perfectvegetarian 43

Perfect vegetarians? 11/03/10

Claire Martens looks at just how far are we willing to take this whole vegetarian thing.

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Seven years ago I decided to change my eating habits to reflect my growing awareness around health, social, ethical and environmental matters. I was still in residence at University in South Africa, so my first step was to choose more appropriate meals. At the time, this meant that I stopped eating any meals that contained red meat; instead I chose the “health” option or the vegetarian meal. I was still not opposed to eating fish or chicken and my decision as to why was confined to the fact that going cold-turkey (not very appropriate terminology) didn’t seem like a sustainable way to start changing my eating patterns.

After a few months of research, and because becoming veg-conscious opened my eyes to the world in a new way, I realised that eating chicken could not be condoned. I continued to eat fish because I enjoyed it and because I felt like it was keeping me healthy.

It was only six years later that I stopped eating fish completely. During that time I also occasionally ate a venison steak. I was a blood donor at the time and felt very weak every time I donated (I even collapsed once) and so I ate a steak meal before every donation. This amounted to very little meat once every six weeks or so, but it caused a lot of controversy in my circle of friends, as they could not understand why I still called myself a vegetarian.

Although contradictory behaviour at first glance, I refused to feel guilty about it. Being a vegetarian is a personal choice and I used to feel very annoyed with people who imposed their judgements and opinions on me. I had to be very strong-willed to focus on what I believed. If I was happy with my way of being, and if I felt like I was progressing in my beliefs and causes, then nothing they could say would affect me.

One day, not too long ago, I was eating cream cheese and my friend, who is also a vegetarian, told me that it contains gelatine and that I shouldn’t be eating it. Into my head, at the time, popped some very inappropriate words. The truth is, her comment really caused me frustration. I thought to myself, I have progressed this far and I am doing my best, what more does the world want from me? Do I have to give up my leather shoes, my favourite sweets, my favourite shampoo and my car? How far do I have to go before people stop judging me?

I realised too that once you label yourself a vegetarian, the outside world judges you in a certain way, lending itself towards pre-conceived notions of what that means. They expect you to be a perfect person, engaging in every activity under the sun that is vaguely green, hippy-like or eco-friendly. But this is not true. In a capitalist world, it becomes increasingly more difficult to be a perfect greenie, and in a contradictory way, more expensive to be one too. How far does one really have to go in order to feel happy and justified in ones’ actions, without being pre-judged for what you do or don’t do?

I have always maintained that people should not have to be pushed too far out of their comfort zones in order to make a difference to this world. Yes, I agree that becoming vegetarian involves a change of lifestyle, to some degree, but it shouldn’t be a prison sentence. I support flexibility and change. It took me seven years to completely cut out meat from my diet and I am happy with the choices I made. Everyone should approach their vegetarianism differently, as you would any diet. I feel that as long as you are aware of the consequences of your actions, and that you are making choices based on what you know and what you are happy with, that any small contribution is welcome. I also believe that, if you are a socially and ethically aware person, you could also engage in other pursuits which contribute towards the environment and society.

I will never forget a lecture given to us by a passionate environmentalist. At the end we spoke of what we can do to contribute towards environmentalism. What he said was very true, that by adopting a profession which deals directly with environmental issues, we were contributing in the biggest and best way possible. The idea of an environmental profession is not confined to being a game ranger either; lawyers, social development practitioners, journalists and all kind of other people make small and big impacts every day.

I am not suggesting that everyone becomes environmentalists; but I would suggest that, should you want to make positive changes, being a perfect vegetarian is not the only thing that you can do. Small life decisions make ripples in many ponds. Be a green mom, an indigenous gardener, a courageous recycler or a cycling fanatic.

The question is: how far are you willing to take it?

