Cheese From the Kill
Here's a little known fact: Most lacto-vegetarians, even ones who are vegetarian for ethical reasons, are unwittingly eating a product that comes from the cadavers of slaughtered calves.
The biggest myth passed around in vegetarian culture is the idea that cheese is just dairy. But cheese almost always contains slaughter products unless it happens to be vegan. VegDen would strongly suggest that all true vegetarians do not patronize any restaurant that serves cheese unless you are totally satisfied with their explanation as to why it supposedly does not contain slaughter-based enzymes such as rennet.
In the quest to achieve a so-called vegetarian diet, there has been a long history of simply switching to other animal products for protein and nutrients. Dairy products are generally the first resort for novice vegetarians. In the USA and elsewhere, this is largely true because of USDA nutritional advisories that have given heavy endorsement to dairy, especially for vegetarians. But even if you accept the idea of cheese being vegetarian, most cheese is actually a slaughter product.
Some of us consume food at a "sacred" level and make our choices accordingly. We not only avoid buying vegetarian food from meat restaurants as much as practical, but we also do not want so-called "vegetarian" foods that were prepared from the same utensils as slaughter products. That means we don't want veggies that were cooked in the same wok where someone else's rennet-laced cheese was just cooked, even if the restaurant calls itself "vegetarian". Eating veggies where common slaughter enzyme cheese was just cooked, is pretty much the same as eating lunch off the surface of a corpse. That's because the enzymes inside the cheese are usually derived from the digestive linings of slaughtered calves.
There was a time back in the 1970s when the label "vegetarian" meant dairy free and dairy consumers where called "lacto-vegetarians" before the word vegan became popular. Many pseudo-vegetarian restaurants may use common cheese having animal slaughter in the form of rennet. If you call yourself a vegetarian restaurant and you are not making absolutely sure that your cheese is free of slaughter enzymes, then you are simply lying to your customers and you are NOT a true vegetarian restaurant by any means. Anyone consuming food with spiritual principles in mind, will be defiled by your misrepresentation and will be consuming unsacred food by reason that it comes from slaughter. The first responsibility of every vegetarian restaurant is to absolutely guarantee truthfully and completely that not one single ingredient in your establishment comes from slaughter. Yet only a small percentage of vegetarian restaurants take the trouble to even care or to do any serious investigation of their sources when it comes to cheese.
Cheesemakers, by and large, have no connection to a vegetarian credo. When vegetarian restaurants or other vegetarian businesses go to find cheese, they generally have four product categories to choose from:
It would seem safe to say that most vegan cheeses are totally without slaughter products given that they are usually made by vegetarian companies. These companies are labeling their cheese vegan. Therefore, they would look ridiculous if someone was able to do a test and found animal slaughter enzymes in their cheese. Organic dairy cheeses are in an entirely different boat. They may be unadulterated by unnatural ingredients but that does not mean they are free of slaughter enzymes. And the largest category, common dairy cheeses are highly likely to contain animal slaughter enzymes.
Rennet may be labeled simply as "enzymes" meaning essentially the same thing. Unless a restaurant can show that they obtain their cheese from a specific cheese company calling itself vegetarian and willing to prove that their manufacturing uses a specific vegetarian enzyme, then my advice is that all cheese is directly laden with slaughter ingredients.
Typical false rationales about cheese in the vegetarian community include the broad sweeping statement that "most cheese uses vegetarian rennet these days". Oh really? I don't think that's true. And even if it were true, it would just be a generality. When you eat cheese, even if it's natural and organic or served at a vegetarian restaurant, you are almost certainly eating enzymes from animal slaughter. No patron should ever trust cheese to be slaughter-free unless the restaurant is willing to provide open and deep dialogue and convincing substantive evidence that their cheese source is slaughter free. Calling yourself a vegetarian restaurant and being one are often two entirely different things. As a restaurant, the truth and intelligence of your cheese purchasing may be the defining difference.
As for vegetarians who like dairy cheese, the best policy is to be extremely wary and inquisitive. Never buy vegetarian foods if you think they were prepared with the same utensils or in the same kitchen where common (slaughter) enzyme cheeses are prepared. Better yet, patronize vegetarian establishments that use no dairy cheese of any kind.
When Can a Vegetarian Cheese Label be Trusted?
Once again, if you are going to be a lacto-veggie, then you should avoid establishments that cannot or will not provide a full and detailed cheese chain of accountibility. Ask to see their cheese labels and get the names of their suppliers. Do your own research. If you are not satisfied, then don't order wok fries from the same kitchen where their cheese is used. Go elsewhere. Or go all the way by going vegan.
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Below are some Wikipedia links about rennet and cheese. You might find other useful pages by searching for "vegetable rennet" online: