The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
May 5, 2010

Brand New Plastic-Free Vegetarian

I stopped eating animals two months ago.

The decision was personal.  I hadn’t planned on writing about it here, and I realize that the topic of whether or not to eat meat can elicit strong emotions on either side of the argument. I would just ask that if you feel the urge to comment, please wait until you’ve read this entire post. It might surprise you.

It so happens that the theme of the Spring Cleaning: Get the Junk Out Carnival this week is CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, aka factory farms, which you can read more about here and here), so I thought that maybe I would write one blog post about my choice to give up meat.  I may write others. We’ll see…

So what happened?

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran FoerTwo months ago, I read the book Eating Animals,iconby Jonathan Safran Foer, whose novel Everything is Illuminated is one of my all-time favorites. I didn’t choose to read Eating Animals because of the topic but because I loved its author and because it was a BlogHer book club selection; I honestly didn’t expect to learn anything more about the meat industry I hadn’t already read about in The Omnivore’s Dilemma or Fast Food Nation or seen in the film Food Inc. I knew how bad the conventional meat industry was. I knew that the conditions for chickens, cows, and pigs were abysmal and that raising them, as well as overfishing the oceans, was wreaking havoc on the environment.

McDonald's double cheeseburgerAnd yet, I loved cheeseburgers.

I mean, I really really loved them. And believe it or not, the cheeseburgers I craved were not even made from organic, humanely raised meat, but came from McDonald’s. I loved McDonald’s double cheeseburgers, to be exact. And I also reserved a special place in my heart for McDonald’s Egg McMuffins with their slabs of Canadian bacon. I mostly resisted these “foods” and felt extreme guilt when I occasionally succumbed to the urge. But the negative consequences of eating that kind of meat were purely intellectual to me.  In practice, I had a hard time connecting that burger with the animal it had been.  Eating less meat, especially less factory farmed meat, was something I did because I knew I “should.” I knew it was bad, but I didn’t know it.

And I should have known.  I used to drive past the Harris Ranch feedlot every time I visited my brother in Coalinga.  The rank smell preceded it for miles.  And when you finally came upon the “ranch,” the sight was appalling.  Thousands of cows jammed together, feeding from troughs, and standing and lying in their own shit. It was depressing.  And yet still, there was a disconnect in my brain between the cheeseburger that tasted so good, and this:

Harris Ranch feedlot sucks

According to Wikipedia, Harris Ranch keeps about 100,000 cattle on 800 acres. That’s .008 acres per cow. Compare that to the 1-2 acres per cow needed for pasture grazing, which is how calves are raised before they are weaned and forced to spend the rest of their lives in these deplorable conditions. Passing the feedlot, I would feel a momentary twinge of sadness and guilt before turning my head to look away.

If seeing a sight like the Harris Ranch feedlot didn’t stop me from craving meat, perhaps my knowledge of the environmental damage resulting from the meat industry should have.

Environmental Consequences of Industrial Meat Production

Consider the following points from the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization’s 2009 report: The State of Food and Agriculture – Livestock in the balance (PDF):

  • Livestock production generates about 18% of human-derived greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Animals confined in feedlots produce a larger concentration of waste than the environment can absorb, resulting in pollution runoff into our waterways and groundwater.
  • The grain and forage required to feed livestock has led to the destruction of large portions of the world’s forests for crops and grazing land, forests necessary to sequester carbon dioxide and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Industrial meat production requires huge amounts of water — for feed crops, for animals, for cooling and cleaning facilities, and for processing the meat itself. For these reasons, the livestock industry accounts for 8% of global water use.
  • Cattle contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions directly through exhalations of methane gas (burps and farts) as well as nitrous oxide from their manure.
  • Illnesses such as swine and avian flu are more likely to mutate into more aggressive diseases in intensive feed operations where animals are crowded together and pathogens can gain access to an abundance of susceptible hosts.

Those are just a few of the major environmental effects of the industrial meat industry. And the industrial fishing industry contributes to the destruction of entire marine ecosystems.  Knowing these facts prevented me from eating flesh foods  on a regular basis. I resisted those cheeseburgers the best I could and mostly stuck to chicken here and there. I didn’t keep meat in the house (except for what we fed our cats), and I tried to patronize restaurants that claimed to serve local, humanely-raised meat. But I wasn’t strict about it. I rationalized that I ate so much less meat than the average American that it really didn’t matter.

And then I read the book.

Eating Dogs

Near the beginning of the book, Foer presents a case for eating dogs. It’s a thought experiment, nothing more. But his arguments are pretty reasonable. There is a huge population of stray and unwanted dogs and cats (3 to 4 million) that are euthanized annually. Right now, the flesh of these dogs and cats is sent to rendering plants where they are converted into food for farmed animals. Why not skip that step and eat them directly? It would create much less environmental impact. It could, in fact, be argued that eating stray dogs and cats is actually a very eco-friendly thing to do.

After reading that section of the book, I looked up at my kitties Soots and Arya sleeping peacefully in the window, enjoying the sun. I love those little beings with all my heart. Even though they were littermates (born at the same time to the same mother), they have completely different personalities (or as Michael says, “felinalities.”)

