Why I Went Vegetarian
In April 2020, I decided to go vegetarian. Whenever someone makes a lifestyle change, people get curious. They want to know the reasons behind it, how it’s going, how sensible it is, and more. When people ask me why I became a vegetarian, I love answering, but I often don’t do a very good job. So I decided I’d write out the comprehensive list of what I wish I could say. Of course, people make these kinds of choices for all sorts of reasons, but here are mine. Also, please read the disclaimers at the end!
1. Animal Welfare
If you know me, you know I love animals. I’ve grown up loving dogs, horses, basically anything that moves. Intrinsically, people in America know that they care about the lives of animals. Just look at the way people spoil their dogs and cats! However, many people have a strong sense of disconnect when it comes to the animals they eat. I know that I did.
The thing that really changed for me was when I started working at the Sedgwick County Zoo, particularly in the farms section. I worked nearly every day alongside goats, sheep, pigs, cows, chickens, and more. I watched lambs be born. I watched beloved animals die (of old age). Over time, I got to know their quirks and personalities, how they change on a day to day, how they express joy and sorrow. I learned that farm animals have equally rich inner lives as our pet animals do, but usually these lives are cut short or spent in terrible conditions. Of course, some farm animals are treated well and live happy lives, but this is increasingly rare. It became harder and harder for me to justify eating cows, pigs, chickens, and sheep when I loved the ones I cared for so much. I didn’t want animals’ lives to have to end simply for me to have a food I didn’t really need.
2. Environmental Impact
For many years, I’ve been preaching the importance of sustainable living and trying to put into action these values in my personal life. I consciously choose products with little to know plastic, I recycle as much as possible, I recycle my clothing or purchase items that will last me many years. One large part of sustainable living, I believe, is eliminating or reducing meat intake.
When you begin to look at the research of how much land, water, and food it takes to produce meat products, you start to realize the impact this has on things like biodiversity, carbon emissions, and water conservation. Simply put, a pound of meat requires exponentially more resources than a pound of grains or vegetables. Additionally, cows produce a large amount of methane and industrial agriculture’s extreme production of cows for eating only increases the damage in Earth’s atmosphere.
3. Healthy Living
While my original goal wasn’t to become healthier due to being vegetarian, I have often found this to be the case. Because my choices are more limited, especially at restaurants, generally the food I choose is much healthier in comparison to their meat-based counterparts. I eat so many more vegetables than I did before and branched out to new vegetables I probably wouldn’t have tried. Many of my meals are made from whole ingredients so I worry less about ingesting processed foods and preservatives. I am definitely more conscious on the whole than I was before becoming vegetarian. There is also research that suggests that a low protein, high vegetable diet is tied to living a longer, healthier life. Of course, being vegetarian doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be healthier! After all, ice cream is still vegetarian.
1. I’ve found research that contradicts you.
Probably true! There is so much research out there and so many personal stories that it is hard to know exactly what is accurate and what isn’t. The stories and research I have read have lead me to these conclusions, but it is important for everyone to do their own research and make their own decisions.
2. Is being vegetarian a sustainable lifestyle choice?
I think so! One thing that I allow myself to do is eat meat once per month. I chose to do this because I didn’t want to feel as though I was eliminating all joy from my diet. Many of my favorite foods, especially from childhood, are meat based and I don’t want to cut myself off completely. However, eating meat 12 times a year versus 300+ times a year is a big difference.
Being vegetarian in Kansas is much more difficult than in other places. Kansas is very ingrained in the meat industry due to many decades of cattle ranching and similar agricultural pursuits. The culture here is very attached to the idea of eating meat which is totally fine. I’m not telling people that they are evil for eating meat, but to simply take a deeper look at what they eat and how it reflects their values. In other places like Manchester (a big city) or the UK in general, there are more options for vegetarian and vegan people. It is more normalized over there and because large populations in the UK don’t eat meat for religious reasons, very easy to find more options.
3. Why aren’t you vegan (someone who doesn't eat meat or any animal based products like eggs, milk, etc)?
Simply put, right now it is too difficult. Again, living in Kansas makes being vegetarian tricky, but would make being vegan extremely difficult. I also have a few questions about the ethical reasoning behind some vegan logic. For instance, many eggs are unfertilized and wouldn’t produce offspring; goats can be milked for human consumption alongside raising their young; honey collection can actually boost the health of a hive. Perhaps someday I will make the switch to vegan, but I haven’t gotten there yet.
I hope this blog post sheds some light on my personal decision making and allows you to dive deeper into your own!