Confused Carnivore Goes Vegetarian on the Road for 3 Months

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For my latest challenge against the clock, I’m going vegetarian for a quarter of the year whilst backpacking throughout Asia. I could write a zillion words post explaining my reasons for doing this and hope that you care enough to read. Alternatively, I’ve manifested an imaginary interview in my head, with questions from celebrities and fictional characters.

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Air Asia and their poor, budget entertainment options have driven me to this!

David Beckham asked:

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I can’t believe that you’re going to go vegetarian. I have it on good authority that you used to mock your vegetarian peers. Is this true?

Hi David, and congratulations on the end of a colourful football career! Yes, I’m afraid this is true. I used to ask them if they enjoyed eating grass and other similar, unambitious comments that still make me cringe as I bemoan my lack of creative banter.

The truth in the matter is I have always secretly respected vegetarians/vegans who have chosen their lifestyle for ethical reasons. It’s generally harder in life being a vegetarian and to go to that extent because you believe you are doing the right thing is commendable, in my eyes.

Can you remember being mean to the girl in school who you fancied the most, because you secretly admired her? It’s a bit like that. However, I wouldn’t expect a dreamboat like yourself to have gone to such lower levels.

Stephen Fry Asked:

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Do you eat a lot of meat in your daily diet? What is your experience with vegetarianism? Will you eat fish?

I was raised in a single parent family by a vegetarian mother, but meat wasn’t exactly uncommon and I did try fake meat often, but I was massively unimpressed by the taste. (Linda McCartney’s fake beef pies being the best out of a bad bunch). Since then I ate meat pretty much every day – it’s really rare for me to go a day without eating meat, or other animal products and I can’t even remember the last time that I did.

Sir Paul McCartney asked:

It’s not THAT hard, mate! This is actually a challenge for you?

Anywhere other than Western Europe can be quite unforgiving for a travelling vegetarian and many cultures don’t even notice it as an actual thing. I made a slight attempt to go part-time veggie whilst travelling in the Pacific’s lately and it was just miserable. I’m travelling to some pretty adventurous places in these three months including rural parts of China, The Philippines, North Korea, Japan etc (so no sushi, or peking duck for me).

Ghandi asked:

Are you simply taking on this challenge for alternative travel, or are you doing this for deeper reasons?

You have me on the ropes here, Mahatma. I’ve never been 100% comfortable with the fact that animals are slaughtered just so I can get my culinary rocks off. You said back in the day; “be the change that you want to see in the world,” and I want to live by that principle as much as I can in my own life.

But it’s a lot more complex than that. I used to eat free range eggs and meat etc back home, but after a search for the truth and some shocking research into what happens in abattoirs – I have found that I just can’t trust the meat industry anymore. On top of that – a lot of livestock are pumped with chemicals and steroids too – this freaks me out a little because I don’t have 100% control (or knowledge) of what is going in my body.

Buddha asked:

Have you/could you ever kill an animal for food?

What’s up, Buddha? Like yourself, I could not personally kill an animal – even though I eat meat.

The result of this leads to the stench of hypocrisy.

A dog was hit by a van in front of me in Papua New Guinea. I witnessed its dying moments (as the van drove off). Its harrowing screams haunted me as I watched it crawl around in agony until it gave up and died on the spot of what seemed to be a broken spine. It broke my heart and it put a real damper on my day. That night I’m munching on a lamb stew and I think – what is the difference?

See where I’m going with this, Buddha? I don’t feel like I deserve to eat meat and I also don’t feel like I deserve to have such a loving affinity with animals. It’s not cool feeling like a hypocrite and I need to at least try something new for my inner peace.

Hank Moody from Californication asked:

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Don’t you think you’re being a little hard on yourself? Haven’t you always believed that us humans are carnivorous (edit: I’ve since learned that calling humans ‘carnivorous’ is incorrect and kind of hilarious) and are supposed to eat meat? Why the big deal?

I used to subscribe to that thought, but I’ve recently opened myself up to studies from the other side. Some highly respected anthropologists claim that back in the caveman days, 85% of our protein intake came from plant based sources.

I’m starting to open myself up the possibility that humans, like most birds are omnivorous. Basically, meaning an opportunistic eater who can survive without a meat-based diet (or at least have the choice). I’m no expert of course, not at all. I’m just opening myself up to other theories and concepts.

