By: Gavin Kelleher | Writer
November 4, 2016
Love yourself, the earth, and the creatures on it:
My personal experience as a vegetarian of seven years, and why you too should consider a compassionate lifestyle.
First off, vegetarianism isn’t for everyone. In no way is it logical to claim all people should choose a meat free life– all bodies are different, and this choice is not guaranteed to be healthy, nor beneficial for everyone. While you personally may not find yourself fond of this lifestyle, there is importance in not completely disregarding the concept. People have become accustomed to ignore and reject the thought that meat may be harmful not only health-wise, but also ethically and even environmentally. If you are someone who cares for your body, the vegetarian agenda should be a part of your life (even if you do still consume meat) for the well-being of our earth and animals.
Part 1: Meat simplified
The meat industry is one of the biggest businesses in the world. The American government spends $38 billion a year to subsidize the meat and dairy industry, and only 0.04 of that amount on fruits and vegetables. Factory farming feeds 318 million Americans. This industry with its immense influence in American society has also become completely ignored and neglected. The amount of knowledge surrounding factory farming is minimal when conversing with most people. One would think that with meat being such a huge aspect of American culture, we would be more informed on the subject. The meat industry is responsible for the daily slaughtering of the majority of meat that Americans consume. Not only does a slaughterhouse contain mass groups of livestock in completely inhumane, cramped conditions, but the killing of this livestock is far beyond any cruelty many people can even imagine. When researching and becoming familiar with the process of factory farming, it is impossible to deny the unbearable brutality these animals experience throughout the process of their death.
However, factory farming is not only responsible for inhumanity towards livestock. This business is also a large contributor to severe deforestation. In the U.S alone, there has been over 260 million acres of forests that have been cleared in order to grow crops that are used exclusively for feeding livestock. If you are unaware of what this detriment deforestation presents, simply put, this creates enough carbon release into the atmosphere to increase the rate of global warming by 50%. So not only does factory farming destroy immensely large habitats that are vital to our ecosystem, they are also stealing our oxygen and bringing us closer and closer to a seriously irreversible global warming issue. This issue is one of few when discussing the global problems factories present. Monocultures, water pollution, and air pollution are few examples of the damage factory farming is doing to our home. The issue with this system is not limited to barbary towards animals. Factory farming is a detriment to everyone that lives on earth, no matter if you totally love bacon, or prefer the veggies; this is one issue that does not choose favorites.
Part 2: Your health!
Throughout the past seven years, the most common reaction I have experienced when people discover the ghastly fact that I do not eat meat is:
“How do you get your protein?”
While meat does contain large amounts of protein, it is not always the healthiest choice, especially when the meat is a product of factory farming. Meat that is highly processed actually becomes much harder for the human digestive system to process because this limits the amount of nutrients the body will receive when consuming meat.
The misconception that all vegetarians eat are vegetables misguides the common view on health as a vegetarian. Many people have claimed that I only eat “rabbit food” now. While vegetarians are indeed as adorable as bunnies, our diets are not limited to lettuce. Becoming vegetarian does require a certain extent of knowledge about health; it is impossible to become vegetarian and maintain your health while simply eating carbs such as bread, pasta, or even soy products like tofu.
The simple elimination of meat from one’s diet does not in anyway guarantee a healthier lifestyle. When done correctly, though, elimination of meat can actually lead to various improvements with health. If done right, a higher consumption of fiber, folic acid, vitamins C and E, and unsaturated fats can result in vegetarians having lower cholesterol, low blood pressure, and a reduced risk of heart diseases. The benefits of vegetarianism vary depending on the individual. As long as you are not simply removing meat but adding supplements to the benefits of meat and eating a wide variety of foods, this lifestyle can be immensely beneficial. With a healthier body, comes a healthier mind.
Part 3: Thoughtfulness
Many people have asked, “How could me not eating meat help when so many other people continue eating meat?”
My response? I want to reduce the amount of suffering in the world that I directly contribute to. If you really believe in something, you don’t just sit around waiting for someone else to change.
As a strong believer in the theory of this quote by Gandhi, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
I find the meat industry cruel and demeaning to the nature of humans. The lack of sympathy many people hold towards the animals that inhabit the earth alongside us is unnerving in respect to how we treat each other. Factory farming is a business that profits off the abuse of life. The disrespect many people have for their food shows a disconnect we have developed as a community. When something is so important to our livelihood and well-being, there lies importance in recognizing that your steak once was a living being that felt fear and felt affection. Animals may not be as cognitively developed as a human, yet they still breathe, they are aware of their life, of their family, and still deserve recognition for their existence. The consumption of meat has become a thoughtless addition to everyday life– there is no connection between life and the steak you have packaged in your freezer.
When discussing vegetarianism as a moral choice, Alexa Murray stated, “Factory farming is killing animals who are totally disregarded, just for people’s pleasure so that they can enjoy meat without actually seeing that this was once a living being.”
Because vegetarianism is not ideal for everyone, it is important to recognize and to consider the life that has been taken. If you continue to eat meat, take responsibility for it. Become an educated meat eater, be responsible for what you put into what you eat, and what effect you leave on the world, so that you can help with reducing the suffering in the world.
What you can do:
- Stop eating meat, do not support or contribute to this industry.
- Educate yourself. Look into factory farming, deforestation, health. Choose where you stand on the topic only after you actually understand.
- Support local businesses. Find a place where livestock is raised with respect and care. Eating meat does not mean you are a bad person nor does it mean you do not care, so explore and become aware of how you contribute to the meat industry.
- Grow your own food!
- Get involved.
- Be conscious and spread the knowledge.