On consuming (animal products) ethically

A thing I’m doing is eating less meat. To be fair, I always have done so – I was an economic vegetarian until quite recently (meaning that meat is expensive and difficult to make well, so I just didn’t really bother buying much for myself, though I ate meat whenever it was provided to me by family/friends/restaurants), and after a brief period of eating lots of bison and beef (because Alberta), I’ve started to reduce again. I’m still not at the point where I refuse it if offered, but I’m dabbling in only ordering vegan/vegetarian options when I can, and only prepping vegan/vegetarian options for myself at home.

Just a note, before we get into it: these actions are a result of my personal attitude and positioning. Avoiding animal products can be spendy,1 and depends mightily on where you are located, your culture, your family, your allergies and likes/dislikes…. food is so personal and so tightly bound up with identity.

I’m also incredibly privileged to a) have vegan/vegetarian alternatives available to me, b) be able to afford those vegan/vegetarian alternatives, c) not have too many dietary issues (beyond slight anemia) that make this impossible, and d) the mental energy and time to mindfully choose alternatives, including looking for new recipes and meal-planning. I’m also not from a culture where eating meat is an integral part of who I am and who my community is.

I cannot go vegetarian or vegan cold-turkey. Perhaps if I had a will of iron, I could, but a fair amount of my willpower is being sapped by adherence to my gluten-free diet (among several other things) as I’m very allergic and the consequences of transgressions are much swifter and more dire than if I accidentally eat meat or dairy.2

But the reasons are inconsequential and frankly nobody’s business. It is a process, and a long one, dependent on so many factors. However, I am a firm advocate for the power of the small actions of the many: too often we are seduced by the myth of the Perfect Individual, the zero-waste, vegan hero who lives a completely sustainable and unproblematic life in harmony with the world around them. This person is a fairy-tale, but I’m such a sucker for stories; I, like Mulder, Want To Believe.

So I eat vegan about 4 days out of 7, currently, and not really due to any intention to “eat vegan”, but just by swapping out my staples and slowly experimenting with new recipes.

For example, I’ve never really liked cow’s milk and had a while where milk really upset my stomach growing up, so I would buy either rice or soy milk (whichever was cheaper that week at the grocery store) to use in baking, hot drinks, and other things which required dairy. Neither of them really worked well, but I wasn’t going to buy almond milk, mostly because it was at LEAST a dollar more expensive than the same amount of rice/soy/coconut milk, and also because one time I drank a glass of it and my throat tried to close over.

(when I later learned just how much water almond trees take up, I felt vindicated in my choice)

I’ve been grabbing oat milk since it’s been introduced on the market, and it’s what my partner likes best. Honestly, I’m not really a fan of dairy and kind of just avoid putting it in things. Canned coconut milk is so much tastier and richer, anyway, so it works great as a substitute for cream.

Lately, I’ve ratcheted up my low-dairy by a notch, avoiding cheese entirely as well as milk chocolate and butter. Admittedly this is because I am vain af, and my skin has decided that it hates dairy and gets dry and oily at the same time when I introduce it to my system. I’ve been flirting with vegan cheese, though I was extremely dismayed to learn that one of the types I bought (on sale, of course) had palm oil in it. Not cool.

If I really think about it, yeah, I miss cheese. But I just don’t really think about it that often. I’ve got more going on in my life, I suppose. And dark chocolate is nice, though consuming chocolate ethically is a whole other barrel of fish, and this post is long enough as is for now.

Anyway. Feel free to share your fave vegan/vegetarian recipes in the comments, if you like. I’m gluten-free and partial to mushrooms – I made an amazing mushroom stroganoff from Elavegan for dinner tonight and plan to keep it in regular meal-planning rotation for the next while.

1. Inflation in Canada is going up, and predicted to skyrocket over the next year at least, and if I’m going to be paying an arm and a leg for food anyway, my other half and I figure we might as well be getting good quality food that supports local industry and helps build community resilience. I’m getting used to eating more seasonally, and it feels right.

2. An analogue for any of my readers familiar with ecocritical theories: the violence of eating meat/dairy is unrecognizable à la Rob Nixon’s theory of slow violence to the environment. Since the consequences are not felt immediately by my own person, I am divorced from acknowledging my carnivorous proclivities as exploitative and violent. A consequential remoteness, which leads to epistemic remoteness, to borrow the phraseology of Val Plumwood.

2 thoughts on “On consuming (animal products) ethically

  1. We eat a lot of ratatouille here, which basically involves briefly frying whatever veggies you feel like (e.g., onions, mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, carrots, olives, bell peppers, and/or winter squash or sweet potato) in whatever order seems right (or entirely individually, if you’re really hardcore) and then simmering them either with canned tomatoes or a tomato sauce you’ve already made (or bought). I usually throw in salt, pepper, veggie stock powder (which, unlike the cubes, tends not to have palm oil in it), dried basil, dried thyme, dried sage, and even fennel seeds. Sometimes I eat it over tofu “steaks” (i.e., thin slabs of firm tofu that I’ve fried) along with brown rice, polenta, cornbread, or potatoes. Polenta is best, IMHO, but that’s a controversial stance in this household, so Spouse often eats the ratatouille with pasta instead.

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