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Russia’s Vegetarians Thrive, Despite Prejudice

Published: May 16, 2012 (Issue # 1708)



  • Fruit and vegetables were grown in allotments on New Holland island last summer.
    Photo: ALEXANDER AKSAKOV / SPT

Although vegetarianism is not as popular in Russia as in many Western countries and some Russian psychiatrists even consider some of its forms to be indicators of mental illness, the number of Russian vegetarians and vegans continues to grow.

St. Petersburg resident Lembit Lemsipp, a 33-year-old Russian translator who gave a pseudonym for this article, said his major motivation for becoming a vegan was “feeling disgusted with the idea of brutality and torture.”

“I reckon there was some influence from the hardcore punk scene and the health and environmental benefits of the vegetarian diet were appealing,” said Lemsipp, who became a vegan in 1997 when he was 18.

Lemsipp said that now it is quite easy to find most of the vegan food he needs in St. Petersburg.

Vera Kozlovskaya, 30, who teaches at St. Petersburg Polytechnic University, said it took her about five years to make her decision to become a vegetarian.

“We always had animals in our family, and my parents taught me to love animals and nature, and at some point I realized it was hypocritical to say that I love animals but at the same time eat them and wear clothes made of leather and fur,” Kozlovskaya said.

Kozlovskaya said she then thought that vegetarians were doing the right thing by not eating meat, but she still couldn’t make a final decision for herself. She thought she wouldn’t be able to avoid eating meat and didn’t want to inconvenience her parents, with whom she lived, by making them cook special meals for her.

However, when Kozlovskaya was 22, she came home one day and told her mother that she would not be eating meat anymore. Three years ago, she switched from vegetarianism to veganism. She does not wear clothes made from leather or fur, and tries to avoid buying things made of wool.

Kozlovskaya said her parents soon accepted her choice. The other advantage of her new lifestyle was that she finally learnt to cook herself, she said, and it even became a hobby.

Nadezhda Davydova, a 45-year-old PR manager, became a vegetarian “in a completely natural way,” as she put it.

“In fact, I never felt any particular inclination to eat meat, but would eat barbequed meat at picnics with my friends two or three times a year. Then, 12 years ago, I suddenly noticed that I hadn’t eaten any meat for more than a year, just because I didn’t feel like it. At that time I would still have fish at my friends’ for dinner or at a restaurant, but gradually fish also disappeared from my diet,” Davydova said.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Jan. 30 through Wednesday, Feb. 4



A retrospective of the films of Roman Polanski starts today at Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt, with a screening of ‘Repulsion’ at 7 p.m. and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ at 9:15 p.m. The series runs through Feb. 4 and will include Polanski's eminently creepy ‘The Tenant,’ the cult comedy ‘The Fearless Vampire Killers’ and ‘Cul-de-sac’ among others. Tickets are 150-200 rubles and the complete schedule is available at www.vk.com/artpokaz/



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