  • It’s Soot’s job to walk on my chest and nip my nose and chin every morning at precisely 9am, breakfast time, (yeah, I stay up late and get up late) while Arya waits expectantly at the foot of the bed. How did they come up with this arrangement? I have no idea, but it seems to work. It’s Arya’s job to explore every surface that holds stuff and to test the laws of gravity over and over and over again. “Will it fall? Yes! It WILL fall!”
  • It’s Soot’s job to lie on Michael’s lap and allow himself to be combed until his coat is so shiny and slippery he sometimes slides off furniture onto the floor. (Sooo funny.) Arya, on the other hand, is the punk rock chick, the scruffier the better. No combing for her.
  • Soots hides under the bed when strangers visit. Arya climbs on their laps or sniffs the inside of their shoes.
  • And of course, it’s also Arya’s job to hunt down and eat plastic.

Am I anthropomorphizing them? Of course I am. I’m human. What else can I do? And that’s actually kind of the point. I couldn’t eat Soots or Arya unless I was starving. Fortunately for all of us, I am not starving. (This reminds me of a certain South Park episode, but now I’m getting sidetracked.) And thinking about the animals I love and would fiercely protect, I had to ask myself:

What’s the difference between this…

Soots and Arya in Michael's chair

or this…

a little pug named Sadie

and this?

cow at Springhill cheese company

How is a dog or cat any different from a cow or a pig? Why shouldn’t cats and dogs be included in our dinner options? In many countries they are routinely eaten.  But I wouldn’t eat a dog.  And suddenly, in light of this comparison, cows and pigs didn’t seem so much like food to me either.

And then the cruel realities started to sink in.

Cruelty

I have to clarify that I didn’t actually read Eating Animals.  I downloaded the audiobook and listened to it through headphones.  So it was like being strapped into a roller coaster seat.  You can’t skim past that first big drop and move on to less terrifying parts of the ride.  You have to let go and experience every moment of it.  So it was listening to the litany of every day horrors associated with farming animals.

I heard stories about farm workers administering daily beatings to pigs, bludgeoning them with wrenches, putting out cigarettes on their bodies, sawing off legs and skinning them while still conscious, basically taking out their own frustrations on these animals that had no real way to fight back.  What caused me the greatest pain was not hearing about cows that had their bodies cut open and skin flayed while still conscious because the stunning equipment had malfunctioned, although that was hard enough to imagine, but the stories of deliberate cruelty inflicted on purpose.  Temple Grandin, designer of “humane slaughterhouses,” argues that ordinary people “can become sadistic from the dehumanizing work of constant slaughter.”

Many of us have seen the images of downer cows being prodded and dragged to the slaughter house.  But did you know that in most states, it is very common and legal to simply leave them to die of exposure over several days or to toss them alive into dumpsters?  Last night, in doing some additional research for this post, I stumbled upon a photo that I can’t get out of my mind.  A cow whose neck had been broken due to rough handling was left to suffer on the ground until she died.  But according to Foer, not all of these downers are animals that would have died anyway.  Some of them are simply dehydrated, but the pace of the factory system does not allow for the individual care of such animals.

And what about poultry and fish?  It was just as hard to hear of chicken farm workers who must grab and toss live chickens into trucks at such a fast pace that they often feel the leg bones crack in their hands — chickens who had lived most of their short lives in an area that afforded each one floor space the size of a sheet of paper and were mercifully on their way to slaughter.  And surprisingly to me, it was equally difficult to hear about farmed fish forced to live in spaces so crowded they begin to cannibalize one another, in water so dirty it’s difficult for humans to breathe, before being slaughtered while still conscious and convulsing in pain as they died.

If anyone treated my cats this way, I would rip their face off and feed it to them.

Of course, not all farms are torturous and not all farm workers are cruel.  Those who eat meat can look for the “Certified Humane” label for assurance that the animals were not subjected to some of the worst conditions.  And the argument can be made that on some farms, the most humane farms, many animals have lives that are far safer and more comfortable than they would have in the wild.

After all, animals often kill each other in ways that are far from humane.  And in fact, for a long time, that was my main argument FOR eating meat.  Animals kill each other for food.  Humans are animals.  Therefore, we have the right to kill other animals for food.  I argued this point with a friend of mine several months ago, and I felt pretty darned self-righteous about it.

Little Furry Killers

Soots and Arya, those two little warm beings lying in the sunny window,  don’t go outside. But if they did, they would surely hunt down birds and mice and other small animals and kill them. And not only would they kill them, they’d probably toy with them unmercifully. I’ve seen a cat I loved batting around a little mouse whose hind legs were broken so that all it could do was squeal and suffer. The cat appeared to be fully enjoying itself.

What’s more, I feed my cats other animals. Every week we buy ground turkey from the butcher shop for our homemade cat food. We do this knowing that we are trading one life for another.  I understand that there is at least one brand of vegetarian cat food, but from my research, I am convinced that cats are obligate carnivores and that they only truly thrive on protein from meat. So I make the choice to sacrifice a turkey’s life for a cat’s life. It’s a conscious, fully-informed decision.

Foer says:

Nature isn’t cruel, and neither are the animals in nature that kill and occasionally even torture one another. Cruelty depends on an understanding of cruelty and the ability to choose against it or to choose to ignore it.

Let me repeat that.  “Cruelty depends on… the ability to choose against it or to choose to ignore it.”

Unlike my cats, I am not an obligate carnivore. And while I realize there are people whose bodies require animal protein, mine apparently does not. I can thrive easily without meat, double cheeseburger fantasies notwithstanding. So why should I eat it? Why ignore the potential cruelty in eating animals when I can choose not to eat them at all?

Precautionary Principle

The precautionary principle, which is often invoked in arguments to ban chemicals that, while not conclusively proven to be unsafe, are generally considered to be risky, states that:

if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those who advocate taking the action.