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43 Responses to this article

Miche November 4, 2010 Reply

Thank you, Clare! I agree with you wholeheartedly. I call myself a vegetarian just as a kind of verbal short-hand so that people have a vague idea of what I stand for. It’s easier to tell people that I’m a vegetarian when they ask why I’m eating a Fry’s sausage instead of boerewors, than to tell them that the only animals I eat are game (free-range and humanely killed by default) about once a month, mostly as a concession to my omnivorous husband, and partly because I really, really miss meat; fresh water fish, like trout, if there are no mushroom-free vegetarian options on a menu (because I’m cursed with a fungi allergy, and because eating farmed fresh fish doesn’t implicate me in the death of turtles, dolphins, sea-horses and other by-catch); and molluscs, like mussels and oysters (because, by my definition, these creatures aren’t sentient, their farming and harvesting has a minimal impact on the environment, because they’re full of valuable iron, and because they bring me a lot of joy).
What people eat is a deeply personal choice, and I agree with you that no catch-all term should be expected to describe a person’s choice of lifestyle or diet. As long as you’re aware of the impact of what you eat, and are not blindly putting every edible thing you fancy into your mouth, people should be satisfied with your ethics.

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Monty November 5, 2010 Reply

You can call yourself whatever you want, but if you are eating sausage, you simply are not a vegetarian. I’m not disputing that your diet is a personal choice, but if you say you are a vegetarian than you are lying.

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Ulwin November 6, 2010

Fry’s sausage is a brand of soya-based sausage in the RSA… sorry to burst your parochial bubble.

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Ulwin November 4, 2010 Reply

I can empathise with your experiences, because one tends to be judged and treated in a restrictive, stereotyped way because of many other choices/beliefs in life.

Other people do tend to want to define your vegetarianism (or any other practice/belief) for you. I believe this is mostly to justify their own contrary choices to themselves. In other words, they want to believe that their comfort zone is the best one and their sacrifices/efforts are most worthwhile…

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anon November 5, 2010 Reply

Don’t call yourself what you’re not and you won’t get called a hypocrite – its really that simple.

Yes it is not a purity contest but people that go around calling themselves vegetarian and eating animal products confuse the general udnerstanding of vegetarianism and thats when those of us who are strict about it get served chicken liver pate because “its mushed up”.

People like you make it harder for people who are really practicing a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.

You also seem to be rather weak on your understanding of the reasons for adopting this change as well as the effects thereof – you can be veg or vegan donate blood without needing to eat the flesh of an animal to do so – if you are going to call yourself a veggi and speak on our behalf, please do your research – I encourage you to visit some websites that might help:

***Generalist Vegan websites***
There are millions, here are some favourites:
There are literally hundreds of Vegan Facebook groups, pages, applications etc


Food Inc:
End of the Line:
Earthlings: &
The Cove:
Supersize Me:

+ numerous others!! E.g. Meet your Meat: & others that can be downloaded online (Google Videos) or purchased here:

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lacto-ovo November 5, 2010 Reply

Random internet guy here. Sorry to intrude, but I feel like I can help you.

vegetarian: A person who does not eat animal flesh, or, in some cases, animal products.

If you eat animals, you are not a vegetarian. I am not judging you. I am informing you of the definition of the word “vegetarian”. If you abuse the word, it will lose its meaning, and people will get mad at you for it.

When people get mad at you for calling yourself a vegetarian, they are similarly not judging you. They are having a rational response to irrational claims. That’s because it is irrational to claim that you are something you are not by definition.

If you are “90% vegetarian”, you’re not a vegetarian. By calling yourself a vegetarian, you disrespect those that actually are vegetarians.

Consider reevaluating the terms you use to describe yourself; and try to be accurate. I believe you’ll find it to be a freeing experience, anyway.

Congratulations on all of your positive life changes. Enjoy your journey. Namaste.

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Wolf November 5, 2010 Reply

I understand the conflict, but the hypocrisy depends on your reasons for being vegetarian. If you don’t like meat (the taste, how it makes you feel, etc) then that’s one thing. But if you are doing it for anti-cruelty (etc) reasons then, once being made aware of something containing animal gelatine, to continue to eat it certainly IS being hypocritical. (Not so much if you are not aware of it).

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Ulwin November 5, 2010 Reply

From what I have experienced, there is some lee-way in the definition of “vegetarian” and I think we can see that in the content of the replies thus far. One may go as far as to say that each “vegetarian” defines the term for himself/herself… or maybe not?

