For the record, I care about the environment. When I can, I walk instead of drive. I recycle like crazy. I grow my own veggies. I only water the lawn every other day. And I try like heck to avoid using chemicals on my lawn, though getting rid of the crane fly larvae which are currently KILLING the grass may tempt me to the dark side, at least momentarily. I've also switched to laundry detergent and other household cleaners that are supposed to be better for the environment. I make the kids take short showers. I keep the heat on only as needed ("Wear a sweater if you're cold!"), and I use the air conditioner on only the very hottest of days. I try to do what's right.
Which is probably the main reason why, over the past year or so, I have read many articles and a few books on vegetarian/vegan diets and their logical connection to environmental awareness. I believe most of what I've read. To (very briefly) summarize: the world (particularly the US) uses far too much land and water for agriculture. The conditions under which cows, pigs and other eat-able animals live are, more often than not, deplorable. The conditions themselves are conducive to disease for both animals and humans (which is why antibiotics are so freely used in agriculture, and this contributes to problems with antibiotics and disease in humans). We could feed hungry PEOPLE with the grain we feed animals. Yet, there is such a market for meat and milk and eggs, that regardless of the fact that people do not need to eat these things, they are mass-produced, contributing to environmental degradation, animal suffering and human disease. I cannot help but be swayed to the side of vegetarianism -- why eat animals if it's not necessary for our health and if it contributes to such animal and environmental suffering? (Human too!)
I fully realize that many of my friends will retort something pithy and slightly funny, such as "Because they taste good!" Yes. Yes, they do. I agree. In fact, I absolutely love fried chicken. About twice a year, I love a good steak. I like omelets (and I don't see my giving up eggs). The smell of a all-beef hot dog at a fair can send me sniffing out the source like a Basset Hound to a rabbit. When I'm on Cape Cod (rarely), I love fresh clams. And I intentionally eat fish once a week.
So I'm admitting that I theoretically support the vegetarian/vegan-environmental argument AND that I eat a little flesh. "Little" is really the operative word here -- this week, for instance, my entire meat consumption was one bite of sausage (it was in a casserole), and one quarter-size chunk of chicken (it was in a shish-kebab). I've eaten like this for years; I've never been a big meat eater. (Except during my pregnancies; during each I was severely anemic and supplemented my diet with many iron-rich things, including a bit o' beef. I'll go to my grave saying I needed to do that, and I really don't want to hear the guilt-inducing argument from somebody who was able to forgo the beef. The pregnancies were hard enough, thanks.)
Getting back to my (and others') arguments: There is plenty of evidence that people do not NEED to eat meat. True, some vegetarians and vegans are unhealthy -- but that is because they're doing a poor job managing their diets, and not because forgoing meat per se is a sure path to poor health. (I hear the retort already: if I had just done a better job with my diet during the pregnancy, I wouldn't have eaten that beef...yes, I realize I've been inconsistent during my lifetime. Get over it!)
In fact, there's a lot of evidence that people are healthier when they do not eat meat or dairy. Less heart disease. Less incidence of cancer. Less obesity. WAY less obesity.
Have you noticed how fat Americans are? If you haven't, you either haven't been out of the country recently (and thus noticed that people in other countries look skinny to us Americans), or you have become so accustomed to jiggly arms, bulbous butts and flabby thighs that you think that body build is normal. It's not. My sister (a doctor) is so accustomed to examining fat/chunky people that when she examines a normal-weight adult, she has to remind herself that this is what people are supposed to look like. Even doctors are used to fat. That's sad.
Lest anyone read this and not know who I am: I'm NOT super skinny. Never have been. Never will be. I've had a battle with big legs my entire life. There is a difference between body builds and out-and-out FAT. Some people are naturally long and lean, others shorter and stockier, regardless of what they eat. I'm not criticizing builds, nor am I trying to slam people who battle weight. I have many friends and relatives who do, and I really feel for them. But NONE of my fat friends and relatives are vegetarians or vegans. Put another way: none of my vegetarian or vegan friends are obese. A few might be a *little* bit chunky. As in they need to hit the treadmill 20 minutes a day and lose 5-10. Not as in, "they need to hit the gym, diet, and lose 50-100." Big difference. The first problem is "normal;" the second one is not, though it is now so typical in the US that it is treated as if it were. One has to wonder how fast the rate of obesity -- currently 2/3 of Americans -- would go down if everyone went vegetarian. I know I do.
- My interests include veganism and vegetarianism, health, ethics, politics and culture, media, and the environment. I have three kids; I teach college part-time, study piano and attempt to garden. I knit. I blog on just about anything, but many posts are related to my somewhat pathetic quest to eat better, be more mindful of the environment, and be a more responsible news consumer. Sometimes I write about parenting, but, like so many Mommy bloggers, my kids have recently told me not to. :) Thanks for reading.