Vegetarian student encourages others to embrace all diets

The Channels Opinion Pages | STAFF COLUMN

Kathyvan Tran, Features Editor

In a world of varying diet choices, everyone should be comfortable with their own and be respectful of others’.

I’ve been a vegetarian for nearly seven years. During this time, I’ve experimented with different types of veggie diets. I’ve tried being vegan for a year, as well as being pescetarian.

Although, honestly my favorite food is dim sum, a Chinese style cuisine that includes meat. I only eat it for rare, special occasions, so it annoys me when others tell me—whether they’re vegetarian or not—that I’m not a real vegetarian, or that I’m one who eats meat.

Even though I choose to eat meat for this one meal, and occasionally eat fish or seafood when I eat out to accommodate others, I still identify as a vegetarian.

I don’t judge others who choose to eat meat, so I wish that other people—whether they are vegetarian or not—would do the same.

I’ve always respected others’ choices to eat meat. As a vegetarian, I’ve never tried to advocate its agenda to convert others or guilt-trip them for eating animal products.

Vegetarians and vegans also shouldn’t have to feel guilty or ashamed when they choose to stray off the path of their diets either. When I do order my small plates of dim sum presented with steamed shrimp and pork dumplings, I simply want people to let me eat my food.

This type of shaming is akin to body-shaming in the media. Just like how people have no right to tell others how fat, skinny, tall, short, tan or pale someone else should be, people have no right to tell me what dietary choices to make or what food to put in my mouth. I also cannot advocate to others how they should live or eat either.

The bottom line is respect; have respect for yourself and others.

Changing a dietary lifestyle to adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet is not easy. In fact, I could not last the whole year that I was vegan without having some cream puffs towards the end.

At the same time, I don’t ask to be applauded for being a vegetarian. I don’t ask that others pat me on the back and say “at least you’re trying your best,” when I do choose to eat seafood or dim sum. Again, I just want people to let me eat my food.

I feel that society too highly reveres vegetarian and vegan lifestyles that it excludes others who do not embrace these kinds of diets. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has yearly awards to recognize celebrity vegans and vegetarians. Why isn’t there an omnivore of the year award?

Strict vegans or vegetarians would argue their diets benefit the environment and protect animals, so they adopt these lifestyles for the greater good. To them, a meal is not just a meal, but a protest against the exploitation of the earth and use of animals for human consumption and survival.

I became a vegetarian for these same reasons. But when the situation calls for it, sometimes exceptions must be made, whether due to courtesy, cultural or convenience reasons. For example, last Sunday my boyfriend’s parents treated us out to dim sum and I wanted to be polite— so I ate.

I don’t think I’m a hypocrite for identifying as a vegetarian when I occasionally do eat meat or seafood. Even though I let myself slip up occasionally, I still ardently believe in vegetarian principles and I don’t think these few exceptions undercut my overall cause as an environmental champion.

Our bodies are our own and no one has the right to say what goes into them except for us. We should respect others and their dietary choices and we shouldn’t have to feel ashamed of what we eat either.

In the end, we are all just trying to eat to survive. Happy eating!