In any case, there is no lee-way in the definition of “hypocrisy”. What you are describing, Wolf, is being “false” or “deceitful” not hypocritical. Of course, that is only if one’s definition of being a vegetarian is to never consume anything of any animal origin at all, ever.

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Anon November 5, 2010 Reply

“I realised too that once you label yourself a vegetarian, the outside world judges you in a certain way, lending itself towards pre-conceived notions of what that means.”

Well….no, you’re judged according to the definition of a vegetarian, which you appear to have construed to fit your diet. A person who consumes Gelatin is not a vegetarian nor is a person who eats meat before giving blood a vegetarian.

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editor November 5, 2010 Reply

Thanks all for your feedback on this post.
I have a few thoughts to add.
I think that if one looks at the formal definition of a lacto or lacto-ovo vegetarian, it is very clear as to what defines these terms.
As someone who has always been a lacto-vegetarian, I have often felt slightly irritated by pescetarians,for example, who call themselves vegetarians.
That said, when operating in the world, I can understand that it is easier to call yourself a vegetarian than to explain the details of every food decision that you make.
In addition, many of these “false” vegetarians share similar viewpoints on the world in terms of the ethics, the environment, health motivations and animal cruelty issues, that go into the eating of flesh, with “real” vegetarians – which is a good thing.
It seems a bit silly that instead of applauding the almost-vegetarians for their efforts, they are lambasted for their hypocrisy. (And I am pretty sure that almost all vegetarians, even the most hardcore, harbour some dirty little non-vegetarian secrets.)

Perhaps the blanket use of the word vegetarian to refer to a group which is probably more accurately described as “flexitarian” does cloud the meaning of the term.

But I can’t help thinking, that by enforcing such rigid standards and criteria, a lot of people who may have slowly ventured deeper into the realms of vegetarianism, may get scared off by what can become quite a fundamentalist lifestyle.

Rather have more people eating less meat, then nobody considering the lifestyle change at all.

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kate November 5, 2010 Reply

You’re not a vegetarian. Get over it. If you want to be a vegetarian, stop eating meat. Yes, of course people are holding you to the label you impose on yourself. Don’t impose it on yourself, and it won’t be a problem. Or make up a new term to make you feel special. One that means, “I don’t eat much meat, because I feel it’s morally wrong, but I’ll eat some if I feel like it and my morals go by the wayside.” Be creative.

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Virgil November 5, 2010 Reply

I’m willing to take it so far that I’m vegan. I think the dairy cows and chickens that are slaughtered after their production declines are really excited about how you kinda sorta are willing to inconvenience yourself a little bit maybe sometimes so that you only lead to a few of them being tortured to death every year. This entire article is disgusting and it makes me sick.

A vegetarian who eats steaks before they give blood, who continues to eat fish for years after apparently understanding the cruelty involved in eating flesh yet justifies it by saying “because I enjoyed it”.

At least the average person who eats meat does so while being largely ignorant of what they are contributing to. You know exactly what you’re doing and your entire article is an apologetics piece about why it’s totally radical to only sort of give a shit and take the better part of a decade to slowly stop committing your most egregious atrocities.

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Andrew November 9, 2010 Reply

You live a life filled with the benefits of a Western lifestyle and are therefore complicit in the onslaught currently being waged on the environment. Get off your high horse and calm down.

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le sigh November 5, 2010 Reply

What Wolf said. Calling yourself an ethical veg and then indulging in a steak because you like how it tastes is hypocritical.

You would be applauded if you called yourself what you were–an omnivore- who eats less meat. But calling yourself a vegetarian while eating meat is just silly.

Also, if you’re someone who considers themselves an ‘ethical veg’ for doing it for social and environmental reasons and you’re getting upset at someone pointing out that your snack has gelatin in it, then you’ve got some serious issues to work on.

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eric November 6, 2010 Reply

Eating meat once in a blue moon does not make you a non-vegetarian in the same way that eating veggies once in awhile does not make you a non-meat eater.

Discretion please people, the problem is in the label itself. This has never been an issue of “all-or-none” status.

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toni July 7, 2011 Reply

er actually yes, if you eat any flesh, however occasionaly, you are not a vegetarian. it matters, because the majority of people assume that vegetarians eat fish (? what school did they go to?) or even chickens!

