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Survey Says...60% of vegetarians ate meat yesterday!

Some people don't seem to fully grasp the meaning of "vegetarian":


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      1. re: ferret

        Yes, your daughter told me that you are. :P

      2. I'm surprised because most of the vegetarians I know seem so militant.

        1. That's true. I once took some (real) vegetarian co-workers visiting from India out to lunch. I had to explain to them that the American definition of "vegetarian" was different from the Indian definition so they wouldn't accidentally consume any products with meat. They were confused why so many omnivores considered themselves "vegetarians."

          5 Replies
          1. re: raytamsgv

            Could you elaborate please? What were some of the dishes?

            1. re: c oliver

              It was a only a warning to be careful of people who claimed to be vegetarians. Basically, don't eat their food unless my co-workers were sure the person was a true vegetarian. As the article stated, self-proclaimed vegetarians may turn out to be vegetarian only on occasion.

              As for the actual lunch, I took them to a Chinese restaurant that was 100% vegetarian.

              1. re: raytamsgv

                I've read here that a vegetarian probably shouldn't go to Chinese restaurants because dried shrimp are almost an ubiquitous, hidden ingredient.

                1. re: c oliver

                  It depends on the restaurant. A purely vegetarian restaurant would be just that. If you go to a non-vegetarian restaurant, it depends on how they prepare the food.

                  The restaurant in question was Buddhist-oriented. There was a lot of free Buddhist literature, and Buddhist monks were eating there.

                  1. re: raytamsgv

                    Ah, now we have "the rest of the story" :) Definitely if you're going to a vegetarian restaurant. I was thinking about going to a 'regular' Chinese place and assuming that the vegetable dishes were truly vegetarian. Thanks for clarifying.

          2. That seems so odd to me. Why call yourself a vegetarian if you eat meat?

            I don't eat meat but I don't call myself vegetarian. I just say "I don't eat meat" and leave it at that. I do eat fish once in a while and I eat eggs and dairy so I just don't consider myself vegetarian.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Jpan99

              I agree. I find this extremely puzzling. I have been vegetarian since 1974 but I will eat fish maybe once or twice a year (usually when it just gets too complicated in a group situation at a restaurant). Though now I think about it, it's been a couple years since I had fish - the upside of being broke.

              Then again...

              I have a cousin who claims to be vegetarian but to her that means no red meat. And I used to have a friend who said she was vegetarian but that meant burgers were fine... as long as she couldn't identify the animal by the look of the food, it was fair game, so to speak.

              The labels we put on ways of eating are confusing for everybody - those who claim the label (vegetarian, Kosher, low carb) and those who strive to understand how those labels are used.

              1. re: Jpan99

                Just to clarify, most vegetarians eat eggs and dairy. Vegans don't though.

                1. re: piccola

                  I was an ovo-lacto vegetarian for nearly 20 years. I was surprised that so many people didn't understand that I didn't eat fish or chicken broth. Weird.

                  1. re: pine time

                    Yeah, I get that all the time too. Or they don't understand why I won't eat, say, veggies cooked in oyster sauce or stew with the meat removed. Just because there aren't visible chunks of animal doesn't mean it's vegetarian.

              2. Oddly enough I am not a vegetarian, but I didn't eat meat yesterday. So I guess we can call it good.

                  1. I really hate the term, "vegetarian". To me, you are either vegan or not. How many times have I heard "Oh, but I do eat chicken...or fish". No. Eat chicken or fish, you are not a vegetarian. Most "vegetarians" I know feel free to eat dairy or eggs. I don't care...that's animal protein. Now, I have no problem with people who say they won't eat meat because they don't want to kill animals, but I do have problems with those who claim to do it for health reasons and then load up on dairy. Now I have no problems with people who choose to be vegan...I only have problems with people who choose to be vegan and get dogmatic and preachy about it. I personally believe that being a part-time vegan is good for everybody, but dietary dogmatism ruins the appetite, whatever your personal dogma is. (Before I get accused of being dogmatic myself, my first sentences were only in reference to how people describe their diet, not what their diet is.)

                    18 Replies
                    1. re: EricMM

                      (reads above comment; gets to 'dietary dogmatism ruins the appetite')

                      Thanks for providing my daily dose of irony!

