This post has rattled around in my head since seeing an infographic about Eating the Right Fish*. The article led off with, “What fish can you eat regularly, without fear of wiping out the species?” and I thought, that’s ridiculous. Wouldn’t that just be shifting the problem, ultimately putting other species in danger? If preservation was a concern, wouldn’t it be better not to eat fish at all?
This touches on just one of my answers to a frequently asked question: “What made you decide to become a vegetarian?”
It all started four years ago when my youngest daughter, then age 10, declared she would no longer eat meat. For her, it was an animal rights issue: animals should not be killed for food. My husband and I were happy to accommodate her wishes — we kind of admired her emerging social conscience & value system. Sometimes the whole family had a meatless meal, but more often we’d prepare meat-based dishes as well as a vegetarian option. My daughter said very little about this, and simply continued to live according to her beliefs.
You know how when someone says, “hey, I just bought a new car,” the next thing you know you see that model of car everywhere you look? In a similar way, over time, I began paying attention to different signals and information in my environment. Unbeknownst to me, my husband was doing the same thing, and we came to the same place at the same time. Two years ago, both of us also became vegetarian. And here’s the full answer to the “why?” question:
- Meat sold in supermarkets comes from animals bred and raised solely for the purpose of human consumption. That just doesn’t feel right to me.
- These animals are typically the product of factory farming: raised in confinement, living in very high density. We’re not talking happy, frolicking cows and chickens here. If you’d like to learn more about this, just watch the documentary Food, Inc. which recently aired on PBS, and is available to “view instantly” on Netflix. It’s a real eye-opener.
- I do not have what it takes to raise my own meat. We used to keep chickens for eggs, and at one point we decided to breed them. We wanted to produce more eggs, and thought the male offspring would just end up in the roasting pan. But we couldn’t bring ourselves to do the deed.
- The meat industry is a leading source of greenhouse gases. A 2006 United Nations report found that the meat industry produces more greenhouse gases than all the SUVs, cars, trucks, planes, and ships in the world combined [H. Steinfeld et al., Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options, Livestock, Environment and Development (2006) ]. You can learn more about the environmental aspects at GoVeg.com.
So, that’s why I became a vegetarian. I was surprised to find I didn’t miss the meat on my table. We’ve discovered some interesting new dishes and ingredients I wouldn’t otherwise have tried. We’ve also made mistakes, eating too much of this or too little of that. And we still eat dairy and eggs, which would draw criticism from some circles. I see healthy, responsible eating as a journey. The most important thing you can do is examine your values and make thoughtful choices consistent with those values. Being vegetarian may not be right for everyone, but it’s right for me.
How about you? Have you “gone veg”? Have you ever thought about doing so?
* About a week later, Fast Company redeemed itself slightly by featuring another infographic, The Mountains of Salt in Processed Food. There’s another eye-opener for you!