You might have a friend that doesn’t eat meat, or one that doesn’t eat any animal products at all. These are people that identify as “vegetarians”, or sometimes “vegans”, if they only eat things that don’t come from an animal. As most people in the UK eat meat, it can be a bit difficult, as there is often a lack of understanding from both sides. Meat eaters might think vegetarians are silly, but a vegetarian might believe a meat-eater is not a very nice person. As someone who once ate meat (but doesn’t now), I’m hoping to help clear the air a little bit, so hopefully next time you meet a veggie you can be a little more understanding of their lifestyle.
People go vegetarian for lots of different reasons. In many cases, a person may choose to stop buying meat/animal products because they do not believe in killing an animal, and hope to make an impact on the meat industry by completely boycotting (refusing to buy into) it. This is connected to animal cruelty, and one might not want to eat meat because farm animals are treated very poorly. Some people might stop eating animal products because of the environmental impact – farming and meat production is not very “green” and is bad for the environment. In a lot of cases, religion is linked to vegetarianism. Hindus and Buddhists are often vegetarians, because it is promoted by powerful writings and people.
So, vegans don’t eat any animal products, and often avoid leather and silk for clothing. But there are more than just two types of veggies! Vegetarians can be many things – lacto-ovo vegetarians abstain from meat but eat eggs and dairy products, for example. Other types include vegetarians that eat eggs but not dairy, and veggies that don’t eat cooked ingredients.
It’s pretty simple once you get your head around it. Plus, most veggies in the UK tend to be either lacto-ovo or vegan, which makes it a lot simpler. Most veggies understand why people eat meat, as a large number will have done the same at some point in their lives. However, there are some things that really make us tick. One thing that annoys the majority of us is how often we get mistaken for pescetarians! These are people who eat fish but not meat, and seeing as the UK’s Vegetarian Society states that fish are animals too, this almost seems a bit pointless. So it’s always best to ask what type of vegetarian someone is, so you don’t accidentally give them fish fingers when they don’t eat fish!
Veggies in the UK are very lucky, even though it might not seem like it. Britain was the country to have the first official Vegetarian Society, although veggie food has always been popular in countries like India and Japan. Unlike in many other countries, UK law supports the clear labelling of food, so vegetarians can tell whether it’s suitable for them (or not). It’s estimated that 5-10% of people in the UK are some kind of vegetarian, and many of these people are young. The overwhelming majority of vegetarians are women – it stands at approximately 65% women and only 35% male. So, rather than being just a weird phase for a certain group of people, you can see vegetarianism is actually pretty common. Hopefully now that you know a bit about them, you can avoid an awkward situation the next time you come across a vegetarian, or have one over for dinner!
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