Sylvester Stallone asked:

If you feel this way, why wait almost 30 years to even start? Is there a possibility you could go permanently vegetarian after this challenge?

For a large proportion of my life I have believed that meat is a necessity, as opposed to a luxury. I would probably eat you in an absolute survival situation, but if I can prove that I don’t need meat to survive and still feel really healthy on a vegetarian diet – then I don’t see why I would not.

Another reason why I haven’t tried yet is that the majority of vegetarians who I know are poor ambassadors for healthy vegetarianism. I see a common mistake; a lack of fundamental nutrients replacement such as iron etc. Vegetarianism doesn’t automatically make you healthy, much like how signing up to a gym doesn’t suddenly put you in better shape. Hopefully I can set a good example and be a really healthy vegetarian.

Delboy from Only Fool and Horses asked:

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Cor Blimey! Won’t this be more expensive, you dipstick!?

Yes Del, I am expecting this to hurt my wallet. But I can afford it and it’s pale in comparison to feeling emotionally bankrupt.

Do you believe a vegetarian diet is more healthy than a meat-based diet?

This also confuses the hell out of me. A lot. If you open up your mind and check out the debate between both parties – they both make really good arguments to support their own cause. Some statistics claim that vegetarians live longer on average and have less reported heart problems, whilst meat eaters point out fundamental nutrition such as vitamin B12 is easier to find in meat-based products as opposed to plant-based food.

Nothing is more important than your health. I’m quite a healthy/lucky man and I can count on one hand how many times I have been ill in the last decade. I don’t think I’ve ever had a headache that wasn’t alcohol induced! But that doesn’t necessarily mean I can not continue this on a vegetarian diet.

Alan Shearer asked:

Alan-Shearer

I eat meat all the time and I’m geet hard, I am. Don’t you hate being skinny and haven’t you recently put some healthy weight on? Does this new dietary choice concern you and your physical goals?

Big Al! As your number one stalker, I am aware that chicken and beans was your traditional pre-match meal which enabled you to thump in 260 record-breaking goals in English top flight football.

And I do indeed hate being skinny and a few months ago I went from 66KG to 74 KG on a culmination of the Paleo/slow carb diet with regular gym workouts. But my poos were tragic and I felt wear after a while. However, I lost weight (down to 70) whilst travelling in the Pacific islands even though I stuffed my face with every given opportunity.

I fear that taking meat, which is high in calorific density out of my diet could result in me losing more weight than I can afford to. I am also expecting people to be personally offended by my choice – like when I quit booze for a long time. But I think I’ll get over that.

Vegetarians Healthy vegetarians/vegans – I need your help…

I feel very daunted by the challenge ahead and I feel I’m not really up on my vegetarian knowledge. I have stated my reasons and fears above and I could really do with some qualified advice, so that I can be healthy and happy for these next three months ahead. I’ve actually met a lot of vegetarians on the road who have postponed their veggie diet and reconverted to a meat-eating diet until they return home, as the effort was too much for them and it was ruining their travel experience. This concerns me, as I am also very competitive and don’t want to quit. I don’t want to choose between quitting and starving – I’m not a very nice hungry person to be around.

I especially want to hear from healthy vegetarians who travel a lot, who can inspire me to stay in shape while on the road. Ideally, a vegetarian full-time traveller guy, with a Gerard Butler ‘300’ body would give me a lot of hope.

Edit: Since writing this post, I no longer consider vegetarianism to be an animal-friendly ideology and I am now vegan. Everything that I wrote at the time of this article felt right at the time of publishing. I may have differing views now, but I don’t want to edit anything here in the post, as it was true for this particular time of my life, and is an interesting flashback on the journey towards investigating my relationship with animals and my eventual conclusion that we should just leave them the f**k alone if we claim to be peaceful, animal-loving people. 🙂 

Canadian Animal Right’s Activist Erin Janus does a stellar job explaining why dairy is indeed scary in this brilliant video below:



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26 comments

  1. Carly Reply

    Good luck becoming veggie, I was vegetarian for years but caved in to the lure of a bacon sandwich whilst pregnant! I never went back to being pure veggie…I do though still go for the vegetarian options quite often in restaurants etc…and I agree Linda McCartney’s pies were the best 🙂

    1. Anthony Reply

      Carly,

      Ooof I hear bacon sandwich is a killer for reconverting!

      RIP Linda! Hasn’t been any decent competition ever since!

