Food: Ignorance is Fatal

There are as many options to eat as there are reasons to eat them

Being able to make these decisions for ourselves is often the hard part

In our house, the fridge is usually half full with colourful fruit and veg and the rest of the space is taken up by dishes my girlfriend and I have made. Our cupboards are packed with foods that are versatile. None of it lasts forever but when there’s no meat or dairy, it stays fresh long enough to not have to worry about the time it’s been in there or when it was cooked. I heat cooked meals in the mornings and take them in a thermos flask for lunch, adding in whatever I fancy that day. At dinner, everyone has the dish they want. It’s a buffet that just needs warming up. We make meals most nights, after work, but it’s always good to have options. We aren’t super strict with what we eat, we have a varied, balanced diet, and there’s always tasty food available for all the family. It surprises me that many people associate veganism with a lack of choice; a restriction in variety. The focus always seems to be on what isn’t available instead of the endless list of foods to select from.

To be clear, I’m vegan but don’t expect everyone else to be.

From everything I’ve seen, heard and learnt, it was a logical decision, especially as a parent. It’s better for my health and it protects the environment. The fact that less animals die, for me, is a huge bonus. For years, I’d seen videos of slaughterhouses, felt sick inside, but never hesitated to go to KFC. Those cruel images went out of my head when my Grandma made curry mutton! I respect animal activism but draw the line at spreading awareness. Forcing any agenda is counterproductive. It’s important to be able to passionately articulate opinions but aggressively shaming people out of their eating habits is a slippery slope away from the fundamental point. I’m ashamed to say that, initially, animal suffering wasn’t enough of a trigger for me.

When I saw the impact it had on my body, though, it was a reality I could not ignore.

I loved meat, eggs and cheese as much as anyone but couldn’t justify damaging my long term health for the convenience of sticking to what I already know. I’m not the most disciplined person but it actually wasn’t that difficult. I switched to a vegan diet because the alternative was choosing to slowly kill myself, unnecessarily. I saw the impact that these non essential industries had on our water supply, our changing climate and, ironically, human starvation and it made no sense to continue eating anything that came from an animal. There are others who have read the same books, seen the same documentaries, done the same research and made different choices. We should always be free to make decisions for ourselves based on all the information that is available.

It’s simply a matter of a personal, educated choice.

It seems, however, that many people have not explored the same information. Either they haven’t come across it or have actively avoided it. If you are unaware that a vegan diet is easy to follow, convenient to maintain, tasty, exciting and cheap you will automatically be put off by what seems like a limiting lifestyle choice. If you don’t know the extent of the consequences on billions of animal and human lives, you are uninformed, and so unlikely to question your choices. Worse still, if you have no idea of the damage you are doing to your own body and the diseases and conditions you are inviting for yourself, it’s death by ignorance. Blind, slow suicide. That isn’t to say everyone exposed to this information does, or should, make the same choices. Life would be boring if we all thought the same. However, without the facts, any decision on what you eat is an unbalanced one.

The larger issue isn’t about the food we eat, it’s about education.

My kids aren’t vegan. We make sure they know the impact of their food choices, whilst keeping it age appropriate. We encourage healthy eating and we keep meat and dairy out of the house. My daughter is pretty much pescatarian, eating fish some of the time and, understandably, unable to resist dairy based desserts and treats outside of the house. She has a real interest in cooking and finds vegan recipes online, with plans to make her own alternatives. My son is younger and, while he is perfectly comfortable cutting out animal products in the house, will eat burgers, eggs and cheese when we are out. They both ask questions, and are consciously aware of what they are eating.

I don’t always feel it is my job to limit their choices but it is my responsibility to set an example.

If I stop them from eating the foods they want to eat, when they are older, with more personal freedom, they may choose to eat even more of it. It would be natural for them to ‘rebel’, doubling up on meat and dairy; seduced by forbidden foods. Instead, we educate them on what they eat, allow them to explore the options themselves and treat food like something to be nourished by, as well as enjoyed. I am confident they will both make sensible decisions around their diet as they grow. I am encouraged by the fact that they are capable of making decisions for themselves based on the information they have.

The next generation shouldn’t be told what to do and forced down a path.

We’ve tried that. Surely it’s better to educate the world, circulate knowledge, have great examples to follow and encourage individual choices? As a society, that means open dialogue, clear information and unbiased coverage. As parents, that means holding their hands and encouraging an open mind, whilst role modelling the future we would like to see.
Thank you for reading and please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below

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