Thursday, February 21, 2013

Why Do You, or Don't You Eat Meat?

Avo Toasts I made from the VegCookbook 
Club's January VegCookbook, Crazy Sexy Kitchen
Over the last 43 years, I've been a vegan, a vegetarian, and a meat-eater. Now I think of myself as vegan-ish. Because of how animals are treated in factory farms, the connection between meat-eating, climate change and poverty, and for health reasons, I want to eat a more plant-based diet.

I say I'm vegan-ish because I often fall short of my aspirations. Sometimes I get really hungry, and the only thing that will fill me up is an egg, or cheese. And then there is my monthly PMS pepperoni pizza craving, which cannot be ignored.

I'm also a social gal, and I don't like asking my host to make something special for me, plus, because I had a childhood full of food allergies and restrictions, I hate bringing my own food.

Hawaiian "plate lunch" I ate on our honeymoon
Finally, I like to try new food, in particular, food that is the specialty of a restaurant, region, or culture. For example, when we went to Spain last fall, I ate more meat and cheese than I've probably eaten in my life.

And then, I'll read a book, or see a movie that reminds me of why I need to try harder not to eat animal products. Last week, when I went to see Samsara, I was deeply disturbed by a scene from a poultry farm. The Atlantic describes it in its article, The Stories Behind the 5 Most Difficult-to-Film Scenes in Samsara: "At the Mariesminde Poultry Farm in Denmark, we watch a bizarre vehicle sucking up live chickens with a vacuuming snout; seconds later we watch an automated kill line slitting poultry throats."

Horrible.

I don't want to support that kind of treatment of animals.

And yet, I stumble.

So, I continue on my vegan-ish journey. I use the VegCookbook Club community to keep me VegCooking on a regular basis, and I struggle between doing what I know is right for the planet, and my cravings, culinary curiosities, and social niceness.

I share this story because I'm wondering if any of you have had a similar experience. I would also love to hear why you eat, or don't eat meat, and other animal projects.

I've been holding onto this post for three days because I'm afraid to out myself as an imperfect VegEater. I know that talking about eating, or not eating meat can be a hot button issue for people. I would love to have a discussion about this, but not a shouting match. Please be a considerate commenter (:

17 comments:

  1. I think my husband and I fall into basically the same camp you do - we call our eating style Flexitarian.

    At home we have been mostly vegetarian but eat whatever the host/hostess provides when at friends and family and when we eat out, we eat meat at restaurants that have local humane raised non factory farmed options. Lucky for us we live in a town with quite a few.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your VegStory, heather g-m/

      You're lucky to have so many sustainable restaurants options where you live.

      While researching this piece, I came across an interesting article on Grist.org, "Introducing … the Vegan/Omnivore Alliance against Animal Factories," that might be of interest to you too: http://grist.org/factory-farms/2011-03-23-introducing-the-vegan-omnivore-alliance-against-animal-factories/

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  2. Meg Oceanna2:03 PM

    I was raised a big meat-eater. When I became pregnant, my gall bladder stopped working... I simply could not digest any meats or oils. So I purchased vegetarian cookbooks and began to read the benefits of this way of eating. I have never looked back. My biggest reason to stay came from what I read about how animals are treated in the industry's efforts to bring meat to our mouths for, what, 15 minutes? It is profoundly horrendous what these sentient creatures go through so we can eat them. And the cool thing is... we Don't need to eat them!! I have been very very healthy since I quit meat. It has been 25 years. At first it was hard... I craved what I used to eat. Once, 10 years into it, I craved and purchased (and unfortunately ate) a Big Mac. It sat in my stomach for a week, putrifying. Yuk. Never again. I would encourage anyone, for any reason, to turn veggie. If not just to save your own life.

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    1. Thanks so much for sharing your VegStory/VegJourney, Meg.

      I agree that the way factory farming treats animals is outrageous. It's the #1 reason I try not to eat meat.

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  3. I have a lot of moral dissonance about this. I do agree with many of the moral arguments about vegetarianism (though I'm less convinced by veganism), but I still continue to eat meat. I just try to eat less of it, and be more responsible about it. I feel good about eating vegetarian fed, cage-free eggs, for instance, and I like to buy up pretty much anything that is grass fed, or organic, or something else good so I can help drive up demand for more responsible practices.

    I'm less convinced, though, by how icky it all is (there are lots of icky things that are good for us, like... open heart surgery, I guess?) than I am by the simple fact that, as Meg Oceanna points out, we don't need to eat meat at all. So if there's a moral question, it's easy to start to scale down, and reduce the harm I'm doing.

    I do also feel we don't all need to be perfect, if everyone is just better. If we don't, as a community/country/world feel like we need to make meat the center of every meal, the whole scale of all that animal farming could go down to a level where every animal eaten for food lives a reasonably happy life, is healthy, and is killed humanely, and I could live with that. :)

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    1. I like this: "I do also feel we don't all need to be perfect, if everyone is just better.

      Thank you for sharing your VegStory/VegJourney, Kimberlee.

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  4. My husband and I don't eat as much meat as we used to (for health, ethical, and financial reasons.) I go through phases where the look or smell of meat makes me nauseous (fish is usually the exception,) so I don't eat it. If my body is craving it, I do. I try to incorporate all kinds of protein into my diet (because of FMS,) but sometimes only meat will make me feel better or satisfy the craving.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your VegStory/VegJourney, Chelsea.

