Okay. I'm gonna try and not turn this into PETA pamphlet or anything so I'll just sort of sum up the many years of reasoning and influences that brought me to the decision of becoming a vegetarian.
To start off, I think I should define the term "vegetarian" (seems nonsensical but you wouldn't believe how many times I've been asked what the difference is between vegan and vegetarian).
a person who does not eat or does not believe in eating meat, fish, fowl, or, in some cases, any food derived from animals, as eggs or cheese, but subsists on vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, etc.
1. a vegetarian who omits all animal products from the diet.
Basically, a vegetarian does not eat any type of meat and may also choose to abstain from eating some animal products such as milk and eggs. If you abstain from ALL animal products, then you qualify as a vegan.
Get it? Yes? Okay good. Moving on.
Now as for me, I remember it all starting when I was little and, having been raised on The Simpsons, watching the episode where Lisa becomes a vegetarian. It especially hit home because of all the animals to make her not want to eat meat anymore, she thought of the little lamb and it just so happens that my grandparents lived on a farm where I spent half of my childhood and raised sheep.
So while it was always something that intrigued me, being the animal lover that I am, I never thought I had a good enough diet to be able to go without meat (I was a very picky eater with a major sweet tooth). Plus, my family is pretty traditional and conservative (I guess you could call my liberal self the black sheep of the family. badum-tish!) so they don't really put up with "that hippie crap" *Cue Rolling Of Eyes Here*. And, to top it all off, my dad is a gourmet chef (I'm very spoiled when it comes to good food) so of course all of his dishes revolve around perfectly cooked meat with everything else in the dish meant simply to complement it. I just may have starved had I chosen to quit meat then (okay I'm exaggerating, but I may have been pretty malnourished since I wouldn't have known what I was doing).
So whilst living at home it would have been very difficult to make the transition, especially when I wasn't fully convinced I could, or should, do it. But over the past couple of years I have been eating SO much healthier, my parents can't even believe I'm the same person. Besides just the goal of losing weight, I also just wanted to feel good and in shape so I started substituting drinks and foods with healthier versions (e.g., I grew up drinking nothing but whole milk so I switched to non-fat and later to soy or almond milk). I doubled up on the veggies and forced myself to try more fruit (I hate fruit-- I don't even understand why but it's a texture thing) and joined a gym and the whole shebang. I dropped some weight and felt so much better about myself. It helped to clear up some of my evil acne too.
As I've learned more and more over the years through health classes, science classes, blogs, documentaries, ect... I've developed an appreciation for paying closer attention to all things that I put in my body, both through food and through products that I use everyday. Having decided to take a more natural approach to taking care of my body, such as using vegetable and essential oils in place of many chemical-filled products I always used without thinking twice, I started eating less meat just because. It seemed reasonable to cut out heavy fatty meat and replace it with extra vegetables and legumes (which for those of you who don't know, consists of mostly beans and grains). Just about as reasonable as cutting down on sweets and not eating ramen everyday. It just made sense.
Then I watched Forks Over Knives in my History of Documentary Class and that just about set me over the edge.
It's a great documentary that focuses on the health benefits of maintaining a plant-based diet. I mean, you follow some people over a couple of months who literally reverse some of their health issues or diseases (two people stop taking insulin for their diabetes and a man whose cholesterol is in the major danger zone cuts it down by more than half!). It is copiously filled with scientific studies explaining how meat & animal products affect your body on a cellular level. It's a great documentary that I highly recommend, not to convert you or anything, but more to give you information and things to think about and do more research about on your own.
So that was it. I made the decision later that day to give it a try. What would I lose, really? If I didn't like it I could always switched back. Of course later that night my friend took me to Chilies for the first time and talked about nothing but the hot wings so I decided that I might as well go out with a bang and say my goodbyes to meat with these revered hot wings. They were delicious.
And since then I have been meat-free! It's been just over a month now and you know what? It's really not as hard as I thought it was going to be. I don't really miss meat all that much, especially since now I'm eating healthier than I ever have before and I feel GREAT! To start off I did some research on how to make the transition. I found lots of helpful websites that not only contain a lot of info and recipes, but will also send you free catalogs, such as ChooseVeg.com and TryVeg.com. I also have several vegetarian friends who I can consult when I have questions and who give me tips. I find that it's much cheaper as well because most of the bulk parts of my meal consist of brown rice, quinoa, lentils and beans, all of which are very cheap, have a long shelf life and a little goes a long way, so you're really getting the bang out of your buck. And then my fridge is a colourful wonderland filled with tons of veggies and, yes, even fruits. And for those who think that the same old vegetables would just get boring and tastless after a while, let me tell you that I'm always trying new things I never really had before. When you actually sit down to make a list of all the veggies out there, you will be amazed how many there actually are -- sounds silly but just try it. There's more to life than just broccoli, corn, peas, carrots and tomatoes. There are SO MANY. And about a bajillion recipes for each. And then even MORE recipes when you combine them with different starches and legumes. If anything, not having meat as a staple to all my meals has forced me to get even more creative in the kitchen as opposed to my usual chicken & rice or steak & bakes.
What's more, going vegetarian has tremendous benefits for both the environment and for the treatment of animals. According to ChooseVeg.com "In the United States, 70% of the grain grown is fed to farmed animals. Imagine how many people we could feed with that food." That was a staggering fact for me and I started doing more research about studies people have done on this issue to gather these statistics. Not to mention all of the greenhouse gasses produced by the overwhelming and unnatural numbers of cattle raised every year to sustain our voracity for beef. And another notable moment in my life contributing to my interest in vegetarianism, is a pamphlet I found when I was about 15-years-old in the back room of my friends workplace. This one little pamphlet almost turned me right then and there. It was all about factory farming and the mistreatment of animals used for food.
Now this one you can do plenty of research on and let me tell you, the pictures aren't pretty. Let me just put it out there that I was raised to know the way life works. Fish's gotta swim, bird's gotta eat. It's the circle of life and while I may not want to look or hear or think about it, I don't deny that nature has it's way of sustaining balance and plenty of creatures on this Earth, including humans, are carnivores or omnivores. Don't worry, I get that. But I can say with utmost abhorrence, that factory farming is disgusting and cruel. There is a difference between doing what you must naturally do to survive, and having no compassion and thinking that you are self-entitled to whatever you want in life. Just because you eat an animal does not mean that you have the right to torture it before you do so. "Each year on today’s factory farms, over eight billion animals are confined in windowless sheds, tiny barren crates, and filthy wire cages. The vast majority of these animals are mutilated without painkillers, denied veterinary care, and ultimately slaughtered. Sadly, they have little to no legal protections. Simply put, life for them is a hell you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy." And you know those things we're all afraid of, like e. coli and mad cow disease? Yeah that's from neglected cows that end up having to stand in their own feces and the carcasses of other cows who died off because they have no where else to go. You're really going to pay money to eat a cow that's been sitting in and soaking up all that nasty, deadly bacteria? Really? And what's ironic is that after I got out of the movie for my documentary class, I went to the ladies room and found the exact same pamphlet I had seen all those years ago sitting in my stall. I'm not one to believe in signs or anything but it was a freaky enough coincidence to knock me off the tightrope I'd been walking on and decide to commit to a cruelty-free lifestyle.
I am very happy I made the switch and don't think I'll be switching back anytime soon. My body feels healthier and I'm delighted that I am not contributing to the destruction of our planet and its' people or the harming of innocent animals :)