  2. denise Reply

    I believe in the live and let live philosophy too. I eat meat and always will for a variety of reasons, and one of the arguments of in favour of this, as you might have come across, is that if everyone were vegetarian we simply don’t have the necessary space and quality of land to grow as much food to actually sustain everyone.

    Check our globetrottinggirls.com. They’re both vegetarian and they’ve pretty much had amazing meals everywhere around the word. The posts are inspirational.

    1. Erin Reply

      I believe producing meat actually takes up far more space than growing produce does, and is more polluting. This article says “A Bangladeshi family living off rice, beans, vegetables and fruit may live on an acre of land or less, while the average American, who consumes around 270 pounds of meat a year, needs 20 times that.”

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/jul/18/vegetarianism-save-planet-environment

      Still, the whole world isn’t likely to go vegetarian anyway.

      1. denise Reply

        A Bangladeshi family would not only eat less than a Western family, but also more simply. Even vegetarian or vegan westerners have a far higher expectation mealsl, and would not eat mostly rice everyday. More food plus more varieties of food would mean more land.

        1. Erin Reply

          Sure they would eat less but raising animals for food still uses far more land than crops do. Grain is still grown to feed livestock and animals eat a lot more food than they provide as meat.

          “Intensive meat production is a very inefficient way of feeding the world. Farm a decent acre with cattle and you can produce about 20lbs of beef protein. Give the same acre over to wheat and you can produce 138lbs of protein for human consumption. If the grain that is currently used to feed animals were fed instead directly to people, there may be just enough food to go round when population peaks.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2011/sep/10/giving-up-meat-felicity-lawrence)

          I don’t think everyone should become vegetarian. I’m not trying to convert anyone, it’s just that what you are saying is not true.

          1. Anthony

            Denise and Erin – I do love to participate in a good old debate, but I’m going to have to be honest here (grrrrrr, I hate fence-sitting) and admit that this is another part of vegetarianism that I am completely ignorant to. I have often wondered the outcome of this though and it’s one of the many things I’ll be reading up on in the next few weeks.

    2. Anthony Reply

      Hi Denise,

      Like I said above – I don’t really have a take on that theory, but I probably will soon after research because I don’t like NOT having an opinion on something. 😛

      Thanks for the shout! I met the Globe Trotter Girls briefly last year, nice girls. I’ll be checking out their blog even more now.

      Thanks!

    3. Bob Reply

      The comment that we don’t have enough land for everyone to be vegetarian is one of the dumbest statements I’ve ever read.

      It takes 2.5 acres minimally per cow. The amount of land, water, food and other resources used to sustain most people’s lust for flesh is enormous. Try 240 trillion gallons of water a year. (Look it up kids, via the UN and other resources on the net.)

      Nice comments on Bangladesh families. Really???

  3. Kalli Reply

    Hilarious. You handled this loaded subject very non offensively which is great.
    I’m a pescetarian partially because it can be very difficult when traveling to avoid meat AND fish. Have been for almost five years on the road now…
    For protein my go to sources on the road are eggs, tofu, beans, seeds, nuts, cheese, and peanut butter. Check out this website: http://www.nomeatathlete.com/vegetarian-protein/ for vegetarian sources of the essential amino acids.

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hi Kalli,

      Oh God – I do hope so! hahaha! Where have you been during those 5 years? Interesting! I’ve been reading the no meat athlete all weekend – he did a Vegetarian paleo diet! Now that man is HARDCORE!!!

  4. Erica Reply

    Yay! New challenge! Best of luck with this one!

    Quick question: are you going to cut out things like fish sauce and broth created from fish? Feel like that will be a challenge in many Asian countries.

    I’ve definitely cut down on my consumption of meat.. mostly because I’m a hippie who likes to give a good attempt at getting closer to sustainable living.

    Funny enough, my last post was about burgers… I’ll just go ahead and NOT click the comment luv checkbox this time… 😉

  5. Erica Reply

    Good luck on your quest! The hardest part in Asia is that there’s so much fish sauce/broth made from fish.. are you going to cut these out as well?

    While I am not vegetarian, I’ve definitely cut down on my meat intake overall. I think it also helps you be more aware of the nutrients that plants contain because you need to learn to obtain necessary nutrients (esp protein) that you can usually rely on from meat.

