Why I Became A Vegetarian

Any time I tell someone I am a vegetarian, I get asked why. It is completely understandable, and I actually enjoy talking about the topic. Sometimes, however, I feel I can’t fully formulate and articulate my reasonings on the fly, so I would like to point any person that has ever asked me why I am a vegetarian to this article.

Environmental science changed my perspective on my food choices, along with the rest of my decisions and their effect on the Earth. I learned the detrimental impact that the meat-eating diet has on the Earth and decided I couldn’t return to eating meat again if I was to continue to try to encourage others to save the environment. It is hypocritical to claim you support saving the Earth while you still eat meat. It is also hypocritical, however, how my showers take 10 minutes and how I leave my lights on sometimes even when I’m not in the room while I try to convince you to "help save the Earth.” But hey, we’re only human here.

The impact of meat on the environment is astronomical and has become one of the largest concerns for climate change. The Environmental Working Group found that red beef can produce 10 to 40 times the greenhouse emissions of other crops such as corn. They found that the livestock feed necessary for the US requires nearly 167 million pounds of pesticides. The methane produced from cows alone makes up over 20% of the US’s methane emissions (EWG 2018). Livestock takes up tremendous amounts of land which has to be cleared before it can be used for grazing, contributing to massive amounts of deforestation. Meat also takes a large amount of water for production. The average “water footprint” for beef is 20 times that of corn or starch crops. Considering most scientists project drinking water will drop to becoming available to only 60% of the world’s population within the next 20 years, I believe meat’s water footprint is cause for concern. The list of environmental impacts of meat could continue for pages on pages, but in summary, meat production (as it is done in present day) is not good for the Earth.

Although initially I switched to a vegetarian diet for environmental reasons, I started researching further into why others had switched over. My dad pointed me towards a philosophy podcast episode that discussed the ethics behind eating meat called Philosophize This! I highly recommend researching the philosophy (another great source is plato.stanford.edu) for yourself as I am no expert in this subject. However, one philosophical scenario from the podcast stuck with me. It’s called the Alien Invasion argument. Let’s say tomorrow a species from another planet comes and invades the Earth. They are highly intelligent, far more than humans, and they are also more athletic. They dominate humans and become the most superior species on the planet. They decide to start farming humans, as we did to animals, and slaughter them for their food source. Humans would say that is morally wrong since humans think, humans suffer and humans have a will to live. The same can be said for any animal species. They feel pain, they want to live and many have far higher intelligence than scientists previously imagined.

There are many counters, however, to this philosophy. “Humans are not the same as animals” is valid, yet the reason we believe killing humans is wrong is the same as why killing animals is wrong. There’s also the argument of necessity; how can humans live if they do not have meat? If there comes a time in the future where there are no food sources other than meat and the only way the human race will continue is through eating meat, then by all means have a steak. Right now, however, when there are so many alternatives that would be better for the planet and even better for your health, there is no real reason other than the human desire to eat meat and to consume animal products.

Hypothetical scenarios aside, the actual meat industry itself is a gruesome and inhumane system. This is about to get real PETA-esque, so if you don’t want to confront the truth of what you eat everyday, look away now. Hundreds, even thousands, of animals are packed into tight indoor pens causing diseases to spread and kill off many. Those that are not killed off are filled with antibiotics to protect them against whatever is floating around in their tight-packed homes. Many animals become stressed and panicked for their entire short lives. Chickens’ beaks are violently removed without anesthetic so they stop pecking at others out of stress. Pigs’ tails are torn off so others refrain from biting them out of panic. Many baby animals are slaughtered shortly after birth as that is what humans like best on the market. The animals live in their own filth and manure, never able to see the sun. The thing you are eating was living and breathing at one time.

Finally, the point that always confuses me is American citizens’ uproar and horror at eating dogs but their general acceptance of eating other animals. During the Winter olympics, some athletes voiced their distaste of South Korean traditional dishes of dog. Personally, I don’t think you should eat dogs, but only because I don’t think you should eat any animal. The only reason Americans find it unacceptable to eat dogs is because we’ve decided somewhere up the line that dogs “are friends, not food.” This is only due to cultural norms. If you grew up in South Korea, you would eat dogs. If you think eating dogs is wrong, then I don’t understand why you think eating any other animal is not wrong.

If you are a meat eater and you have made it this far, I commend you. Whenever I read pro-meat articles (that also bring up valid arguments) I tend to get frustrated and exit out after the first paragraph. I love my meat-eating friends, and I will never try to impose what I believe onto their diets or think less of them because of what they eat. I wanted to write this so that people could see my side of things and understand more my decision. Sure, underneath it all, I would love if every reader decided to convert to a vegetarian diet. But even me, who believes everything I wrote, still is not a vegan. It’s hard to change your lifestyle, I get it. Instead, try meatless Mondays. Or put aside red meat for a little while. Maybe be vegetarian for a week to see how it is. Whether you choose any of these options or not, I just ask one thing; be aware of what you are eating and how it got to your plate. The answers may shock you.