Other quasi-vegetarians

Long-time readers of this blog may recall that I’m trying very hard to be mainly vegetarian – not obnoxiously so, so as to make drastically reducing my meat intake so objectionable to everyone around me that it makes it less likely friends and family will ultimately do likewise – but as consistently as I reasonably can. When things are particularly chaotic we do occasionally resort to a bit of red meat to build up whatever it is that red meat’s good for building up, but as little as possible. And I did have takeaway chicken the other day when there were no practicable options nearby at that time of night. But I’m trying. (Very, some have said, tediously.)

Anyway, two interesting posts on the subject this week. The first was in this morning’s Punch and is by a former meat-eater similarly trying hard to reduce her intake. Like me, she objects less to the idea that humans should occasionally eat animals than to the fact we treat them with such contempt, as units of produce, as widgets, as things unworthy of respect or care:

There is a lack of respect, contempt even, for the animals we kill and eat. And that’s not including the appalling treatment of foie gras geese and veal calves, the kosher and halal bleeding-to-death ritual slaughter, or the actions of some abattoir workers who jump on chickens because they “like to hear the popping sound they make”.

Which leads to this article in The Guardian, about ethical farming of animals – the author arguing that it’s better for the cause of ending cruelty to animals to buy ethical meat than to opt out altogether:

Every meal you eat that supports a sustainable farm changes the agricultural world. I cannot possibly stress this enough. Your fork is your ballot, and when you vote to eat a steak or leg of lamb purchased from a small farmer you are showing the industrial system you are actively opting out. You are showing them you are willing to sacrifice more of your paycheck to dine with dignity. As people are made more aware of this beautiful option, farmers are coming out in droves to meet the demand.

That sounds to me like a bit of self-interested rationalising from someone who really does want to keep eating meat and is just desperate for a way to do it that doesn’t hurt her conscience too much – it’s ridiculous to suggest that it’s somehow more ethical to eat a small amount of meat than none – but, still, if we are to eat meat, certainly that’s a better option.

We really should try the monthly farmer’s market in our area.

It’s a pity I know how tasty meat is. It’d be much easier to give up if I’d never had a roast dinner!

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35 responses to “Other quasi-vegetarians

  1. Agree with your description of that snippet, but would have to point out one important thing.

    If you still drink milk and eat dairy products, you’re still part of the industrial meat system. Cows have to be pregnant roughly annually to keep producing milk. What do you think happens to all the males and the surplus females?

    Vegans can hold the ethical high ground. Vegetarians, not so much.

  2. I’m all for ethically produced meat and I admit I could make more of an effort to source it, I’ll take the easy way out and blame my wife,she does the bulk of the grocery shopping.

    I would argue that a farm animal that has been treated well has a much better life than any wild animal. Wild animals invariably die in agony, from starvation or from being eaten alive etc etc. I do realise that plenty of meat is intensively and cruelly produced.

    I reckon that being at the top of the food chain if we aren’t being cruel then there’s nothing wrong with exploiting animals for food.

    “It’s a pity I know how tasty meat is. It’d be much easier to give up if I’d never had a roast dinner!

    Or a bacon sanger!

  3. When things are particularly chaotic we do occasionally resort to a bit of red meat to build up whatever it is that red meat’s good for building up, but as little as possible.

    Based on the San Neil ads my understanding is that red meat is fundamental to bad dancing.

  4. “If you still drink milk and eat dairy products, you’re still part of the industrial meat system.”

    I gave up eggs – which means no more delicious meringues – but haven’t figured out an alternative to milk. And when we have kids, obviously it’s important for them to get enough calcium, so realistically I’m not sure we can do without it.

    I’d like to get it more humanely, however. Maybe we need a farm.

  5. Also, San’s better known brother Sam has some ads.

  6. Why did you give up eggs Lefty?

    There are plenty of ethical egg options these days that mean you could enjoy pavlova guilt-free! Life’s too short to deny yourself pleasure on the basis of some sort of abstract principle.

