I've been vegetarian since I was about 14 years old. I remember the last time I consumed actual meat was after my freshman homecoming dance. It was a chicken caesar salad at a local diner where I live. As I ate my salad, I thought to myself, this will be my last time eating meat. And I was right! Throughout the five years I’ve been vegetarian, I have experimented with fish for health reasons, but I have not eaten chicken, beef, turkey, or anything of the sort, since that day. The questions I, and other vegetarians or vegans, get asked the most is why we decided to go vegetarian, why we continue to be vegetarian, and why would we give up meat when it’s just so good? These are all valid questions and hopefully my answers will inspire others to try a meatless diet. Also, when people ask me these type of questions—which happens more often than you’d think—I can just send them this article instead of typing out a painfully long text message.
The number one most often question I’m asked is “Why?”
It’s a difficult question to answer. Not because I don’t know why, but because there are so many reasons. My sister was probably the person who inspired me to become vegetarian the most. She became vegan after a year or two being vegetarian, and has been since (go her!). I did try veganism for about six months, but at the time it wasn’t for me. Maybe I’ll try again soon! Anyways, she educated me on the torture than animals endure in slaughterhouses. I’ll spare you the gory details, but go ahead and look up slaughterhouse videos on your own time if you can handle it. These animals are raped, tortured, and killed for food. That is not an industry I would like to associate with.
Additionally, the dairy industry is far from any better than the meat industry. Mother cows are kept away from their babies and are forcefully impregnated using artificial insemination so they can keep producing milk. Although they’re “just animals,” they are still innocent lives that are being brutalized and killed for humans’ consumption. After my sister told me all of this, I felt an overwhelming amount of guilt. I was vegetarian for only about six months before switching to veganism, which I do not recommend and why I believe I failed at it. Definitely take your time and you’ll most likely be a lot more successful. After considering the industry I was supporting and how it impacted the animals’ health and safety, I came to the conclusion that it just wasn’t worth it.
Now, one of the biggest “why’s” for me is the environmental impact mass animal agriculture has on the environment. I actually wrote a research paper on this topic last year during my first semester. Did you know, animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of greenhouse gas emission, up there with transportation and electricity? In other words, the effects of global warming is expediting due to mass animal agriculture. Not to mention the amount of water being used for these huge amounts of live stock. If the moral standpoint isn’t enough to consider eating less meat, maybe the potential of having a cleaner and healthier planet will!
"You’re vegetarian? But where do you get your protein?!” asks the same man who eats Ramen and Hot Pockets for every meal. There are so many ways to get protein without meat or even dairy! Of course, meat is a huge source of protein. And I get it, it tastes good. However, there are so many meat alternatives that have a ton of protein and taste extremely similar to the real thing. Some even have the same texture, too. Tofu, veggie burgers, edamame, quinoa, and tempeh are just a few of my favorite protein substitutes. You can always just experiment with different things and find what you like best!
Following a specific diet is never linear. It is perfectly okay to experiment with different things and discover what works best for you. I would never judge someone for choosing a way of eating, as food and health are different for everyone! However, I do encourage everyone to at least try living a meatless lifestyle once in a while; you’ll feel much better knowing you’re contributing to life instead of death.