Midweek @ Musings: Why I’m a Vegetarian

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?

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* 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!
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10 thoughts on “Midweek @ Musings: Why I’m a Vegetarian

  1. I’m not vegetarian, but don’t eat meat every day. I’ve tried to look at where our meat comes from and so now we buy a whole lamb + pig once a year from a very small farm (they have less than 10 pigs/sheep at any one time!) where the animals are well looked after. All the meat is jointed + frozen for us and we then use it slowly over the months. Recognising that we only have one animal and ensure we use all the different cuts of meat encourages me to try new recipes and makes me feel good for not eating intensively reared animals. I don’t think I’d ever become vegetarian, but I do think reducing meat intake is a good thing everyone could do.

    • Jackie, that sounds like a very good arrangement! You are very lucky to be able to buy from that farm. I’m sure it’s of far better quality than the supermarket as well.

  2. I could’ve been you daughter, as I made the same statement when I was 10. Luckily, my parents accomodated my wishes as well. At first, there were some problems, and I ended up with too little iron and vitamine B-something in my blood, which made stay at home from my first year of highschool for 2 months, but in the end it all worked out. Because of these things though, I’m not yet sure what I’d do if I ever have children of my own: I would really start to look into vegetarian dishes for children (to make sure they won’t end up like I did back then) before turning them vegetarian.

    Currently I’m at this place in life where it’s no longer a conscious decision to not eat meat. I mean, it still is of course, it’s just become natural to me so I don’t really have all my reasons for why I chose to become a vegetarian ready.
    I also still eat dairy, although I don’t eat cheese, never drink milk and dislike eggs, so really it’s mostly yoghurt. I often think about switching to vegan-food, but then I’m not sure I could do that to the people around me who always go through so much trouble already to make vegetarian food for me on the side.

    • Iris, I enjoyed reading about your “journey” and how you no longer think about it as a conscious decision. My day-to-day decision-making has become quite natural, but I still get lots of questions from friends and co-workers.

      I can understand your concern about children, especially given your personal experience. My daughter didn’t have any difficulty, although I would have had more concerns had she been younger. I suspect there are resources available on how to provide even very young children with a balanced, vegetarian diet. Good luck, should you ever find yourself in that position!

      • A good vegetarian diet contains enough of our daily needs to stay healthy. Of course children have different needs, which may need an adaptation to your own customs, but I think that’s similar for people eating meat.

        Some people (especially non-vegetarians who like to reduce their intake of meat) forget that eating vegetarian is something different than just not eating meat/fish.

  3. Your family would feel very comfortable in South East Asia where there is a huge population of vegetarians! The food not only looks good it tastes wonderful as well.

    Does your daughter ever feel pressurized to eat meat as most of her friends may be meat eaters? just curious.

    • You’re right, Mystica! I enjoy going to Asian restaurants here because there are usually more choices. And no, my daughter hasn’t felt pressure. Her friends seem to accept it, and she also has one or two friends who are also vegetarian.

  4. Fellow veggie *waving* from across the ocean! I also find it troubling that part of the world population has little to eat while wheat etc. is being shipped elsewhere to feed livestock ending up on the meat market :\

    Of course I still contribute to that problem because I do eat dairy 😦 But one can only do as much as one feels able to! 😉

    Btw did you know that Food.Inc was nominated for an Oscar?

  5. Earthsave does a great job of drawing the connection between caring for our environment and the choices we make about food; I discovered their online resources several years ago (and, no, I have no affiliation, and yes, there are lots of other great sources) and I appreciate it when groups like theirs recognize the fact that people eat and live and make choices on a continuum. I think the step-by-step kind of change is the kind that sticks and it sounds a little Pollyanna-ish, but I do believe that every little change makes a difference.

    • Thanks for the link to Earthsave — that looks very interesting! I also agree every little change makes a difference, and it’s important to make your diet changes lasting and sustainable. If you take action that’s too dramatic, like swearing off chocolate for life, it can be difficult or impossible to stick with it.

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