In response to reading Eating Animals by Jonathon Safron Foer I have decided to write a 5 (or more?) part series on Food as I see it, eat it, and think about it. Foer’s book is about Meat, which is what Animals become once they are killed and about to be consumed. Not all of my sections are about Meat. In fact, technically only one touches on the topic, and that’s this one. However, it’s about how I don’t eat meat.
This essay contains my 6 reasons for being a Vegetarian. Prior to reading Eating Animals I had only 5, but I’ve added 1 other. I’ve also, having refreshed my memory on the particulars of the state of animal affairs in the US, decided to return to the more strict vegetarianism that I practiced when I first started in 2007. These certainly aren’t everyone’s reasons for being a vegetarian, and some would argue that other reasons are “better.” However, these one are mine, and they have (and will again) suffice to keep me meat-free.
The simplest reason I have for being a vegetarian is my own personal health. Diabetes hypertension, and high cholesterol pervade in my family tree and I’m planning to live till I’m 100. Vegetarians generally have low blood pressure and are more attentive to balanced diets. Though some eschew vegetables and fruits, that is not me, though I’m always trying to be more clever about adding them into my daily diet. To the well intended question of “Are you getting enough protein?”,it’s helpful to know that you only need .8 grams of protein per each kilogram of weight, and furthermore low protein has been linked to longevity.
The second reason I have is that animals, while tasty, are not kept that healthy during their short and brutal life. This is due to the antibiotics pumped in during their lifetime, the shoddy feed that they are given (often containing non-food substances), and the poor living and dying conditions that the animals endure. I know it’s slightly selfish to be concerned for only myself when I read about unsanitary slaughtering and even “sterilizing” practices, but I am. Oh, I am. (See page 131 of Foer’s book. I literally gagged at what chicken is “cleaned” in.)
Reason three is environmental reasons. Between energy needed to grow and feed animals, to house and transport, and then once killed to transport again, that’s an awful lot of gas and energy. There is also the cheeky fact that animals themselves produce a lot of gas. And their waste byproducts are so excessive on factory farms that they can’t be reabsorbed into the soil. Hence, it’s more pollution.
Inefficiency. I’m also pretty concerned with the price of food these days, not just for me, but for our neighbors in third world countries. Turns out animal production is extremely inefficient, taking food out of the mouths of starving people. Without beef and pork and chicken needing all that grain (something they’re not suited for eating anyway) there’s far more corn and soybeans and grain for the rest of the world. A simple solution for world hunger? Well, not quite, but better anyway. The same goes for the clean water used to feed those animals again coming from the mouths of those in poverty.
My fifth reason is my most spiritual and moral (although feeding the poor is probably a spiritual reason as well). And that’s, the reason I’m a vegetarian is because I’m interested in searching out a way to live a simple life. Simplicity. A purity of heart type thing. I’m a firm believer in the fact that my treasure is in heaven, it’s not here on earth. And therefore, there’s no reason to store up lots of treasure here. There’s no need to own a lot of things, and flaunt wealth. Eating is a similar thing. There’s no need to eat meat at every meal, physically or financially. What’s more, the poor can’t afford to eat meat at every meal, and in solidarity with ‘the poor’ (and I don’t just mean the American poor), I don’t eat meat at every meal.
Finally, now added to my library of reasons is one that Foer details as well. The dehumanizing conditions that slaughterer’s work under. Speed rules in the slaughterhouse, and men and women are forced to keep pace in this dirty occupation. There’s also blood, guts, and terrible pay. Add to that a great deal of workers who are illegal immigrants who can’t complain, and an atmosphere of killing killing killing. It’s no wonder there’s little pride in work, and abundant cruelty present.
As I intimated earlier, there are other reasons for being a vegetarian; animal welfare, objection to animal cruelty, objection of capitalist monopolies, dislike of meat, spiritual, moral… etc. I agree with them all, it’s just that they aren’t my primary reasons.
Am I occasionally inconsistent in my follow through? Unfortunately. Also, unfortunately, that’s going to be a pervasive theme for this whole food series.