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A few months ago I was having dinner at my parent’s house. They had cooked steaks on the grill with potatoes, vegetables, and salad. It was a pretty typical dinner for my family. My mom asked how big of a piece of steak I wanted. I looked at her and very matter-of-factually said, “I don’t think I want to eat meat anymore”.
The decision was a long time coming and I had unknowingly been shying away from meat for quite a while, so don’t think it was some kind of spur of the moment feeling I just blurted out. Growing up I was the ultimate meat and potatoes girl. I loved steak, bacon, and any other kind of meat we happened to be having for dinner. I was also a huge animal lover. I always have been, and I always will be.
My mom would always tell me that from a very young age I would ask her each night at dinner: “what animal are we eating?”. Some how even as a 4 or 5 year old I could make the connection that I was eating an animal. Deep down I dreaded hearing her response to my question. I knew as soon as the words left her mouth I’d feel nauseous and want to cry.
Then I was in junior high and visiting a dairy farm. There was a steer in the barn. His name was Gus. He was just the best thing to me. He’d stick his head over the fence and let me rub behind his ears, and he’d nudge me gently almost as if to thank me. I visited him several times and just fell in love. Then I heard that Gus was going to be going to the country fair and would be auctioned off as a part of the market auction sale. I was devastated. This steer had such personality! He knew me and I knew him! I was positive he felt love and compassion just like a person did. The next time I came to see Gus his pen was empty. I was absolutely devastated. Still even after this, it took me a long time to fully decide I no longer wanted to eat meat.
Why I’ve decided to stop eating meat really comes down to 4 things:
- I want to love animals not eat them
- eating meat is really not that good for me
- eating meat is really not that good for the planet
- eating meat supports an industry I believe is very cruel to both animals and humans
I want to love animals, not eat them
Of course one of my huge reasons for this lifestyle change is my love for animals. If I didn’t love animals and didn’t believe them to understand love and compassion then perhaps I wouldn’t care nearly as much, but that’s not the case. I was simultaneously an animal lover and meat eater my entire life, because I was constantly disassociating the animals I knew and loved in the pasture with the food that was on my plate. But they’re not different at all. They’re one in the same. I wouldn’t dream of eating my precious Gus. How was he any different then the other steers out there? He isn’t.
Eating meat is really not good for me
There has been whispers for many years that meat is not super dooper for our bodies. Then there was all this talk about organic, grass-fed, cage-free, hormone free, blah blah blah blah blah. But still I hear and read that all of those things are basically just the lesser of evils. Eating plants makes me feel waaaaay better physically then eating animals ever did.
Eating meat is really not very good for the planet
The production, processing and distribution of meat requires a lot of different resources. Livestock drink a lot of water, and are fead a lot of corn and/or soybeans that are grown using large amounts of fertilizer, pesticides, and chemicals. The result is a lot of greenhouse gas emissions being released into our air, soil, and water. The result of that is something called climate change. If climate change is something you’re on the fence about, I urge you to check out Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary Before the Flood. It’s very factual and extremely eye-opening.
Full disclosure: The harvesting and mass production of vegetables and grains also emits greenhouse gases, but 10 to 40 times less than the amount the meat industry does.
The meat industry is cruel for animals AND people
I never thought of meat processing as a human rights issue until I read a few books in college for a class. If you’re curious, I 100% recommend the following books: The Jungle, Eating Animals, and Fast Food Nation. Read these 3 books (Heck! Read just one of these books…) and you will never again view the meat industry as being just about cruelty towards animals. All of the information is out there, a simple google search will prove that time and time again. For me it’s just a matter of refusing to ignore that it happens. I also recommend reading this article. It’s horrifying and it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
I longer want to ignore that fact that the rules and regulations of our government are not enough (just like I recently learned about our skin, make-up, and haircare products). I no longer want to ignore that a lot of cruel practices and industry cultures are perfectly legal (last time I checked SeaWorld was still a place and the circus is still a thing). And I no longer want to disassociate where my food comes from and how it’s produced in order to make myself feel better.
Has it been hard?
The most common question I’ve been asked is, has it been hard? Honestly, not really. A few months ago I starting noticing that just walking past the meat section in the grocery store or touching and cooking meat (regardless of if I was eating it or not) would make me nauseous. I thought maybe it was just a weekly hormonal thing, but a few months later when it was still happening I knew my meat eating days were numbered.
My husband has been awesome and really supportive with my decision. As some of you know he’s a professional athlete so good nutrition (especially protein) are important for him. He will eat meat occasionally when we’re out, but I do not cook it at home so he has by default gone semi-vegetarian. He says his body has felt great since making the change.
I’ll now leave you with the best food philosophy I’ve ever come upon. It comes from Michael Pollen and it goes like this: