The road to wellness isn't straight, clear, or predictable. It's a path you forge yourself.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Why I am Not a Vegetarian (or a Vegan)

Since I started to change my diet and eat healthily, I have had many people ask me, "why aren't you a vegetarian?"  After all---isn't vegetarianism the healthiest way to eat?  Well, not necessarily.  Here's my reasoning as to why I continue to eat meat:

No Waste!  (like the Indians):
First of all, let me say that if I had to kill an animal in order to eat it, I definitely would be a vegetarian.  I know I could not kill an animal.  However, since it's already done anyway and the animal is dead, wouldn't it be wrong to waste its flesh?  I know the idea is that less demand leads to less production, but in reality, SO much food is thrown away in this country.  Over production seems to run rampant in the food industry.  (...and don't get me started on overproduction of corn due to corn subsidies from the government!)  So I feel that if I don't eat meat, then I'm saving a bit of flesh that an animal sacrificed from ending up in a landfill somewhere.

Even Vegans Kill:
Second of all, vegetarians and vegans are kidding themselves if they think they are not contributing to the death of animals.  Farming practices kill all kinds of animals.  For example, thousands of field mice get run over by harvesting equipment every time it is used.  Also, the land that is cleared for farming deprives animals of their habitat.  In fact, if we all were to become vegan, a lot more animal species would become extinct due to the vast amount of land if would require us to clear in order to grow all that grain and veggies.

Avoid Bad Juju:
So, either way, we're gonna kill some animals.  I think that the best way to deal with this is to treat the animals with respect and dignity and to give them a humane death.  Meat factory farms are NOT doing this.  To put animals in confined spaces so they can barely move, forcing them to stand knee-high in their own filth, then force-feeding them a diet of corn that they are not able to digest properly, then killing them on an assembly line is not treating them with respect.  Apparently, the stun-gun that they use to stun the cow before slaughter doesn't always do the job and a percentage of cows end up getting skinned alive.  How horrible!  I really  think that we are really racking up some bad karma over the way we treat the animals we eat.  I want no part of this.  Recently, I made the decision to not buy meat from these places or support places who do.  (This means ALL fast-food joints, folks!)  Seriously, factory farming cows is one of the biggest contributors of global warming and is terrible for the environment.  Grass-fed cows from small farms are much better for the environment. 

Buy Local and Grass-Fed (preferable Grass-Finished):
I now go out of my way to get grass-finished beef.  (Some meat-producers are letting their corn-fed cows eat grass for one day before slaughter and are calling it"grass-fed".   OR they will allow a cow that was raised on grass to eat corn to fatten it up before slaughter.  A new term, "grass-finished", had to be invented to differentiate between those and the cows that really are grass-fed their whole lives.)  If it's not available, I don't eat beef that week.

I was eggxcited (booo) to find some free-range eggs at my local farmer's market yesterday.  The man who raises them says that these chickens have the run of his whole property!  This made me feel good because "free-range" doesn't always mean free-range.  Commercial chicken producers are giving the chickens slightly bigger cages (so the chicken can take one step) and they are calling it "free-range".  (...and the USDA allows them to do it b/c it fits their definition of "free-range".  It's maddening!)  Likewise, "cageless" chickens are packed so tightly in their coops that they can't move.  Their reaction is to peck each other's eyes out, so the practice now is to cut their beaks off.  Just because there's no cage doesn't mean it's any better to pack them in like that.  Just being aware of where your food comes from is a good first step.

Happy Animals are More Delicious:
 I can't prove this scientifically, but it is my opinion that meat and products from happy animals taste better and are better for you.  Think about it.  When you're depressed and unhappy, certain chemicals are produced in your brain.  Fear and pain also produce adrenalin and other chemicals.  It makes sense then, that this is the case with animals.  An unhappy cow or chicken would have different chemicals running through its body than a happy one.  Also, it experiences fear as it goes down the conveyor belt to its death, bathing its muscles in adrenalin and other "fear and pain" chemicals.  If you eat it, you are literally eating the animal's fear and pain.  This can't be good.  A humanely slaughtered cow (and yes, they have these) seems like a better choice to me.  Again, it's not scientific at all, but I totally believe this.  I can tell you that my truly free-range eggs tasted a lot better than the supermarket ones I used to buy.  Plus, the yolks were more orangy in color, indicating a higher level of beta carotene. 

My Number One Reason:
You could say that all of the above is just rationalization.  (You'd be right too.)  But the real reason why I continue to eat meat is because I GAINED weight when I dabbled in veganism.  Yes, I went totally vegan for 6 months a few years ago.  Just because it's vegan, doesn't mean it's healthy!  I was eating things like chips and guacamole, crackers, bread, dark chocolate, lots of grains, lots of soy, vegan brownies and candy, and tons of sugar.  I gained weight because I was eating a lot more carbs than I otherwise would have.  The carbs are what make me gain weight.  Everyone is different, and I do better (and lose more weight) when I restrict my carbs.  Also, I can't eat a lot of things due to health reasons:  no wheat, no dairy, no sugar, severly limited soy, limited grains, no nightshades, no fungi, no vinegar, no alcohol, no fruit.  (My fertility specialist told me to avoid soy.  Apparently, it can give you an estrogen imbalance and can disrupt the fertility cycle.  Yikes!)  I have to eat something!  So, meat and veggies have become my mainstay for food.

 My number one rule for myself lately is:  Eat Responsibly  (I have to admit this has been recent because I really didn't know all this stuff before.  "The Omnivore's Dilemma" has enlightened me.)

Yes, no one's perfect.  BUT - I think if we try to eat responsibly, even for a little bit, it will have a cumulative effect and it's certainly better than doing nothing.  Happy eating!  :-)



  1. Speaking of vegetarian-style eating making one gain weight: the fastest way for me to gain weight is to have peanut butter or almond butter in the house---snarf and poof! Instant five pounds!

  2. I hear ya! I once made some Thai peanut sauce and ate myself sick on it.

  3. Speaking of no waste - we save our bones and make our own stock. I don't know that I can say it's cheaper than buying it (although it's not a lot of man power to make stock - it does take a good 2-3 hours of time on the stove and therefore gas and electric cost) but it feels good. We had a nice pasture-raised Muscovy duck (MUCH less fat than the usual duck species at grocery stores) last weekend and we're going to have duck stock! You make it and then freeze it in a muffin tin to have small aliquots ready to go!

  4. Wow. Making your own stock is good thing to do. It sounds like you've been at it quite a bit longer than I have. I only recently started making my own chicken stock and now I feel silly for all those years I used to throw out chicken bones and then buy stock cubes! :P