I usually tell people I am a vegetarian because it’s easier than explaining my somewhat nuanced way of eating. I do occasionally eat meat, about 2-3 times a year. However, I am extremely choosy about where the meat comes from. I want to know that the animal wasn’t raised on a factory farm. I want to know it didn’t suffer any of the despicable practices of that industry. I want to know this both for the animal, which I do not believe should be tortured, and for my health. A really good steak is something I can enjoy at a very fine restaurant extremely occasionally. Aside from that, I’m perfectly fine not eating meat. Honestly, I prefer vegetarian cuisine and cooking. It’s just so much cleaner.
In addition to generally not eating meat, I try to eat at least one vegan meal a day. In case you don’t know the difference, a vegetarian is a person who does not eat meat but does eat other animal products like dairy and/or eggs. A vegan is a person who does not eat any animal products at all. I mostly do this to stop myself from adding cheese to everything. I really like cheese.
When people find out I’m a vegetarian, they usually have one of three reactions:
- Oh, I could never do that! Just thinking about it makes me want a burger! (Good for you.)
- Pshhh, people are meant to eat meat. Meat makes you strong! (Not so.)
- You should take an iron supplement. I bet you don’t get enough protein. (Another myth.)
I could argue. But I usually just change the subject- like you would with religion or politics. I’ve found that people either already know the reasons for being vegetarian, or they really do not want to know. They aren’t willing to consider the numerous studies that point to a plant-based diet as the optimal diet for human beings and they certainly don’t want to hear about what goes on in those factory farms.
I have a problem with not wanting to know. One of the things that was keeping me overweight was not wanting to know. I didn’t want to know what I weighed, I didn’t want to know what was in my food, and I most certainly didn’t want to know how much I was eating. Here’s the rub: Not knowing does not change facts. I think once I did start wanting to know those things, wanting to know how the animal lived before it was killed for my dinner came naturally. Again, not only for the sake of the animals, but for the sake of my own personal health. Once I really allowed myself to know, I couldn’t eat that kind of meat anymore. My desire not to support such a terrible industry far outweighs my desire to eat meat.
Sticking your fingers in your ears and going “La la la la la” will not change anything, it only lets you live in ignorance. But to each their own.
I know a lot of people are very judgmental about vegetarians and vegans and a lot of that is because of militant activists. I’m not militant. I’m doing what I know is right for myself, my body, and the animals. If you want to eat meat, that’s your business. Let my vegetarianism be MY business- unless you genuinely want to know more about it. My boyfriend eats meat. I know this decision is a very personal one and not an easy one for many people. I suppose I’m lucky that way. I really, truly prefer meatless eating.
Whether or not eating animals is inherently wrong, and personally I don’t think it is, the way we produce meat is absolutely, without a shred of doubt, terribly wrong. People usually become quite ill when they really look into this. I’m not going to post anything here, but just go ahead and Google “factory farming video” if you want to pull your head out of the sand and look your meat in the face.
If you don’t have the stomach for videos but would like to know more about why eating so much meat might not be the greatest idea nutritionally or ethically, here are some great places to start:
Of course, Food Inc is an infinitely digestible look at our food system in the US and contains some very disturbing facts about the meat produced by factory farming and the human costs as well. It’s available on Netflix streaming.
If the idea of going meatless is just too crazy for you, that doesn’t mean there’s no reason to look into this. By simply reducing your meat consumption you can positively impact your health and the environment. Seeking out alternative sources of meat, if you can afford it, is a great way to vote with your wallet for the type of food you want to be able to purchase. You could consider doing something like Meatless Monday where you eat vegetarian meals for one day a week. This is a great way to explore new recipes and think outside the box at meal time.
A few weeks ago, I asked my boyfriend why he eats so much meat. His answer was “because I’m used to it and it works for my bodybuilding goals.” I didn’t press the matter, I just suggested that maybe he doesn’t need to eat so much meat, maybe he could try eating a bit less. The next time we were at the grocery store, he picked up less meat than usual. He said he was going to try to eat less meat and see if it makes a difference. That’s a victory if you ask me! I don’t think you have to completely give up every animal product to make a difference. There are many levels of vegetarianism. Find what works for you. And if you have a friend who’s a vegetarian, try not to give her a hard time. My eating habits are personal. They aren’t meant to reflect negatively or judgmentally on you.