09.23.05

I just don’t eat meat

Posted in Society at 14:40 by RjZ

I rarely say I am a vegetarian. It doesn’t even seem to be clear to people what that is in the first place. “Do you eat fish?” people ask. I’ve never seen fish growing out of a terra cotta pot. I am pretty sure it’s not a plant. There seem to be all manner of “vegetarians.” Vegans who eat no animal products whatsoever. I question whether or not they can have beer (yeast) and I know that many don’t eat honey. Lacto-ovo vegetarians eat eggs and dairy products such as cheese and yoghurt. Then there are folks who call themselves lacto-ovo-pesco vegetarians. They eat vegetables, eggs, dairy and, well fish.

I just don’t eat meat. I don’t want to get caught up in all confusion and implication. I live near Boulder, Colorado and vegans and various forms of vegetarianism are all popular here. As with any population, however, the more numerous it is, the greater the likelihood of extremes. The problem with calling myself a vegetarian comes from another rule from statistics: the 80-20 rule which goes something like 80% of your trouble will be from 20% of the causes. In other words, those few bad apple vegetarians spoil the bunch for the rest of us.

Yes, I wear leather shoes sometimes. Perhaps thanks to those few outspoken vegetarians, many people feel so threatened by the mere mention of my dietary preference that they feel they have to point out some unnoticed hypocrisy in my world view. Except that just because you’ve learned I don’t eat meat doesn’t mean you understand what my reasoning was. (Reading this blog is a good way to find out if you want to find those hypocrisies though!)

In fact there are three popular reasons why most vegetarians make the choices they do. The reasons can be summed up as health, animal rights and environment. Vegetarian diets are low in fat and high in fiber which has been demonstrated to reduce the risk of heart failure and certain cancers. Avoiding meats eliminates exposure to mad cow or increased mercury levels in fish. The majority of meat available in the U.S.A. is from animals in factory farms are tortured in ways that few of us ever wish to hear about. Finally, the environmental impact of raising cattle, for example, compared to the same amount of food from grain is staggering.

Still, I think humans evolved eating occasional feasts of meat and it’s entirely natural for us to continue doing so. Factory farming is beyond defense but monoculture vegetable and grain farming are hardly a boon to either our health or the environment. For me, any single reason to abstain from meat isn’t sufficient, but all of them together was enough to convince me. Indeed, most of my reservations about eating meat would be solved if everyone simply ate less. The environmental impact would be lessened and there wouldn’t really be a need for factory farms. Still, I stopped eating meat because changing everyone else’s habits didn’t seem likely. Nothing short of refusing the stuff outright seemed convince people to stop serving me huge portions of the stuff. (By the way, of the three big reasons, it was the environmental one that was the biggest for me. While you may doubt the health benefits and may not even care about animals, it’s difficult to argue that raising cows and chickens in huge numbers is good for the environment. The impact to our water supply alone is huge.)

In the end each of us decides whether these reasons are important enough for us to make a change. It’s my decision not to eat meat and I feel great about it. The only health effects I ever noticed was that it was easier to keep thin. I don’t miss meat and I feel much better when a truckload of animals making their way to the slaughter house drives past me. It is egotistical to imagine that others would change their eating habits because of me. The worst thing I do to force my decision onto others is that dinner guests at my home won’t get a meat entré but it is my sincere hope that they’ll leave satisfied just the same. I’m embarrassed whenever restaurant menus are perused and my fellow diners look at the at me wondering if I am going to find anything. It turns out though, many friends and acquaintances have thought a lot more about giving up meat than if I had preached to them about it and for some my choice was the first step in their change of habit.

Decide for yourself. You can learn more about why people don’t eat meat, or call themselves vegetarians, or vegans by following the links below.

A thorough description and more links at Wikipedia.

Go Veg.com is a professional site with concise resource with info about health, animals, and environment.

Kid’s Health.org has some information for parents.

Vegetarian Resource offers many links for further information.

7 Comments »

  1. erin said,

    September 23, 2005 at 15:08

    after 18 years of not eating red meat, i now eat it again. wow, there’s nothing like a delicious juicy steak with blue cheese on it. mmm-mmm good. :)

  2. Penelope said,

    September 23, 2005 at 20:17

    Ouch. That that sounds painful to me, but I’m glad you’re able to enjoy it! You remind me of a good reason for going veg that is often overlooked: One’s particular body may just be happier that way, no self-righteousness or hypocrisy involved, no arguments required.

