Did you know that? It's not something I've necessarily publicized a whole lot. I mean, if you're friends or family then you should know this. But it's not something I press on people via social media, my blog, YouTube, etc. It's not my style to push my ideals on other people--I always say, "you do you as long as you're happy, and you're not affecting others." But today I'm feeling brave, and I kind of just want to talk about my experiences.
For me, being a vegetarian is completely due to the fact that I have a HUGE heart for animals. Yes, being a vegetarian can be healthier for you. Yes, being a vegetarian is way better for the environment. But for me, my reasoning is, being a vegetarian means I don't have to contribute to the slaughter of animals.
It all started almost 2 years ago around the 4th of July when my family was taking pigs to the 4-H fair. We've raised pigs for years. We take care of them, take them on walks, give them marshmallows, and love on our piggy pets for a few months. Then, we pack them up, go down to the park, yank them around, auction them off, and slaughter them; all of this happens within a jam packed week where we barely have time to think about what's really going on.
Two years ago I came to the fair a supporter, not a stressed out 4H member. Not someone who had just spent the last 3 nights pulling almost all-nighters, and not someone who just felt like they wanted this all to be over. But someone who was enjoying time with family and looking at all the well-made 4H projects and show animals. That's when I had a HARSH realization. Those pigs that my family just loaded up this morning and fed treats to, are now squealing from fear. They're confused, this is new, they're stressed. And what did we all do? Literally grabbed their tails and forced them to walk while we lifted their back legs and gave them a shove with our knee. We'd never done this before at home--the pigs had to be thinking, "what the HELL is going on?"
About 5 minutes later, I had to leave. I was bawling!!! Pigs are smart creatures. They didn't understand what was going on not because they couldn't but because we didn't care. Did you know pigs are as smart as dogs? Dogs!! Don't believe me, check out these links:
"Pigs like to play. They’re smart. They have good long-term memories, and they can be socially manipulative with other pigs. They can tell which people are nice to them and which aren’t. They’re also able to distinguish between pigs they know and pigs that are strangers." http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/15/are-pigs-intelligent_n_7585582.html
"Lori Marino, founder of the Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy, Inc., who also works on The Someone Project, says it well: 'The point is not to rank these animals but to re-educate people about who they are. They are very sophisticated animals.' I've emphasized the word who because these animals are sentient beings, whos, not whats. So, it's a matter of who we eat not what we eat when they wind up in our mouth." https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/animal-emotions/201307/are-pigs-smart-dogs-and-does-it-really-matter
And that's when I decided, "okay, I'm done. I cannot support this." Animals are living things. How can we sit here and classify who gets eaten and who doesn't? Now, an answer I get quite frequently to that question is: Well, we're smarter, more capable, we hunt, we trap, we farm, we eat. And this is the absolute EASIEST argument to combat. Here's my thinking:
We as intelligent human beings have the ability to choose to eat something other than meat. We have the technology to get the nutrition that we get from meats from other sources. We have a responsibility and capacity to choose to eat something different that has the same nutritional value, taste, effect. And in my mind, we must do that.
So, for real, meat tastes amazing! I will never say otherwise, but why are we saying taste is more important than the life of another being. I hear this all the time: "Oh I could never give up bacon/hamburgers/steak. They taste too good." Yeah, I agree, they really taste good, like really really. But are you listening to what you are saying? Do you understand how selfish and absolutely ridiculous you sound? This response does not even warrant an argument from me. It's just SELFISH.
Another response I get quite frequently is about religion. "They eat meat in the Bible. Did you know that Noah actually took more than just 2 pigs, cow, chickens, etc. just so they could eat them?" My response: "Yeah, they do A LOT of things in the bible that we don't do anymore. Here, read this: https://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/comments/2l7qh2/41_things_the_bible_condemns_other_than/"
But enough of that, I don't need to defend what I am doing. And I don't feel like you necessarily need to defend what you're doing either. My purpose is only to get you thinking. Like really thinking. About what you're doing, who you're eating, and how valid your points are that you are using to defend this.
Do I feel healthier being a vegetarian?
Yes, to an extent. I still eat crappy food--like chips, greasy french fries, too much pasta, and plenty of chocolate. But, I am always more aware of what I'm eating now. Which in turn means I am more aware and more conscience of what I am eating on a regular basis. When I make an unhealthy choice I know that I am doing it. I think of the healthy choice options I have instead and weigh out my options. This makes me more healthy. And this all came with being a vegetarian, but being a vegetarian alone did not necessarily make me healthier.
Do I crave meat?
Absolutely, but then I think about the cow, pig, chicken, etc. that was terrified in the slaughter house, that might have suffered before it died, that could be living right now instead... and then the craving goes away.
Is it hard to eat out or with others as a vegetarian?
No, not at all! Almost EVERY restaurant is going to have a salad option. Or pasta. And if they add meat then you can always ask them to remove it. For example, I love to get the 2 for $20 meal deal at Applebee's--so, whenever I go, I get the chicken cavatappi and then ask for no chicken. Wow, it's that simple.
And as far as eating with others: sometimes you have to plan ahead, but most meals can be substituted with other things that are easy and just as good. When family is having taco night, I just make sure they also cook up some refried beans. Or maybe we're having burgers on the gril, then I'll make sure to bring my own veggie burgers that you can get at most all grocery stores now a-days (even my tiny hometown grocery store has some).
I want to be a vegetarian, how do I start?
I think the real way to get started with being a vegetarian is to first have a reason--health? environment? animal rights? You need to have an idea of what's going to motivate you when you start craving meat (as we all will inevitably do when giving up something we are so used to eating). Also, maybe consider taking it slow. Even having a reasoning behind your acts can still make it hard to give up on a lifestyle that has been so ingrained in us. Maybe try being a vegetarian during the week days and gradually start cutting meats out on the weekends over time.
I think everyone should at least consider what I am saying. Evaluate your thoughts and feelings on the topic. And take a moment to reflect on what you are eating (or who you are eating) on a regular basis. My purpose of this blog post was not to convince you to become a vegetarian, but rather to encourage you to think about something critically that you might not have before. I am open to discussion so leave some comments down below bashing my thoughts and motives, and I will bash you right back ;)