                      1. re: EricMM

                        What about folks who are eating for what they believe is good for their own health, not the animal's welfare?" No reason not to pick and choose proteins in that common case.

                        1. re: mcf

                          People eating for their own health can eat anything they want, but the vegetarian label implies that one does not eat meat (and does not imply a diet chosen for health, although that may be one reason it was chosen). And meat includes chicken and fish. And if people want to use terms like ova-lacto vegetarian to specify that they include eggs and dairy in their otherwise vegetable diet, fine with me. If people want to call themselves pescatarian, because they eat fish, but not other meats, fine. But a "vegetarian" noshing on chicken needs to find another way to describe themselves.

                          1. re: MelMM

                            The vegetarian label implies that one does not eat meat and does nothing to suggest one's reason for eating that way, health or animal welfare.

                            Veganism is usually about saving animals, IME, but it's true of some ovo lacto vegetarians.

                            1. re: mcf

                              I said above that a vegetarian diet may be chosen for health (and for that matter, so can a vegan diet, and I do know people who are vegan on a health-basis rather than an animal-welfare basis). But using the term vegetarian implies that one does not eat meat. Period. If one is a mostly-vegetarian, occasional meat eater, they shouldn't go around telling people they are a vegetarian.

                              1. re: MelMM

                                <<But using the term vegetarian implies that one does not eat meat. Period. If one is a mostly-vegetarian, occasional meat eater, they shouldn't go around telling people they are a vegetarian.>>

                                Why? Where's the harm and how does it impact you?

                                1. re: foodieX2

                                  It impacts me because when I cook for such a person, I will go to great pains to make sure there are no animal products at all in their food, if they say they are vegan (including honey), and if they are vegetarian I will ask about eggs and dairy, but will definitely not include any chicken stock in my cooking, and take pains to make sure the food meets their requirements, even though it means making things differently from how I normally would. It would be pretty annoying to go to that trouble for someone who would turn around and eat a chicken breast the next day.

                                  Also, as someone with celiac disease, who has to follow a gluten-free diet, I suffer when people do not take the requirement seriously because others are going "gluten-free" (kinda-sorta) just for kicks. "Vegetarians" who eat meat engender the same kind of disregard, which negatively impacts anyone who is serious about following a vegetarian diet, whether it be for religious, moral, environmental or health reasons.

                                  1. re: MelMM

                                    Celiacs is disease and I agree that there is harm done when people fake life threatening diseases, as I posted earlier.

                                    However I guess I can't see getting my panties in twist or annoyed over what someone ate the next day. I tend to take people at face value and don't assume they are lying. I have yet to make a meal for someone and have them go "Gotcha! I really eat steak, sucka!" Nor have I ever made a meal saying Oh, darn no veggie broth, guess I'll just use chicken.

                                    I don't consider it a waste of time or energy because it was my choice to decide to cook the meal. If someone told me they only ate "cantonese" it was my choice to learn to make it or to go out instead. Same with learning a guest is vegetarian. My only measure is how good the meal was and if we all enjoyed it.

                                    1. re: foodieX2

                                      When people tell me what they can/cannot/will/will not eat, I take them at face value too. Which means, I take it very seriously. I have no problem adapting to people's diets, whatever they may be. But you can look at many threads here on CH, and see that people do not take a dietary restriction as seriously, if they discover the person does not have a valid health/religious/moral reason, and especially if the "restriction" is one the person is willing to violate at other times. When one person claims a "restriction" that they do not really follow, it does cause harm to those for whom the restriction is real and important.

                                      1. re: MelMM

                                        I'm lucky not to have a religious or moral restriction on what I chose to eat. I sometimes eat very very low carb or very clean if I'm training for an event. That said, if someone invited me to dinner I would happily eat whatever they wanted to feed me even if it was mashed taters and fried dough balls.

                                  2. re: foodieX2

                                    Similarly, suppose you invited me for a steak and potatoes dinner and I told you that I ate only Cantonese food. You might go out of your way to learn how to cook Cantonese dishes or to order them from restaurant. But what if it turns out that I actually eat American food as well? You've spent time, money, and effort to accommodate me when no special accommodations were actually necessary.

