i feel the need to post about food because the issues of vegan/vegetarian/omnivore have been coming up a lot lately and people being really surprised when I tell them why I am vegetarian and not technically a vegan. so if you care, read on.
I have been vegetarian since 2006 and it all started from seeing that dumb PETA video of meet your meat and the fact that the meat in the NCSA cafeteria was quite scary. Being vegetarian is not hard, and being the compulsive person that I am, I started reading more about the topic and whatnot.
Today, my motives and reasons for not eating meat are for environmental sustainability issues and the industrialized food system which has gone so awry. The way current animal husbandry works is so polluting and filled with devastating environmental consequences from all the poop, and feed needed (corn, soy, feedstuff) that there is competition between feeding humans and feeding animals and deforestation and the energy conversion rate is very low. So why don’t I eat grass fed or organic, might you ask? well, those labels in the supermarket do not really mean much. and, over time, i have become averted to eating meat. that being said, i think humans were designed to be omnivorous, but eating much less meat than your typical human does today. And interestingly, in pasture farming, cows, chickens, pigs and other animals are required to maintain the ecosystem of the land and the native grasses, so if they didn’t exist, grasslands would not function as they do. If one is to eat an animal, it should be one of those happy cows (the image which is sold) and not from a CAFO. Of course that meat is expensive and people complain, but first, you shouldn’t be eating as much meat as you do, and second, the costs associated with pollution and methane etc are internalized and contained within that number you pay. Versus cheap meat, which is actually very expensive if you consider the depletion associated with it and the cost that would be required to mitigate that (which big companies don’t do)
Onwards…to veganism. I am not vegan. I would say I am 90% vegan. Everything I buy and cook for myself at home is vegan, again for environmental reasons and the industrial dairy and egg industries. (listeria anyone?) If i do have the urge for eggs, I will hobble to the farmers market to get a carton. and chickens, by the way, are not vegetarian. they eat worms and bugs. so the “vegetarian feed” label means diddly-squat, as does free range and organic because all that means is access to a tiny yard. Milk just grosses me out, and cheese does too, but i may nibble at a piece if it is on something someone is offering me. I also try to be vegan when eating out, but that is where my 10% unveganism comes from. When I am out and about and there are animal products in something, and there is no other option, i will eat it. for example, challah on fridays, or that sandwich you are having me try, or that really good looking hunk of milk chocolate. Furthermore, I do not think being vegan is a panacea for the food issues of the world and sustainability. If everyone were vegan, people living in countries where the traditional and easily accessible foods are meat (ie eating seal) shipping food all over the place is awful. And, fake processed meat is probably also harmful to the planet because of the associated processing and packaging. There is also the palm oil issue. So which is healthier for the planet and body? Butter from a real pasture raised happy cow, or palm oil from a plantation in the tropics?
Being completely vegan when out with people creates a sort of social isolation and a limiting diet which ties into former issues and creates a not-so-healthy psychological and restricting process for me. So part of me not labeling myself as “vegan” is for my own mental health. I must say, I strongly dislike the fact that forms of eating are labeled and you have to fit into some category and people judge you or frown upon you no matter what you eat. [different story entirely] But, it is part of life, and food is highly social and highly charged because FACT: you need food to survive. (and if you are a bear, you eat beets…)