Yikes. I was 23 years old.
Since there was no internet back then (imagine!), I scoured the libraries and book stores for information on how to lower my cholesterol. Becoming a vegetarian seemed to be a popular theme for that sort of thing, so that’s what I did.
Remarkably, it worked.
I loved the veg lifestyle. It was easy. It was delicious. It was a good conversation piece.
I wanted to learn more.
I soon realized there were many more reasons to go veg than just wanting a lower cholesterol number. What I found out was astonishing. Vegetarians and vegans tend to live longer, and they have less incidence of many life-threatening diseases. That was surely reason enough, but there was still much to learn.
During my carnivorous days, I chose not to think about the fact that I was eating what was actually once a living thing… and I definitely didn’t think about how this living thing died so it would wind up as my dinner. The last thing I wanted to do was to picture an innocent cow suffering a violent death just as I’m pouring steak sauce and making yummy noises.
But just because I didn’t think about it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
In my quest to learn more about my chosen lifestyle, I learned how, exactly, the animals that we eat die. And it’s not even how they die that is irreprehensible; it’s also how they live.
It isn’t pretty.
It isn’t even humane.
I look at my dog and wonder if she’s much different than a pig or a cow. I shudder at the thought of my dog living her life in a crate that is only two-feet wide, never being allowed to run free or roll in the grass (one of her all-time favorite pastimes).
I can’t bear the thought of my dog being killed while hanging upside down on some assembly line as a metal rod is shot through her brain to (hopefully) render her unconscious so she could have her throat slit and then be chopped up into pieces.
You can’t make this stuff up. This is how 99% of the meat we eat is treated. I think that’s completely unacceptable… and morally disgusting.
We humans should know better.
We humans should do better.
After learning about the ethical issues behind my choice to become a vegetarian, I learned about the environmental impact of our love of meat.
The international meat industry generates more greenhouse gas emissions than the transportation industry. According to research from the University of Chicago, going veg can shrink your carbon footprint by up to 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide per year, while trading in your car for a hybrid will shrink it by about one ton. That means it’s better for the environment to ban the burgers than it is to pilot a Prius.
Consider the fact that raising livestock takes up nearly one-third of the earth’s landmass. Throughout the world, trees are constantly being cut down to make more room for pastures, or to make room for farmland (someone’s got to grow all that animal feed). Deforestization contributes to climate change, as does all that animal waste. Yep, animal poop generates nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that has almost 300 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide.
Currently, half the world’s crops are fed to livestock, while more than a billion people worldwide are hungry. What if we used all that land that we currently use to raise and feed livestock to grow crops that could feed humans?
Is a Happy Meal really worth all this pain?
All the research concurs. Giving up meat is one of the greenest things you can do as an individual.
Before my meat-eating mates start throwing cage-free eggs at me, let me say one thing. There are my reasons for going vegetarian. You may or may not care about these reasons, or you may feel better with a little meat in your diet. That’s completely up to you. I’m a big believer in free choice.
I have carnivorous friends and clients, and I love them all. If you choose to eat meat, that is certainly your right… but I find it’s my responsibility as a health counselor to work with you so that you eat meat in the most sustainable and humane ways possible.
Meanwhile, I’ll also provide you with the most nutritious and delicious veg meals you’ve ever had, and who knows… One day, you may find yourself writing a blog about why you became a vegetarian.