Tofu or not tofu?: “A vegetarian’s perspective”

9 March 2012

Written by: Madeline McCarty

So, I can’t base my decision of becoming a vegetarian purely as an individual choice. Although, it was ultimately my decision, there was a major influence which came from those close to me leading to the lifestyle choice I have made.

These people I refer to are namely my father and my housemate with whom I lived with for a year.

A lot of things interested me about my housemate; she was from Sri Lanka, and its exoticism intrigued me to no end–inspiring countless questions. None so much, however, as those regarding the religion and philosophy Buddhism, applied by many in Sri Lanka. Over quite a few nights I would sit with her, having discussions about the precepts, with her answering a million of my seemingly inane questions such as, ‘What does this, that and the other mean and what does that mean for you as a Buddhist…’

These talks ultimately caused me to think about how I approach people and circumstances in life – already feeling that I needed to be more compassionate towards others in life, I started to feel that Buddhism might be for me.

Buddhists primarily believe in reincarnation, believing that we can come back as anything in our next life depending on what we do in this one. So, taking note of this, I started to form my own reasoning in my head which ultimately lead to the pivotal moment when after work one evening while eating a chicken burger I looked down at it and thought, ‘This used to be alive. This is so wrong!’ That was May, 2011 and I’ve been Vegetarian ever since.

Now, I’m not saying that it was easy. It’s not and I have slipped up a few times, unconsciously consuming things that you never would have thought had animal products in them. There have been times when I have reached for the old glass of red, only to discover that deep within it’s smooth red, surface lies a fishy secret, literally. Isinglass – used in the process of fining some wines, is made from fish bladders. So, I have to be careful next time I go to pop a cork. When I slip up, however, I don’t throw in the towel; instead I make a note for next time.

My other influence, my dairy farmer father and my childhood on the farm has has also had an impact on why I am the way I am, today. I am left with fond memories of visiting the cows in the paddock with Dad on the motorbike, hand-rearing and playing with the calves. I feel that this upbringing, living so closely with these animals has allowed me to develop a profound respect for all animals. I believe that this may have contributed to why I have consciously chosen to become a vegetarian and not a vegan, as I am aware that while not all livestock are treated with respect, I know first hand that they can be.

Madeleine McCarty is in her final year of a Bachelor of Arts with a Major in Media Studies at La Trobe University. She is 1/9th of the upstart editorial team for 2012. This is her second piece for upstart. You can follow her on Twitter @MadeleineKMcC