When I was little, I was the quintessential meat-and-potatoes, hold-the-potatoes kinda gal. I loved me some steak, man. I would shamelessly root through a casserole to pick out the chicken and cheese and creamy bits, leaving the rice and veggies behind. I thought vegetarians were 2 parts weird and 3 parts crazy, with a good dose of stupid topping the whole thing off. I was a big-hearted, accepting kind of child.
Somewhere around my second or third year of college my values underwent a change, and my taste buds were forced to follow.
I’m not a full-on vegetarian; I would feel awful if I went to someone’s house and had to turn down a meal they had made for me. (I would call myself a “vaguetarian” or a “flexitarian,” but that kind of makes me want to point and laugh at myself.) So I’m basically my own personal vegetarian–that is, I don’t cook with meat and try to avoid eating it when possible.
Many people have a salt-to-slug reaction when told about this decision of mine. “Why? You a crazy animal rights person? You stupid? Yo momma. . .” All good points, of course, but I’m a stubborn beast, and they don’t sway me in the least.
But since people exhibit so much hostility . . .er. . . curiosity with regard to the political ideologies and theological underpinnings of my venture into “the veg”, I thought I’d take a quick minute (as opposed to a slow minute. . .I hate those) to explain why you ain’t gonna see much in the way of meat preparation up in herr:
Reason 1: Social and environmental consciousness. Meat production requires a lot of energy, fossil fuels, and farmland that could be used to grow grain for people. I don’t have room here to go into all the details, but I encourage a little research. . .I will warn the wary that there are some politically motivated websites out there, so weigh the evidence, but it’s undeniable that the trend in environmental sciences is to encourage less meat consumption.
Furthermore, while I’m not the world’s biggest animal lover (I know, I know), I do think that animals should be treated decently, and a look at some of the meat factory goings-on convinced me that most of the animals slaughtered for our consumption are not being treated in a way I can line up with ethically.
Reason 2: Health. Now, a vegetarian diet isn’t always healthier. In my first few vegetarian months, I realized that chocolate, cheesecake, and baklava are all meatless. I also discovered, after much trial and error, that they don’t make good entrees. But a vegetarian diet that doesn’t substitute sugar for meat is very healthy. The 10 pounds that fell off my butt one day hasn’t hurt the vegetarian cause in my eyes, either. . . though it has left me a bit disproportionate.
Reason 3: Self-denial. I’m the worst at self-denial, and the practice of virtue doesn’t factor hugely into my life. Giving up meat was a good way to deny myself and live out a little portion of my values. Vegetarianism for the win!
Reason 4: Creativity. I’m tired of throwing meat in everything to flavor it. I thought it would be a challenge to my creativity to make meatless entrees super-appealing. It hasn’t actually been difficult at all, and it has allowed me to eat a lot in the way of Indian food, so everybody wins. But it is fun to look in the fridge every once in awhile and think, “Now how can I make this favorite meat dish’o’mine vegetarian?”
My personal values do not reflect universality–that is, I don’t subscribe to the notion that every single person on earth should give up meat. In fact, I know that people with certain blood types and health concerns need their meat. But I would encourage those of you who like trees or health or self-denial to at least consider cutting back on your meat consumption. It won’t transform you into a paint-flinging member of PETA. You won’t shrivel into a protein-deprived remnant of your former vibrant self. And you’ll only regret it if you confuse vegetarianism for a raw foods diet. Let me tell you, those people are 3 parts crazy.