Deena Shanker

How to Become a Vegetarian (Recipes, Diets, Beginner's Guide)

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There are countless reasons that may have been behind your decision not to eat meat: moral, practical, and health-related are only a few. If you are like most people, the the first step in your process of going vegetarian is figuring out exactly what led you to this decision.

Maybe, like many vegetarians, you simply believe that eating animals is wrong. No matter how humanely the animal was raised, or how allegedly painless the slaughter, you simply will not be responsible for ending another life. One vegetarian recalled how this moral truth was evident to her from a young age, but she didn’t make the switch until much later in life, mostly because she hadn’t known how.

Perhaps, though, your ethical conflict is less black and white, and you are more opposed to the practices involved in eating meat than the theory behind it.

You may have seen a video like this one of brutal slaughterhouse procedures produced by the Humane Society, or you are one of the millions of readers of books by Jonathan Safran Foer, Eric Schlosser, and Michael Pollan chronicling the cruelty, corruption, and staggering environmental effects of the factory farming industry.


Deena Shanker is a writer living in San Francisco. After moving to the west coast from New York City in the fall, she is loving San Fran's beautiful weather, colorful architecture, and never-ending vegetarian food options. She loves visiting the beach with her dog, Barley, and eating cheese (also sometimes with Barley). She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and Barnard College.


It’s almost inevitable that you will face some scrutiny about your choice to become a vegetarian. People are going to ask you why, and more often than not, they will tell you why you’re wrong. Know yourself and the reasons behind your decision and don’t try to persuade anyone else to give up meat. Be careful to watch your tone so that you don’t reproach people you care about, even if they are doing it to you.

I recommend gaging the person’s interest before continuing the conversation. Are they just asking you to be polite or do they really care? If the person really cares, give a short explanation that isn’t too graphic. (E.g., “Animals are often slaughtered in an unnecessary cruel and inhumane manner” is better than “Did you know that cows are often skinned before they’re even dead?”)

If the person is less engaged, you may want to suggest some of the reading, movies, or websites that played a role in your decision and leave it at that.

Also, be tactful. Don’t talk about the cruel treatment of animals right when your dining partner is digging into his burger. Don’t send a PETA video to a friend that has no interest in learning about it. You are unlikely to change your friends’ habits, but you may end up offending or alienating people important to you.

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