                                    1. re: foodieX2

                                      I agree with you. A friend of mine 'went vegan' over a year ago for health reasons. (And has had amazing results.) She has added in an occasional egg or piece of fish. But I think she's correct in describing herself as a "vegan." Were I inviting her to my home for the first time, I'd appreciate that appellation.

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          After surgery for a broken foot in February, the muscles in my leg atrophied (too many weeks in wheelchair, on crutches, etc.). Despite exercise, they were not coming back. My doc told me that I needed more protein, so I've added fish to my diet 2 to 3 times per week. No ankle-swelling issues, and the muscles are coming back. This is how I plan to eat going forward. I believe that diet needs to be fine-tuned to an individual's needs.

                                      1. re: MelMM

                                        I agree that they should not.

                                  3. re: mcf

                                    You're absolutely right...but a "vegetarian" diet that has a lot of dairy is probably a less healthy diet than one that includes moderate amounts of meat...or should I say, no ovo-lactarian animal protein. I've unfortunately encountered far too many overweight "vegetarians", getting heart attacks, etc...never a trace of meat, but lots of dairy. I for one believe there are many ways to have a very healthy diet, both herbivorous (vegan) and omnivorous (meat and/or dairy). Its the eater that makes the diet healthy by balancing the right nutrients and quantities...not the food itself. I just get bugged by the terminology......

                                    1. re: EricMM

                                      it's not the dairy, that's the healthiest part of it. It's the very high glycemic load that leads to obesity and heart attacks, not fat and protein.

                                      1. re: EricMM

                                        You can eat a lot of processed, crappy fried foods and still be vegetarian. It's not the dairy that's necessarily bad, just like it's not necessarily meat. And it's possible to be overweight and unhealthy on any diet. Not to mention that what's healthy for one person isn't always for another.

                                    1. re: tcamp

                                      The politically-correct term is "flexitarian" :-)

                                    2. What does it matter what people call themselves? I guess I just don't get the outrage. What is the harm?

                                      Now people who fake allergies instead of admitting they just don't like something? There is real harm in that.

                                      10 Replies
                                      1. re: foodieX2

                                        I have an acquaintance that calls herself vegetarian even though she eats chicken. It drives me absolutely crazy and to answer your question, foodieX2, I don't know why. It might have to do with the fact that I think some people wear their vegetarianism as some badge that they are move evolved than the meat eaters and she's one of them. I just wish she would say that she doesn't eat red meat.

                                        1. re: dmjordan

                                          Oh I get the driving you crazy part especially when it's a friend and you know for a fact they eat meat but I guess I take the life is too short road and figure they are only making fools of themselves.

                                        2. re: foodieX2

                                          Well, words exist for a reason and they mean a specific thing. It doesn't necessarily hurt anyone if they use the wrong word but it does lead to a lot of confusion.

                                          Vegetarian means a person who eats no animal flesh (or derivative thereof); vegan means a person who eats (and often wears) no animal product; and omnivore means a person who eats a bit of everything in varying degrees. If you want to be more precise, newer words like pescatarian and flexitarian give the nuances.

                                          So why use the wrong word when you can use the right one?

                                          1. re: piccola

                                            But whats the "right" word and whose to say what is right??

                                            If a person identifies as vegetarian what issue does it cause you if they occasionally ingest animal protein? Seriously? I don't see how it denigrates the "cause", or the label. If a person says they are vegetarian, vegan, etc it's no skin off my nose. I don't see the point in forcing them to identify otherwise.

                                            I have a friend who identifies as lesbian. She has, on rare occasion, entered into a relationship with a man. Who am I to tell her she should identify and/or label herself as bisexual? it just opens the door to more questions and analysis that she neither cares for or wants so she says she a lesbian,

                                            1. re: foodieX2

                                              And what issue does it cause you if someone has an issue with it? Yours is a circular argument with no end. 90% of what's posted on his site can be responded to with a "so what". People are more complex than that.

                                              1. re: carolinadawg

                                                I guess its because I don't get why any one has an issue with how someone else identifies. But if this is what your big issue is, have it…so not worth my energy.

