I just watched an interesting TedX talk about the negative connotations behind the words vegan and vegetarian. Tell a stranger you’re a vegan and they make all sorts of negative assumptions about you. This is why I prefer to call myself a plant-eater. A friend of mine once told me that when they first found out I didn’t eat meat they assumed I was a home-birthing hippie. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m a big fan of hospitals and epidurals when it comes to child birth and I’m not exactly a hippie. Other people probably turn away in fear when they hear the v-word. Maybe they’re terrified I’ll give them a lecture? Or that I’m so hungry and undernourished I might try to bite chunks of flesh from their limbs?
I’m not a strict vegan. If someone offers me tea with milk I’d probably drink it. I don’t like the taste of diary products though, having grown accustomed to soy milk now. I gave up meat and diary 10 years ago. I continued eating eggs initially because I had my own hens – Henrietta, Heather, and Hazel – and they were well-treated by me and so I saw no reason not to continue eating their eggs. I don’t eat eggs any more but I know I’ve probably ingested them over the years because I will eat cakes and desserts when I’m out or at someone’s place and I never bother to ask if they’re egg- and dairy-free. But I do all my own baking at home without these ingredients and it’s pretty easy. I also find it harder to be vegan when I travel and usually end up consuming meals with cheese, although if I had the choice not to, I would. However, I’d never starve for my beliefs.
I would eat insects if I had the opportunity and I don’t really have any ethical objections to eating shellfish, so I would probably eat shellfish if I liked the taste (which I don’t). However, there are good environmental reasons for avoiding seafood. I’m in very good health too. My weight has remained pretty much the same for 20-odd years now. All my vital signs are good. I don’t take any medication for anything and rarely go to a doctor. My only ailment is a monthly migraine. I think that on the whole, veganism has been very good for my health.
I do eat honey and I do crochet with wool so strict vegans would not call me vegan for these reasons alone. Perhaps this is why I prefer to call myself a plant-eater. The problem with having exclusive words like this is that they can be alienating. Someone may be motivated to become a vegan but the impossibility of all the “rules” makes it seem undoable and they give up.
Here’s where reducetarian comes in. Brian Kateman has come up with a new word to describe someone who wants to make a commitment to reducing their consumption of animals without promising complete abstinence – and let’s face it, any reduction in meat consumption by humans is a worthy goal. After all, the livestock sector is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transport sector; and that includes all cars, trucks, buses, planes, trains, and ships.