There are so many clichs about vegetarians. They are all militant preachers who want to stop the world from eating meat. They are hippies who only eat herbs and soya. Or maybe they are something completely different? I am going to tell you all about my life as a vegetarian. Decide for yourself in which category I belong to.

How did it start?

I never liked eating meat, not even as a kid. Besides not liking the taste, the stuff somehow always got stuck in my teeth. As a kid, I was also very fond of animals, and I took lessons in horseback riding, I kept budgies and a guinea pig as pets and took dogs for walks as my first part-time job. As soon as I learned that meat was actually made of dead animals, I liked eating it even less.

I was about 13 when I finally made the decision to become a vegetarian. This was after I saw documentaries on TV in which animal transports were shown in all their gory details: cows being lifted around in cranes and people not caring if they broke their legs in the process and animals being taken all across countries in sticky wagons where they had neither enough space nor enough to eat or drink causing death for many on the journey. I was shocked and started to read more about the topic. I also disagreed with the ways animals were kept even if they were not transported to anywhere such as being locked up in places where they had no space to move and no daylight. Those animals experienced only torture before they were finally killed and consumed by their tormentors, human beings. I decided that I was not going to support this any longer, and stopped eating meat.

What do I eat?

I always think that my eating philosophy is pretty simple. I eat no dead animals. This means no meat, no sausages, no bacon, no ham, etc. Animals for me includes any kind of animal, including fish. It is still a mystery to me how someone can claim to be a vegetarian, yet still eat fish or even chicken. To me every animal is the same, whether it is a dog, a horse or a pig. I don't understand people who say that they find it disgusting that dogs are eaten in China, yet eat mutton and pork

every day without even thinking about it.

I do drink milk though, as well as consuming all dairy products. I hold great admiration for vegans, who eat no animal products at all. However, I couldn't do without my cheese. Eggs are a borderline case. Strictly speaking, eggs are only some kind of animal bodies if they have been

fertilized. I still limit eating them though, but I don't refrain from it altogether. I would still eat anything whose dough has eggs in it. I rarely eat pure eggs and if I do I usually check whether they are free range eggs, because I am not willing to support chicken farms with batteries either.

Aren't I afraid of losing out on vitamins? some of you might ask. I don't deny that there might be some health risk in the way I eat. therefore, I am trying to consume vitamins contained in meat in other ways, either through fruits and vegetables or through tablets. The borderline is that I don't believe that the vitamins contained in meat would truly be able to do me any good. Food that makes me sick can't be healthy for me.

Do I hate all meat eaters?

The answer to this is very simple. I have no problems with meat eaters, except for those who can't accept my being a veggie. I would never tell others what to eat. I know that there exist groups who want to stop others from eating meat. All over Germany you can see posters of

tormented animals, screaming at the viewers 'Don't eat us'. While I can understand the reasons for such campaigns, I believe that those people are using a wrong method. People won't be forced to stop eating meat. They will only do so out of their own conviction. Thinking back to how I myself became a veggie, there was no force involved anywhere. If someone had tried to force me to stop eating meat, I might not be a veggie today. I believe this is how the human mind works most times. Your decisions are made according to your own convistions and not outside force.

This is why I can't understand people who preach to me that I am supposed to start eating meat again. I have been a vegetarian for 11 years now, and it should be obvious to anyone that this is more than a passing mood that can be changed by anybody who just presents a sufficient number of convincing reasons to me. This won't work, folks.

How do others react?

My family members were appalled at first. Some of them still haven't accepted my decision, and interestingly those are the people that also have rather little tolerance in other areas of life. My family was the first to show me that the reaction to my telling someone that I am a veggie can show me a lot about their open-mindedness in general.

Well, of course when I am invited to someone's party or to stay at someone's place for a holiday, I have to tell them that I am a vegetarian. Most people react to that positively. Some make jokes that must sound very funny to them, but to me they are boring because I have heard them so many times.

"I will have to hide my plants from you," would be one comment. Others arrange their jokes coming from the other way and make funny remarks about serving me only meat and see what I will do. The answer is simple, I will either fast for the day, or go out and eat somewhere else.