                                                1. re: foodieX2

                                                  LOL, yes, not worth your energy, but you've posted about it what, 4 times? Btw, it's not MY issue, big or otherwise. And to repeat, there's no difference between your exasperation at someone who does have an issue with it, and their exasperation with someone claiming to be something they're not.

                                                  1. re: foodieX2

                                                    OK flip it around then - if the definition of the term can be so loose and does not matter - free for interpretation as it were - it is OK for me to invite people for a "vegetarian dinner" at my house that includes dishes poached in veal broth seasoned with fish sauce and fried in lard - outside of being one of the tastiest "vegetarian" meals my guests ever had they may be pretty pissed when they ask for the recipe. Well... that's what I personally consider "vegetarian" oops! Sorry your definition is different than mine.

                                                2. re: foodieX2

                                                  It matters because if I am serving a meal to someone who says they are vegetarian, I want to make sure I serve them the right foods. I really don't care if they eat meat every other day; I just don't want to be the one to serve it to them.

                                                  I don't care about people's hypocrisy (I'm a hypocrite myself), but I do care to respect what they say about themselves at the moment I'm serving them. So if you tell me you're a lesbian, I really don't care how many men you've dated, I just won't try to set you up with one, and if you tell me you're a vegetarian, I'm serving you stuffed eggplant or some other meatless dish.

                                                  1. re: Isolda

                                                    And that is all someone who identifies as vegetarian wants-to be accepted at face value. As long as the foods good who cares if it has meat or not? If it is such a pain to make stuffed eggplant or other meatless dish than don't and let the "vegetarian" decide for themselves whether to accept your invitation.

                                                    Again, who cares what they eat the next day? My niece is a vegetarian but for a while she made an exception for her dad's steak. She would go months not eating any meat but then be tempted but only by her dad's steak. Why does she need to justify her eating habits or have to eat someone else <insert meat product here> just because she ate steak 2 or 3 times a year? Can't she just say she's a vegetarian? Why does she have to explain that on rare exception she has a few bites of red meat? Doesn't that just confuse things?

                                                    On a side note the steak thing only lasted about a year and she has not had meat or meat by products for years. Personally it was easier to consider her strictly vegetarian and then let her decide than for me to make it for her. I would hate to think someone would disregard her claim to vegetarianism because she once ate, and someday may again, eat meat.

                                            2. Great topic! Many interesting stories and threads.

                                              Vegetarian for 20+ years.

                                              I think the key is to have some flexibility and a sense of humor (but isn't that the key to life???).

                                              Once I attended a lovely Thanksgiving feast where a non-American woman attended, proudly bearing her first contribution to this oh-so-American feast. She brought quiche Lorraine!!! Which I found fun and quirky. Of course I ate a bite! This was her first Thanksgiving and it was totally more about the comraderie than the food.

                                              Health wise I had to add non-plant protein to my diet ( I chose salmon about 2X per week) this past year. Boy was ~that ~ hard.

                                              Love animals! Love humans too!!!

                                              1. I Once asked "what vegetarian options are there" at the high school cafeteria.

                                                "We have chicken fried rice."
                                                "I don't eat chicken"
                                                "I thought vegetarians eat chicken"

                                                I was very confused. Still am.

                                                2 Replies
                                                  1. re: youareabunny

                                                    I have had the same exact conversation!

                                                  2. I have no problem with vegetarians. They're quite tasty. Flame me now. ;)

                                                    By the way, I had a curious revelation reading this thread. Pretty much all of the land animals that we eat are "vegetarians." Many if not most of the fish species we eat are carnivores or at least omnivores.

                                                    10 Replies
                                                    1. re: Bkeats

                                                      Pigs are omnivores. Chickens, turkeys and ducks will eat just about any insect or other small creature they can catch if they are raised on pasture.

                                                      1. re: Eldon Kreider

                                                        One of the things I've learned since turning to pastured eggs is that when you see eggs labeled as "vegetarian," that's not a good thing because as you say, they're omnivores. So, let's see, cows and sheep are vegetarians; what else?

                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                          Horses, goats and camels although only goats are somewhat commonly eaten in the United States. I am sure we could come up with more example using other countries.

                                                          Chickens really love to eat slugs and earthworms but are not too good at catching the latter.

                                                          1. re: Eldon Kreider

                                                            Thanks for broadening my focus. Yes, I was just thinking of the US.

                                                            1. re: Eldon Kreider

                                                              We do eat deer and bison in the US, both vegetarian as well as rabbits and squirrels. Pigs are the only quadruped we eat, that I can think of, that is not vegetarian. We eat birds that eat bugs, but not birds that eat carrion (crows, vultures). Although some of the chicken we eat has essentially been eating carrion (animal meal mixed into their feed), even though that wouldn't be the chicken's natural diet.

                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                  I was not implying that they are, or that chickens are vegetarian. Just adding to the list of animals we eat and what they eat.

                                                                  1. re: MelMM

                                                                    But as kengk points out, chickens will eat anything.

                                                                2. re: MelMM

                                                                  Chickens running around loose will absolutely eat anything dead that they can find.

                                                                  1. re: MelMM

                                                                    Squirrels will really dig up a lawn infested with grubs to eat them.

                                                                    Bears, raccoons and opossums are omnivores and quadrupeds eaten in parts of the United States.

                                                                    I would expand kengk's comment on chickens to they will eat anything small they can catch dead or alive.

                                                          2. I have a friend who claims to be a vegetarian. She knows that she is not really a vegetarian, she just finds it easier to say vegetarian than explain to people that she doesn't like to eat the flesh of fish, fowl or beast.

                                                            She will eat a soup or sauce that has meat broth in it. I don't have a problem with it.

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: kengk

                                                              Yeah, I've got a friend like that. She just doesn't like the texture and idea of meat but is fine with, say, chicken broth or shrimp paste. Pretty easy to cook for and vegetarian is the easiest way to describe her.

                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                  I don't know- is that any more accurate than vegetarian? I think all you can do is just ask what they're ok with. Some people don't want to eat food from the same grill as meat and others don't care as long as there's no actual flesh (what a terrible word, by the way).

                                                              1. re: kengk

                                                                I think that this is an important distinction - that sometimes "rounding up" is easier than explaining a huge laundry list of dietary preferences.

                                                                My mom for example keeps kosher style - which for her means that the only (land) meat products she'll eat have to be kosher, she'll eat fish (but no shellfish) and vegetarian in a restaurant - and while she'll ask about the broth in a soup, she won't chase down the ingredients of every sauce to verify their plant/fish provinence. Ultimately the details of her chosen diet are very involved and specific to a number of rotating factors. But if she's invited to dinner in a non-observant Jewish home, or at a conference/wedding - she'll just tell people that she's a vegetarian.

                                                                If my mom was asked in a survey if she was a vegetarian I don't think that she would yes. But I'm not sure. I know that she doesn't consider herself a vegetarian and is aware of what that means - but for a survey she might not want to group herself with traditional meat eaters. My boss is like this about being vegan. She's mostly vegan but doesn't want to explain at which times/reasons she'll eat eggs, dairy or honey.

                                                              2. I just don't see the need people have to label themselves. I guess if a host asks if you have a special diet it would be helpful, but putting a name on it limits you and makes you look hypocritical when you "cheat". A family member is constantly trying out new labels - first it was vegetarian, then pescatarian, then vegan during the week, but would eat eggs or cheese on weekends. Why not just 1. Eat what you want - really it does not affect me. 2. Don't talk about it all the damn time. I don't care unless you're coming to dinner. 3. Don't try to change how I eat because it will make me like you less. (Same with religion, when I stop to think about it.) My brother is experimenting with vegetarianism, and has started saying (only if asked) "I try not to eat much meat". This way people are accomodating, but no one points and shouts if he sneaks a chicken wing or piece of pepperoni.

                                                                1. I'm sure these people are just unaware of the difference between a vegetarian and pescatarian, pollotarian, flexitarian(or they were not given the option in this survey) so they explain their diet as vegetarian when they are technically not. Although I don't particularly like labels, sometimes they are necessary(when having dinner out or for a survey about diet;). Any sort of cut back is good for health and the environment and they don't deserve criticism for their misunderstanding of "definitions".

                                                                  I don't agree with people calling themselves "vegetarian" for attention when they really are not, but don't bash the people who are truly trying to make a difference, because that's more than a lot of us are whiling to do.