This is the question I get asked the most when people find out I am vegetarian. I also have reactions like “good on you, but I couldn’t do it”, or “it must be frustrating for you, don’t you miss eating meat?” Quite honestly, I do, sometimes. But that doesn’t last long. So, let me explain to you the reasons behind my food diet.
“One of the greatest opportunities to live our values -or betray them- lies in the food we put on our plates.” ― Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals
It all started while I was working in Melbourne CBD. On my way to work, there used to be an animal rights association doing “protests” quite regularly. Their members were standing in the street with big TV screens, showing factory farming videos and animals getting slaughtered. I have to admit that for some time, I used to turn my head and try to ignore it, as it was quite a disturbing viewing. One day, the question that changed it all stroked my mind: why wasn’t I watching these videos, when the same animals were ending up in my plate? Why wasn’t I able to see the reality behind the food I was consuming almost daily?
This is how it all started. From then on, I did a lot of research online about animal welfare and watched quite a few documentaries. This is some of them, if you are interested in watching:
- Earthlings is a documentary that exposes the suffering of animals. Fun fact: if search for it on Google it will come up as “documentary/horror”. As a matter of fact, it is really hard to watch, bu it is even worse knowing that it is just the reality of so many industries in the world relying on animals for profit.
- Dominion was filmed in Australia, in more recent years. According to the director of the movie, he created it to prove people that the same kind of animal abuse is happening in Australia, not only in the US where most of the documentaries are filmed.
- Cowspiracy is more about the impact of animal agriculture on the environment, how factory farming is leading to global warming and destroying the planet in general.
- Blackfish describes the captivity of Tilikum, an Orca that has killed three people during his time in marine parks. The movie focuses on the way wild animal are kept captive just for human entertainment.
The next step was reading an amazing book called “Eating animals” by Jonathan Safron Foer. It is quite extensive and gives a proper comprehension of what is involved in producing meat today. In fact, consumer barely knows how the chicken wings they buy in the supermarket are produced. The demand in the world is so high than the production has to follow up by producing meat (we don’t talk anymore about “raising animals”) cheaply and quickly. In factory farms, animals are just born and raised to be eaten, placing them like a “product” rather than a living being. I am persuaded that people would buy less meat if they knew what was occurring in a slaughterhouse or a farm, and that is why the industry try to keep it as secret as possible : we are talking about big profit here.
“What the meat industry figured out is that you don’t need healthy animals to make a profit. Sick animals are more profitable… Factory farms calculate how close to death they can keep animals without killing them. That’s the business model. How quickly they can be made to grow, how tightly they can be packed, how much or how little can they eat, how sick they can get without dying…We live in a world in which it’s conventional to treat an animal like a block of wood.” ― Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals
After that, I was convinced. I knew that I couldn’t look at my plate the same way. Even if I was a charcuterie lover, my pleasure didn’t have to come before animal lives. While my first step on becoming vegetarian was about animal welfare, I quickly realized that factory farming and overfishing are also destroying the forest, the soil and the ocean. This is all linked to the way humankind consumes.
“Animal agriculture makes a 40% greater contribution to global warming than all transportation in the world combined; it is the number one cause of climate change.” ― Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals
I knew I would have to adapt, deprive myself (sometimes) but this was all worth it. I did some research about a proper vegetarian diet and how to replace animal based protein with plant based protein in order to avoid nutritional deficiency. I told my family about my new “diet”, and received mixed reactions. My grandparents (who lived through the Second World War and think that meat is a privilege) took a bit of time to understand my choice. My parents were surprised but respected it. My mum is curious and is starting to rethink her meat consumption. So what are the options? There are two words we tend to hear more and more recently: “ethical meat” and “flexitarianism”. These are steps in the right direction. But the truth is that you either going to eat less of factory farming produced meat, or if you count on ethical meat, it is gonna be very rare, since it represents a tiny minority of the meat produced in the world.
“We shouldn’t kid ourselves about the number of ethical eating options available to most of us. There isn’t enough non factory chicken produced in America to feed the population of Staten Island and not enough non factory pork to serve New York City, let alone the country. Ethical meat is a promissory note, not a reality. Any ethical-meat advocate who is serious is going to be eating a lot of vegetarian fare.”
– Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals
It’s been nearly three years that I haven’t touch meat, and I don’t regret it for a second. When talking about vegetarianism, I already received comments basically saying that it is just a “new trend”. I don’t think it is. People are slowly waking up and I hope that we can all make a difference in the future.
“We can’t plead ignorance, only indifference […] we are the ones of whom it will be fairly asked, what did you do when you learned the truth about eating animals?” – Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals