Taking The Minecraft Vegetarian Challenge

Taking The Minecraft Vegetarian Challenge

Minecraft is a lot of different things to a lot of different people; a place to trap incredible monsters. For many players it’s simply about survival, which means making sure you have shelter at night, forging armour and weapons with which you can fend off attackers, and somehow finding food to keep your hunger meter full. It’s that last one that presented a problem for me when I picked the game up again recently.

I decided to stop eating meat over a year ago, around the time I turned 25. My family has a history of heart disease, and the way I saw it my life was practically half over. I also really like animals — and not just dogs, although they’re my favourites — and I got tired of killing them for their meat when I know full well there are ample alternatives in our modern society. I had to make a change. I started going to the gym, which hasn’t worked out so well, and I stopped eating meat — which has.

So now I’m a vegetarian, and I’m much happier. But when I started playing the Xbox One edition of Minecraft I found myself in a curious situation: how to play Minecraft successfully without killing any animals?

I wanted to see if I could play Minecraft as I live life: by doing as little harm as possible to my friendly animal neighbours.

When Minecraft arrived on Xbox 360 in 2011 my friends and I delighted for hours and hours in the game’s splitscreen mode, crafting elaborate bases in which we squirreled away our valuables and set traps for one another. We experimented with redstone; I made a complex five-way track switcher — still one of my proudest gaming achievements — with help from a diagram online. We harassed one another constantly, but we played on “peaceful” difficulty so we wouldn’t have to deal with destructive creepers and that pesky hunger meter too.

I did occasionally crank up the difficulty, on Xbox 360 and again later when I built my first gaming PC. I’m not opposed to a challenge — the Souls games are some of my absolute favourites — and I wanted to feel that struggle. But the hunger thing vexed me, and I found myself spending way too much time hunting for pigs whose flesh I could roast for food. It was never long before the chicken drumsticks that represent your hunger started ticking down again, and farming seemed boring, so I eventually went back to peaceful mode and then lost interest in the game for a time.

When the Xbox One version came out I upgraded without thinking, knowing I’d probably get back into it at some point. And my prediction became prophesy when my girlfriend’s Minecraft-obsessed brother came to visit, his laptop in his bag and his pixelated pickaxe never far away. “Two can play that game,” I thought, meaning it literally. So I started it up and, knowing I’d quickly grow bored playing the same way I did three years ago, I selected “normal” difficulty. Daring, I know.

Taking The Minecraft Vegetarian Challenge

I knew I could spend my time hunting pigs through the woods if I wanted to, but I wanted to see if I could play Minecraft as I live life: by doing as little harm as possible to my friendly animal neighbours.

But I’m also not the first person who’s had this thought. There are Minecraft Forum posts suggesting rules for a vegetarian challenge, and the same can be found on many other online communities. Some thoughtful players simply pose the question: “Do vegetarians avoid killing animals in-game?” One respondent says that any who do can’t tell the difference between reality and fantasy, which I don’t necessarily agree with. Imposing your own external rule set on a game is nothing new; it’s called a metagame, and it’s common in communities ranging from competitive first-person shooter players to avid Pokémon trainers.

That’s how I saw my own Minecraft vegetarian challenge: as an extra set of rules that I hoped would force me to play the game more creatively and, ultimately, have more fun.

In the interest of honesty I have to admit that I got off to a rough start when I really quit eating meat back in 2013. I cheated. A few weeks in I drunkenly gorged myself on some home-smoked BBQ pulled pork, and for months I’d regularly eat fish, saying it was to ween myself off meat gradually, like a smoker chewing nicotine gum. I’ll still eat fish very occasionally, in sushi, because I really, really like sushi.

My experience in Minecraft was similar. Although I didn’t have to resort to eating meat or even fish, I did cheat. I’d done a bit of research before starting my challenge in Minecraft, and had decided to start by farming wheat I could bake into bread. But the wheat seemed to take forever to grow, and in the meantime I was mining resources and trying to stay alive with just a single half heart because my hunger meter was constantly empty. I’d fall a few feet off a ledge and die instantly. It’s a pretty great analogy, actually.

Taking The Minecraft Vegetarian Challenge

I had spawned and made my base in a jungle environment, so there were plenty of animals around. They proved a temptation — just until my crops started to grow! — but I resisted, instead abusing the game’s generous save system. I did this a lot during those first few hours, making a bit of progress, getting killed by an errant mob or a careless step, and reloading to a few minutes earlier. That probably explains why I felt like the wheat wasn’t growing, but sitting around waiting for it was like watching low-res paint dry, and I was determined to have fun.

So just like in life, I eventually found a rhythm. The wheat did grow, and I quickly baked more bread than I could carry. I planted a mushroom farm in a dark corner of my mine so I could make stew. I eventually found a carrot on a zombie (I still don’t really get why, but that’s Minecraft) and I started multiplying those in the ground too. I added sugarcane to my farm so I could make cakes and cookies — you have to treat yourself sometimes — and I planted two rows of pumpkins, though you can’t even eat them. I just like the way they look on my farm (update: apparently I can make pumpkin pie! Yay! Thanks commenters).