  7. And when we have kids, obviously it’s important for them to get enough calcium, so realistically I’m not sure we can do without it.

    Really? That sounds like you’ve swallowed dairy industry propaganda. There’s plenty of other sources for calcium.

    That said, I’m no vegetarian or vegan but I’m trying to get my meat from good sources. I probably should at least be vegetarian when eating out, since it’s invariably from the cheapest sources.

    I’ve been buying organic milk for my son and myself. Unfortunately the only stuff that comes in 1L cartons at Woolies is unhomogenised which means it’s all blobby with cream clumps (that block the teat on the boy’s bottle) because some idiots are frightened of big words. So we have to buy the 2L cartons to get milk that doesn’t separate out.

  8. Mondo – it was this, mainly, and the realisation that the only way for them to produce eggs is by disposing of all the male chicks.

    What are these ethical pavlova options of which you speak?

    Shermozle – I’ll have a look. What defines “organic” milk, though? How is it produced less cruelly? And you can get it pasteurised and homogenised?

  9. I’ll have a look. What defines “organic” milk, though? How is it produced less cruelly? And you can get it pasteurised and homogenised?

    Well the definition of “organic” is an interesting point in Australia. We have far too many organic certifiers and they all choose different meanings. I should look into the cruelty requirements of the certifier of the milk I’m buying. Some standards don’t have much in the way of animal welfare provisions. The boy cows will end up being eaten though.

    All milk in Australia is pasteurised unless you own the cow yourself. Homogenisation is just pushing the milk through very fine nozzles to break up the fat globules. But it’s a big word so idiots think it’s all chemical and bad, maaaaan.

  10. PS: that footage of the male chicks being ground alive isn’t particularly shocking. It looks pretty damn quick to me. It could probably be improved to kill them quicker (electric shocks perhaps?) but it looks pretty efficient at dispatching them to me.

  11. “Mondo – it was this, mainly, and the realisation that the only way for them to produce eggs is by disposing of all the male chicks.”

    That’s battery eggs, I get free range eggs through my sons school. (well they reckon they’re free range) So I reckon you can still have your ethical Pav and eat it.

  12. “We really should try the monthly farmer’s market in our area.”

    Jeremy you really should.

    “It’s a pity I know how tasty meat is. It’d be much easier to give up if I’d never had a roast dinner!”

    Go to your local farmers markets and talk to the farmers, especially about the ethical issues you have with farming meat. Some of the farmers there will either be raising what you can ethically eat or will be able to send you in the right direction. Soon enough you will find one or more who you can feel comfortable supporting. Even if its only for a roast once every 3 months.

    You can get ethical eggs off people with chooks. They are everywhere. You can also grow a surprising amount of food in a flat if you’ve got some good sun in the right places.

    And if you find the right farmers, usually beef farmers (cos they don’t have dairy set ups but some have a cow or two in the paddock for fresh milk), then you can get milk fresh from the cow if they will provide it for you and you trust the milk to not make you sick.

  13. The footage is fairly worrying – I hadn’t realised that the male chicks are all killed (although now that I think about it is is an obvious outcome).

    Logic dictates that the modern separation of chickens into ‘broilers’ and ‘layers’ would mean that there are very few uses for male male ‘layers’, other than as breeding stock.

    But I’m going to cling to shermozzle’s observation that as long as the chicks aren’t killed in a cruel fashion the process can still sort of be described as ethical. Because I like eggs, and I like pavlova.

  14. But I’m going to cling to shermozzle’s observation that as long as the chicks aren’t killed in a cruel fashion the process can still sort of be described as ethical.

    That’s correct. If you go down that rabbit hole, you end up in all sorts of gnarly ethical dilemmas. Nothing can die to put food on my plate? So even the worm in my apple must be allowed to live? Is it ethical to use “organic” pesticides that cause a longer, slower death than efficient, synthetic ones?

