Revisiting Long-Held Beliefs Allows for Growth.
To me, it seems that the public (both meat-eating and non-meat-eating people) has only one perceived reason for not eating meat: because animals are cute, and eating them is gross or cruel. This is the #1 most common (and usually ONLY) reason I hear about why people don’t eat meat OR perceive why others (like me) don’t eat meat. Sometimes there is a brief mention of “for health reasons” talked about as though it were a side dish to the main course reason of animal cruelty.
Animal cruelty is a fine reason not to eat meat, but holding it up as the only reason comes with a few problems. First, there are actually a TON of reasons not to eat meat besides liking animals. If this post’s main goal were to explain those reasons, then yes, I would pour over the research I’ve done in the past and link every 3rd word to a source, spending hours doing so. But my purpose here is to simply say, “I have a TON of reasons not to eat meat, and ONE reason to eat meat (underweight with food sensitivities and diet restrictions). I am trying to decide if I should eat meat.”
The research on the vegetarian diet is out there, often in very conventional places (like the USDA) not just hippie websites, I promise. Here is a brief list just to get you thinking outside the animal-cruelty box:
- Psychological Health: factory farms increase incidences of neurological disorders in nearby communities and put a mental strain on their workers who are spending entire shifts slaughtering animals.
- Environmental Health: meat & dairy industries pollute the water, land, and air
- Physical Health: reducing consumption of meat / eating a plant-based diet is healthier for the human body, as well as the benefit from avoiding growth hormones and antibiotics often used in meat production
- Spirituality: many religions believe that eating certain kinds of animals is wrong or immoral
- Animal Health: animals are not always killed humanely or raised in ways that makes them optimally healthy, affecting human health if the meat consumed is not from a healthy animal
- Financial Savings: being healthier cuts down on health expenses, and plant-based foods bought in bulk (like rice) are cheaper than standard meat options (like steak)
- Social Justice: many global problems relating to poverty can be reduced by more people eating plant-based diets and less consumption of fast food meats
- Cultural Immersion: eating a wider variety of foods than just meat & potatoes introduces people to other cultures and delicious cuisines which are also vegetarian
- Texture Sensitivity: meat certainly has a texture, and it’s a rather bothersome, gross texture for some people
- Climate Change: animal industries contribute greatly to the problems associated with climate change
So there are way more reasons to not eat meat than “animals are cute,” but another problem with this single-issue reasoning is that it’s all too easy for society to quickly label the global population of non-meat-eaters with oversimplified terms, and say, “Well our bodies are DESIGNED to eat meat, it’s natural, and you won’t get enough protein if you stop eating meat!” If you look, you’ll see protein exists outside of animal sources, too – just check some labels at the grocery store.
Regardless of what you believe, there’s quite a debate over whether our bodies were specifically designed to eat a mostly processed & packaged meat-based Western diet coupled with the sedentary lifestyle most Americans lead (and all of those things are not very natural). And if you like strict facts more than cute cuddly bunnies, there are quite a bit of facts on plant-based diets, some of them quite intriguing. Most of the world’s population of centarians (people who live to be over 100) are either non-meat-eating or eat mostly a plant-based diet. Wow!
That said, I’m still open to eating meat…at least, open to the idea.
Why? Because I relied a whole lot on eating dairy, yogurt, and soy as a huge part of my diet, and this transition into the land of food sensitivities is causing me to lose even more weight while I’m trying to actually gain weight.
A long time ago, I asked an intelligent well-read friend why he chose to stop being a vegetarian. I thought he’d have great reasons, and I wanted to know those reasons to see if being a vegetarian were still right for me or not. He responded saying that humans cannot really know “truth” and that perhaps plants felt more pain than animals. (The above rant on why there is more than one reason not to eat meat is the direct result of this conversation. And for those who are curious, yes, he eats fruits and vegetables but apparently does not feel their pain, LOL.) I think his actual reason is “meat tastes good so I eat it.” That’s not going to be my reason.
What I really need is for someone to show me what I should be eating every day as a gluten-free soy-free vegan, not just what I should avoid. Lacking said enlightened nutritionist to live in my pocket each day, I actually ate some chicken nuggets today. They were not very satisfying, it felt slightly gross, and did not provide much protein (just a few grams) but they were from the most healthy, happy, sustainably-raised chickens who got their nails trimmed every 2nd Saturday (just kidding, but seriously, these chickens were raised well). I still don’t feel right eating meat, so this decision will just have to stew on the backburner of my mind for awhile.