OP/ED: Why I’m a Vegetarian
by claire [Guest Contributor]
When Andy asked me to write about why I’m a vegetarian, I got really excited. I’ve never written down all the reasons why I choose to go meatless– I just keep collecting new and different reasons as the days and years pass. I won’t try and shock you with the intimate details of what freaks me out about meat because I think vegetarians get a bad rap for being extremists (thanks Peta). That’s not me, and there’s plenty of that kind of sensationalism all over the internet if that’s what you’re after. This is just my story…..
I have been a vegetarian since June 2006, I guess that would make it a little over four years. It is also prudent to clarify what type of vegetarian I am: I don’t really eat meat but I do eat eggs (organic) and fish (wild caught) and bacon (usually on a Sunday). As you’ll read, I like to make my own rules.
In June of 2006, I came down with a really wicked case of mono. Perhaps in that delirium, I became very sensitive to what animals feel and think. Many of us have dogs and cats, and would never want to hear them yelping out in pain. Would we eat fido? Why is this feeling of empathy so removed when a cow is turned into a steak? With that thought, I turned my back on eating meat.
After my mono haze faded I began to look into other, more concrete reasons why someone would omit meat from their diet. One large reason that encompasses many smaller reasons is the meat processing industry. My first exposure to this was through the book Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. This book depicts the underbelly of American’s addiction to fast food including a large section dedicated to meat processing. I won’t get into specific reasons and examples that the book delves into– it can leave a pretty sour taste in your mouth! Let’s just say that many of the rumors you hear about meat packing are true or stem from the truth. I do recommend the book for anyone that’s interested in learning more about the local and global effects of the American fast food industry– meat included.
Personally, since I’ve adopted a mostly vegetarian diet, I’ve also experienced some great health benefits. When I ate meat, I occasionally suffered from bouts of heart burn, now I don’t. Another side effect is that I tend to eat more healthily when dining out. My eyes skip over most of the sandwich offerings, and head towards salad options. This also means I don’t frequent the Mcdonalds and KFCs of the world, health benefits of that omission go without saying.
There is a happy side to the meat industry though, and this is a side that I take part in. Madison, where I live, is lucky enough to have a year round farmer’s market. Everything from fresh vegetables to pasta to flowers are sold to Madison’s large community of locavores (people to eat locally sourced foods). Lucky for me, and all the vegetarians who make there own rules, and there are a lot of us here in Madison, the farmer’s market also sells meat. Now, I can say that I do enjoy the occasional slice of bacon (gasp!). To quote Michael Pollan: “be able to shake the hand that feeds you.” I’m happy to say that when I get bacon from farmer’s market (we usually get ours from Jordandal Farms) I get a sense that these farmers take pride in what they do, and you can tell that they love animals! These pigs have lived a happy life roaming around a nice Wisconsin sty.
So yes, call me what you will: hippie, vegetarian, fake vegetarian… but I’m just like any other eater, and I like to think critically about what I’m fueling my body with. I can’t say I’ll be a vegetarian forever, but it’s been pretty good to me so far!
Food Inc. (movie) Directed by Robert Kenner | Eye opening documentary about how the food industry has grown into a big bully.
Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser | A comprehensive look into food that is produced for the masses.
In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan | Mainly describes the benefits of eating locally sourced foods.
Jordandal Farm | Where I get my bacon on occasion!
Dane County Farmer’s Market | Also contains some informational food links!