    I’ll think about all these things while enjoying my steak tonight :P

  15. I vacillate between quasi-vegitarian and full on meat eater all the time. Right now I’m in a full on carnivore phase bought on by the steak I had the other night at dinner. We try to be as ethically minded as we can when shopping but damn a piece of steak is good now and then.

    With regard to “organic” I think thats fast becoming as exploited as “green” currently is.

  16. Nothing is organic.

    There are traces of all sorts of chemicals turning up in ground water and at the bottom of oceans, the atmosphere is saturated. If you live in the city and breathe the air then buy “organic” food for your health you are possibly deluding yourself. Tho maybe not. If its fresh and healthy food its better than processed stuff.

    Where I live, back in the old days there were a lot of bananas grown. I have a mate who still remembers when the farmers would get together and spray the whole valley with chemicals. These days people grow “organic” food there, certified, and really as healthy and tasty and you’ll get. There are permaculture farms and all the rest, and it is a healthy lifestyle, especially considering the other options in the west.

    But still there are traces of those chemicals still in the soil everywhere and I’m certainly not game to test the groundwater even tho its so beautiful here we don’t even bother with rainwater. Cos I’m not that keen on destroying my illusions and having to think about the actual chemicals in there every time I have a drink.

  17. I was coerced into giving the organic and vegetarian lifestyle a go awhile back. I expected fresh food to have more flavour but found that not to be the case. And gosh, it just so expensive.

    I was quite pleased to have an excuse to give it up when the Blood Bank found my haemoglobin count was down and they don’t recommend iron tabs. No more nutmeat. Phew! What a relief. It was back to luscious sizzling steaks. Although not so often.

    I’m unsure whether eating organic and vegetarian will ensure you to live longer. I am sure it’ll seem that way though.:)

  18. “I was coerced into giving the organic and vegetarian lifestyle a go awhile back. I expected fresh food to have more flavour but found that not to be the case.”

    Non-fresh, packaged, food seems to have more flavour only because of the chemical cocktail of numbered additives on the label.

    The key to vegetarian cooking is the spices – buy an Indian cook book. Legumes can be bland – but not if you add half a tablespoon of curry powder. :-)

    “And gosh, it just so expensive.”

    Huh? For the cost of two days worth of protein in the form of sausages, I can buy a month’s worth of protein in the form of dried kidney beans, chick peas, TVP, etc. The main hassle is preparation – meat-based recipes rarely include “soak the main ingredient overnight”. But that’s just a matter of planning.

    I’m currently at “one or two vegetarian main meals a week” and working on bringing that up, mainly for health reasons rather than ethical concerns. Last night – homemade minestrone soup – yum. Congrats to you Jeremy on how far you’ve gotten.

  19. Thanks, uniquerhys.

    Last one I made was a vegetarian chili, and it works brilliantly.

    Big saucepan on the stove; heat oil, onion, capsicum, fresh chili from the pot in the garden.
    3 tins: tomatoes, lentils, mixed beans.
    Ground cumin, cinnamon, thyme and crushed garlic.
    Cook on medium heat for about 20 mins, add some parsley (which now appears to have replaced weeds in the courtyard!).

    Goes with whatever – in burritos, or anything. (Admittedly, haven’t found non-dairy equivalents of sour cream or cheddar yet.)

  20. “Cook on medium heat for about 20 mins, add some parsley (which now appears to have replaced weeds in the courtyard!). ”

    If you look after it a little bit then you may be able to have parsley from the garden forever. Esp the tall italian sort, not the curly leaved variety. If you can get it self seeding then it should be there till the cows come home or something.

    There are actually a few Mediterranean herbs that can be encouraged to go “weedy” in Melb yards. My wife is vego tho I still eat meat. She eats dairy but not eggs. Is this thread a good place to swap vego recipes?

    If so I’ll stick some up.

  21. “Is this thread a good place to swap vego recipes?”

    Why not? Sounds good to me.

