Roman Malanke

Vegetarianism in Practice

I’ve been longing to write a piece on vegetarianism ever since I decided to try it fifteen months ago. Up until this moment, however, I didn’t feel like I was into it for enough time to really appreciate the changes involved. Now that I have gathered a handful of observations I’d like to put those here, just for the record.

To give some background I shall tell how I end up becoming a vegetarian in the first place.

In July 2008, just after graduating from university I met the first real embodiment of vegetarianism in my life — Kate. She told me that it had been six years without meat for her and that she felt great about it. As we shared many common interests we soon made friends, and I became intrigued by this vegetarianism thing.

At that time my university hostel accommodation was expiring and I had to find a place to rent. I was not very successful in my searches, so Kate kindly suggested that I could take her apartment during the summer, while she would stay in her native town with parents. So I agreed.

When moving in I remember thinking “All right, while staying here I am not to bring into this home anything that is against its owner’s views. If I want meat I shall do it elsewhere”. It so happened that during next couple of weeks I didn’t go out, nor did I visit any friends. Having suddenly realized that I had spent half a month without meat and felt quite good I resolved to extend the period, now as a conscious experiment.

My friends and relatives immediately found out about my decision and started asking what the reason was. The only answer I had was “just curiosity”. It was indeed interesting to try something new and to remain for some time on the side of minority.

Later, I somehow began to find many things that supported the idea of vegetarianism in me. I was discovering new kinds of fruits and vegetables, the ones that I completely ignored before. I started to be more disciplined generally in terms of nutrition, completely excluding junk food and cooking for myself more often and with greater variety. And also I started to read writings of wise eastern men such as Dalai Lama, Shunryu Suzuki and Mahatma Gandhi whose philosophies based on compassion and non-violence encourage vegetarianism as a natural way of life for a man. So I continued my experiment, and currently don’t see myself ending it in near future.

During these fifteen months I have participated in numerous discussions about pros and cons of vegetarianism and faced many stereotypes deeply embedded in our society. In general I think most the arguing that goes around can be roughly divided across three different aspects:

  • Health aspect
  • Practical aspect
  • Moral aspect

So, let’s start with health. The arguing here usually goes like this: “It is unhealthy to be vegetarian. Your body will not be getting enough protein. Human was designed by nature to be fed by flesh. Don’t harm yourself, eat meat!” Well, there are many reasons not to believe this.

Another aspect is purely practical. People argue about whether being a vegetarian is cheaper or more expensive, whether you will create more problems for your friends who may invite you over for a meal, whether it is possible to still enjoy picnics and grill parties. Well, I think here everything really depends on the attitude. It takes just a little creativity to have fun in any circumstances. As I once said to my friends when they asked me what venue I preferred as a vegetarian for us to meet in: “I don’t care even if you invite me over to a steak house because I enjoy your good company rather than your choice of food.” As far as the cost of vegetarian lifestyle is concerned I think that nowadays it is not cheaper and may be even more expensive to be a vegetarian. This is especially true during the winter when fresh vegetables and fruits become very expensive. But again, being creative and maintaining good balance between vegetables, cereals, nuts and dairy products can make it easier.

There is also moral (or philosophical, or spiritual) side of the issue. This, I think, is a private matter and choice of each individual. To me, for example, it seems quite natural not to eat something that you are not capable of getting for yourself from the very beginning. I mean that if I had to kill an animal to get meat I’d rather not do that. The idea of killing doesn’t resonate with my nature and I can proudly say that I don’t feel like a predator at all. People tend to forget that the species designed by nature to be a predator don’t require roasting or boiling the meat, and they don’t get nauseous by looking at blood.

Summing this all up, I must say that everyone lives according to their own choice. But it’s important to have an open mind and respect the choices of others.