Edit: Original Title – “Vegan/Vegetarian Douchebags vs. Carnivorous Assholes”
It’s time for me to publicly come out of the closet: I’m a vegetarian. I have had an on-again/off-again relationship with vegetarianism since I was 9 years old. I have been pretty faithful the last few years, but every month or two I give in & cheat by chowin’ down on a wild caught Alaskan salmon. I am a UNC bear after all; it’s in my blood to crave fishes. Rather than feeling like a guilty, terrible person for murdering an innocent (if somewhat creepy) salmon, I remind myself that at least I’m trying. There are tons of reasons to give up meat, not just my original 4th grader reason of not wanting to kill the cute fluffy little animals.
[One of my fellow bear brethren at the University of Northern Colorado]
There was an article in Forbes recently on how cutting down consumption of animal products could curb climate change. Yes, that’s Forbes, not Animal-Loving Human-Hating Veg-Extreme magazine. You can read the article here if you don’t believe me: http://www.forbes.com/sites/michellemaisto/2012/04/28/eating-less-meat-is-worlds-best-chance-for-timely-climate-change-say-experts/. I’m sure it’s not as simple as this makes it sound. But with so many people in the world eating so much meat from so many animals using so much energy – is it really that surprising? If you don’t give a crap about the environment for the environment’s sake, keep in mind that what affects the environment’s health affects your health. Pollution is actually not as beneficial to your lungs and nervous system as you might think.
If the climate change angle doesn’t convince you (it still gets cold in the winter, global warming refuted!), then let’s try the health angle. Meat can be very healthy, but let’s be honest. Are you eating organic grass-fed beef from happy free-range cows? Or are you getting drunk & downing double cheeseburgers at McD’s like they’re going out of business? In my attempt to avoid processed foods loaded with salt, sugar, slime & salmonella, it’s easier to just skip meat entirely.
[Mmm, strawberry soft serve! Wait… what?!]
Maybe you eat meat because you or someone you know makes their living raising animals for meat. That’s a great reason. The main problem I have with the meat industry is the disgusting practices used in factory farming. It’s one thing to kill an animal for meat, but another entirely to make it suffer its entire life before it gets killed. I know there are many businesses and independent farmers out there who are committed to treating their animals as humanely as possible. But there are also those corporations who treat animals – as well as human factory workers – like parts in a machine, rather than living beings capable of feeling pain. So if you choose to eat meat, please fork out that little bit of extra money to get the locally raised, more humane meat from the farmers market or natural grocers. It’s worth it.
But the main reason I don’t want to eat meat has remained the same since elementary school: I love animals! Those cute furry/feathery/scaly little bastards. I know people who have potbelly pigs for pets and those things are smarter than most dogs. I always thought cows were pretty cute in a big, stupid kind of way. Chickens are mostly idiots and turkeys are just weird, but if we chose what to eat based on intelligence and cuteness alone, a lot of us would not be here today. It’s important to remember that farm animals are just as capable of feeling pain as your cats, dogs, ferrets, chinchillas & whatever other pets you’re hoarding in there.
[Can your toddler do that many tricks?]
Unfortunately I have not been a totally strict vegetarian in the past. From ages 9 to 14 I was pretty good. Then my freshman year of high school, the doctor who did my sports physical for track told me I needed to eat meat if I wanted to be a good athlete. Seriously! This highly educated man clearly did not get the lesson on nutrition. Was he concerned about a lack of protein? I still drink milk and eat eggs and dairy fairly often, not to mention all the vegan protein I get from beans, nuts, seeds and grains. Was he concerned about lack of iron? Again there are vegetarian sources, and it can easily be absorbed from supplements.
I still avoided beef, pork & lamb (basically mammals in general) until college when I returned to my attempts at vegginess. I took a class in health psychology and read Fast Food Nation, which happens to mention my beautiful college town – Greeley, Colorado! We are the home of Swift, a producer of some really interesting smells and a recruiter of illegal immigrants (blame the companies – not just the people!), with an impressive record of civil rights violations. I highly recommend that book if you haven’t read it yet.
[I actually like Greeley but… wooo we made it on South Park!]
If you don’t care about animals because there are too many other important human-related problems to worry about, I call bullshit. Yeah, there are endless problems in the world and it can be hard to even imagine how to deal with them all. But this is one with a simple solution – change your diet. If you can’t cut meat out, at least cut down. And if none of these arguments got to you, I don’t know what will.
The point I want to stress here is that whatever choices you make in your diet, don’t be a jerk! I have met several vegans (though a small minority of them) who think they’re God’s gift to farm animals and that I’m just as bad as “the carnivores” because I like milk and cheese. I have also met plenty of more omnivorous people who think I’m just a bleeding heart hippie loser for wasting my time caring about such unimportant things. But no matter what you do, you can never keep everyone happy. So at least give it a try. If you’re still hooked on your bacon/KFC Double Downs/tuna fish sandwiches, that’s cool. Just keep in mind that humans did not evolve to need meat at every meal of every day. Try going one meal per day or one day per week without it to start. Or, if you think I’m totally full of shit, tell me why I’m wrong.