Ironic, isn’t it? For the past year, I’ve been making slow changes into my diet, leading up to the once presumed inevitable fate I knew would take place. Initially, I wanted to become vegetarian for one sole reason common to many; preventing animal cruelty. What I started to discover however, is that I no longer was becoming vegetarian for that, but for many other things, and I didn’t even have to be vegetarian to do so. This is going to be kind of a lengthy post, since I’d like to share my own personal journey throughout in hopes of inspiring anyone curious or interested in my new support and advocacy in organic, local and support a sustainable food working society.
I should start from the beginning. I have been wanting to not just write this blog post, but make this lifestyle change for quite a while now. The only thing that held me back were some of the obstacles I could see myself having difficulty overcoming since I started college; the feeling of social exclusion and financial issues were my primary concerns. It all really started sophomore year of high school, when (I hope) most of us watched or read Fast Food Nation in our Health classes. I didn’t however stick to the major changes I made during high school when I entered college, but in the back of my mind, I could just hear the Fast Food Nation voice-overs judging me every time I took a bite out of a burrito somewhere.
In the last two years however, I started to get squirmy and teary when I ate anything made out of pig. I don’t know when it happened, maybe when I started to get weirdly obsessed with baby goats, but I couldn’t bring myself to eat pig anymore. I learned that they were more intelligent than dogs, and that really psychologically changed my perspective on the matter. I substituted everything commonly made with pig with birds, like turkey bacon or turkey sandwich meat. When I did that, I realized I also hardly ever ate meat from cow unless my parents cooked it. I discovered I only personally cooked chicken if I ever cooked meat to begin with, that was partly due to a nutrition class I took freshman year of college that really scarred me when dealing with cooking meat. Then, out of pure coincidence you might suggest, last semester I watched a documentary about the way different people lived their lives around the world. I didn’t anticipate it, but I witnessed something that would change another part of my diet immensely. It was of a white cow, who was shot twice in the head and carried out by her hind legs to make room for the next one. I don’t think I have ever lost my appetite as fast as I did then, and so I started to substitute cows with birds too.
It was a scene I have avoided being educated about for a long time, because I knew if I really discovered the truths about animal abuse in our meat industries it would be the cherry on top that would tip my entire world around. I avoided those over extremist PETA campaigns, I avoided the flyers, I skipped over those documentaries on Netflix, I avoided listening to why friends were vegetarian themselves, but why? It was like I said before, I knew not just becoming vegetarian, but eating healthy would be costly and maybe even difficult when I live in a meat loving eating world. I’m not suggesting that eating meat is unhealthy, (because we need some of those fatty goodies) but what I have been slowly discovering, is that many of the meats from providers we are eating, are. But I’ll get back to this later.
So, did I have what it takes to become vegetarian? To start, as a New Years Resolution for 2016 I vowed to only eat out once a week. That would exclude a lot of unhealthy food and meat from my diet in general. I’ve done a pretty good job, I cook at home a lot more and look forward to it, and it’s really rewarding when I do get that day of eating out! But when I found myself cooking my meals, the only meat consisting of chicken, I started to feel guilty and hypocritical. I didn’t value chickens the way I did cows and pigs because I thought they were less intelligent. To make the full commitment to become vegetarian was slowly but surely becoming closer to a reality, and I realized it was time to get educated. I knew I wouldn’t crave it, or have difficultly not eating meat for the rest of my life, but I was scared. I was scared of the financial burden of eating more healthy and healthy the more I was realizing I wanted it, then it hit me. Why, on earth, IS it more expensive to want to eat healthy or avoid eating animals!? Why can I get a cheaper full course meal than a pound of apples!? What the hell!?
At this point, I was confused, angry and I had no more regret about discovering the truths behind our food industries. So I started, I started to watch those documentaries and read as many articles as I could. And do you know what I discovered? I didn’t want to become vegetarian anymore just to spare animal cruelty, I wanted to become vegetarian to spare the lives of workers, to support local farmers, to help the environment, to advocate for a society of sustainable food. This is the part where I rant and explain what pushed me over the edge for two paragraphs.
Did you know working for meat industries was as prestige as working with cars back in the day? Before McDonald’s industries came into the picture and introduced fast food that is, and had to increase the production, resulting in the disbandment of labor unions and workers getting cuts in their payroll in order to sell 50 cent burgers. More restaurants got on board with the fast food trend, and more animals started to get treated like money makers, not sources of food. To meet the demand of a fast growing population, companies had to ditch the whole old school farming methods of raising cattle and chickens in the field and start creating more of those gruesome slaughterhouses I’m sure you might be familiar with. To meet the ever growing demand of fast food and meat in markets today, most companies use growth hormones and other chemicals to speed up production, things that can be traced to causing diseases that never existed before or appeared as frequently; like e.coli. I used to get angry at the chain restaurants themselves for their outbreaks of food borne illnesses, instead of realizing the bigger picture.
Majority of these slaughterhouses also don’t feed their cows their natural diet of grass, they eat corn because it’s cheaper, but why would someone want to eat anything that isn’t eating what they’re supposed to? These places have toxins and other icky things being poured into our waters from the runoffs, the pollution caused by these factories are also not minuscule, transporting them causes that too. Did you know some companies hire immigrants who started to lose their jobs in the farming industry to work for them in order to pay cheap, and then deport them when they want new services? When you walk into Walmart and see all the variety of groceries, it’s just a show, there are less than twenty major food corporations that are responsible for our food. And don’t even get me started on Monsanto. I then started to ask the bigger questions, where is my food coming from? Chick Fil A is my absolute favorite, and no where on the internet can I find out where they have been getting their chickens since 2012 when they supposedly cut ties with a company called Koch who were abusive to their livestock. This really bothered me, ladies and gents, I should know where my meat is coming from.
Have you ever thought what could the rest of the food in a grocery store mean if there’s a section called Organic and Healthy eating? Excuse me?
What I ended up discovering these past few weeks was that eating animals may not be wrong, but the way we are eating them is. Of course, this personal belief of mine can’t be applied to people who decide to be vegetarian because they don’t just disapprove of animal cruelty, but eating animals all together. I fall in the latter category, and my initial reasons for becoming vegetarian actually gave me the possibility of not becoming vegetarian all the time. There are farmers who believe their animals should live life, eat grass, sustain their crops, vegetables and animals without any chemical enhancements who disapprove of the way society eats their food today. Where can I find them? Where can I find their products? Where can I support sustainable food and help our environment by choosing these alternatives? In the Saturday morning farmer’s markets, and local grocery shops! I know, I sound like an ad. Goodbye Walmart (Food), so long Kroger (food), and fare the well H.E.B. (food)…I’ll miss you most.
However, there are bountiful of benefits to this kind of diet and lifestyle change. By alternatively eating locally grown food, one, I get to eat meat! Probably not all the time, since it’ll be a little bit more expensive, but it’ll sure be a treat! And I’ll know where it’s coming from. Locally grown food is full of much more rich flavor, so that’s going to be very nice on my taste buds. There are more nutrients, since there is shorter time between harvest and on your dinner plate compared to sitting on a shelf forever. There’s also less chances of contamination since there are fewer steps in creating the food! It supports the local economy, and that is a duty a civilian should owe a little bit to their community. It also helps the environment, if you’re eating locally that means you’re not eating from something that has to be imported hundreds of miles away leaving a big carbon footprint. I’m sure there’s tons of more bonuses, but these are some of those eye opening ones!
I hope my personal story of becoming vegetarian to not becoming vegetarian and instead supporting and advocating for a more healthy, organic and sustainable food living society has been either informative or inspirational for those curious or on a very similar journey themselves. Walmart used to never have a healthy organic section, it wasn’t until people started to want it. I used to believe in the whole “just because your a vegetarian doesn’t mean it will stop animal cruelty,”but I was wrong. I think what people forget is that the attitude and opinions of society will reflect in the world around us, in this particular case, food. All of these stores, restaurants, industries and companies track consumer purchases and demand, anyone can help make a difference three times a day. Even if you decide to cut back on meat from time to time, or choose the ‘healthy’ option at a restaurant sometimes, that little voice will be heard. It’s not necessarily just to prevent animal cruelty, it’s also to help prevent food born illnesses, protect farmers, protect meat industry workers, and protect the environment.
I’m starting to realize more and more every day with almost anything I’m becoming passionate about, that we really can make a difference. Don’t ever be afraid to make that change, for other causes, for other issues, for other concerns the way I once was. It’s never too late, and it can all start today.
Here are some helpful sources and information that could be of much interest to you!