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HMM November 6, 2010 Reply

No, idiot. I’m not “judging” you. I’m informing you that your choice of words is incorrect.

Per, a vegetarian is described as “a person who does not eat or does not believe in eating meat, fish, fowl, or, in some cases, any food derived from animals, as eggs or cheese, but subsists on vegetables, fruits, nuts, grain, etc.” You can check pretty much any other dictionary around, and you’re going to find the same definition. Because that’s what the word means. Vegetarians eat vegetables. People who eat meat and animal products in addition to a plant based diet are “omnivores”.

At best, you are what would be considered a “flexitarian”, someone who flips back and forth between vegetarianism and an omnivorous diet as is convenient for them, instead of being a responsible human being and actually sticking to their beliefs.

The problem with people like you is that you make real vegetarians and vegans look bad. You make us look foolish and like hypocrites. You are the reason my omnivorous friends ask me asinine questions like “Really, when no one is looking, you eat McDonald, don’t you?” and don’t believe me when I tell them no.

And yes, Eric, eating meat DOES in fact make you a “non-vegetarian”. It’s the word. Please use it properly in sentences or everyone will simply assume that you are too stupid to pick up a dictionary.

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Kobie November 6, 2010 Reply

HMM, no matter how “good” your beliefs are or how “responsible” you are, you are making the world a worse place by resorting to argumentum ad hominem on such a sensitive issue.

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Ali May 12, 2011

Too bad it wasn’t an ad hominem argument. Calling a spade a spade, and then calling the spade an idiot isn’t ad hominem, just somewhat rude. While HMM may be coarse in how they’re presenting their argument, the fact is, words have meanings and you can’t make up definitions for them according to your whims. HMM pointing that out makes the world a better place for those of us who want to have real conversations about these things, and become better and more responsible people.

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Bernie November 8, 2010 Reply

Maybe you need friends who believe you and know you better. Then you might realise that doing the best you can despite what other people may think is part of being a sentient honest person.

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Ulwin November 6, 2010 Reply

…Wow, I thought such immature comments were reserved for YouTube. Seriously, do you people conduct conversations in the real world with such immaturity and expect anyone at all to respect your points of view?

Of course there are differences of opinion on the issues raised here and of course you have the right to state your case, but why must you do so in an aggressive, insulting and irrational way?

B.T.W. @Virgil: I am glad to see you regard ignorance as a justification for evil actions. I am also glad to see you are willing to use profanity in response to an honest, introspective article.

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MsReclusivity November 7, 2010 Reply

I can understand how people can be angry at the writer for eating meat and eating it because she enjoyed it.

You have to use a little bit of common sense though. If you are feeling weak or not feeling well after giving blood thats usually normal. There are ways to charge your body through food other than meat. The writer probably just does not know about those other ways. I find it completely understandable that if someone knows the quick fix they will likely go for that first.

The point is that the word Vegetarian has a specific meaning. Knowingly eating any animal while claiming to be Vegetarian does in fact demean the word and puts your vegetarianism into question.

There are many different types of vegetarian and I’m pretty sure that not a single one includes eating red meat.

I believe that the writer has her heart in the right place. We all make mistakes but I believe that we should all put our focus on doing our best that we can to keep ourselves mentally aware of what is happening in this world.

One last thing that we all need to remember is that who we are is determined by our actions and the place we choose to invest our money.

As far as the “We all define our own Vegetarianism” I think taking a clearly defined word such a vegetarian and adding things to it that the whole concept of the word is against negates any further use of the word in the description.

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Claire November 9, 2010 Reply

From the above comments, I think the general consensus is an all-or-nothing approach to vegetarianism when it comes to the consumption of food. However, what was missed in all the semantic explorations, is that no one discussed what else vegetarians do, on a day-to-day basis (hence, how far will you go?).

I think it is a pity that some people who have commented feel that I am insulting them or being hypocritical in my approach to vegetarianism. That is not the intention of people who make these claims. In fact, by being understanding of peoples’ expectations and by explaining my choices in a logical manner, I am almost certain that have done more for the “cause” than others who have become confrontational when promoting vegetarianism. I generally explained my ethic and never claimed to be very good at what I labelled myself. People in turn understood and accepted that.

