People often ask me why I’m a vegetarian. It sort of just happened, but here are the reasons I often cite:
- Turned off by what I had read about factory farming (Can’t remember which specific sources now. I think watching the documentary Food Inc. clinched it.)
- Generally healthier
- Better for the environment
- Didn’t like cooking and dealing with clean-up of raw meat
- Stopped craving meat
It just made sense to be at the time, so I sort of just went down that route. I’m not a hardcore vegetarian. Some might call me a pescatarian since I eat fish. Some might call me a flexitarian because I make exceptions for meat when it comes to really good Chinese or Vietnamese food (which is pretty rare in Austin and much less rare in Los Angeles). And while people in Austin know me as a vegetarian now, I get to choose again as a newcomer to LA. What are my new rules in LA—with its abundant foodie culture, food trucks, and diverse ethnic eats? (It’s not an on-off switch, as Jonathan Safran Foer says.)
I’ve been flirting with meat again—at dim sum, chicken wings at a new friend’s house, the bacon in the “Best Burrito in LA” around the corner from our new place.
But I still don’t crave it. And I’d rather eat vegetarian if I can. And at home, we’re definitely not buying or cooking any meat.
Then, today, I saw this article/graphic video of what happens in “factory” pig farms.Big agriculture is fighting for legislation that would ban any photography/video-filming at these agricultural facilities: ag-gag laws. (More details from Bittman.)
I know it’s hard to watch, but it’s important if we are to be conscientious citizens and responsible eaters.
And it strengthens my resolve to stop flirting with meat again. The greatest thing about eating is appreciating the diversity of tastes in our food, and I know vegetarianism has opened my world to all kinds of foods, grains, vegetables, restaurants, and farmer’s markets that I wouldn’t otherwise have explored if I was eating the same types of meat-heavy comfort meals that I had become accustomed to during college.
The biggest misconception about becoming vegetarian is that it’s about deprivation and finding replacements for meat; on the contrary, it’s about exploring the world of food!
For me, the most difficult thing about being a vegetarian is navigating the social terrain of eating with non-vegetarians. But most people are pretty accommodating when they know your preference, and being okay with fish helped a lot. I’m more committed now to making sure I can offer to bring a dish if we’re invited to dinner—and to make it super-yummy, vegetarian, and filling.
(The second hardest is traveling or road-tripping, but finding grocery stores along the way and packing meals with you when you can are key.)
I always feel heartened when I hear in the discourse that we shouldn’t worry about the labels of “vegetarian” or “vegan” or whatever. Unless you have strict food allergies, the labels are less important than the mindset. And it’s not a war of meat-eaters vs. vegetarians. If everyone ate less meat, it would still make a tremendous difference. And if everyone were conscious of the impact of their food choices and were aware of where their food came from, that would also go a long way.
Anyway, food for thought (har har). “Is it right to eat animals given the ways we are actually raising and killing them?”