Tuesday, February 09, 2010
People become vegetarians for several reasons. I’m sure there are more but the ones with which I am most familiar are as follows:
1. In protest to the cruel way that many production meat animals are raised
I know people who believe that every meat animal is raised in a cruel way. In protest of that practice they refuse to eat any meat at all. I know people who acknowledge the disturbing conditions under which many production animals are raised and only eat the meat of animals that they know were raised humanely and the meat of non-domesticated animals like wild caught deer or quail.
2. In response to the growing amount of data that links numerous health concerns with excessive consumption of animal proteins
In 2006 T. Colin and Thomas Campbell wrote The China Study, The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted. We Americans face a growing number of health problems; obesity, diabetes, cancer and heart disease to name just a few. The Campbells undertook a wide-ranging study to try and determine what was going on and what could be done about it. One of their primary conclusions was that many of our health issues can be tied to excessive consumption of animal proteins. Their study received a lot of attention and many people became not just vegetarians but vegans as a result.
3. As part of adopting a more conscious lifestyle
While not every person who is trying to adopt a more conscious lifestyle becomes a vegetarian, there are many who believe it is a natural conclusion. Elizabeth Lesser, cofounder and senior advisor at The Omega Institute, when pressed explained it thusly: If you are living a more conscious lifestyle, which includes consideration for every impact you make on the world around you, how can you kill something to support your own life?
I Googled “reasons to become a vegetarian” to make sure I wasn’t forgetting any obvious ones. The first three returns were 21 (or 30 or 50) reasons to become a vegetarian. I scanned the lists and all their reasons seemed to be restatements of the above three.
I first started toying with the idea of vegetarianism after hearing about The China Study. Although I didn’t consider going all the way and becoming a vegan, I started to think a little more about how much animal protein I consume. It’s easy to think about the big steak you had for dinner but if you add in the bacon for breakfast plus the eggs and the butter on your toast as well as the lunch meat and cheese in your noonday sandwich, a lot of us are consuming animal proteins with every meal. I decided to start considering the presence of animal proteins in whatever I ate and cutting out the easy ones. I love vegetables and grains and frequently don’t have meat for dinner anyway. Slowly but surely I became what I refer to as a “near-vegetarian”.
I happened to hear the interview in which Elizabeth Lesser explained why she was a vegan. I want to stress that she wasn’t proselytizing and only addressed the issue when pressed by her host to explain her choice. When she did answer, she did so very simply, with no elaboration and then changed the subject. Her simple statement about killing something else to support your own life, when that is not necessary, really resonated with me. The more I thought about it the more I connected with some of what she was saying. Ms. Lesser doesn’t eat eggs or dairy for the same reason and she kind of lost me there. My backyard chickens certainly don’t bond with their eggs and will even eat them on occasion. She seemed to be saying that it was not part of the natural order of things to be collecting eggs and milk. Obviously we each have to make our own decisions about how far we’re going to go if we start down the vegetarian road.
I’m almost there and have been considering taking that final step, primarily for the conscious living reason. Like the No-Phone Zone Pledge, which I’ve now taken, once something like that gets into my head, I have a hard time getting it out. The main issue I suspect I’ll face is eating at someone else’s house, without making a big deal out of it. I imagine I’ll continue to eat small amounts of meat in that situation. I don’t see myself becoming vegan but I suspect the occasional (once I move away from the farm) egg, slice of cheese or pat of butter will soon become the only animal protein I consume.
Are you a vegetarian or a vegan? Why did you make the choice? I’d love to hear about some of the struggles you have faced.