The point I have tried to make is that the process which I took was long, occasionally difficult and very frustrating. Alot of mistakes are made due to ignorance. However, it was parallel to a process of growing self-awareness. I am now a “true” Lacto-Ovo vegetarian, which was always, sub-consciously, my destination.

I guess that there are things to learn every day of one’s journey. Perhaps it was wrong to claim vegetarianism, but that was something you have to learn. No one gets it right straight away.

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Roline.Bosch November 9, 2010 Reply

I also think there is a great site that speaks about the issue you touch on – being ethical and aware in your approach, whatever it may be:

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Cliodhna November 9, 2010 Reply

I can see both sides of the argument here: it is incredibly frustrating to be fully vegetarian and be given a tuna salad because ‘vegetarians eat fish, right?’ – and that kind of misunderstanding is caused by people who aren’t fully vegetarian calling themselves vegetarian. So yes, the label’s important.

However, I’ve started thinking of veg*ism as a kind of continuum, or process: starting out with giving up pork, or red meat, or whatever, going through to people who only eat game and real free range, to pesces, veggies, vegans, and so forth. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re on the continuum, you should be applauded – awesome life choice. People on the continuum should be encouraging others who are on it, not getting angry that they’re not as far along as you’d like.

Problem is, people who aren’t on the continuum often don’t even know what ‘vegan’ means and how it’s different from ‘vegetarian’, let alone the meaning of ‘pescetarian’ or ‘flexitarian’. In these cases, unless you’re going to have a full conversation about your dietary choices, it’s easier to just use a label people know – ‘vegetarian’ – and specify your exact thoughts if they come up. I did this for a while when I was pesce; said I was vegetarian if someone offered me beef, and if the subject of fish came up, clarified that I was actually pesce. And often had to explain what the word meant.

So maybe we should think about the word ‘vegetarian’ as having two meanings – a general word meaning ‘my choices about meat are not standard’, as well as a specific word meaning ‘ I eat eggs and dairy but not meat’, if specific explanation is required. Would certainly stop all this name-calling and hair-pulling, as well as perhaps clarifying issues a bit.

(Actually the word doesn’t even derive from anything meaning ‘vegetable’. It comes from the Latin ‘vegetus’, meaning ‘lively’. So we can stop drawing the connection between ‘vegetarian’ and ‘only veggies’.)

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Miche November 9, 2010 Reply

Cliodhna, you’ve certainly grasped my point about using ‘vegetarian’ as a verbal shorthand. I agree with you and the Editor that people who are doing their best to make their lifestyles more environmentally-friendly and kinder to animals should be applauded, not shot down for not “taking it far enough”. The tone in a lot of other responses to this post make me want to disassociate myself from a ‘community’ of people who are highly exclusive and competitive in terms of who’s ‘pure’ and who doesn’t deserve to use the label ‘vegetarian’. I’m certainly not going to go around calling myself a ‘flexitarian’ – that sounds more like a person who picks and chooses what they eat at whim, rather than a person who has put careful thought into what they feel comfortable eating, as I have – but I don’t want to label myself as a vegetarian, either. From now on, I’ll just be someone who “doesn’t really eat meat”.
And I think you’ll find that, often, the confusion about what vegetarians do or don’t eat is more to do with omnivores’ perceptions of what ‘meat’ is – a lot of them don’t think of fish as such – and less to do with ‘vegetarians’ who should call themselves pesces.

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Cliodhna November 9, 2010 Reply

