chicken nugget]”. I asked her politely to stick to chocolate as a treat!

My son is now nearly seven, and has decided for himself that he wants to be a vegetarian. We have always been very open with him about where all food comes from. As soon as he was old enough to show an interest in the food around him I offered anything and everything to him, including meat if other people were eating it. His reaction? To look like I was offering him a poo sandwich rather than some of Nana’s ham! He’s dabbled with eating fish himself, but decided a year ago that he didn’t want to any more so that was that.

The Vegetarian Society have loads of useful information about how to create a balanced veggie diet, including a whole section on weaning and raising veggie children. I just don’t get why it’s such an issue to make this choice? Whose business is it really? I don’t interfere with people who choose to raise their children on battery chickens, McDonalds or frozen pizzas. So why should a vegetarian diet come under such scrutiny all the time? Are vegetarians really still such an uncommon occurrence that we are to be feared?

And in response to perpetual question “what does he eat?”, the following is what he listed as his favourite meals when I asked him last night:

  • Cheese on toast
  • Veggie dogs and chips
  • Dhal, rice and naan bread with cucumber and mango chutney
  • Miso soup with noodles, vegetables and tofu
  • Jacket potato with beans and cheese
  • Sushi rice and tofu with soya sauce
  • Eggy bread
  • Nutella sandwiches
  • Crepes with lemon and sugar
  • Spicy vegetarian sausages with mashed potatoes, carrots and cauliflower
  • Grandad’s soup (red lentil, tomato and vegetable soup)

Of course he may grow up to rebel and live in fast food joints scoffing as much cheap mass produced meat as he can. But that’s his choice. His informed choice.

So. Can you do a day without meat? Do you think it would really make a difference? What would *you* eat?

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