Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist, a doctor, a food scientist. I have no professional training in food, farming, or any similar fields. All of the thoughts below are crafted from my nine years as a vegetarian and six months with veganism. I have studied peer-reviewed articles regarding plant-based eating, I’ve seen multiple documentaries, I’ve surrounded myself with friends who are vegetarians and vegans, and I have a passion for this industry. Although I have included statistics below, my opinions are mine alone and are based on my experiences and personal beliefs about ethical living, the universe, and spirituality.
I have never been a big meat-eater.
I’ve never eaten fish—my parents weren’t raised eating it, having been from Colorado and Wisconsin. I’ve maybe had two hotdogs, half of a small steak, and a couple slices of bacon in my entire life. Growing up, I did enjoy hamburgers, lunch meat, and chicken, but it wasn’t frequent and it definitely wasn’t a main part of my diet.
I decided to go full vegetarian at the age of twelve, after learning about factory farming
. I was volunteering with my Girl Scout troop at Von Hanson’s, a butcher shop from my hometown. That day, the concept of “meat” became a reality to me: meat is made from an animal that lost its life to feed me. I couldn’t come to peace with that idea. I have a memory of crying to my mom that cheese hurts cows, and her quick reassurance that, in fact, a cow did not die for that cheese.
The concept of “meat” became a reality to me: meat is made from an animal that lost its life to feed me.
Most of my close friends adhere to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, but I do have some friends who do not, so I hear a lot of differing opinions. I am confronted with opposing opinions to be diet often. I have had nine years to cultivate an opinion about meat, to learn facts and truths, to study this lifestyle.
I believe that meat is an acceptable source of food for humans.
I don’t think the entire world should become vegan or even vegetarian.
However, I think that meat should be treated as a luxury food item. I think it should be consumed sparingly, such as desserts are also intended to be eaten sparingly. The ONLY necessary vitamin that is solely provided by meat is B12; the rest of the vitamins and minerals needed to sustain human life can be found in plant sources.
Most importantly, I think there should be an attitude of gratefulness, or intention: a sentient being died to feed your body. Recognize that as a beautiful fact. An important truth.
Meat is an important, integral part of many cultures and religions, and I think that the ancient practice of meat consumption in these groups of people should not be dismissed as barbaric or uneducated.
I think that factory farming is a disgusting, horrible affront to nature and it will come back to us tenfold.
I believe that statistics that show vegetarians have a higher life expectancy show that because most vegetarian lifestyles include an increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, foods proven again and again to provide long-term health benefits.
In addition, I understand that a vegan lifestyle is not accessible for everyone. Food deserts
exist. The time a vegan lifestyle requires for cooking and meal prep is not realistic for every body, for every family unit. While it is true that vegan food by itself is less expensive (i.e. $5 for rice and beans versus $10 for a chicken), it is also true that it takes more rice and beans to fill a stomach than chicken does, therefore requiring more food to be consumed.
So why do I practice veganism?
First, as I wrote at the opening of this post, I have never been an avid meat-eater, and I was not raised in a family of avid meat-eaters.
I have educated myself on the practice of factory farming with regard to meat, dairy, and eggs, and I refuse to participate in that. I refuse to give my money, time, and body to that disgusting practice. I learned about meat’s impact on the environment
. I read about its adverse effects on our bodies. I trained myself how to live without it.
Third, for me, it’s an exercise in healthy eating. Without foods like meat, dairy, and eggs, I am forced to replace and supplement with other foods. It is a practice in adding more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes into my diet. For many years, I struggled with problematic eating: obsessive calorie counting and exercising, horrible body image, and viewing food as the enemy. Veganism is a practice in learning how to fill my body with whole, true, necessary foods.
Finally, I like it! I like to cook. I like to go shopping for vegan products. I get so much satisfaction from cooking a healthy dish made from plants and plant by-products. It’s a true passion of mine, and I love to invest time, money, and space in my mind to this lifestyle. It’s a soul project: I feel more connected to the earth, and I feel my soul, heart, mind, and body becoming closer together. I simply love it!
The bottom line? Eat consciously. Appreciate your food. Be so thankful.