Regarding “people who are doing their best to make their lifestyles more environmentally-friendly and kinder to animals should be applauded, not shot down for not “taking it far enough”” – I do think there’s a line somewhere, like an ‘animal rights activist’ I know who has no problem eating KFC. Giving oneself a pat on the back for one or two meat-free meals is something altogether different from making consistent choices based on ethical reasoning.
On that note, eating venison – like Claire – is an ethical choice which can be justified. The ‘venison veggies’ I know eat meat maybe once every two months, and always insist on knowing exactly where it’s from. For day-to-day purposes – restaurants, eating at friends’ houses, etc. – they really are veggies.
I guess what I’m getting at is that even the most ardent animal rights advocates should be able to see that factory-farmed pork is more terrible than a really, truly, properly free-range venison steak. If you’re faced with somebody who has cut out all factory-farmed meat, and is aware that they’re imperfect and moving towards a goal, they’re on the same side as you. Don’t scare them off!
Regarding Claire’s original question: I would be prepared to go the whole way, and I’m constantly trying to edge towards a better lifestyle. I use only BWC-approved cosmetics and don’t buy leather or wool products; I eat eggs from chickens I know and am working really, really hard on cutting out dairy, which is getting easier. But I’m so, so far from perfect, and I think there are probably tons of ways I’m involved in industries I wouldn’t want to support, but that I just don’t know about yet. It really is a process of continuous education and a constant battle of wills.

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eric November 9, 2010

Beautifully put, kind soul! That’s exactly what I was getting at.

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Kath November 14, 2010 Reply

I reckon that people cutting out meat by any degree for environmental, social or economic reasons is a step in the right direction. It sounds like a lot of people who don’t want the term ‘vegetarian’ bandied lightly about are rather attached to their title eh? I used to just tell people I was failed vegetarian and that would make them laugh and ask what I meant, when I would then explain that I ate fish on occasion and wore leather shoes etc. Tackling vegetarianism from a way that made it easy for anybody at any random braai to understand seemed to work for me. Throwing your confused ‘failed vegetarian’ friends to the carnivores is a little intolerant I would say…

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Matthew November 26, 2010 Reply

Having lived my whole life as a vegetarian (no meat fish chicken or eggs), I get so tired of explaining my vegetarianism to people. What strikes me about the discussion above is that it looks like I will even have to explain my vegetarianism to other vegetarians?
That is ridiculous and unnecessary.
None of my friends or people I meet who are meat eaters ever have to explain their meat eating ways to me? I don’t subject them to pedantic and OCD discussions about dictionary definitions of “carnivorous”.
Vegetarianism is a personal choice that should not require painstaking explanations or debates.
If you choose to make changes in how you live your life in order to be more ethical, that is fantastic.
All this aggressive posturing about whether you actually qualify or not as a vegetarian is unnecessary.
I agree with the last few quotes: get a grip. if someone is taking an affirmative step in the direction of living (what we see as) a more ethical life, then we should simply congratulate them and encourage them on their path, rather than shoot them down because they are not “vegetarian enough” or because they don’t qualify according to our definitions of what vegetarianism entails.

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Naturalisto January 27, 2011 Reply

I am a vegetarian for 15 years and an on and off vegan for 1 year. I will not go near meat and would not eat anything with gelatine in it! I can safely call myself a vegetarian. It was a process, and I wasnt a 100% vegetarian from day 1..I evolved in my vegetariansim as I grew in deeper understanding! Claire, the writer of this article I dont think should be criticised… with greater understanding, she will probably get to where others are at now! At the same time, I do feel however that the word vegetarian has a very specific meaning, as per the dictionary defintion of the word. If you eat some meat sometime and eat other foods with meat products, then I dont think you can call yourself a vegetarian, perhaps maybe a “partial vegetarian” but then, in a way that does weaken the cause in meat eaters eyes and would overall give vegetarians a bad name as meat eaters would laugh and think that we are half hearted in our beliefs. I say well done to Claire, and I say the quicker you can evolve to full vegetarianism the better! I always say to people that Im a very good vegetarian, but a bad vegan because i do still eat some cheese and maybe a choclate now and then, but ive cut it out 95%. Some vegans would probably like to tell me how terrible i am for that! I know that it is hypocritical, and i should endeavour to stop doing it, and I will! I guess we are humans and we cant be perfect 100% of the time, but 95% of the time is better than 0% of the time! :)

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Jen Gaiavegan July 7, 2011 Reply