      What is FMS?

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  5. I've been vegetarian for about 10 years, and I don't miss meat. But I also try to be easy on myself and others. If I accidentally eat meat, I don't worry about it. If I'm going out with friends, I don't make a big deal out of it, I just order what I order. But I have been thinking of going vegan, and giving up the cheese is really hard. So, I've been cutting down and seeing how I feel.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your VegStory/VegJourney, Mysa. I really appreciate it.

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  6. Namaste ~

    I feel the only thing you can strive to be is simply kind and compassionate to yourself. Many vegans forget that as they transition - or even if they've eaten a vegan lifestyle for years and slip occasionally.

    I have a blog post on my website about compassionate eating and transitioning.

    One does not need to be a veg eater full time to demonstrate compassion for self or others. Buddhists who follow the traditional vegan lifestyle combined with the "do no harm" philosophy (similar to the wandering sadhus) believe we should graciously accept whatever food we are offered (for it is being offered by the Universe - through the love of oneness) with loving kindness and gratitude to the animal sacrificed as well as to those who offer the meal - whatever that meal may be.

    I'm about a 70% vegetarian. I eat animal products about two-three times a week. However, I'm not about to demonstrate a judgmental attitude towards myself or others for their personal lifestyle choices or for "falling" off the wagon so to speak. It doesn't fit my personal spiritual philosophy.

    Also - I believe plants have just as much consciousness and sentience as animals and myself. It's a different form, but it still exists. They feel pain and they do screech and scream and suffer from the horrifying pesticides humans spray.

    All in all, all we can do to honor the cycle of life and do no harm is to lovingly tend and care for those who lovingly provide sustenance and life force energy to us.

    Darling, all that matters is you are honoring yourself and others. Be at peace with the choices you make.

    Be peace. Be bliss. Be one. Be love.

    Namaste

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    1. What a beautiful response, The Goddess Isis. Thank you for sharing it. It's true that being kind and compassionate to ourselves, AND to others the best we can is what truly matters.

      I would love to read your blog post about compassionate eating and transitioning, if you would like to share the link.

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  7. Anonymous1:17 PM

    I feel I should do allI can to value the pure life energy, the precious gift of life, the beauty of life. That can sound a little woo-woo and esoteric and in fact I've been having difficulty just cleaning up my room! so, so much for pure! But frankly I moved little by little into vegetarianism in my late teens and twenties, because I didn't want to participate in animal suffering. I was drawn to eastern philosophies that were vegetarian oriented. For me it feels good to be veg. Unfortunately I live in a rural area where there is animal raising for slaughter and it's painful for me to see the trucks go by with all those animals. It's more painful for them. So I feel I am not yet doing enough to cultivate a meat-free world. I am also around alot of non-vegs and I don't always speak up about it. On the other hand with a relative I have been too agressively negative about meat-eating and regret it every time. I am however taking steps to participate in vegetarian organisations. I believe that veg/vegan is THE way to go! Wishing you a happy life.

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  8. Anonymous5:45 AM

    Hello, I am Chromalyn.

    For my last 10-15 years, less meat and dairy, declining more as I mature. Some days I am hungrier than others. Then I find myself in a conundrum having to do with I won't buy Monsanto. But TJs has a lot of good options and I am glad they are within walking distance.

    My step-nephew and his sisters were all raised seafood/veg, and have all gone pretty much vegan. That makes me smile. Lean in baby.

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  9. Thanks for sharing your stories. I've been vegetarian to pescatarian for about 10 years now. (Eating fish made it easier when traveling places that don't accommodate vegetarians, and I pay attention to the sustainability guidelines.)

    I just moved to rural Alaska, where many people rely on subsistence hunting. I am struggling with the question of whether to begin eating other meat. Vegetarian options tend to be pretty processed, if they exist. Or I have to rely on shipping a lot of food in. (There's a Farm that ships organic produce weekly, so I'm definitely doing that.)

    The other meat options aren't raised in a factory farm. And given the cultural dimensions, I know it is done sustainably. So I feel better about the idea. But I did not grow up eating any game meat, so it's a totally new concept to me. Thus far, I'm sticking to my current diet, partly out of fear of the unknown. But I wonder if over time I will end up eating food that is harvested. It is still from an animal, which is tough for me, but the environmental/climate impacts are likely less than something processed and shipped in. And I can participate more in the communal culture. I'm torn.

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  10. Anonymous4:35 PM

    I think killing animals is unreasonable! I mean why choose some thing so fatining and the fact that you know it went threw pain and begged for it's life when you can choose a salad or go to a vegan/vegetarian place to eat!:) my tip to you is go veggie or vegan!!!! Vote: mercy for animals, PETA, donteatus.org!!!!!!!'

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  11. Anonymous4:57 PM

    My vegetarian story is I was in class one day and I can't remember that well but I think I was talking to my teacher. I can't remember what brought vegetarianism. I side I want to go veggie it took me probably about a week or 2 because my mom kept putting meat on my plate and I kept saying to her I'm going veggie but I will eat it because you put it on my plate. I craved it for 3-4 months I gave in like 3 times but it was only a little bit of meat but then I forgot what it taste like and now I I'm who I am today!! A vegetarian/vegan!!!!

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