By Sukhmani Kaur
“So what do you eat, lettuce?” This is the question I face countless times in my life as a vegetarian. Many people question or look down upon the reason anyone chooses to become a vegetarian; yet, many of these individuals are unaware of the lifestyle vegetarians lead and the characteristics that define who we are. Discrimination is still very prominent in our society, but now it is not only seen among genders, race, and religion.
Vegetarians do not consume the flesh of any animal. Many times people consider vegetarians as individuals who don’t eat meat from a certain animal, as seen in faiths like Islam and Hinduism; however, vegetarians abstain from the consumption of any meat including red meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and much more.
There are many reasons why individuals are drawn to vegetarianism. Some individuals are vegetarians in order to become healthier or to help preserve Earth’s natural resources. Nonetheless, some also do it because it is a common lifestyle in their culture or religion.
For example, in Sikhism, the world’s fifth largest religion, many Sikhs, including myself, are vegetarians because of our belief that eating animal meat is morally wrong. As a Sikh, I believe that everyone is equal and, therefore, we, as humans, do not have the right to take away the life of any other innocent being because everyone has the right to live.
I have encountered many situations in my life where people consider this belief too radical; nevertheless, these individuals fail to realize that the decision of becoming a vegetarian is a personal choice that should be respected.
In addition, many people assume that finding good meals as a vegetarian is the hardest task, but, in reality, that is the easiest part in a vegetarian’s life. The greatest struggle about being a vegetarian is constantly dealing with peers questioning our life choices and making us feel out of place.
A former Granada Hills Charter High School student, Sandeep Kaur, a fellow vegetarian said, “At school, I always bring my own lunch from home. People around me would question why I ate food like this, didn’t buy lunch like them, and the worst of all ask ‘Aren’t you only supposed to eat salad?’ I felt so out of place.”
Discrimination against vegetarians is also very prominent within school lunch programs. Whenever my vegetarian friends and I decide to buy lunch from the cafeteria, we only have two options: salad and cheese pizza. Yet, all the meat eaters are presented with a wide variety of different choices each day. If you look closely, in the very far corner of the cafeteria–isolated–you’ll see two veggie burgers on the side, if we are lucky.
Vegetarians are looked down upon in society and aren’t given the same respect and recognition as meat eaters are given. Society’s ignorance and unaccepting attitude towards vegetarians shows how we have failed to learn from the obstacles in history and are still struggling to find equality amongst one another.
There are many reasons one chooses to become a vegetarian. No matter what the reason may be, we need to be respectful of the choices people make even if we personally do not agree with them. In addition, it’s important that we educate ourselves about vegetarianism and not assume that vegetarians are just grass-eating individuals. In the end should all be respected for who we are and not judged based on assumptions.