I’m open-minded and compassionate of the journey people embark on towards a more ethical and compassionate lifestyle but this article had me squirming! Lots of words justifying your selfish choices. I apologise for being blunt but Lee-Anne your words, “what more does the World want of me?”…Indeed, what does the World want from you? My understanding would be is… that you become an ethical eater. There are no half measures. Either you are or you are not.Choosing Vegetarian is a meaningless cop-out because the consumption of Dairy and the Industry that supports the Lacto-Vegetarian addictions is appalling in it’s atrocity towards “milk” cows and their babies! You are still contributing to unbearable pain and suffering, and murder.There is a veal calf in every glass of milk…you must know that? I don’t see that we have a choice at all if we care for our Planet and it irks me that humans in their arrogance can sit around deciding who to eat, which translates directly into “who lives and who dies”! There is no good reason to not go Vegan and every good reason to! Please make the connection for the sake of our beautiful, fragile Earth and the animals.

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Editor: Laura July 7, 2011 Reply

Thanks for the comment Jen. I am realising that many, if not all vegetarians, are largely unaware of (or choose to ignore) the issues surrounding dairy. This is something that I am personally grappling with, having been lacto-vegetarian since birth, and have drastically reduced my dairy intake since becoming more aware (but I can’t quite describe myself as vegan at this point!). On that note, I still maintain that any reduction in the amount of animal-products should be encouraged.

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Jen Gaiavegan July 7, 2011 Reply

I beg your pardon! Not Lee-Anne but Clare Martens. My apologies to Lee-Anne. :-)

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toni July 7, 2011 Reply

wow. so much justification for personal gratification. uhm, if you eat flesh in any form, however seldom, you are not a vegetarian. if you chose to make ‘choices’ based on ethics you cannot lash out at a world that yes, does have expectations of you as a vegetarian! choosing tea instead of coffee is a personal choice. eating to save the planet and reduce the suffering of others, both human and non-human, is a moral imperative. dairy and eggs contribute to even more suffering than the standard flesh industry, so if one intends eating ethically, then strict vegetarianism is the route. i am stunned by all the ‘what i must give up’ …what you see as a prison sentence others see as freedom from being party to suffering. there are amazing non leather shoes, sweets (sweets, really? someone must die so you can have a SWEET??) and humane, beauty without cruelty endorsed products (or leaping bunny) so really, there are no justifiable arguemenys here. there is no such thing as humane killing, unless one is euthanising. as a vegan who has donated close to 70 units of blood thus far, eating a steak before donating is a poor excuse to indulge in flesh foods. if you wish to be an occasional carnist, please, be honest about it. if you choose to be more veg conscious for health reasons everyone would accept that. talking about ethics and then consuming flesh ‘because you like the taste’ indicates shallowness and self absorption.

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Jen Gaiavegan July 8, 2011 Reply

Clare…I hear you but I’m not listening if you know what I mean? There is nothing to grapple with when you consider the cost of one’s dairy consumption ( and the use of animals for leather and so on). Clearly you are a logical and reasonable thinking woman. Eating ethically is a result of taking one’s logical reasoning just one step further…making the connection. Besides the fact that animals die for dairy you must, as a woman, also consider the extensive damage dairy wreaks on your system. Osteoporosis and Rheumatoid Arthritis is HIGHEST in countries that consume the most Dairy, and many “women cancers” are “fed” by dairy. Dairy does not do a body good which would explain why 75% of the world’s population are allergic to it.There are literally hundreds of Vegan Recipe and Nutrition websites…just starting with Peta’s is a good choice,The Humane Myth, Farm Sanctuary, The SA Vegan Society, Vegansa, Beauty Without Cruelty…there is no excuse Clare, to not chuck the Dairy ( and other animal by-products) other than your own willfulness to not. Animals and our Planet depend on people like yourself to make ethical, compassionate choices.

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Editor: Laura July 8, 2011 Reply

Hi Jen – I think you mean Laura :) I agree with you that the facts are there. However, I do think that there are often other factors influencing people’s decisions. My aim with this site is to open people’s eyes to the very different food, health and ethical choices that one can make. Whether it is starting off small by simply eating more vegetables, introducing more raw food into one’s diet or choosing to reduce the quantity of meat and dairy one consumes. Obviously, it would be ideal if everyone simply chose to go completely vegan. However, while the facts may seem clear cut, getting there isn’t always quite as straightforward for people for various reasons. I hope that by creating a positive space for people to learn and share, that people will begin to be more receptive to a plant-based lifestyle.

