Vegan vs Vegetarian


As a point of clarity: a vegetarian is someone who doesn’t eat meat or seafood and a vegan is someone who doesn’t eat meat, seafood, or animal byproducts of any kind: dairy, eggs, honey. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 12 years old. It was a decision I made one day, after finding out that my cousin had decided to be a vegetarian. It was something I thought sounded cool, so I did it and it stuck – pretty fancy reason, eh?!

I’ve never been personally drawn to going the one step further into vegan territory, but over the past few months it’s been a percolating thought. The sole motivating factor has to do with my teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay), encouraging his ordained students to take up a vegan diet. His teachings and suggestions hold a great deal of sway for me, given my love, respect, and confidence in his practice and what he has to say.

I don’t consume very much dairy naturally. I haven’t been a cow’s milk drinker since I was young and my food tastes ere on the side of quite simple and basic, and what many would consider bland, so cheeses, butter and cream toppings have never been a big draw for me in general. A few years ago I gave up dessert sugars, so ice cream, pastries, cakes, cookies, and other similar foods are out for me as well. But I do really enjoy pizza, which we typically have for dinner once a week in our household. And on occasion I make lasagna or stuffed shells. My biggest form of non-vegan consumption is eggs, which I eat every morning for breakfast, and up until recently came from my own backyard chickens.

In an effort to hear a little more from Thay on the subject of veganism, I found a youtube video of him addressing this very matter: 

I’m no stranger to what the reasonings are for supporting the choice of cultivating a vegan diet. I consider myself well-informed on the subject and have watched documentaries and read studies and articles on the topic. We all have different causes and platforms that speak to us more readily – different ways of living and being in the world. There are many things I choose to do in order to take better care of our precious earth and its inhabitants, and being vegan simply hasn’t been one of those things that calls to me personally. What I’m investigating for myself is the question: Should it be? Should veganism be something I consider, based on the recommendation of my teacher? I know, too, that we as Thay’s students are also encouraged to use our intelligence, to not just follow along with a teaching blindly but to work with it and experience it for ourselves, to see if it offers benefit and value. For instance, when I had my own chickens, I felt completely at ease in eating their eggs. They lived happy lives pecking around the backyard and laid eggs everyday that otherwise would’ve gone to waste had I not consumed them. To me there was, and continues to be, no problem to address or conflict of interest involved there.

My husband and stepson eat meat and I do my best to buy the most responsible and affordable animal products to cook up for them. I also ere on the side of buying a smaller quantity of meat to prepare dishes with. There are many decisions we make in order to be the best stewards of the earth as we can. And we’re not personally drawn to needing to go cold turkey when it comes to our food choices. We all have a different balance.

While I’m not personally called to being vegan anytime soon, it is something I haven’t discarded as a possibility perhaps sometime down the line. I’ll continue looking at it and investigating it with curiosity, which I think is important to do. As I often say: The practice continues!

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