If you ask anyone in my family, you will learn that I have always been very picky when it comes to eating meat. I was
tortured and mocked many times at the dinner table because of my weak appetite for meat. It was not uncommon to hear “MOOOOO” or “OINK OINK OINK” as I took a bite of steak or pork. Instead of them saying we were going to eat hamburgers or ham, we were going to eat cow or pig for dinner. Another common comment was, “Yummmm… I just love me some nice, juicy cow.” Barf. Shame on you siblings and family members!
But, even before the teasing began, I always had to focus on blocking out what it meant to actually eat meat. I typically only ate small servings that were fully cooked and (preferably) charred. Anytime I was served steak, I had to quickly eat it before my brain screamed, “YOU ARE EATING A DEAD COW. SOMEONE KILLED THIS COW AND NOW IT IS ON YOUR PLATE.” I tried to ignore my mind because I was always taught that in order to be healthy, you had to eat your meat.
(If you are NOT a vegetarian, you probably find this extremely hilarious. Some of my family thinks so… You know who you are!)
So, now, before continuing on to explain why I am officially a vegetarian, it is only fair to confess my moments of meat cravings and indulgences. Yes, I have had many moments in life where I have consumed large amounts of meat: spicy chicken wings, bacon, breakfast sausage, barbecue ribs, hot dogs, and polish sausages. I didn’t always have to rush through the meat portion of my meal. I have eaten numerous servings of meat without regret, simply because it tasted good covered in marinades and seasonings. What I did not realize is that the same marinades and seasonings can be used on other non-animal protein sources and taste just as good. I was also raised to eat meat and oblivious to how our meat ended up at our grocery stores.
For the last several years, I refused to watch food documentaries because I knew I had a weak stomach. I didn’t want to learn something that would make me stop eating an important part of a healthy diet. Two and a half months ago, while surfing Netflix, I decided it was finally time to watch Food, Inc. It was there in front of me and I knew that I had been avoiding it. I anticipated that I would become a vegetarian for a few days to a week, but not permanently. I even warned my husband before we started watching it so there was no surprise.
And then… I learned something never imagined.
There are no words to describe how cruel and unnatural the meat industry is in the United States. I have always been horrified by the simple act of killing an animal for food but this current mass meat production is beyond acceptable. I realize that I am an extreme animal lover, but to see hundreds of animals living in unsanitary, cramped quarters; eating unhealthy, fattening food; never seeing or feeling the sunlight, green grass, or fresh air; being injected and sprayed with antibiotics and pesticides; being disassembled alive on conveyor belts; and being largely violated is just unacceptable. If you haven’t watched Food, Inc. yet, take an hour out of your day to lift the veil. If you don’t have Netflix (or it has been removed), you can buy it on Amazon for cheap.
It has been exactly 66 days (9.5 weeks) since I have eaten meat. I am utterly disgusted by the factory farming. I did not know something this cruel existed in our agricultural industry. I never thought I was avoiding watching Food, Inc. because of animal abuse and cruelty. I thought I was avoiding it because I did not want to see animals slaughtered and watch how bacon and hot dogs are produced. My stomach is forever sickened.
I am not writing this article to go on and on about the horrors of our meat industry but I have, indeed, found a true passion to pursue. And that passion is to lead a sustainable, family lifestyle starting with our new vegetarian diet. I refuse to cook meals that include meat, so my family is forced to change their diet along with me. It does not mean that my husband or children are “not allowed” to eat meat. I couldn’t control that anyways, but it does mean we are working to reduce our nation’s meat consumption by cutting back and not eating it at home. I am, however, absolutely against my children eating meat at fast food restaurants. We will not be eating fast food unless it is absolutely necessary, and if so, it will be a vegetarian option. The large scale dairy industry is just as bad but I will save that for another day.
I don’t believe that everybody should become vegetarians, but I do think that people need to take in some consideration to see where their meat is coming from. Also, in my opinion, due to our exponentially growing human population and wide variety of healthy plant-based alternatives, people should cut back significantly on meat consumption. It is not necessary to eat meat at every meal, every single day. The reason is not only to reduce animal numbers at factory farms but to help with the endless amounts of unnecessary livestock pollution that, according to the United States Natural Resources Defense Council, seriously threatens humans, fish, and ecosystems. I encourage you to click on their webpage link to view factory farming statistics.
I am now focusing on cooking food with a wide variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds. I am not against dairy products, though I am currently working to reduce my consumption of it. I want to at least buy dairy products from sustainable sources. I don’t want to give my business to massive dairy factories who repeatedly artificially inseminate cows and place their unwanted babies in dark boxes for 18 weeks before butchering them for veal. [Breathe.] Unacceptable. We will also be eating free-range chicken eggs, bought from a local farmer or neighbor. In the Spring, we will raise our own chickens for eggs and pets. Why not. (Read my last post about our plans for creating a homestead.)
Very soon, I will tell you more about how we are eating a well rounded, healthy vegetarian diet filled with essential vitamins and nutrients to support a healthy mind and body. But for now, you know some reasons why I am officially a vegetarian!