All my girl friends have been terrific and very supportive about it all along, even though most of them are non-veggies themselves. Whenever I cooked with friends, we either had something vegetarian or two different plates. For some reason, though, some of my past boyfriends had a big problem about my being a vegetarian. For example, one kept preaching to me about my health, and another one came up with the argument that it would be bad for our harmony as a couple if he was eating meat and I was not. At the end of the day, both guys were unable to accept me as the person as I am, which could have told me much about the relationships

themselves, even though none of my relationships has ever ended for the explicit reason of my being a veggie.

I have never cooked meat for anyone, guy or girl, and I am not going to. I am disgusted by the thought of touching meat, I will not do it. I refuse to do shopping at a butcher's for someone else. I might go to a supermarket and buy something packed up, but I will not do that with joy. I am also very put off by the smell of anything to do with dead animals, especially fish and meat.

I would not go as far as telling others not to eat meat in my presence though, and as long as the smell is not too strong, my own eating pleasure is not disturbed by others' eating meat. The more the thing eaten resembles a living animal, however, the more disgusted I will be.

Where are my limits?

A few bright heads out there would probably like to confront me with the question if I would rather starve than eat meat. The answer to that is simple too. It is no. I am not that fanatic.

In the past I have also eaten fish or other sea food when either there was nothing else available or I didn't want to offend hosts by eating nothing of their food.

Some people have also made efforts by removing the meat, ham or bacon from prepared food and then giving me a dish that still contains too much meat for my taste. Even if they had managed to remove all meat from the plate, I would have found even the remainders of it disgusting. At times I have still eaten such food, most often for the sake of not causing too much fuss or not hurting that person's feelings. I never enjoyed such meals though.

Other than that, I would never eat meat or fish in order to please someone else. This all goes back to my belief that people are making their own choices.

Do I never get tempted?

With meat, no. Never been, and never will. In my first few years of being a veggie, however, I used to get very tempted by sausages. Somehow I liked their smell, even though I am appalled by meat smell. I always reisted this temptation though, until one fine day in the year 2001, a young man whom I then dated was eating some sausage for supper. He had been asking me time and again to eat at least some small little meat thing.

So eventually I gave in because I liked that smell anyway. I took one bite and liked the taste so much that I even took some more. The bloke was over the moon and I was surprised at my own behaviour. However, my pleasure at eating this did not last long. Soon afterwards I started to feel really sick, and this feeling stayed with me the whole day. I guess my digestive system had problems with this kind of food because I hadn't eaten it for so long. But probably the more important factor was psychological. I had acted against my principles and donesomething I had resovled never to do again.

But do you know what? I am still glad that I ate from this sausage that day.

Since then, I have never been tempted any more. The smell of sausages is no longer delicious to me. It isn't disgusting either, the way that meat is. I guess it's just neutral now.

Do I believe I can change the world?

I certainly don't, but I decided to change my own way of life. I did not do this in order to fight for something. Being a veggie is an attitude to me, nothing more and nothing less.

I know that I can't change the fact that animals are being killed and eaten by human beings. To some degree, I do accept the explanation that there is a food chain, and humans eat animals just like animals eat other animals too. However, what I can't ever agree to is the way human beings treat animals before they are being killed and eaten. If animals can have a pleasant life, with opportunities to be outside every day, breathe fresh air and have enough space to enjoy their lives before they are being killed, I would find it more acceptabe to eat their meat than I do under present circumstances. I would also wish for a humane way to kill them, as quick and painless as possible.

How does being a veggie affect my life?

Honestly, being a veggie has become so much a part of my life that I hardly ever think about it, unless I am confronted with it by the outside world. In the canteen of my university, I used to be annoyed at the fact that the quantity and quality of vegetarian food was even poorer than that of the non-veg stuff. In restaurants I always have to look for vegetarian dishes, which fortunately is not a problem in Germany these days.

I don't usually tell people about being a veggie, unless the topic comes up. Most of them will proceed to ask me about my reasons. I usually sum them up by saying that I have never liked eating meat and don't like the idea of eating a creature that once walked around (well, if it had enough space to, that is - I usually don't add this last bit to people though). Sometimes I also cite to them a saying that I like - "Animals are my friends and I don't eat my friends". Most people are satisfied with that explanation. There is also the danger, though, that someone starts to preach. This is actually one of the reasons why I  usually give short answers. Another reason is simply that it has become pretty tiring to give everyone the same explanation time and again. If

in future anyone should ask about my being a veggie, I will simply refer him or her to this article for further information!