Problems have solutions and often the solutions are more straightforward than you would think. Not getting enough protein? Take a supplement. Don’t like eating meat? Don’t eat meat. Looking for an easy, tasty, nutritious way to eat sustainable? Eat FABA.
A dilemma is different to a problem because anyway you try to manage a dilemma requires an unavoidable compromise.
A Dilemma before the Vegan Dilemma
My housemate and I were on Orchard Road after we won a meet and greet with the Formula 1 drivers from Alfa Romeo, Valterri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu. Amongst the throngs of people, we had a tough choice to make. We had won the competition for the meet and greet, but only one of us was allowed to meet them. Both of us wanted the other to go. Both of us wanted to go ourselves, and regardless of what happened, we would both be disappointed.
We took out a $1 coin and played crest or tails – there’s no head on the Singaporean $1 coin – and my housemate won. We could blame luck if we wanted, but it was an easy way to manage a dilemma.
The Vegan Dilemma of Being Served the Wrong Food
After the festivities we settled on a Mexican restaurant around the corner from the meet and greet, ordered via the QR code and waited for our food. At this stage I was about 45 days into my vegan transition. I am taking a period to focus on learning how to be vegan properly as I had noticed a lot of people who cut animal products out of their diets often didn’t make the right correction to eating a full, nutritional meal. You can check that piece out here.
My order came out. It was a Californian styled burrito bowl with tofu, rice, guacamole, and French fries.
After one bite I realised I had been given the wrong order and that I was eating meat.
My Motivation for Eating a Vegan Diet is Sustainability
From my time reading, living, and working in and around sustainable food, I’ve come to see vegans in two broad buckets. V1 and V2.
I am writing a separate piece about this later on, but the essential difference is V1 Vegans are predominantly concerned with animal rights and the morality of eating animals. This is the Vegan most of the world has come to know through activism in the last 50 years.
Then there’s a more new-age V2 vegan that may stick more to the term plant-based, who is predominantly motivated by concerns around the sustainability of animal husbandry, and the negative impact it has on the environment.
The unwanted part of my burrito, beef, has a few touch points for its challenge to the environment. Contributing factors include the methane cows produce, deforestation in places like Brazil that are linked to a growing global demand for beef, and the consumption of food and water by cows so we can grow them to a weight suitable to eat. They literally chew up a lot of resources.
Back to my Not-Quite-Vegan-Burrito
I personally don't have a problem with the taste of meat, and I’ve not drawn my battle lines on a personal battle against the idea of meat consumption itself. For me, my line is drawn on sustainability and how to eat in a way that’s good for me, and good for the environment.
The dilemma I faced was that if I ate the wrap, I’m consuming a high carbon footprint food. But if I didn’t eat the wrap (one that I had already bitten into because you can’t see what’s inside) I would be wasting it, and for me, I care more about the waste than the attachment to meat.
There is no Perfect Solution
I went online Facebook group Vegans in Singapore that has over 15k members and is a hot bed for tips around town for new and old vegans alike. I posted my experience and had a huge amount of feedback.
Interestingly, we then took that to our community on Instagram and saw a different alignment over there.
Final Thoughts, for now
As sustainability grows and becomes a more pressing concern, we are forced to rethink many aspects of our food chain. And this includes waste. Even the activist approach of saying no to meat in every situation might need to be reconsidered.
In hindsight, in the moment, I made the wrong call. I sent my burrito back and got a new one. If it happens again, I'll either grin and bear it, I'll palm it off the a friend and get a replacement, or I'll surgically remove the beef and add in a new protein.
But there's no obvious correct solution.