I have been a lacto-ovo vegetarian for approximately half my life now... and I very rarely miss eating meat! In fact the only dishes I really miss, tend to be those that are attached to memories... so I often wonder if it is really the meat or the memory which I miss.

The main reason that I am vegetarian, is because I feel that we should not intentionally kill or harm other beings - humans or animals! I keep this in mind when I choose the foods that I purchase, and eat. I feel we should try to minimise even the harm we do by consuming a vegetarian diet - to other life in general.

I don't beat myself up if I accidentally eat meat. If a friend prepares something which they think is vegetarian, I will still eat it without complaint. (unless it is one of many dishes, in which case i simply avoid that dish) - note this does not include things which are obviously not vegetarian such as chicken or fish, it applies to ingredients such as gelatin or oyster sauce.

Jellies and ice-creams are commonly thought to be vegetarian, so I won't make a fuss outside of my own home. Though when I purchase anything for myself I will check the label first.

Many "spices" may not even be vegetarian - such as maldive fish chips in Sri Lanka and bonito flakes in Japan. If I refuse to eat a dish made with these "spices", I feel that I am doing more harm than good - hurting a friend's feelings, for an animal that is already dead, and purchased by someone who would have purchased it anyway. But I won't use these spices myself.

I did once a few years ago try to eat a fried rice with ham in it, at a restaurant where the waiter spoke poor English. I think I managed to eat only a few pieces of the ham, and had to set aside the rest of it. My philosophy is that I definitely had not requested the dish, but once it was made, it was also a waste of food (and life) to send the whole thing back. I'm sure that many vegetarians will not agree with this point of view. Once you have been vegetarian for this long... it is very difficult to eat meat at all!... it tends to give you indigestion and can be quite nauseating.

I like the way that the Buddha instructed his monks to eat whatever they were given, UNLESS they suspected that an animal had actually been killed specifically for them. If the monks were offered some portion of someone else's lunch, whether or not it contained meat, they were to accept wholeheartedly. However, the monks were not to be the cause in any way of an animal's death.

Nowadays, I feel that all the meat in our supermarkets is killed specifically for us. The supermarket system works on supply and demand, and I refuse to be a part of that demand.

Milk and Eggs are more difficult for me to avoid. I have reduced my intake of milk and eggs over the years. My favourite soy milk (Vitasoy CalciPlus) provides adequate Vitamin B12, calcium and Vitamin D. However, I am a big believer in having a varied diet, and eating foods which are as natural as possible. Fortified soy milk does not tick all those boxes! There are still ways to minimise the harm to animals from the consumption of milk and eggs. I currently only buy UHT milk (interspersed with the soy milk) - I believe that UHT milk with its very long shelf life leads to much less wastage than fresh milk. I only buy free range eggs -in the hope that at least those chickens are not dying unnecessarily.

Agriculture of fruit and vegetables probably harms many small animals that we hardly consider on a daily basis - insects, worms, rodents. I think the only way to minimise such harm is to try not to waste our food, and also try not to over-indulge! If we only buy what we really need - then the demand on the farmers is only for the amount that is truly necessary for us. The more we waste, the more we overindulge, the more demand there appears to be for more food, and the more land is used for farming. We probably should also consider that the plants we use are also alive in some way, and minimise what harm we do to them - but that is probably some years away.
Finally, luckily for me, there are many health benefits to a vegetarian diet. It is quite difficult to be overweight if you are vegetarian. It is possible - fry all your vegetables, and you will be obese before you know it!... but if you eat reasonably healthy home-cooked meals you are unlikely to be overweight. The variety of fruit and vegetables consumed by a vegetarian tends to provide more vitamins, phytochemicals, antioxidants and fibre than more carnivorous diets. Vegetarians are more likely to have lower cholesterol levels due to the lack of saturated fat and higher fibre intake. Vegetarians have lower blood pressure due to a lower intake of salt (vegetables don't naturally contain much salt unlike meat). Vegetarians have better control of their blood sugar (less diabetes), because they tend to have meals with a lower glycaemic index.

The only nutrients which are difficult to obtain for a vegetarian are iron and vitamin B12 - see my health information page. Iron is found in vegetables, and is unlikely to be a problem unless you are female. Vitamin B12 is much more difficult for vegetarians to obtain as it is only found naturally in animal products. Unless you eat eggs or dairy products, this means that some sort of vitamin B12 supplement or fortified foods will be necessary.

For me... I think lact-ovo vegetarianism is the right balance... at present. I do still aim to reduce my intake of eggs and dairy... but I think I may have to search further for other vitamin B12 sources.