Why I am a vegetarian

Last month, I decided to become a vegetarian.

I was reading a book that my friend lent me (Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer) and before I finished it, I knew there would have to be some action on my end. That’s the trouble with education, you see. After learning about important issues and the implications of your choices, it’s difficult to go back.

When it came to eating meat, I always knew something was up. You can’t coexist in a society with organisations like PETA, and not know something about meat production is shady. Like a lot of people, I just never engaged the subject, until I did. And now look at me: I can never eat at Wendy’s again (cry).

Since making my decision, I’ve had a lot of people ask why. There are, after all, a variety of reasons to make the choice (e.g. unethical treatment of animals, environmental impact, food shortages etc.). While many factors informed my decision, I was most affected by the business aspect.

I learned that over 99% of the meat we buy comes from factory farms. Like everything else we consume, meat is produced in the most efficient way possible. Efficiency is a great principle when it comes to building a car, but the efficient treatment of animals is not something that I can get behind, especially when it comes down to profits.

For profits, animals are kept in tiny cages, so that more of those tiny cages can fit into one space. Sick animals aren’t treated, because it’s cheaper to let them die. Pain killers aren’t granted, because they are too expensive. Proper food is too expensive, so animals are given smaller quantities of feed that is genetically altered to make them bigger). A dignified and near-painless slaughter is too time consuming, and so the process takes place on a conveyor belt while the animal is alive.

What I see in this industry is the systematic elimination of product quality, as well as respect for life. I see the same disregard in many other industries too, which is why I find myself opposing capitalism more and more. Yes, it’s efficient and there is opportunity for wealth (for a select minority), but the product and the people involved in making the product often suffer in the process.

We vote with our dollars, and that is why I am a vegeatarian. I want to vote against the way most meat is produced.

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5 thoughts on “Why I am a vegetarian

  1. Saying ‘no’ to unethically raised meat is one thing. Being a vegetarian is quite different. In fact, the two can be mutually exclusive.

    We regularly buy meat from smaller operations and/or private butchers. That way you can be assured of where the meat comes from. A perfect example is the Wild Meat store on the boundary of Grimsby and St. Catherines. There you can get free range/open farmed Elk, Boar, Ostrich, Bison, etc.

    And then there’s the other side to ‘pure vegetarianism’… Crop production. More often than not the production of crops kills more animals than meat production. Granted those animals are insects and arachnids – a great many of which are beneficial, not pests – and aren’t considered ‘important’ by many people (certainly not the nutbars at PETA). Going beyond that crop maintenance very often leaves a far larger ‘carbon footprint’ than people realize.

    This of course then leads us into the morass known as ‘organic foods’… the grandest misnomer of all.
    1. all food is “Organic” by the simple fact that we only eat carbon-based things. The opposite is Inorganic and would mean things made of metals, silicon and so forth.
    2. A designation of ‘organic’ doesn’t automatically mean ‘pesticide-free’ or ‘herbicide-free’ because both of those control agents can be made using “Organic compounds (see #1) and hence can still be called ‘organic’.
    3. ‘organic’ also doesn’t mean not genetically enhanced/altered, despite the presumption. The fact is, Corn, Wheat, Oats, Soy and other crops are extremely genetically modified. These grains have all been massively modified in labs and through all manner of selective ‘breeding’ to create a plethora of desirable characteristics and to weed out undesirable ones. Of course, many of those undesirable traits are things that provide natural plant defences, thereby leading to an increased need for care (see #2).

    The other point that is still a concern is that when you take all of the above into consideration and produce a truly ‘good food’ product, it invariably has a higher market price. The unfortunate truth is that a great many people – even in Canada – simply can’t afford that extra expense.

    Now with that said, I embrace making ‘good food’ choices. I believe that PETA stands for People Eating Tasty Animals. I also believe that I don’t need to make a whole-scale change of my eating habits, I just need to some critical changes. And if everyone were willing to make some changes then the transitions to better foods would be far more successful.

    • I feel like a big part of your arguments rely too heavily on the literal definitions of some words.
      You equate the killing of all animals to be equal. I don’t think that’s what’s at issue here. I think the more important issue is the suffering of beings who are capable of experiencing suffering. Insects and arachnids cannot, to the best of our current understanding of psychology and neuroscience, experience pain and suffering in a meaningful way. Almost all invertebrates most likely can not (the octopus being a great candidate for an exception). Higher level (in terms of central nervous systems) and social animals (which often goes hand in hand with brain size/complexity, and not to be confused with the word social used to describe colony insects (bees, ants, termites)), although not as complex as ourselves (except maybe dolphins), provide enough evidence to lead us to treat them with ethical consideration, for fear that we may actually inflict unnecessary harm.
      If, however, you meant that insects and arachnids are important for the well being of echo-systems, then I can partly see your point.

      Also, do you believe that meat production occurs without crop production? Am I mistaken in the view that in order to feed animals to feed ourselves we must produce more crops than we would otherwise if we eliminated the inefficient energy-transforming middle-animal?

      Yes, organic food is a misnomer. This, however, is not an argument against it. When someone says “organic food” we don’t think “oh, he/she means exclusively food that’s based on carbon”, we think of food that is created without or with very little synthetic materials. With livestock, organic means without the use of antibiotics, growth hormones and (hopefully) treated humanely. Yes, organic does not mean (and never did mean) that pesticides are not used. It means that the pesticides used are not synthetic (except for in situations where no other option is available). I agree with your 3rd point, but with the qualifier that organic foods are presumed to be less genetically modified than food that does not claim to be GM.
      Yes, people cannot afford expensive food. This is a very complex issue, that goes beyond the price of food. However, for those of us who can afford ‘good food’, that comes at a higher price because it may be better for the planet, or for the wellbeing of those producing it (animals and fair trade / slaughterhouse unions), the ethical decision is forced upon us in-the-know.

      All that being said, I’d like to make myself clear:
      I think that animals can be raised and killed in a humane way. I don’t have anything against that.
      I think that GM foods can be the answer to so many of our worlds problems. However, too often plants are GM for the wrong reasons: larger instead of healthier and tastier.
      I basically agree with your last paragraph, except for the “People Eating Tasty Animals”…that seems to imply that, if the animal tastes good, that’s all that matters, not its welfare.

  2. Way to go Jen! I hope to hear all about your trials and tribulations in the near future.
    Thought you should know: I went on a 7 day bike (read: bicycle) trip, alone, recently, that took me from Niagara Falls to Ottawa (along Lake Ontario), and ate at various “Blank’s Family Restaurant”, which almost only consist of meat options, and, to my dismay, succumbed to the temptation and on, I believe, five separate occasions, ate meat (COMMAS!). I am not proud about this.
    However, I am happy to report that I am back on my regular vegan-at-home / vegetarian-at-restaurants-and-people’s-houses ways.
    …Also: Peter Singer is amazing. You should read some of his stuff.

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