Dairy is f*cking scary.

I’ve spoken about my very slow transition away from meat over the past year. Although many of my friends and family members have been vegan or vegetarian for years, I was pretty stubborn about it. Noah was a vegetarian for three years before I was. As I became exposed to more conversations about this lifestyle, my defiance started to break down a bit. I didn’t grow up on a farm and I had misconstrued views on how animals live and are raised in meat factories. Wholesome pictures of farmers and free range, happy chickens appear on most packaging in the grocery aisles. Jamie Oliver’s clips on meat manufacturing went viral, showing that ingredients found in household cleaning products and bleaches go in to beloved processed chicken patties and viennas. They say that everyone has their own moment of realisation. You can watch all the documentaries you like, but if something doesn’t resonate with you personally then you won’t be likely to make any switches. I mean why would you? You grew up on meat, eggs, milk and ice cream like every other kid did, and you’re totally fine. I get it.

I’m not a salesman. I’m not going to try bend or force your views and to be honest, I pretty much don’t care what you eat. I don’t know everything or even enough to educate you on anything vegetarian related. I can only really share what it’s been like for me, and how it’s changed the way that I live and feel. I’ve eaten the odd burger or lamb chop over the past year. I ate a slither of meat last weekend. Right now, I’m eager to eliminate dairy from my diet but I wouldn’t push the kids to do the same. I’m sure I’ll still eat the odd food item that contains milk, but I’m going to try.

I’ve become quite interested – no, passionate about nutrition lately. It’s always interested me and I’d really like to take some kind of course on food education. I want to know what (exactly) a carrot does to my body. Which organs does it feed? What happens if you eat strawberries and is orange juice really too acidic for us? I want to know why people are lactose intolerant, or what gluten does to some. Why do some people become addicted to sugar? What does it do to your brain, exactly? I want to know everything there is to know about food – it interests me like nothing else does.

Since cutting out, let’s say 99% of meat from my diet – I’ve definitely felt a switch. Cutting meat was mostly a health decision for me, but the ethical side obviously plays a role. The digestive system is something that really interests me, to be honest. I started reading books on it from varsity. My late brother had celiac disease as a young boy, so his digestive system completely shut down and he briefly malnourished until they figured it out. A boyfriend of mine had the same thing. We all have friends and family who have been affected by diet-specific illnesses such as heart disease or some cancers. We’re all suffering in one way or another under the greed of the food industry. Things do need to change, and we need to take care of and protect ourselves from corporations who don’t have our best interests at the forefront.

For me, the most frustrating reality is that so many (even highly educated) people believe that humans need to eat meat and other animal parts to survive, live and even to thrive. To succeed. Another misconception is that being a vegetarian or vegan is expensive. If you do tell people that actual science has proved over and over again that we do not need to eat animal products, then people get defensive. Mostly, they get defensive because you have just told them that they are eating flesh, harming animals, supporting conglomerates, and potentially jeopardising their own health for well, no reason at all. That they’ve been doing this voluntarily. That’s a hard piece of information to erm, chew on.

Now stop. I don’t think that eating the odd animal product is wrong. While I might eventually chat to the boys about dairy farms, I won’t (ever) ban them from cheese or yoghurt. I won’t deny them birthday cake at a kids party or the odd milkshake because this is a lifestyle that they can commit to personally, if they so choose. You need to give your child the opportunity to learn and discover things on their own count, I think. I still offer Noah meat all the time. I still believe that meat has a place in this world, but I feel it needs to be ethically sourced and enjoyed as a now-and-then and not a daily staple. While we don’t technically need to eat meat, we most definitely do not need to eat it every single day or at every meal. There’s also a sense of gratitude that needs to be incorporated. In some cultures, meat is prayed upon. The animal’s life is celebrated and considered. We’ve become so desensitised in our consumption rate that a cow is now just a whacky wednesday or something to mindlessly throw on a sandwich.

More than this, an animal has not given or sacrificed his life to you. It has been taken by force after it has lived (in most cases) a really awful life. These farmed animals are submissive and afraid. Might is not right. Just because you are able to overpower and kill an animal, does not mean that you have the right to do so. I support dozens of local butcheries and suppliers who go to great lengths to supply ethically sourced meat and seafood. Meat and meat eaters do not repulse or upset me. I’m learning about new things and I really enjoy sharing my feelings about all of this.

And it’s not just meat you guys. It’s GMO foods, pesticides and chemicals used in fresh produce too. I’m looking at the entire food system right now and trying to figure out what the fuck is going on.

I’ll probably always still eat the odd meat item every few months. Maybe I’ll make it a once-a-year tradition, I don’t know. I could never call myself a vegetarian or a vegan or even 100% a pescetarian. I don’t want to ‘disappoint’ myself or make myself vulnerable to being criticised. Most of us are so hard on ourselves every day, and I don’t think I could ever handle the pressure of a label.

What I am going to do, is be open minded. Learn. Educate myself on the food industry. I want to learn from others and keep this an open conversation. I went to the aquarium the other day and for the first time in my life, opened my mind to information about red and green lists on seafood. I’ve let people lecture and inform me without feeling defensive or raising any walls. It’s humbling. I’m inherently stubborn and I’m enjoying this more relaxed, or even mature acceptance of the information that’s so readily available to me.

I’d previously dismissed all documentaries or even communication about the dairy industry. My love for yoghurt, cheese and milk knew no exceptions. It was all fine, and as long as I ignored it; it would not affect me. Then this tiny video clip started playing automatically in my feed last week and goddammit it’s changed me. I made myself watch it again and again. I’ve always avoided the “Cowspiracy” documentary and hell I may as well watch it now.