I now see eating animals in the same way. Do farm animals suffer the way humans do? Do they feel fear the way we would being shipped to the slaughter house? Do they experience pain? Foer suggests that they do, and based on my own personal experiences with animals, I assume that they do too. It sure looks like it to me. Once again, I’m anthropomorphizing. I only have my human experience to draw on. Can I know for sure how animals suffer? No.

But can I be sure that “certified humane” animals have not suffered?  There are some farming practices that are beyond the purview of certifying organizations.  The fate of male chicks from laying hens, for example, that are routinely macerated at birth.  Or the fate of animals from humane farms after leaving for the slaughterhouse.  Or the simple fact that animals are raised and destroyed before they have completed their lives.

How can I take the chance of inflicting suffering on another creature, another sentient being, one that might not be as unlike me as I had thought, when I don’t have to? I, personally, do not need to eat animals. And as a human, I can make the conscious choice not to.  So I have made that choice.

Or it has been made for me.

Animals and Plastic

I guess it really comes down to what my gut tells me. Three years ago, I had a profound, life-altering experience. I saw a photo of a dead albatross chick filled with plastic pieces and read the story about how our everyday plastic use was harming animals in ways I hadn’t imagined.  Suddenly, I was changed.  From the inside out.

Two months ago, it happened again. Reading Eating Animals hit me in the gut in a way that no other argument against the meat industry ever has before.  Was it because I listened to each word without looking away? Was it hearing page after page of horror described in specific detail?  Or was it simply that it was the right moment for me to hear those stories that had previously left no lasting impression?  A month ago, I tried nibbling a tidbit of cooked turkey meat as I was making cat food, and I simply couldn’t swallow it.  So the question for me has become:

What is the difference between this…

dead albatross filled with plastic pieces

and this?

meat in a butcher case

For me, the answer is nothing.

Disclosure: If you use the Barnes & Noble link in this post (above) to buy Eating Animals, Fake Plastic Fish earns a small commission. But please try to borrow from a friend or the library, find it used, or buy it locally from an independent book seller before going the online route. For an explanation, read my full advertising/review policy here.

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74 Comments on "Brand New Plastic-Free Vegetarian"

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Katia H
12 days 23 hours ago

I just became a dietary vegan this year after watching cowspiracy and BiteSizeVegan videos on YouTube along with lots of praying & thinking about the idea I stopped eating meat, dairy, cheese, egg, & honey. I also don’t use non-vegan heath & beauty products & try to avoid unnecessary leather, wool, silk… by trying to buy these used before looking for them new.

Consume Less: Meat | Knitting Naturals
1 year 7 months ago

[…] favorite resources that remind me why I should continue to eat less meat, and the ways I can do it.Plastic-Free Vegetarian : this particular article has a lot of facts and information and a motivating argument against […]

butthole654321
1 year 9 months ago
@Sudha The answer is that these animals (cattle, poultry, pigs etc) are specifically bred and raised to be food. They simply would not have life, they would not exist at all if they were not “produced” to be a source of nutrition. I say, “Look at our teeth”,  herbivores, cattle for example, we have flat teeth designed to grind vegetable matter & grains. Similarly, carnivores, lions for example, we have incisors and sharp teeth designed for ripping and tearing flesh. WE ARE OMNIVORES!  Stop with the delusion that there is an oil, water, electricity or whatever shortage. Stop thinking of… Read more »
4 years 8 months ago

Thank you for writing this. I have been a vegan for 2 years and a vegetarian for 4 years and this article clearly explains my reasons for choising this dietary lifestyle.

Bankruptcy Ben
5 years 10 months ago
Initial I stopped eating my telling myself I’d just eat “less meat” but it’s been 4 years since I’ve eaten any meat and I don’t miss it. Some of the commenters have said that “it’s not the eating of meat but the treatment of the animal that matters”. It sounds like a reasonable argument but If we use animals for our own ends there will be some level of cruelty involved, even if they’re organic free range, etc. Is it cruel to stun them and kill them? I don’t know but not eating them removes the question entirely and seems… Read more »
robbiekay
5 years 10 months ago

The day after I read this post I saw a t-shirt and immediately thought of you. The text on it was: “Eat like you give a damn.”

J. Lynne
5 years 10 months ago
I stopped eating all meat except fish/seafood about 3 years ago, making me a “pescetarian”. I was already following a mostly vegetarian diet at the time — I had stopped eating pig-meat and veal and had reduced my beef-intake to a small amount of steak every 4 – 6 weeks. (I had read an article about how the U.S. tests less than 1% of it’s beef for Mad Cow, etc., and the most likely candidates for possibly diseased and/or contaminated meat is sold as ground because only the “healthy-looking” parts are sent to the market. I actually felt safer eating… Read more »
5 years 11 months ago

I think that the best option is for us, as humans, to eat invasive species (canada geese, deer, carp) and lower the surplus population instead of supporting the waste of livestock management.

I do, however, say this as a vegetarian of over a decade who has gone so long without meat that I wouldn’t eat it even if it were morally appropriate.

