Moving from Meaty to vegetable meals

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suitable for vegetarians label

Majority of residents in Middle East indulge in meat-based diet, which pushes the minority vegetarian group in an awkward predicament. Meveg, a vegetarian support group in Dubai, hopes to introduce a vegetarian lifestyle. The group aims to educate and guide residents away from their meaty diets with a contest to find the most original way of promoting a vegetarian lifestyle.

The contest has asked people to submit slogans, posters, share videos and photos, flyers, cartoons, essays, songs, and music that emphasise the benefits of being a vegetarian. Sandhya Prakash, the organisation’s founder, said “It’s an exciting way of raising awareness and a first for the UAE.”

The deadline was September 10th. There were a total of 56 submissions, and some of them had multiple contributions. The winners will be announced on October 1 – which is marked as the World Vegetarian Day. The winners will receive prizes and their contributions will also be used worldwide for the International Vegetarian Week 2012.

After living in the Middle East for 17 years, Ms Prakash, a vegetarian since birth, said, “Something has to happen to you to change your mind, yet nobody is spreading the awareness. So it’s high time we do it”.

However, being a vegetarian is not that easy. For example, Sora Hana, a 22-year-old Saudi student, has been a vegetarian for six months and most of her acquaintances in Saudi Arabia believe she is “sick”. She said, “They find it strange because it’s not popular here, especially among older people.” Ms Hana feels alienated during family gatherings because of her eating habits.

She is one of the many vegetarians in the Middle East who have vegetable-based meals. “There is now an interest and a definite curiosity thanks to the Internet,” said Ms Prakash. “Vegetarianism happens everywhere else except in the Middle East, so we need to let people know about it.”

MIDDLE EAST VEGETARIAN GROUP (MEVEG)

The?Middle East Vegetarian Group?(MEVEG) is affiliated to the International Vegetarian Union?(IVU). The volunteers run the group with a vision to offer vegetarian as a choice of food for the people. The mission of the group is to provide a One-stop Non-profit Platform for Veg Information exchange, to promote increased consumption of plant based and regional diets, to highlight the variety of tasty vegetarian foods, and to represent Vegan and Vegetarian needs to the food industry.

First MEVEG Congress was held in the UAE last December, which highlighted the importance of making right choices of food by sharing information and expert insights on vegetarian food.

The organization also called on the UAE authorities to implement mandatory ?Veg? symbols on food labels.

Meveg stated that vegans and vegetarians experience difficulty while shopping and eating out. The vegan diet is plant-based, and that exclude meat, fish, poultry, eggs,?animal milks, honey and their derivatives, Prakash said. She added that without a mandatory ?Suitable for Vegetarians? label, it would be difficult for vegetarians to trust if the products they are buying are completely?vegan and has no meat-based derivatives in it. A ?Veg? symbol on the food labels will assure that the packaged product is authentically vegetarian. The motivation to use?vegan labels complements animal rights and?welfare, environmentalism, human rights, and human health.

Meveg is also working on getting all the vegetarian restaurants in the UAE certified by 2012.

Sources: The National, newzglobe.com, Emirates24/7

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