I don’t think any of the blocky cows and sheep that wander near my jungle home are aware of the fate they avoided when I spawned into their world instead of some other player

Yes, I’m now, for the first time, a self-sustaining Minecraft player. It turns out challenging yourself pays off.

I don’t think any of the blocky cows and sheep that wander near my jungle home are aware of the fate they avoided when I spawned into their world instead of some other player, but that’s part of the beauty of animals. They’re wonderfully naive. I did befriend a dog, using bones from a hostile skeleton — it was self defence! — and I’ve been trying to tame a cat, though just like in real life that’s significantly more challenging. I’m feeding it fish, which I count as the natural order.

Taking The Minecraft Vegetarian Challenge

I do object on some level to the hunger meter being represented by those flesh popsicles, which look less appetizing to me with every day I spend not indulging in them. If I was on PC I could probably mod those out, but oh well. I’m on the right track, and I’m not going to start over now.

Every time I pick Minecraft back up I discover something new that I love about it. I think that’s one of the reasons why it’s remained so popular for so long: there’s always more to discover. And I’ve still barely mined the surface. I’m building a picturesque home block-by-block, and I have a minecart track with some simple redstone mechanisms to take me between my farm and house and mines. But I’ve never brewed a potion, or traded with a villager, or defeated the Ender Dragon or the Elder Guardian (or even seen them, for that matter).

I’m excited to keep playing and discover everything that’s been added since the last time I was into Minecraft, and there are definitely lots of unknowns. But one thing I am certain of is that I’ll never again find myself chasing a pig through the woods with a sword in Minecraft.


  • To be honest, vegetarianism in Minecraft is probably the easiest and best option, as far as producing food goes.

    Carrots multiply like rabbits in that game.

    • Seriously, I start with bread/whatever I can scrounge but I pretty much just walk around with a stack of 64 pieces of melon. I do farm and prepare all kinds of meat but it just piles up in the chests in my store room while I smash my melons every now and then to top up my supply.

      Being vegetarian in Minecraft is no challenge at all.

      • Yeah I mean I only keep animals for milk, wool and eggs; and if I could find a damn melon in my current survival game I’d be chowing on them, but it’s miles and miles of carrots for now haha

  • “I’m a vegetarian but I eat fish” just say you don’t eat much meat why label yourself as something you aren’t?

    • Mike said that he very occasionally has fish and gives in a little. I’d say that makes him a vegetarian who slips up every so often. Funnily enough, just like how the rest of humanity is prone to temptation and mistakes.

      • That’s fair but to me why label yourself as something especially to the extent that you won’t eat meat in a video game when you aren’t going to follow it 100%? It’s perfectly fine to not eat meat if that’s someone’s choice and it’s a good reason if your family has a history of heart disease it just seems odd to make an article like this and then mention you occasionally eat meat still. Just say I don’t eat red meat or something.

        • I disagree. As someone who drives his car most places, I would consider myself a motorist. If I one day decide to walk somewhere for a change, I don’t stop being a motorist. And by the same token, Mike’s occasional slips into eating fish doesn’t preclude him from classifying himself as a vegetarian.

          And the author has also made it clear that he chose to play Minecraft this time to see if it were feasible to do a pure vegetarian run, not because he felt he had to due to classifying himself as a vegetarian in real life. It’s just like people attempting to do speed runs, or Nuzlocke runs in Pokemon games.

          • that’s different, a motorist by definition doesn’t exclude other modes of transport. A better analogy would be someone saying they are celibate; except for when I sleep with a woman now or then. Or I’m straight edge; except when i have a beer every now and then. A motorist isn’t someone who excludes anything.

          • You’re right, my analogy was pretty crappy. But I don’t really see yours as really being fair either. By the logic you’re presenting, someone who ever does something that is counter-intuitive to their beliefs, even if it’s only ever once, can never be classified as that thing. I can consider myself to not be a vulgar person, unless I’ve ever sworn or said something unsavoury (even if it was once when I stubbed my toe really badly, or I’d been seriously injured). I can classify myself as a clean person, unless I ever happened to go a day without showering or once left something to clean up later. And so on.

            By your definition, a person must be perfect in their pursuit of being what the definition they choose for themselves entails. But, frankly, nobody is perfect. People make mistakes, people slip up. It’s just silly to tell someone that can’t be something if they aren’t absolutely perfect at doing so, 100% of the time.

        • Um, there is a type of vegetarian called a pescetarian that can eat fish? So it’s kinda ok…

  • Wheat has always seemed like the easiest option to me. I experimented with a “cattle farm” when I was new to the game but ultimately, planting row upon row of wheat and tending it very occasionally had turned out to be utterly pain-free.
    Not only am I a vegetarian – I only eat one type of vegetable.
    If I had more berets I’d move to Newtown.

  • The wife and I have an underground (fed by a waterfall and irrigated) farm, a cow pen, a chook pen, a pig pen, a mushroom room…

    We get so much more from the farm and mushroom room then anything else.

    Exploring = baked potatoes, bread and mushroom stew ftw. Never end up getting too hungry.

  • I mainly milk a shrum cow, its always our first priority when we start a new survival in minecraft.

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