Guest Post: Why I am a vegetarian

twainblushquoteSometimes it occurs to me that the people around me still eat chickens, cows and pigs. And it weirds me out. Really? People still eat meat?

Who do I think I am, right? And how did I get into this ivory tower, anyway?

I took an Environmental Science 101 course my freshman year of college. In our textbook, there was a paragraph breaking down the amount of acreage needed to raise livestock compared with growing vegetables, and the amount of people that are fed by each. That to feed the same number of people, you would need, say, 10 acres for livestock to roam on and another 10 acres required to grow food to feed to the livestock, versus the 10 acres required to grow food to feed directly to us humans.

So I made a logical decision to do less harm to the environment, and to spread the food wealth a little to give poorer nations a better chance to not starve. As with most conservation-minded initiatives, vegetarianism is as much a humanitarian endeavor as it is an environmental one.

The reasons I remain vegetarian have expanded since I made this commitment. A plant-based diet is healthy, for one thing. I’m not here to explain the ins and outs of iron or B12; you have other sources like this blog for that (but protein is literally in everything – ask anyone with a kidney disorder and they’ll tell you how hard it is to avoid protein). And hey, look at me! I don’t take vitamins yet I haven’t been sick in over a year and, most importantly, I have a lot of energy. I’m a normal, functioning human being even though I haven’t eaten meat in 13 years.

Let’s get real now. What makes me sad when I realize that the people around me are eating actual limbs of actual animals is that I know that most of them have animals at home. Or they knew animals as kids. And yet the gap is so vast in people’s minds – the gap between the animals we love and the animals we eat.

I know, I know – we’re at the top of the food chain! We can do whatever we want! We have dominion! Meat is delicious! But with freedom comes responsibility, right? Man is separate from animals, but what separates us? It’s our critical thinking and self-control. And it’s our morality; we have the ability to think about whether what we are doing is ethical. Our greatest quest as a species should not be our dominion over this planet, but our stewardship of it.

Most people have seen a cat get scared when the garbage truck rolls by, or a dog whimper in pain when its tale is accidentally stepped on. And yet they can’t superimpose those same qualities – wit, loyalty, fear, pain – onto a cow or a pig. Or they do, but they would rather eat bacon anyway. We have the self-control to do what we want, not just what we feel like. Our bodies have the ability to operate on either an omnivorous or an herbivorous diet. With these choices, with these abilities – why would we choose to eat animals when we can choose not to?

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