Look, no formalities needed here, let’s cut straight to it:
For the most part, I am now a vegetarian almost exclusively. You might hate that and feel like I’ve simply gone one more step toward being a liberal wuss who does the hipster thing.
So I figured I’d explain how I got here and why I plan to stay here.
I have never been a vegetarian before. My parents are not vegetarian and I had no vegetarian friends growing up. When Alex Kenis (from *gasp* liberal Philadelphia) joined Becoming The Archetype, I couldn’t understand his stance against eating meat and I challenged him rigorously multiple times. It seemed nonsensical to me.
I did, however, care about personal health. And as I learned more and more about the disgusting things that pass as “food” in modern America, I started caring about what I ate. Not so much meat vs non-meat, but I did start paying a lot more attention to what entered my body. This was purely for personal, even selfish, reasons, as it only had to do with my health and physical fitness.
After I married a vegetarian almost 6 years ago, it made more and more sense to me and my diet slowly and naturally changed: we bought less meat at the grocery store, and as we cut back on wasteful expenses like eating out, I had less and less occasion to eat meat. I would go weeks at a time without eating meat.
And it didn’t bother me at all.
After awhile, as we considered the most faithful way to steward our resources, I realized again that meat was expensive. I also became more aware to the hideous nature of America’s meat industry, which has been well-documented and can be easily viewed if you’re interested.
So now, I’m almost exclusively done with meat.
At this point, I think it’s easier to state things in bullet points and answer some common questions:
- The animal is dying for my pleasure.
It really is that simple. I am eating chicken at a restaurant, not because it’s my only option and I’ll starve if I don’t eat it. I’m eating it, requiring its life to end, simply for my own pleasure.
Let me put it this way: would you be comfortable watching someone beat a dog to death for his/her pleasure? I assume (and hope) you wouldn’t. Yet, this is almost identical to our system: we kill an animal for the enjoyment of eating it, not for any necessity. Just like the guy beats the dog to death for his enjoyment, so we demand that animals be slaughtered for our enjoyment.
Now, if I were dying of starvation and had nothing else to eat, I would eat an animal. That has never been the case in my life and I’m gonna take a wild guess and suggest it has never been in yours either.
- I am not Refusing to eat meat, but rather Declining.
This is an important distinction for me. As I said above, I would eat an animal if it was my only means of survival. In addition, my wife and I are considering owning a small farm at some point in the future. If we do, I am not opposed to eating our animals toward the ends of their natural lives.
I also have no problem with those who hunt for their own food. If you kill a deer, sure, eat that meat. I’m happy for you. I’m not the hunting type, so that’s not worthwhile to me.
I also will not make a scene. If only meat-oriented options are served at a public meal or while I’m eating with someone, I will eat/order the meat without mentioning it. I have no inclination toward making a fuss.
- I am not vegan.
Both my wife and I still eat eggs, milk, cheese, etc. My wife also used to eat seafood, but at this point, neither of us do much of that anymore.
- I honestly don’t miss meat.
This isn’t all that difficult for me, to be honest. So I’m sensitive to those who try the vegetarian lifestyle and have a lot of difficulty. My penchant is carbs: I crave bready foods and man, it is not good for my waste-line (but great for my celebrated #dadgut).
- I do not expect others to maintain my lifestyle.
I’m explaining why I almost always decline to eat meat. I am by no means setting a standard for others to follow unless their conscience bids them to do so.
- Vegetarianism is more economical.
High quality meat costs more than most vegetables do. So it’s better for your personal finances. Sure, you can find ways to eat meat regularly without it being costly, but that is often due to the low quality of that meat, and due to the subsidizing of the meat industry by the US government. I don’t like corporate welfare, so I don’t want to support it with my checkbook.
- Eating meat is a highly inefficient use of resources.
When an animal eats a plant, only 10% of its carbon (read “energy”) is transmitted to the eater. Huh, that’s not much. Yet, the carbon is reduced by that amount every time you go up the food chain. If I eat an herbivore, I receive only 10% of of that animal’s carbon. That equates to 1% of the carbon stored in the original plant. The energy is reduced again if I eat a carnivore to make it just .1%.
That’s an irresponsible use of the earth’s resources in my view, so I can no longer in good conscience participate in it.
- I have a severe ethical problem with monetizing animal life.
This deals mostly with the system that America has used in the last few decades. Breeding, raising, and fattening animals solely for consumption runs, in my understanding of Scripture (I am a Christian), counter to the idea of God’s creation being “very good.” Are we treating God’s creation as very good when we slaughter for pleasure, when we manipulate the natural system to create a profit for ourselves? I have many problems with that.
Furthermore, the business practices of the corporations who dominate the American meat industry should give a person reason to pause and consider their willingness to support it financially. Aside from the monetizing of death, there is also the problem of perpetuating slavery by running smaller businesses out of town and often employing short-term, low-wage employees (who often have no other options now that the smaller businesses have been destroyed, both in America and in our neighboring nations, due to our national decisions).
- Most meat in America is made using practices that damage Creation.
The widespread use of antibiotics puts both animal and human populations at risk. Additionally, the increased animal manure concentrated in certain areas pollutes water sources via nitrates, pollutes the air via methane, and the runoff from that manure increases the risk of diseases like E. coli on plant life.
- Genesis 1-2 implies an ideal of vegetarianism.
Many Christians read Genesis as a historical and scientific document. If you do, I think you must seriously consider the ideal set forth in those first two chapters of the Bible: before sin, there was no death of human or animal. The Garden of Eden is presented to us as a utopian, vegetarian society. If you believe that physical death came only by sin, then your continual involvement in (and perhaps even delight in) the fruits of that sin should call into question your lifestyle and use of your God-given resources (both your financial stewardship and your Genesis-mandated stewardship of the earth).
*Dislaimer: I do not understand the Bible from this perspective anymore, but I do think there is value in understanding what the people of God in the Israelite nation chose to present to their children as the original ideal or plan.