People sometimes ask me if I am a vegetarian, and then react horrified if I say I am not. “How can you! How can you take care of all these animals and then eat them?”
Well, first of all, I don’t eat my own animals. And second, they are right. It is totally illogical and hypocritical of me. I love my chickens, spoil them and shudder at the thought of killing and eating them. But I can eat a chicken from the supermarket, which is exactly the same animal as my pet chickens. The only difference is, I didn’t have to kill it.
I know there are people who raise their own chickens for meat as well as eggs. I admire those people. They make sure their chickens have a good life and they get good, healthy meat out of them. Those down-to-earth, close-to-nature people have the courage to grow, nourish and harvest their own food.
But I, as I have come to accept, am a hopeless wuss. I could never be one of those people. I have only once in my life managed to “cull” something, and that was a newly hatched quail chick which had the legs eaten off him by chickens. It didn’t die. The only thing worse than killing it was watching it suffer. I drowned it in a bucket of water. It was awful and I hope I never have to do something like that again.
So what are you supposed to do if you want to be… sustainable, but don’t have the guts to kill your own animals? Be a vegetarian, I suppose. I tried being a vegetarian when I was in my twenties. I kept it up for a couple of years, during which I lost an alarming amount of weight (I already have a tendency for underweight-ness), became seriously anaemic (I think my iron levels never recovered) and had near blackouts every time I got up from my chair because of low blood pressure. It was not a success. I know many people who are vegetarians and they are perfectly healthy, so I know it is possible. I just have never managed it. I suppose my body doesn’t support a diet of only vegetable matter.
I still try to eat as little meat as possible. I like to describe myself as a semi-vegetarian. As a rule, I don’t allow red meat in my house. No beef, mutton, rabbit or any mammal. Living in Israel means that pork isn’t really an option, so that’s convenient. I am not alone, though – I have a family of three boys and a husband who need feeding. My husband likes a steak just as much as the next man, but doesn’t really mind if I don’t provide it. My boys, surprisingly, refuse to eat almost all meat. We try to be creative when it comes to protein, iron and vitamin B12 – soya beans, humus, lentils, broccoli…
And fish. They will eat tuna, sometimes salmon and other fish. I know that fish also have feelings and that the oceans are horribly overfished. But we do need to eat something. So, I suppose that would make us semi-pesco-vegetarians.
My middle son doesn’t touch eggs either, and the smallest one has an egg allergy. But the rest of the family eats eggs enthusiastically. Finally, here is a wholesome, tasty, totally guilt-free food – the crowd of laying hens in the pet zoo give us a wealth of true freerange happy eggs. So, just to be precise, we are semi-pesco-ovo-vegetarians.
If a fully vegetarian diet is difficult for me, vegan is definitely out of the question. I am Dutch and I cannot live without cheese. I order two kilos of cheese every week at the supermarket website for cooking, sandwiches, salads… everything. At first they kept ringing me to check, because they thought I must have made a mistake – no one could eat two kilos of cheese a week, right? But I tell you, for a Dutch family of five this is very reasonable. So – there is no way I am cutting out dairy.
I suppose that technically, it would be possible to describe my family’s eating habits as semi-pesco-ovo-lacto-vegetarian. Or we could just be straightforward and say we eat meat. Organic if possible. But still. Mother nature made us omnivores. Humans are nature, too.