I think that people feel that vegans are smug. Or mean. Forceful. Crazy, even. Remember that vegan and vegetarian people were exactly like you probably even months ago. Burger-loving, ice-cream eating regular consumers just exactly like you are. There’s a feeling of empowerment that comes with being educated about these things, like you know something that nobody else does. You know what’s really going on. It makes you feel aware. Enlightened. Worldly, even. And like any other good or powerful experience, you want to share that with others. They want you to experience what they are, and people share information in different ways.

I (well obviously) don’t like seeing clips of animals being slaughtered in my timeline. It ruins my entire day. Last week there was this video about a rabbit screaming while his fur was being plucked and I can still hear that godawful sound. I don’t need (or even deserve, if I may) to see that, you know. So I won’t do that to you. Sometimes I see something particularly interesting or articulated in a way that I’m not able to express and I might share that. This (really short and punchy) video clip I saw about the dairy industry is pretty safe, and tame. You should know where your food or milk comes from, and this is it. It’s a summary and narrated by a girl so cool that I went and watched all her other clips too. Here it is: Dairy is Fucking Scary

  • Che

    February 16, 2016 at 9:35 am Reply

    yes love this post! and the humility with which you are approaching everything! watched this clip a few weeks (months?) ago – it’s hectic! big ups!! xxx

    • Natasha Clark

      February 16, 2016 at 9:43 am Reply

      I’m busy watching alllll her clips right now. Thanks Che! xx We’re all learning this stuff. Still want to hear more about your approach!

  • Bernice Griffiths AKA Betty Bake

    February 16, 2016 at 9:49 am Reply

    great blogpost Natasha – woah! I feel a bit freaked out by that video,,,it made me want to cry! I don’t do dairy already BUT this just cements it in place!!!!!

    • Natasha Clark

      February 16, 2016 at 9:51 am Reply

      Flip I’ve seen so many videos and documentaries that are so much worse that I felt this one was quite tame? Whoops! Thanks hun!

  • KateF

    February 16, 2016 at 10:56 am Reply

    I seriously love how open and honest you are about your choices but also not wanting to force others to follow suit. I find your food posts (for lack of a better word) so thought provoking. I won’t lie, I’m too scared to watch the video because I am a big cry baby but you’ve planted the seed to at least think about looking at it.

    I am on day 137 of a pescatarian lifestyle and I have no desire to go back to the way I was eating before. Ideally I would like to get off the fish completely but I really do love my once a month sushi treat so that will be tough to give up at this stage. But just like stopping to eat meat, a seed had to be planted first and then only later did I make my choice so I’m getting there.

    I am worried though that my food choices are still wrong or unhealthy. I eat quite a few Fry’s products but I see they are quite high in sodium. What are your thoughts on meat replacement products like Fry’s?

    • Natasha Clark

      February 16, 2016 at 11:11 am Reply

      Hey Kate! I love the pescatarian life – isn’t it the best? I felt so good on it, but then after a while the taste of fish has become quite strong. Had to force some tuna down last week and I usually LOVE FISH. Can’t wait for my chickens to give eggs! xx

  • Jane Paterson

    February 16, 2016 at 12:51 pm Reply

    Hi Natasha,

    If you’re interested in doing something in nutrition – have a look at the South African Association for Nutritional Therapy website. They will give you some ideas and institutions to look at for further study options. I am currently studying a BSc in nutritional science via CNELM and loving it! You can study part-time or full-time. Maybe something to look into?

  • Christine

    February 16, 2016 at 6:46 pm Reply

    What’s scary is that’s a “tame” video… It made me want to cry!! I have been pescatarian for years now but have always loved dairy but I have become increasingly aware of the fact that it’s now what it appears to be. I also realized it’s a key ingredient in almost anything that’s not great to eat – pizza, cake, creamy pasta… I figure you cut the dairy and you cut a whole pile of shit that goes with it, both in the food you eat and the dairy industry.

  • Fatima

    February 16, 2016 at 8:08 pm Reply

    My food and eating choices are becoming pretty similar to yours 🙂 we went through a period of watching a lot of food documentaries, we were already cutting out processed foods and sugar but we started moving towards eating less and less meat and more organic fruit and veg, juicing, making smoothies and trying to source dairy and meat from grass fed animals. Religiously we eat only halaal meat (which is prayed over) and the prophetic tradition is to eat meat only occasionally so we try to emulate that. We also try to eat a lot of prophetic foods like dates, olives, cucumbers, melon, figs, pomegranates.

    Have you looked at eating more raw food? My midwife convinced me to do a month of only raw food during the last few weeks of my last pregnancy and even though I found it hard and did it grudgingly, I felt fantastic and had an awesome recovery post birth! I don’t think I could do it as a lifestyle but my husband and I do it every now and again as a detox or “reboot” ( talking about a reboot, have you seen “fat, sick and nearly dead”? That and “That Sugar Film” have been the most interesting food documentaries I’ve watched recently.)

  • Jana

    June 27, 2016 at 5:54 am Reply

    I also watched all her clips! I feel very much like you. I try and so healthy fruit and veg, rye and prefer only game that my husband hunted, since it feels more ethical than a cow. Being a runner, I am looking at nutrition from a long distance running perspective and am eager to learn all I can about that. Let me know when you find that course you want to take! ?

Post a Reply to Fatima Cancel Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.