“Can I ask you a personal question?”
“What are your reasons for being a vegetarian?”
In my head I ask, “Are you sure you’re ready for this conversation?” “Do you want the long or the short version?” “What are your reasons for not being a vegetarian?”
With my mouth I say, “Settle in.”
Often, people don’t really want to hear the truth about the impact of their food choices. Sometimes they don’t realize this. But since they’re asking, I’m telling.
I made the switch to vegetarianism nine years ago when I was 14. As an emotional, black-clad eighth grader, I was feeling rebellious. I thought, “Oh, the animals are so cute and it’s so sad that people kill them and eat them.” Plus, I thought I would make my mom’s life difficult.
A friend of mine had decided not to eat meat either, and together we feasted on macaroni and cheese and plain cheese pizza regularly. Lucky for me my mom would not allow such carelessness and insisted I learn how to eat a well-rounded, plant-based diet—all vitamins, minerals and proteins included.
When I got to high school I started getting asked more about my food choices. For a while I proudly stated that it was an animal rights issue, but the more I aged and matured the more I realized I didn’t truly understand the “why” of my lifestyle.
So finally, I began to research. The first book I read was Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation. I don’t remember many specifics, but I remember being horrified by the ghastly conditions in factory farms. From chickens forced together in quarters narrower than their wingspans to cows standing ankle-deep in their own sh*t, it became evident that animal rights aside, this industry is abusing its consumers.
Often, the meat is not cleaned well on the factory line. Many of the animals are stuffed with harmful medicines and hormones. All of these things transfer to the people who eat the meat.
Furthermore, the industrialization of agriculture and meat is responsible for about 33 percent of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide, and the meat industry is responsible for most methane emissions. These two greenhouse gases are huge contributors to global climate change. Additionally, according to National Geographic, the average American diet requires 1,000 gallons of water per day. For every vegan diet, 600 of those gallons are saved.
And finally, industrialized meat and dairy productions are running humane, family-operated farms out of business. The food chain is a natural part of life, and it’s been disrupted by the systematic torture and slaughter of thousands of animals raised for the sole purpose of meat and dairy production.
When I learned all of this, my interests shifted. I’m now totally dedicated to the cause of environmentalism. When I hear environmentalists give lectures I always ask: “Are you a vegetarian?” If the answer is “no,” he or she automatically loses some credibility in my mind.
Fundamentally I believe that because human beings are mere visitors on this planet Earth, our sole function is to preserve it. We have no place manipulating its resources, but instead only using exactly what we need to survive and nourish ourselves—and to appreciate its beauty.
Author: Traia Thiel
Editor: Catherine Monkman