  22. Jeremy,

    This may help:

    http://www.ethical.org.au/guide/search/

    I’ve only had a quick look, I’m not sure it’ll find the perfect dairy producers but it should help you identify the biggest sinners. It’s a start.

  23. I admire the zeal of you guys. If the outcome is that you feel better physically and/or psychologically then go for it.

    A well balanced diet that includes meat once or twice a week and strictly limiting packaged foods suits our lifestyle. And provides me with sufficient energy to run 10ks four times a week and my better half to bicycle over 100ks a week. Without vitamin/mineral supplements either. ;)

  24. “When things are particularly chaotic we do occasionally resort to a bit of red meat to build up whatever it is that red meat’s good for building up, but as little as possible.”

    This reminds me of Saint Augustine saying:
    ” Lord, make me chaste but not yet.”

  25. Fair enough – and it’s a good quote, and describes several of my moral failings quite well – but there are also a number of health reasons I’m not going to detail here why this particular phase in our lives is not one to go 100% vegetarian.

  26. I recommend anyone thinking about this sort of thing read The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. He gets his economics muddled in the early section about corn, but otherwise it’s an excellent read, especially his look at ‘industrial organic’.

  27. “Mondo – it was this, mainly, and the realisation that the only way for them to produce eggs is by disposing of all the male chicks.”

    This is true in industrial factory egg production, but more and more free range egg producers are now growing their male chicks out for sale as free range meat birds.

    Have a look at Joel Salatin’s website.

    http://www.polyfacefarms.com/

    We are running a very similar system btw, but on a smaller scale.

    I really recommend the movie “Food Inc” to anyone who cares about animal welfare and sustainable agriculture. I imagine if more people were aware of how meat, milk and eggs were produced on factory farms, smaller producers, farmers markets etc. would do a lot more business.

    We shot and butchered one of our sheep just the other day, its death was so quick and clean it didnt even know what hit it.

  28. Ok here’s a start with the recipes:

    Bhuja

    Pea flour
    Plain flour
    assorted greens
    onion
    baking powder (not essential but it makes it easier)
    Whatever spices you want
    Chilli

    Mix the pea flower and the plain flower at a ration of 3 to 1 pea flower to plain flower. Originally the recipe was 4:1 pea to plain flour, so you might want to experiment a bit to taste.

    Mix in spices (to taste, we have about 10 spice powders including various mixes/curry podwers/masala’s and the usual’s like coriander, cardomon, tumeric etc etc) and chilli powder if you use it, and a teaspoon of baking powder (not necessary but seems to make the whole thing work easier.)

    Chop greens and onion very fine. (We use chinese green leafies, silverbeet, spinach and add herbs from the garden, we have heaps of garden herbs, 10 or 15 species, different thymes, sages various asian herbs, parsley, coriander/dhania etc etc mix to taste – basically whatever green leafies you have available.)

    Add fresh chillis now if you’re using them, or homemade chilli sauce (what we do).

    Mix the greens and the flour – the ideal mix (for us) seems to be about 2 cups flour mix to one cup of chopped greens.

    Then add water to form a good batter.

    Add salt and pepper whenever during this process, we usually add half teasp of salt and a full one of ground black pepper when mixing the dry ingrediants, but whenever you prefer to add it is cool.

    You should now have a batter with green leafy veggies through it.

    The batter should have enough consistency to hold together on the spoon and not run freely.

    My wife describes it as a “clingy consistency”.

    heat a shallow pan full of oil, (oil or grapessed is preferable imo but whatever oil. My nan used to make this in ghee.)

    Spoon the batter into the oil – so you get bite size pieces. Approximately the size of a lychee or golf ball, and fry till the surface is brown and crunchy and the inside cooked through but not necessarily crunchy, again its all a matter of taste. You can fry them solid and crunchy if you like, but its not as nice imo.

    Of course you can experiment with the vegie mix too, using shaved or v finely chopped carrot, spud, sweet spuds, or celery stalf or well anything you want really. I prefer it just with greens tho.

