Thursday, February 3, 2011
Vegetarianism: From Compassion to Environmentalism
Why are you a vegetarian?
"Compassion" was my answer. I believe that a living creature should not die because we enjoy how it tastes.
What about plants?
"Plants grow to give seeds" I said. Growing a plant, eating it, and allowing the seeds to grow again is a natural and productive partnership between a plant and its consumer.
At some point, didn't we need to eat meat to surive?
"Yes," I said. I know that at some points in history eating meat kept people alive when no other food was available. Eating meat made us who we are today. However, the survival of our race no longer depends on killing animals. we have more than enough resources to feed everyone on the planet a vegetarian diet.
You do realize that eating manufactured soy-based products and other meat substitutes can use far more overall resources than eating locally raised meat? Therefore, at times it is more environmentally ethical to eat meat than not.
"Yikes" I said. That is a very good point, and one that cuts deep into another issue. The environmental aspect of not eating meat can be trickier than the compassionate reason for not eating meat. In fact, it is more important. If I am making a choice to eat vegetarian alternatives to meat, and those products like soy based meat substitutes that are often grown over seas, manufactured in one place, packaged in another places, and then shipped to my grocery store, then I am basically putting my foot in my own mouth. Now, it is true that most meat, especially beef, is extremely hard on the environment for the same reasons listed above. Choosing a vegetarian option is definitely better than eating beef or low grade meats usually found in fast food restaurants and cheap frozen dinners. But local meats..... I agree that local meats are much superior to eating the less humane, less environmentally friendly, and less affordable meat. For compassionate reasons eating meat, even locally, which is admittedly better (both for your health, and for the planet) is still something I will no longer do.
Are you alright with making decisions that are more harmful to the environment than another available option?
"No, I will go one further and be even more environmentally friendly than your options listed" I answered. I will not eat meat for compassion reasons, and I will no longer (or at least significantly reduce) eating vegetarian products that take a lot of energy to make it to my plate.
How will you accomplish this?
"To limit my environmental impact, I will buy and eat a very locally based diet," I said. I will buy vegetables in bulk from farmers markets. I will research where my food is coming from and choose options that are closest to me. I will choose foods that are not processed, or minimally processed. I will not buy frozen prepackaged food. I will no longer buy fast food. It is my new mission to not only eat compassionately but also environmentally.
How will you afford this?
"Well, that is always an issue," I said. Accept farmers markers can be reasonable, although limited. Eating healthy is not only expensive monetarily, but even more expensive in time. I spend more time preparing food, shopping for food, researching food. I am challenged to spend time either making lunches before work, or bring the tools to make lunch at work. I have to learn new recipes that use the items I have before they go bad. Eating is a struggle. But it is a fun struggle, because it is honest, and it is aligned with my beliefs. Eating used to be something I did lazily and without much thought. No longer is that the case. I will put money where my mouth is, and commit to eating an animal friendly local vegetarian diet. And I will enjoy it.