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Natasha October 1, 2012 Reply

I understand that you use the term vegetarian for ease and don’t want to always explain exactly what you do eat and why, but I think it’s better to use a different word then. The author of a vegan blog I recently started reading calls herself plant-based and although it means vegan for her, it might be a better way of describing your diet.

I agree that people should be encouraged if they start by making small changes, but I don’t think they should then start calling themselves vegetarian before they really are.

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Paul October 23, 2012 Reply

The same moral and ethical decisions can be made with regards to pet care. There is no reason why one should not feed a vegan diet to our dogs. Afterall, what is more foreign a dried kibble or veggies. The same principles of healthy and moral living applies to our pets.

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taryn October 31, 2012 Reply

This is quite a heated discusion. And i guess part of it comes down to why people use the word vegetarian. is it to show that you buy into a set of beliefs and have made a moral choice or is it an easy way to refuse your grandmothers chicken when you go out for dinner? if its to take the moral highground i understand why so many people are offended by parttime vegetarians. But if you choose to only eat meat/dairy/fish on your own terms vegetarian is a very easy way to say you wont be eating someones chicken without being offensive. Natasha- its nice if there were other words – but plant-based sounds a bit ponsy – and my grandma wont understand it. i often say ‘i dont eat meat’. but thats a lie too because i do eat meat every second year or so, and some times i eat fish when no-ones looking :)

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Lise April 5, 2013 Reply

I am an abolitionist vegan. Simply put, if it contains any form of animal, I do not eat it or wear it. My reasons are deeply personal, but I do not believe in exploiting any being for my own personal tastes. I also refuse to contribute to the horror which is the meat and dairy industry (ass the fur, leather, egg, feather industries too).

Having said that, I believe that the choice was an easy one and the transition from omnivore to herbivore was hassle free and easy. I live in Port Elizabeth – dining out? Doesn’t happen – simply because the only dish ever available is a green salad. Makes life a tad uncomfy, especially when having to take people out – wonder how many other vegans struggle with the same problem. :)

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Alex September 1, 2013 Reply

Mussels and oysters are not environmentally low-impact foods. Their role in the food web of other creatures (eg endangered oystercatchers) is far more important than it should play in yours – you can afford to go without mollusks and seafood, many animals cannot. Ocean ecosystems are being ruined by human over-consumption.

Farmed fish has higher levels of mercury in it and is a huge source of aquatic pollution and ecological distruption.

I agree that it is sometimes difficult to be “perfect”, but perhaps the vitriol you are experiencing comes from those who are tired of listening to people justify their cognitive dissonances.

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Stacey Leigh September 17, 2013 Reply

Bless you Clare.
Your words express the feelings I cannot.
I used to be a hard core “carnivore” – loving fatty wet biltong, pork crackling, medium rare steak, & crispy chicken skin.
Until two years ago, that was pretty much my lifestyle.
One day, literally, something inside me evolved … something inside me, whispered “psss, hay you; what are you doing? take a look around, at the world & at yourself” – & so I did.
I continued to eat chicken & fish for about a year (still calling myself a vegetarian; obviously still in a little denial & not yet having the greater perspective).
However; I do believe (from my own experience & journey) that ‘becoming’ a vegetarian is a journey & experience on it’s own. We must LEARN the better option. We must LEARN the alternative way. We must come to LEARN that not only is Mother Earth our temple but our body is a temple too. With this Spiritual realisation, after time, reading, cooking, shopping, creating, thinking & doing – we can evolve to become Green Warriors of Light!
I just LOVE your part about “Green careers & choices” – LOVE it! I am a Massage Therapist & run a small business where I source Organic, safe & Natural food & trade at local markets & do home deliveries. It is my ultimate passion to heal with food & share the knowledge that is withheld from us in order to maintain a beautiful, healthy life!
You don’t need to be a Hippie or a Vegan to be part of this Revolution. Be YOU with Love, Respect & Purity that’s oozes from within. Be YOU with Pride, Loyalty & Truth.
Blessings & Gratitude to All beings.

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