    Its an old Indian recipe, my family have been cooking it for ages, I dunno how long, dad learned of his mum or sister.

    enjoy

  29. Andrew Bolt will be beside himself with joy today. The site of one his adversaries has become the online repository for vegetarian recipes. There must be an opinion piece in that, Andy! :roll:

  30. It will go something like this autonomy1..

    Let it be known that a well known Leftist blog publishes vegetarian recipes.

    Point out that Hitler was a vegetarian.

    Re open blog comments so his troop of shit flinging monkeys can do their (his) work.

    Stand back and admire the view.

  31. jordanrastrick

    Good on you Jeremy.

    I really need to get my (non-social) pescetariansim going, instead of just periodically thinking about it…

    And thanks everyone for the recipes – keep them coming.

  32. Doubt it, autonomy and duncan.

    Andy will only mention me if he thinks he can seriously hurt my livelihood by misrepresenting something I’ve written. A comment thread with vegetarian recipes won’t be nearly enough.

  33. Yeah but some recipes are from the sub continent, and they are designed to turn you into a turrist, or at least make you explode if you put enough chilli in.

  34. narcoticmusing

    “Nothing is organic”

    Quite the contrary, everything you eat is organic, whether it is ‘certified’ or not. There is no LEGAL definition of organic in this country, thus all ‘organic’ food needs is to fall into the chemical definition, where ‘organic’ merely means ‘carbon based’. This has led to a range of issues, including requiring private certifiers (some of whom themselves have fallen into disrepute as they pretty much all have a conflict of interest regarding their standards which attract clients vs their revenue stream). The ACCC has failed to prosecute anyone based on misleading and/or deceptive conduct relating to the ‘organic’ descriptor, thus, you cannot rely on this.

    Much better to rely on other descriptions on the pack, such as a description of how the chicken/cow/whatever was treated/raised/fed/etc. These descriptions have more weight due to the Fair Trading Act (Vic) and the Trade Practices Act (Cth). Organic means nothing and is far too disputed to be relied upon.

    I do, however, agree with the writer Jeremy was sceptical about. Look at free range eggs, I’m not generally persuaded by economic rationalist arguments, but the market has shifted the free range eggs situation to make them mainstream. Soy milk – an ethical alternative to cows millk – is also now mainstream.

    We need to be realisitc/pragmatic about what is or isn’t ethical lest we don’t eat at all. There are massive costs to the public purse due to inadequate diets (including lack of protein/calcium particularly in youth). Just because someone claims somethign is more ‘ethical’ doesn’t make it so. For example, there are huge costs to the globe for growing sugar cane to produce ethanol – it is quite harmful ecologically and in terms of soil/habitat destruction.

    Make your choices, based on the principles you aspire to. Eat organic or don’t. Eat meat or don’t. But understand, not eating meat impacts the market just as eating ‘ethical’ meat impacts the market. Crops impact the globe too, so grow your own? Growing you own food hurts farmers so shop local. Too much sunlight gives you cancer, not enough gives you a vit D deficiency. There are pros and cons to most things. Make your choice and try not to convert everyone else.

  35. You may have misunderstood what I meant by “nothing is organic”.

    I meant that there is nothing ‘pure’ on earth in the sense that some organo food nazis would have you believe.

    “Growing you own food hurts farmers so shop local. ”

    Or grow your own. I didn’t realise we were under an obligation to buy stuff we could provide for ourselves. Thats a little too much like being an economic unit for my liking. If I prefer to grow as much of my owwn food as possible then thats the farmers tough luck.

    Its one thing to buy local instead of buying from non local sources, but its another to buy local at the expense of being responsible for your own food.

    And if people don’t want to buy the garlic (or chillis or coffee or avos or whatever) I might grow (no I’m not right now, but given hats just happened to half the country’s food crops …), cos they are producing it for themselves so how can I complain about that?

    Its a bit like a doctor complaining that people aren’t sick enough to keep him in business.

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