GD
5 years 11 months ago
Nice article! Like the spectrum of families, our farmers and ranchers can be cruel or kind. We can’t characterize all of them by the nasty ones. I was vegetarian for 2 weeks, 20 years ago. I worked myself down from full omnivore diet to no red meat, to just egg sand dairy. Then, for 4 weeks, I managed only veggie. I had to expand my diet because my physical activity (work + school) made a huge demand on my energy level and I was always light-headed. Without meat, I was either cooking, eating or cleaning dishes during my time off.… Read more »
5 years 11 months ago
I am 33 and have been a vegetarian all my life…i cannot relate to meat eating friends.. ihave had discussions with them but end up frustrated not because i did not force my point, but because i m unable to get more convincing. It is strange though that survival of the fittest works its way into everything in our lives. I have always asked this question – if dogs and cats are pets and are lovable, then how come cows, sheep, goats and pigs become food? I guess we try the more humane approach when we eat plants. We have… Read more »
ameliaamy
5 years 11 months ago

Thank you for an excellent, well thought out post. I am really happy that it has sparked such a civilized discussion in the comments.

Best wishes to you as you continue on this path.

5 years 11 months ago

Oh… and you must also add Happy Herbivore to your blogroll!! Her recipes are really really YUMMY :) She’s also doing a bloggers whole foods challenge for 30 days right now…

http://happyherbivore.com

(Once again… in case you don’t get my comment from my blog… I am extremely grateful for your kindness and commitments :))

5 years 11 months ago
YAY!!!! I have been an avid reader of “Fake Plastic Fish” for quite some time… and have been eliminating plastic… Nearly 8 months ago, I made the conscious decision to stop eating animal meat. There were several months where I kept having “signs” put in front of me… I’d stumble upon videos, I’d pick up a magazine… random thoughts started popping in my head about how I could justify eating cows, turkeys, pigs and chickens… and “Why should there be a differentiation between my pets [4 dogs, a cat and 5 egg laying hens] and ‘farm animals’??” I couldn’t do… Read more »

Kudos to you! I don’t eat much meat and what I do eat I carefully source. Most is from local farms where I have talked to the farmers. I have given up meat before but with my food allergies have a hard time getting enough protein. Again I eat very little though and only organic, humane (truly!!) meat.
.-= Lisa @Retro Housewife Goes Green´s last blog ..Giveaway: Bagnesia =-.

Elisa Camahort Page
5 years 11 months ago
“One of my concerns is B12. If we have to supplement by going vegetarian then is that what nature intended for us? Dairy products have some B12 and so do eggs – but eggs have something in them that inhibits the B12 absorption. And aren’t dairy farms cruel too? And where does that B12 supplement come from? Isn’t it sourced from bacteria (from animals).” Actually, there are plenty of nutrients omnivores don’t get enough of without taking supplements, Vitamin D being just one example. I wrote a post linking to a discussion of B-12 in particular here: Point just being… Read more »
sharonus
5 years 11 months ago
Hi Beth, I stopped eating meat nearly 20 years ago for environmental reasons. The books that did it for me were “Diet for a New America” by John Robbins and “Diet for a Small Planet” by Frances Moore Lappe. After the environment, came animal rights, and then workers rights. All of these things help me to continue on the meatless path and I feel are good arguments I can provide to my children (in an age appropriate way) about why we don’t eat meat. I feel the same way you do. Knowing what I do about the production of meat… Read more »
5 years 11 months ago
What a wonderfully thoughtful post, Beth. I’m not vegetarian, but my consumption of meat has gone way down since I started eliminating single use plastics. I very rarely prepare meat at home because it is too hard to find it without plastic wrapping (and I haven’t had the courage to try your method of bringing my own tiffin to the meat counter yet!). And because I know that restaurant foods are prepared with a lot of plastic, even though I don’t see it in the finished meal, I’m trying to eat more of my own cooking. Eating at home is… Read more »
5 years 11 months ago
Hi Beth, Thank you for the very thoughtful post. I love your writing and the way you think. I have been vegetarian for almost 5 years. I have occasionally indulged in Christmas Turkey, and Easter Ham, but other than that, I’m meat free. I do eat dairy products, and fish here and there. I came to vegetarianism because of health issues, not mine- my daughter who was a baby at the time. I had a good knowledge base about the animal issues before this. When I came at it from the health perspective, I “got it” and changed the way… Read more »
5 years 11 months ago
Congrats and good luck with your new lifestyle diet choice. i look forward to following you on your vegetarian journey. I consider myself flexitarian, while I mostly eat vegetarian I still like a good steak every now and again. But the ag-industry is completely different here in NZ. We don’t have factory farms (except for some pig and chicken farms, disappointedly) and all our beef and sheep are free range and grass fed. Just adding to your note on eatting dogs, my East Polynesian ancestors considered dog meat a delicacy, and dog fur cloaks prestigious. They don’t anymore ofcourse probably… Read more »
5 years 11 months ago
I wish I had more time to read the comments here. I didn’t eat much meat for a very long time for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I have trouble with “personifying” meat. As I said in my post, I prefer to think of meat appearing in my freezer via the meat fairy instead of somebody that I looked in the eye a few weeks ago. it’s a struggle, but I believe God gave us the animals to eat, so… Not sure how to close and my laptop battery is about dead anyway. :>)… Read more »
5 years 11 months ago

Awesome!!

I’ve lived on both sides of the meat/vege aisle and think if more arguments for a meat-free diet were written by people who admit to ‘really really loving’ double cheeseburgers, more readers might stop and think about the food they eat (and what it was before it went from pig to “ham”, or cow and “beef”).

The adorable kitty pictures and the pug (!) were a nice touch too.

5 years 11 months ago

Amanda! I almost, almost put Puglet’s video up here, but the post was getting too long and I didn’t want to get off track. I’ll probably put it in another post. Maybe tomorrow’s even. :-)

That little pug in the photo is Sadie, who belonged to my brother and sadly died from heat exhaustion after getting out of the house in the middle of the Coalinga summer and crawling into a neighbor’s garage for relief. The garage, of course, was even hotter. We all still cry when we think of her. Poor little Sadie.

