Whether vegetarians and vegans are seen as a mighty -- or a misguided -- minority depends on who you talk to. In both cases, though, the "minority" part is accurate.
The best estimate I could find indicates that as of 2015, 5% of the United States population was vegetarian and half of those people were vegan. That represents millions of Americans, yet just a tiny proportion of the whole population. (Maybe those meatless Mondays I criticized a post or two ago are more valuable than I thought.)
Variations on the theme of vegetarianism make for a complicated name game. For instance, lacto-vegetarians consume dairy products, but not eggs; ovo-vegetarians eat eggs, but not dairy products; and lacto-ovo-vegetarians eat eggs as well as dairy products. There’s also pescetarianism, a vegetarian-like diet that avoids meat and poultry but does include fish. And so on, and on . . .
People become vegetarians or vegans for health, religious, political, ethical or sustainability reasons. But learning about factory farming and the heartless treatment of animals who are purpose-bred for human consumption may be a main motivation – or at least I’d like to think that! I found it easy to abandon meat after reading Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation decades ago.
Even though my reading for this post made vegetarianism sound comparatively easy, I’ve been happy for many years to forego meat – and a little bit proud of myself too, to tell the truth. Though I still occasionally miss a small range of meat and seafood items (pepperoni pizza haunts my dreams), I’m OK with that. Merely the thought of the last standing rib roast I saw after a meal, cold and bloody, turns my stomach.
Lacking initiative and/or better information at the time I went cold turkey (oops), I’ve since made peanut butter, pasta and pizza my secrets to vegetarian success. Sure, the edibles on my full food list also include veggies and fruit, but the three Ps are my go-to choices.
why to & how to
“Food for Life.” Its name alone is great. Years ago, I wasn’t aware of this plant-based program of the Animal Protection League of NJ. A pity. I’d know so much more now, and eat so much better.
I like how “life” is ambiguous, meaning either animals’ lives, saved by such a program, or our lives, bettered by healthy eating. And the “food” part has nothing to do with animals – they eat their food and we eat ours, which is not them. Gratifying.
A tagline for the program -- spelled out on APL's website -- reads “Helping animals and a healthier you!” The help comes in the form of a starter kit you can request. It promotes the health, humane, environmental and economic benefits of a plant-based diet by providing dietary guidelines, meal planning, nutritional information and delicious plant-based recipes.
Read all about it – and request your kit: www.aplnj.org/food-for-life.php
(Up next: veganism)
Show your commenting chops
If you’re a vegetarian of any variety, or if you’re moving in that direction, I invite your comments here. What foods do you rely on for meals? What’s your best summer vegetarian recipe? How has vegetarianism been good for you?