    1. Erica Reply

      oh oops, sorry, can you delete this guy? comp problems (and user error)

      1. Anthony Reply

        Having a few technological problems there, Erica!? 😛

        Thanks for the best wishes – why are you doing yourself out of free advertising?! You crazy! Tick away, lass!!!

  6. Erin Reply

    Well as permanent travelling vegetarians for over three years (plus a year before that) it’s definitely possible but you are choosing the hardest countries to start with. Eating meat isn’t an option for us (it’s just been too long) so we always make it work but you might struggle starting out.

    We haven’t been to China, Korea or the Philippines but I haven’t heard good things about them for vegetarians, so we’ll be interested how you get on. Japan is generally pretty tough for vegetarians but if you do some research you can get some amazing shojin ryori (Zen Buddhist vegan food) which is really healthy, delicious and weird (in a good way!). Kyoto is the best place for this, and Koya-san where you can stay in a temple. We’ve written a guide to being vegetarian in Japan: http://www.neverendingvoyage.com/vegetarian-survival-guide-to-japan/

    If you get the option to stay somewhere with a kitchen that will make it easier to eat healthily—beans, chickpeas and lentils are always good options, and Asia is the only place we eat tofu (we avoid other meat substitutes).

    Oh, and why do you think it’ll be expensive? Generally meat-free meals are cheaper.

    Good luck and let us know if you have any questions.

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hi Erin 🙂

      I was actually thinking of you guys when I wrote this post. Yes I agree that I am starting with the most difficult countries (but did you know tofu was started in China!?) I’m stationary here in Thailand for a few weeks until my renewed passport comes, and a few days in it seems rather easy. I am of course aware how quickly this will change once I get back on the road.

      Thanks for the Zen Buddhist tip – I’ve been studying that for the last few hours. 🙂 Looking forward to reading your post before I hit Japan too.

      My trail of thought for it being more expensive: Meat on a stick street food is generally a budget backpacker go-to food. If I’m going to supermarkets and buying from tins etc and trying to match equal protein lost from the meat – I’m guessing it’s going to be more expensive, no?

      Thanks for your help!

  7. Jessica Reply

    It’s interesting that you brought up the fact that you don’t think you could kill an animal for food. We stayed with a family in Italy who killed their own lambs and chickens. They found it difficult every time, but they believed that you have to earn the right to eat meat. I like the philosophy – if you can’t face killing an animal yourself, then there’s just something wrong about being fine with eating one that’s already been killed for you.

    That said, we were vegetarians before we started traveling, but caved once we were on the road. Particularly in Asia, we ate a lot of street food to save money, and most of the time the food served at the street stalls included meat. I’d really like to get back to vegetarianism, though – I’ll be interested to read how it goes for you.

  8. Nathan Reply

    Good luck dude 🙂 not that you will need it :p

    Something we make sure to carry with us while out exploring is a bag of nuts (esp. almonds) so if we get hungry and start craving something sweet or anything (like meat for you on this challenge) we can snack on those until we find a good meal – a handful of almonds really is a great energy boost, and good for you!

    A bag of nuts is also something Tim Ferris recommends while on the slow-carb diet when he is flying and can’t find any good food.

  9. Edna Reply

    Good luck! I was a pescetarian for three years in Singapore and China (stopped when I moved to France) so kind of know what you’re facing. I had a friend who was pretty hardcore vegetarian before she moved to China, but she had to make some concessions once she moved because it was just so difficult to find anything ‘pure’ vegetarian: so much in China/Asia is cooked in some sort of animal fat, even when it’s just vegetables. Plus they find the concept of vegetarianism hard to grasp — my friend would say she didn’t eat meat and the server would go, “oh okay, why don’t you try the fish then!”

  10. Mike C Reply

    Good luck mate, great challenge. I haven’t gone veggie. But I have a close friend who is vegan and as I often eat dinner at her house I end up eating veggie/vegan food. One sure fire way to cut back on your meat intake is to watch docos like Food Inc and Earthlings. However I haven’t forsaken meat forever, what I’m trying to do is eat local, organic, seasonal and sustainable food. Good luck and godspeed you fine sir on your quest.

    1. Anthony Reply

      Thanks, Brosef! Any recipe details sent my way please! 🙂

  11. carla Reply

    Good luck with this 1, not that you will need. I no U will succeed with this challenge as u have the willpower, don’t think I could do this haha 🙂

    1. Anthony Reply

      Cheers, Carla. So far so good! 🙂

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