Anne Tobin
5 years 11 months ago

Looking forward to the new blog. I’ve been vegetarian about a year and I’m leaning vegan, but get distressed by all the plastic packaging with “fake” meat products. Not than I’m eating them everyday, but sometimes you need something quick!

5 years 11 months ago
Thank you for such an articulate post Beth! You should be writing for the Huffington Post or The New York Times! I don’t have a label for myself. I gave up all meat when I was 23. After a year I was a bit sick and added fish and chicken back in. Today (at 41) I still eat fish and organic poultry. I decided that I couldn’t eat mammals. And as far as other animals, if I couldn’t kill it, then I had no right to eat it. Not that I have to kill the animals myself. I don’t have… Read more »
5 years 11 months ago

I eat meat. I eat significantly less meat than I did 3 years ago but I am not likely to give it up. I have also changed to ethically raised meat whose price pretty much limits me to about 1 (sometimes 2) lbs a week. Perhaps something about me is deficient in that it doesn’t particularly bother me that I can eat chicken but I don’t want to eat my cat.
.-= Billie´s last blog ..Winds of Change =-.

truepeacenik
5 years 11 months ago
Welcome to the herbivore side, Beth. I’ve been on this journey 30 years and it is new every single day. Pollan makes much of nutritionism, and I agree that it is the reason food and diet fads are so common in America. Many times veg diets look like a list of, “oh, get your vitamin B from…” Useful, but dull. It can be hard to sync local and vegetarian, but it can be done, especially if you think in terms of percentages. I eat 70 percent local (defined as 200 miles or in my same state of Colorado). I will… Read more »
5 years 11 months ago
Beth, you could write an interesting post (with supporting pictures) on the surface imperfections of barnacle shells! This one on eating meat opens a whole universe of issues. In foregoing meat you are attempting to live in harmony with what you know to be true. You make your case easily because it is a clear case to make. To take the direction you are moving to the limit, we would live like Gandhi or the Buddha who realized that satisfying our every desire is not the road to happiness. That would be no bad thing for us and absolute deliverance… Read more »
5 years 11 months ago

Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for writing such a well-organized, cogent, thoughtful, dramatic, convincing, true story.
.-= graceonline´s last blog ..44 pounds, 80 minutes =-.

5 years 11 months ago

Bravo Beth! I’ve been a Lacto-Vegetarian for over 15 yrs. I do it for the animals and the planet.
I recommend my first – go to book – > Becoming Vegetarian” by Versanto Melina
(A registered Dietitian.)

PS> And thanks for promoting the book “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer EVERYONE should read it!
.-= kara´s last blog ..Running in the Footsteps of Legends =-.

Lola
5 years 11 months ago
Beth: I’m suprised you weren’t already veggie bc of your Buddhist practice (no judgement, just an observation). JSF’s book wasn’t anything new, but I think it’s important to get that info out in as many formats as possible to educate as many segments of society as possible. I’ve been a veggie for about 5 years now, although I do slip-up w. the occasional club sandwich or burger. It’s really hard for me bc I love anything made w. rare beef and I constantly crave it. I won’t give into those cravings bc I know the cruelty and environmental issues behind… Read more »
5 years 11 months ago
nice post, articulate and thorough (I have come to expect that from you, I admit you spoil us!). I do eat meat. I have gone vegetarian and even vegan many, many times. I paid super close attention to what I ate every single time, to make sure I didn’t miss out on any nutrients every time, but every time my health would go down hill. I think I’m one of those obligate omnivores – I can’t go herbavore. So I do what I can. I eat VERY little of any meat. I stick to local sources. But I have to… Read more »
et
5 years 11 months ago

The difference between cats, dogs, and cows? Diet and potential parasites and diseases for one. Cats and dogs are carnivores, cows are herbivores.

Many cultures have domesticated and eaten herbivores. Herbivores can fill a real niche in agriculture if used carefully and consciously. Modern ag does neither.

I haven’t eaten any animals but a very occasional bit of fish for over 30 years, still I think animals can have a place in our lives. As long as we do it right and in moderation.

Corrine
5 years 11 months ago
Like most people have said, we’re trying to find a balance too. We’ve come to the conclusion that we’ll eat local sustainable red meat and poultry and since the cost is high we tend to eat a lot less. Then we ventured into fish as I was paralyzed with the meat/poultry decision and we only buy sustainable fish. We’re also cooking more vegetarian meals. It’s hard to always stay on track but the thing that has become more and more obvious is our choices when eating out. This was always been the point I could ignore but over the last… Read more »
5 years 11 months ago

Years, ago, I read John Robbins’ Diet for a New America, and almost overnight adopted my mother’s lifelong lacto-ovo vegetarianism (she remained a veggie because she just didn’t like meat).

I went a step further and adopted the practice for ethical (an ethic of care) reasons (which was my grandfather’s premise in raising his 8 children this way). I backslid over the years…but am now coming around to it again, and toying with veganism (this time, as much for environmental reasons as ethical ones).

Your argument is excellent, beautifully constructed and powerful.
Thanks!!!
.-= Nana Sadie´s last blog ..Meatless Monday! =-.