    For example, I eat steak about twice a year–whenever the memory of the yummy flavor gets to be stronger than the memory of the sharp abdominal cramps I get whenever my poor digestive tract tries to process a steak. One vegan friend of mine says that he became a vegan because he had a delicate nervous system that got nasty migraines at the slightest irritation. One by one, he cut out things that might be triggers…until one day he realized that he was a vegan with very few migraines. Another friend eats meat, but not dairy or wheat, because he’s found that the scary digestive disorder he’s inherited usually goes into remission if he just avoids such things.

    It’s too bad so many of us get defensive in one way or another when we discuss vegetarianism. We all should eat what makes the most sense to us as individuals, feel free to explain why if our friends are curious, and worry about other people’s preferences only if we’re inviting them out or over for a meal. In that case, the only question required is, “What would you most enjoy eating?”

  3. tim rohrer said,

    September 26, 2005 at 7:12

    “Vegetables: What food eats” (–devil’s dictionary entry)

    I miss walking into a McDonalds in Sweden and ordering a VeggieBurger with fries. Well, not all that much–I only did it once, for the novelty–but I liked knowing I had the option when I visisted there.

    But what I do think is pathetic is that our culture so deifies and glorifies eating meat–and denigrates other options. I happen to enjoy eating meat upon occasion, but I often prefer vegetarian options–when they are available. I really would prefer to eat more fish as they are so high in protein, but given that the industrialized world’s toxins end up concentrating in our lakes, rivers and oceans, I rarely eat them.

    But it is important to see this in not just a national context, but also in a historical and gloobal context. Vegetarianism and the food industry is more than a fad however–it is an important and subtle facet of our rationalized, industrialized, commercially defined lives. Morgan Spurlock made that point quite entertainingly in his movie “Supersize Me,” but I would also recommend a few excellent books on the subject–for example, there is the journalist Eric Schlosser’s “Fast Food Nation” and sociologist’s George Ritzer’s “The McDonaldization of America,” both of which are provocative looks into the structure of the food industry.

    Then there’s a real gem from anthropology, Sidney Mintz’s Sweetness and Power: A History of Sugar” in which he looks at 600 years of English diets and notes the shift in calorie sources from meat/dairy and fish in pre-industrial England to sugar-based sources once the sugar (and slave and rum) trades opened up.

    Lastly, I would recommend Mark Kurlansky’s “Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World” which is my kind of modern-horror story. From medieval times to the present day he documents the systematic overfishing of the Newfoundland and New England Cod banks, fisheries which once supplied much of Europe’s protein needs. Their depletion is a tragic man-made environmental disaster, and one which should give us pause to think what will happen if we humans continue to be so foolish with that which nurtures us… If you’ve ever wondered why you can’t get good Atlantic cod any more, this is the book for you…

    Entertaining reading? yes. But do I have any more answers about what to eat for having read them? Not really. Ultimately, I’m an omnivore, which is what I think we humans evolved to be. Given a preference, though–I prefer eat that which tastes good and keeps me healthy. And unsurprisingly, that is pretty often vegetarian cuisine.

    cheers (and bon appetit!)
    –tim

  4. Joey said,

    October 19, 2005 at 16:44

    Joey the vegan and animal rights advocate here. Here is a short rant that I will call:

    “If You Knew the Truth You Would Be Vegetarian Too”

    It is my belief that if people actually viewed the cruelty that went on in factory farms, that most would be disgusted, shocked and appalled. It is my belief that most people wish to “not-know” what goes on and see the truth of animal torture. For if they did, they too would be vegetarian.

    Self-righteous? You bet. Holier than thou? How can I tell other people what is right? I strongly believe what I know is right. I believe people are innately good and kind and do not wish to inflict pain on any living thing. But they hide the truth from themselves. They don’t want to know.

    People totally have blinders on and wish to remain ignorant of the truth, and therefore blissful while they gnaw on that piece of flesh. If you don’t believe that cruelty is involved in producing meat, dairy, and egg products then you just haven’t been exposed to (or allowed yourself to know) the truth. If you knew the whole truth and witnessed these atrocities and had any heart, you too would be vegetarian. Hunters – if you enjoy murdering animals then you most likely have desensitized to killing from the way you were raised. I am convinced that if people saw the reality of it, they would think twice before sinking their teeth into some rotting flesh.

    I challenge you to watch videos, like this one the PETA site, of undercover footage of farm animal torture that is part of the routine in turning an animal into food and then tell me you have no guilt or shame.

    Here is one for starters, “Meet Your Meat”:
    http://www.petatv.com/tvpopup/Prefs.asp?video=meet_your_meat&feat=meet_your_meat&pos=fp3

    Watch this and let me know how it affects you.

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