Monday, February 18, 2008

On Why I Am (mostly) Vegetarian (Don't Worry, No Preaching)

Delicious molasses-mustard spicy baked beans...
complete with bad lighting and poor staging...

I've just been thinking lately about why I do some of the things I do. Being more conscious in general. Eating is one of those things (you know, that you do). Our household is entirely vegetarian (no meat in the house). We are both (mostly) vegetarian. This is both a simple and complicated subject for me. Simple, because when you get right down to it, even if I weren't an animal-lover, I just don't like meat. Complicated, because (as with most food choices) there are so many other considerations and factors involved.

(a little grossness follows -- warning!) As you may or may not know, I was raised on a diet of mostly fresh-caught steelhead (fish), venison, and Oregon-family-raised beef (from my grandfather's smallish cattle ranch). I went fishing, knocked fish on the head, cleaned the fish (and inspected the contents of their stomachs with great interest), ate the fish (without much great interest and usually much protest). I helped butcher beef and venison, from skinning to pushing it through the grinder, to wrapping and freezing. I went hunting (once or twice... just to see what all the fuss was about. Boooorrrring.). If push came to shove, I would be able to do all this again. Not that I'd want to. But I could. And if it came down to my family starving or me shooting the deer, I'd shoot the deer. However.

I never liked eating meat. I hated fish. I hated the way beef and venison got stuck in my teeth. I hated greasy chicken. I violently hated gristle, bone, cartilage... all that gross stuff. I would have happily been a vegetarian from a very young age. When I starting living with Terri, I was thrilled to never have to cook meat again. One of the very best things about being an adult is being able to make food choices that work for you.

I understand that most fish, and some meats, are generally supposed to be very good for you. It's possible that I am now, with my good health, reaping the benefits of eating all that good protein (plus vitamins, brewer's yeast, endless salads, etc.). I get it, I've had that pounded into my brain from age 0. I get it. It's very important to me to eat healthily. Protein is essential. I have no problem eating eggs (now we choose organic, free-range). Dairy is fine too. I love cheese. I am a big fan of all things soy, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole-grains, etc.

But really, I don't like the meat. I kind of hate it. Every once in awhile I'll eat some chicken, usually if I'm feeling really low-energy or otherwise under the weather. Sometimes I'll have a turkey sandwich, or a BLT. Every once in a great while I will have a bite of someone's steak, or some of my dad's fish. This is why I'm a mostly-vegetarian. But I could easily give it all up and never look back. I am thrilled to never have to deal with raw meat of any kind ever again. I'm very capable of dealing with it, I'm just not that willing.

And then I read stories about cloned beef and recalled beef (involving awful animal abuse and horrific health hazards, as if slaughterhouses weren't houses of horror in the first place) and I am so thankful that we don't eat meat and a.) don't have to worry about it and b.) aren't giving money to that industry.

And this is where the other part of me comes in. (Please know that I'm not at all trying to preach something, I'm just stating my opinion, and I'll try very hard not to be preachy on this touchy subject). Now, I'm very practical, and I'm not at all militant -- there are just some practices in this modern world that I'm uncomfortable with. Like animal testing, like slaughterhouses and chicken farms and meat by-productrs. It just seems like we are evolved enough with technology and science that, for instance, when we don't have to test on animals, we shouldn't (like cosmetics -- it's one thing to test life-saving drugs, it's another to test mascara and hair dye and cleaning products). I'm not perfect, but I try to buy products not tested on animals. I try not to buy too much leather. I would never buy fur (although I have to admit that I have a few antique fur collars from my great grandma, which I would love to wear but won't). And there is a part of me that won't order a hamburger simply because I know what happened to the animal that's in it. I just can't bear to do it. Also, did you read Fast Food Nation? I didn't (couldn't bear to) but heard enough to know that I never want to eat another fast-food burger in my life. (and how did I get onto the tangent of animal testing? geez)

I understand the whole circle of life thing, and if I were alone on a prairie with nothing to eat but buffalo, those buffalo would be going down. But I'm not. I'm in a wealthy area of a wealthy nation, with plenty of options and resources, enough money to make choices that I'm comfortable with (a key factor, I think), and, since I don't happen to like meat anyway, no reason at all to eat meat (since I also make sure we eat a balanced diet with all our amino acids, etc. etc.). I'm going to make a renewed effort to find a mascara that I like that isn't tested on animals (that's the one beauty product I haven't been able to find an acceptable option for -- I admit it! I'm hooked on L'Oreal's mascara!). We're in the process of switching all our cleaning products over to environmentally-friendly products (which also includes not being tested on animals... although mostly, it's for our own health). We do our best.

We're not perfect. Our cats refuse to eat anything but Friskies wet cat food, much as I've tried to get them to switch to something less scary. I don't pay attention to labels as much as I should. I eat bacon bits sometimes. Whatever.

So why am I (mostly) vegetarian? Since I wouldn't eat meat even if I didn't love animals, I'd say it's pretty much 75% preferences, and 25% ideals. Then again, if I did like meat, I still wouldn't want to eat much, for the reasons of health, cost, and yes -- because I love animals. So... I guess it's just who I am, is what it is.

Thanks for reading... I certainly don't mean to put down anyone else's choices. I know this is a tricky subject. I was just thinking about it today because of the beef recall. Can't stand to watch that video, by the way. It's just awful. Yuck.

Thank goodness these baked beans are so delicious and good for us! (my link button isn't working, here's the link:

1 comment:

wen said...

i agree. i've been veg for ages, although i do sometimes eat limited seafood now. however, i also dislike meat, and am lucky enough to have the choice not to have to eat it...

as for mascara, try going to elephant pharmacy in berkeley and getting one of their makeup people to help you. my partner got her wedding makeup there--they did a great job and they have lots of natural items.