5 years 11 months ago
Can You Tell The Difference? “Free-Range” Hen • Debeaked with a hot bloody blade at one day old with no anesthetic. • Force molted (intentionally starved to shock the body into another laying cycle). • Violently packed into a semi and trucked hundreds of miles to an agonizing slaughter when considered “spent” (unable to keep laying eggs at a fast enough pace). • Denied the opportunity to live a natural life in truly humane care. • All of her brothers (roosters) are brutally killed as baby chicks simply because they can’t lay eggs. Battery Cage Hen • Debeaked with a… Read more »
Kaylen
5 years 11 months ago

Congrats on taking this step! I’ve been vegetarian for 4 years.

I’ll be interested to read about how/whether your food choices as a vegetarian are affected by living plastic-free. I enjoy the occasional tofurky breakfast sausage or gardein fake chicken breast, both of which come wrapped in plastic. Certainly, there are lots of recipes for fake meats that you can make using bulk items.

5 years 11 months ago

Hi Kaylen. I expect that nothing is going to change on the plastic front. See, I already don’t really buy meat to have at home. So I don’t think anything is really going to change in the way I cook meals. I’ll still avoid all processed foods that come in plastic. I’ll buy bulk tofu, beans, lentils, etc. I’ll make my own veggie burgers. But these were things I was doing already. I really only ate meat in restaurants or during group lunch days at work.

Pheas
5 years 11 months ago

Great post, Beth. Congratulations on your decision and on the many lives you will save, maybe even your own. While some farming situations are certainly better than other, to me, “humane slaughter” is an oxymoron. Would I be okay with a quick, painless death to suit someone else’s taste preferences? Heck no. I want to live out my natural life, and allowing others to do the same seems the least I can do.

Nienke
5 years 11 months ago
I have a taboo to admit: I don’t feel that connected to animals. I’m ashamed to admit this, because it is so frowned upon. All my environmentally concious decisions were made because I like plants, not animals. However, I try to cut my eating of animals. I eat meat only during the weekends, and only organic meat from ‘free-range’ animals. This is not the perfect solution, but I’m not trying to be perfect. I just want to cut my influence on my pollution of the earth. Just posted this to show not everyone is sensible to the ‘good treatment of… Read more »
5 years 11 months ago

Oh geesh, I mean: :)
.-= Isle Dance´s last blog ..Ask a New Question and You Will Learn New Things =-.

5 years 11 months ago

Well said, says the vegan. :o)
.-= Isle Dance´s last blog ..Ask a New Question and You Will Learn New Things =-.

5 years 11 months ago

Laura, eating carrots is definitely murder. We should all learn to live on air.

As for that slide, OMG. That is exactly why Soots and Arya are:

1) Sterilized
2) Not allowed to go outside and kill wild animals.

Michael too. (Always trying to do my part.)

:-)
.-= Beth Terry´s last blog ..Reducing Plastic Waste: April 2010 Collection Results =-.

Laura M
5 years 11 months ago
Thank you for such a thoughtful and well written post. I can tell that you have, and are, thinking about the issue of what to eat and that is awesome. I think about what to eat pretty often myself. I am an omnivore. I aim to eat sustainably, humanely raised meat but often fall short. I read this post out loud to my boyfriend (also an omnivore, less diligent about but interested in choosing sustainable/humane) and we had a long and meaningful conversation about animals’ feelings and emotions, whether or not we could eat our family dog, pros and cons… Read more »
5 years 11 months ago
As I said the other day, congratulationson becoming vegetarian, you will never regret this. Just a while ago I was talking to a friend of mine who is vegetarian (I am too) about how some people brag about having eaten a variety of wild animal’s meat! In Argentina some people eat vizcachas (this cute little rodents ), carpinchos (biggest rodents in the world ) or yacares (as we call alligators here), as well as llamas, ñandues (south american ostrichs) and so on. Some of them are also hunted for their fur. So they don’t only eat horribly raised animals, they… Read more »
KenS
5 years 11 months ago
@MicheleP: I’m not normally one to proselytize on the subject of vegetarian diets (I expect just about everybody else feels the same way I do about proselytizers in general), but you pushed a button and I feel the need to call “BS” on your post. Tell yourself what you like about your current dietary choices, but the whole “it’s worth remembering that vegetarian sources of food take their toll on the earth too” claim sounds like nothing so much as a nice phrase one might tell themself to feel better while they go on hiding their moral conscience in the… Read more »
5 years 11 months ago
While it may be Anthropomorphizing to place our emotions on pets, it is undeniable that animals experience pain. There has been much work done to prove, too, that animals do experience a full emotional life. They most certainly have memories – look no further than the dog who cowers years later at the sight of a human who has abused him/her. I also argue that I can clearly differientiate the moods my dog and two cats are experiencing. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 13, and it remains the best decision I’ve ever made concerning kindness, my health, and… Read more »
Maddie
5 years 11 months ago

Beth,
Thanks for your response. I was afraid I had sounded harsh when in reality I am so impressed. The consignment store is a great idea. I hate plastic clothing and the lightly used goods would bet a good alternative.

5 years 11 months ago

Maddie, I actually hadn’t thought as far as leather, but my first reaction would be to look for used leather if necessary. I have a few really nice consignment stores near me that sell shoes in almost brand new condition. What a waste. I’d rather get use out of the leather already in the world than to a) buy new leather or b) resort to plastic. No way!
.-= Beth Terry´s last blog ..Fake Plastic Fish on the Radio =-.

