I call myself a bona fide meat eater. I am not vegetarian, but I care for animals and their welfare. While I have tried vegetarianism and even pescatarianism, one diet I could never embark on is veganism. But there is a great case to go vegan. I respect vegans but something I do not respect is them almost bullying somebody for eating meat. What you put in your own body is your choice, but I think everyone should know where their food is coming from, and whether it’s of cruel means or not.

Got milk?

I’ve always been described as a ‘milk baby’ by my parents, explained by my tenacious cravings for milk as a chubby baby. Now, at 21, not a lot has changed. I will buy the largest carton of milk at the supermarket just so I can revel in a glass of cold milk every so often. When living at home, my dad would end up buying UHT cartons of milk for me, so the fresh milk could still be used by my parents wanting endless coffees and morning cereal.

Milk is rich in calcium, necessary for your bones. Probably why the only broken bones I’ve encountered have mainly been fingers. However, apparently there is a link with drinking milk and developing acne. Perhaps I’m an anomaly, I rarely even got a spot during puberty. Lactose makes us rather flatulent too. But then so do lentils and pulses, but we aren’t condemning these?

The big problem with milk isn’t necessarily what’s in it, therefore, but where it has come from.

Being painfully aware

If you follow PETA on any social media, or you’ve just done your research, you’ll know the horrors of the dairy industry. In short, female cows will be artificially inseminated in order to later give birth. If we took a human woman and restrained her in a small cage with barely enough room to turn around and inserted semen inside of her, it would be a human rights scandal and very close to rape. I understand that artificial insemination is a controlled measure, but this isn’t the worst part of the industry. Exploiting the reproduction of an animal is the first of a plethora of issues.

After about nine months, the calf will be born, before baby and mother will then be separated. About 97% of calves will be taken away in the first 24 hours following birth.  There are ‘humane’ dairy farms which take the calf away in the first hour, since it means the mother and calf are therefore unable to establish a bond, so the experience is less stressful, more ‘humane’. Either way, it is a cruel practice, but necessary for the industry and human consumption. Every drop of cow milk wasted on the calf is a loss of profits. The calves will then be fed on milk-replacer for the first few months of their life. In humans, we are thought to think that ‘Breast is Best’ until the baby can be weaned off on to powder milk anyway. Cannot animals receive the same respect?

The mother cow is now able to lactate out of her udders of course, which has been the primary reason for allowing this cow to be pregnant. This female cow is both a vessel for another cow to be forced into such animal slavery, and a source of consumer goods: milk. Milk achieved from painful vacuum machines which can cause cow teat flesh to scar as well as becoming dead.

What keeps the cow producing milk is the constant cycle of insemination, birth, lactation. Due to the high supply, calves are nearly worthless to sell off, whether that be for veal, another dairy victim, or to be ground down into your next McDonalds.

I am not blissfully ignorant to the dairy industry, and neither should anybody else. Especially if you do drink milk. I buy milk being painfully aware of what cruel industry I’m buying into. Maybe I am a hypocrite. But it is sure better than not knowing about the industry.

The alternatives?

I have tried coconut milk, almond milk, soy milk. Almond milk is possibly the only substitute that tastes decent in a cup of tea. The only reason I cannot go purely dairy free is because of cheese. Until every kind of cheese can be replicated with non-dairy products, I will be happy. The other problem is how expensive it is to be vegan. I guess if all you ate were lentils and vegetables, it would be bearable. But whatever diet or lifestyle you lead, you should always vary your pallet. The more people that demand vegan products, the more that supply will increase, as a basic principle of economics. Therefore, to want to go vegan but say that price is an obstacle may be so in the short term only.

Of course, going vegan or cutting any meat or dairy out of your diet doesn’t mean you don’t miss eating a steak or mozzarella sticks. Seriously committed individuals will simply treat the ethical implications as overriding the taste of cruelly acquired foods.

Meat: a real treat

It’s sometimes a strange thought to remember that while we are human beings, we are also part of the animal kingdom too. We are omnivores, meaning we obtain our nutrients from both plants and animals. To solely rely on eating plant based foods means we need to substitute the nutrients we are wired to receive from animals. Whether that be Quorn or protein-rich foods such as pulses, there are still certain benefits to eating meat and fish.

I have tried the pescatarian diet and I loved trying different kinds of fish. Fish is a great source of omega-3 fats and vitamin D. If you want to try the renowned Mediterranean diet, oily fish is abundant, and a superb food to incorporate into your diet. While meat can be replicated to a degree with Quorn and strange synthetic things that can create a meatless burger and even make it ooze with ‘blood’, fish could never be substituted.

Of course, if you are conscious of the environment, as anyone should be, be sure that you are supporting sustainable fishing and farming only. This is the same with eggs. It is a shame that due to the recent bird flu risks, free range chickens have had to be kept inside. Although fortunately, the relabelling of free range eggs should be over now.

Local produce

It’s all well eating fruit and vegetables, but your first point of purchased should be from your nearest market, not supermarket. It is not practical to purchase natural foods from a supermarket where the produce has either been imported from other countries or elsewhere in the UK. The fruit and vegetables I buy at markets not only are of better quality, but I know where they’ve come from. Sometimes you are dealing directly with the farmer too. I’ve also been able to buy twenty of the juiciest oranges for just one quid. While the food might not last as long as supermarket produce, this is merely a good indicator that the local produce hasn’t been tainted with various chemicals for life longevity.

My verdict

I probably will never become fully vegan. There are probably always going to be significant ethical issues with eggs, meat, dairy. If we want the most ethical farming, either certain foods wouldn’t exist or we would have to shell out too much money, which would probably turn us all into seed and kale eaters anyway.

I have only touched on the serious animal rights issues at stake. The egg industry is a whole other story, what with male chicks being slaughtered without hesitation.

My best advice is to stay knowledgeable of what you consume, whatever diet you’re following, so long as you get the right nutrients and vitamins out of that diet. Humans were not born to live off quinoa and spinach smoothies. If you’re relying on multivitamin tablets, you need to change your diet. Though, as a student and generally being skint, I’ll always recommend taking daily multivitamins.

For more information, visit PETA or Animal Aid. Also if you feel differently to anything I’ve said, let me know; I like a bit of debate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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