Maddie
5 years 11 months ago
Beth, What an excellent post. I eat very little meat for a number of reasons but do wear leather shoes and use leather bags/purses. I have the Eating Animals book on hold at my library. I, too, know the deplorable conditions of livestock so I’m curious as to what my reaction will be. Do you plan on forgoing leather shoes? While I can totally envision going vegetarian for myself, I don’t see myself giving up some leather goods because they are so durable. I inadvertently purchased a couple of faux leather pairs of shoes. One pair didn’t last any time… Read more »
underbelly
5 years 11 months ago
Go Beth! I have been a pescetarian (vegetarian + fish) since I was 18, and it’s worked out well. Beans + sweet potatoes have a lot of protein–I would recommend that combination to anyone having a hard time thinking of protein-rich vegetarian meals. The reason why I still eat fish is for the iron content–I was born anemic and don’t appear to absorb iron from plant-based sources very well. Clams have the highest iron content (it even beats out beef!), and I always look for the ones harvested off the Florida coast, a few hours away from me. (But, since… Read more »
shona~LALA dex press
5 years 11 months ago
WOW! A lot of work went into this post. I have been an on-again/ off-again vegetarian for 23 years. I have driven by Harris Ranch several times, tried to find a way around the place once, but it was a bit of a distance + decided to hold my breath + shut the windows + vents. In high school I worked next door to a butcher that displayed a banner that stated “We proudly carry Harris Ranch Beef.” Having seen the place I did not know what there was to be proud about. I’m back to being a vegetarian +… Read more »
Peter Spendelow
5 years 11 months ago
Beth, This is a very well-written post. Thanks for writing it. As a Ph.D. zoologist, I’ve got to say that yes, people sometime anthropomorphize animal behavior, but more often the problem is we are anthropocentric – i.e. we place ourselves “above” other animals and think that they are substantially different from us. Clearly there are differences, such as human development of a written language. In many of the key areas that are important to us though, science is showing us that humans and other animals have great similarities. It used to be that people said humans use reason and emotions,… Read more »
Chelsea
5 years 11 months ago
Very well written and I appreciate your call to always be respectful on your blog. I’ve never been a big meat eater and even more reduced my meat consumption the last few years for many of the reasons you state. I do occasionally eat meat but only that which to the best of my knowledge is humane and primarily from small local farms (such as laying hens that stopped laying). Meat to me falls in the same category as my favorite chocolate cake. Something to eat occasionally on special occasions and savor. I’ll have to check out your other blog… Read more »
Melanie
5 years 11 months ago
Well said. What had me give away all the meat in my freezer (after having one full of steaks) was listening to the ebook Skinny Bitch. It was a book someone posted about on fb, and I listened to it to see what they were telling people. And it was heart wrenching listening to the stories! A lot of the other stuff they talked about in the book was great, and things I already knew – but the meat part. Like you said… I knew, but didn’t KNOW. I still have a hard time not eating meat, but it is… Read more »
chokingplanet
5 years 11 months ago
Whether a person chooses to be entirely free of animal-based products, or selectively consumes only what is produced in healthy and truly humane farms, dropping the consumption of meat drastically is as important as reducing the number of cars on the road. This is not only for the welfare of the animals, or the health of the planet, but also for the life of the person. There are farms that do a great job with their animals. One clue is that a real farm will not be always able to supply the demand for its products—there will always be dry… Read more »
A Green Spell
5 years 11 months ago
Lovely. This is such a hard issue for many, I think. It’s so loaded with emotions and ethics and all kinds of landmines. I became a vegetarian when I was 19, after reading Diet for a New America by John Robbins. I can still remember lying on my bedroom floor, hitting that first passage about how male chicks are thrown into plastic bags to suffocate them, since they are useless to the egg industry. I was HYSTERICAL. And the book only got more graphic and upsetting from there. It was literally an overnight decision for me. I’ve eaten tuna twice… Read more »
Erika
5 years 11 months ago
High five! I went vegetarian almost exactly a year ago, when I was hand-rearing my pet chickens. I guess I had always thought of meat animals as being brainless automatons, but they’re not – they’re animals, just like the pets I have known and loved. What it really came down to was that any more, the only reason TO eat meat is “It’s tasty and I like it.” Which don’t get me wrong is a pretty strong reason! But if everyone could even just cut back to having meat only once per day, or once per week, our would would… Read more »
5 years 11 months ago

Thank you for putting that caveat in the post about what cruelty is. I usually dread reading what other environmental bloggers have to say about vegetarianism because I feel so horrible about the entire thing. But reading that quote made me feel a whole lot better, especially because it’s clear the topic of vegetarianism is so important to you.

5 years 11 months ago

Rob, kudos! From one addict to another, “You Go!” No cigarettes. I know that must be a hard one.

Leanne, I hear what you’re saying. But I guess for me, I just can’t think of animals as meat anymore. Which is personal. Like I said, from my gut. :-)
.-= Beth Terry´s last blog ..Reducing Plastic Waste: April 2010 Collection Results =-.

5 years 11 months ago

LOL Although I am a meat eater, I am very understanding to vegan and vegetarians beliefs. And Believe it or not I don’t eat much meat. I am getting to a point of being a cheese eater or bean eater for protien. That being said, My taco’s are done for dinner.
While you may be the newest vegetarian, I am the newest non smoker. No ciggy’s since April 15th. No plastic wrapped packs of cigarettes and no plastic filters!
.-= Rob´s last blog ..Letter Carriers’ Food Drive =-.

5 years 11 months ago
Three thougts (and I’ll try to keep them short) First, upon reading “Coalinga” I’m shouting “Hey! That’s us!!!” Well, not really. I’m in Chowchilla… but since our high school teams play their high school teams, they’re ‘our neck of the valley’… Second, (almost immediatly after thinking “That’s us!”) my thought go to the cows across the slew from my supposed-suburb. The dairy (the main house sitting, oh…probably 1/4-1/2 miles from my house) is surrounded by corn and pretty young pines and what looks like some kind of green vegitation (it’s not summer, so it’s still green)… and then in the… Read more »
kanmuri
5 years 11 months ago
This was very well written. If every vegetarian could be as articulate as you it would be much more easier to understand their choice. I, personally, don’t think I could ever entirely cut meat off my diet. However I buy my meat from a bio certified farm that raises all its livestock on grass. The farm is accessible to the public and they do everything, from breeding to butchering. Needless to say that the meat I eat now is way more expensive than the one I used to buy. As a result we eat less meat and I find that… Read more »

[…] this interesting post from a blogger about why she decided to become a […]

michelep
5 years 11 months ago
I am VERY lucky (a) to have not one but four sources of local, ethically raised, etthically slaughtered animal products (including a new butcher that wraps your meat in paper!) and (b) to be able to afford their products. Would that everyone had such an option. It is worth remembering that vegetarian sources of food take their toll on the earth too (especially given how many of us there are to feed). The Vegetarian Myth is one book on that subject. (Sorry can’t recall author.) Seems like there are no easy answers. But I love that the visitors to this… Read more »
5 years 11 months ago
Beth, Thank you for sharing your story. I have struggled with my feelings about eating animals for years. Recently I have been thinking seriously about how I could make some changes with eating meat. Your story has helped me make a jump. I have made changes with eggs buying only cage free eggs and recently did some research to find local farms where i can buy my eggs and actually see the chickens roaming free. I love cheese and some dairy products and choose to continue to research places to buy from clean healthy humane farms. My struggle has come… Read more »
5 years 11 months ago
Beth, Thank you for sharing your story. I have struggled with my feelings about eating animals for years. Recently I have been thinking seriously about how I could make some changes with eating meat. Your story has helped me make a jump. I have made changes with eggs buying only cage free eggs and recently did some research to find local farms where i can buy my eggs and actually see the chickens roaming free. I love cheese and some dairy products and choose to continue to research places to buy from clean healthy humane farms. My struggle has come… Read more »
samantha
5 years 11 months ago

This is one of the best reminders/arguments for being a vegetarian. I have been a veggie for almost 17 years. Lately I’ve been having a hard time staying to my “diet” I too made it a personal choice based on the same ideas, I couldn’t eat my pets.
Thank you for writing this and sharing what made you make this change. It is a great reminder of why I started living this way and a good boost to keep going.
Thank you

Sandi
5 years 11 months ago
I’ve been exposing myself to more and more information on the environment and nutrition, and am just at a point where I’m considering not eating meat. One of the most immediate reasons is that I don’t like the plastic/styrofoam packaging. But the more I have learned about factory meat, the more I realize there are much deeper reasons to not eat animal flesh. We get a lot of our meat locally from a very good source, but the less we eat, the less I need to eat. Thanks, Beth, for all your good work. You have inspired me.
5 years 11 months ago
Hoooooo boy. Here goes. We’re a vegetarian family. BUT… I also keep chickens and sheep, and live in an area where we have lots of farm animals that are treated well. I guess what I’m saying is that I think sometimes there is a reason to slaughter. When some of our hens stop laying, we’ll slaughter them, and the meat will go to friends. HOWEVER, if we actually worked out the amount of meat each person was eating on our 3 acre farm if we ate the meat ourselves, it would be a tiny amount in comparison to what people… Read more »
5 years 11 months ago
Congratulations and welcome to the Vegetarian club. I’ve been a member for more than half my life and am thankful every day that we live in a society that makes it easy to make the choice to be a vegetarian. I have been reading your Fake Plastic Fish blog for a couple of years and find it quite inspiring. I’m not off of plastic, but I try to reduce my consumption of plastic and make smarter decisions. I tried to go poo free, but have often broken down and bought Pert Plus…but usually a big bottle to assuage my guilt.… Read more »
monkeyjen
5 years 11 months ago

Oh Beth – very poignant. But now you’re never going to sleep!

5 years 11 months ago
The environmental impact of raising animals was the main reason I stopped eating meat some years ago. The impact is readily apparent in a CAFO, but the extra water needed, power for shipping and processing, etc. meat are significant, too. For me, it was a gradual process starting with beef, then pork, then chicken. I still eat some fish (though it’s increasingly hard to find choices that are good for me and the environment), some eggs and a little cheese (made w/ microbial rennet). The other reasons for going vegetarian (e.g., health, animal cruelty, et al) are simply icing on… Read more »
Jen F
5 years 11 months ago

I stopped eating factory farmed meat eight months ago. That book was the nail in the coffin. Since humanely raised meat is so expensive, I’m mostly eating vegetarian but think of meat as an occasional treat. With so many reasons not to eat meat (at least the factory farmed kind) I just couldn’t do it anymore.

5 years 11 months ago
This is one of the most articulate and well-reasoned articles on becoming a vegetarian I have ever read. Thank you so much for sharing this. I have a lot of trouble reading/watching information on animal cruelty; I keep thinking about my own sweet dog and cat and I just can’t look at it. I appreciate those of you who have the fortitude not only to look at it but turn it into a catalyst for changing your lives. I’ve been mostly a vegetarian for over 30 years, and a vegan for the last two, for most of the same reasons… Read more »
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