Thursday, 10 March 2011

Why I am a Vegetarian

The Friday Club

This week's theme for Ella's Friday Club Carnival is Ethics and Activism.  Although I'm not very militant in my beliefs, I am a very committed vegetarian.  I write about my veggie family in my blog in an anecdotal way, but I've never really written about my core beliefs.  The reason why I decided to go veggie and why I have kept it up for a decade!

As a teenager I dallied with vegetarianism.  At one point I was a militant vegetarian refusing to touch anything that had ever so much as come across an animal.  I made a point of making sure everyone knew about it and listening to The Smiths' "Meat is Murder" on my Sony Walkman at high volume.  I was probably highly annoying, badgering the waiters in Pizza Hut as to the source of their rennet.  As in the case of most teenage rebellions, my vegetarianism didn't last.  My home made baked bean lasagne was shelved and I was back to McDonald's ordering Big Macs.

My commitment to a vegetarian lifestyle began in earnest ten years ago.  It was born out of a desire to achieve the optimum healthy lifestyle for me and my family following the devastating and untimely death of my eldest sister due to cancer.  I did a lot of research and it became evident to me that a diet high in animal protein was not how a human should eat.  A veggie diet is typically high in complex carbohydrates and dietary fibre, it's low in saturated fat and more likely to provide the recommended 5 a day. There are so many health benefits and the long term protection against diseases is well documented.

At first the children were still given the option of eating meat albeit "Happy Meat" sourced from local farms where the livestock had names until the fateful day when the stun gun came calling.  But quickly, they decided they preferred Quorn because it didn't have the "wet stuff" in it (turns out this was my 4 year old's interpretation of grease!)  So it was a natural and organic process to include the kids into the equation.  We signed up to the Vegetarian Society and got our pin badges.

My last two pregnancies have been sustained with a 100% veggie diet.  I didn't crave kebabs so my body must have been quite happy nourishing a baby without the aid of pork chops and chicken wings in my diet. I received a lot of negativity about my decision...even from the medical profession.  However, I gave birth a two healthy babies weighing in at 8lb 11oz and 9lb 10oz.  They are my only two asthma-free children and both have the constitution of little oxen.  Coincidence? Maybe...but definitely proof that a veggie diet doesn't harm babies in-utero.

As I delved deeper into the science of vegetarianism I became convinced that its benefits went a lot further.  I began to unearth facts and figures that I'd never seen before regarding the ecological effects of diet. Vegetarian diets are more sustainable, greener and could literally help save the planet and alleviate global human starvation.

Consider these facts:
  • Livestock rearing produces 18% of greenhouse gas emissions which is more than the entire transport system which is responsible for 13.5%.
  • To produce a typical vegetarian diet uses 300 gallons of water a day, a meat based diet uses 4000 gallons.
  • Livestock production is responsible for 70% of the Amazonian deforestation.
  • One third of all fossil fuels are used to raise animals for food.
  •  According to the Environmental Protection Agency farming pollutes rivers and lakes more than all  industrial sources combined.
It is a sobering thought that the food that we eat without thought could be contributing so negatively to this planet's demise.  This is a science based belief and doesn't touch upon animal rights, cruelty or the needless suffering of millions of sentient creatures.  These emotive issues upset me, but aren't my motivation for being a signed-up, badge wearing vegetarian.  However, the welfare of animals influences me enough that I only buy Free Range eggs.  I used to try to only buy organic dairy products, but this was just too hard and too expensive so my morality had to give a little!  I still however use soya milk instead of cows' milk as a token gesture. You have to do what's right for you and your conscience.

I am quietly passionate in my beliefs.  If someone questions me I will stand my ground, but I will not force my beliefs on anyone else.  I am changing my own life, my family and our lifestyle.  I am doing my tiny bit to help our suffering planet.  But on the most part I'm doing it because I believe it is the right thing and the best thing to do.  Fifteen year old me was misguided in her conduct...but the ethics weren't half bad.

I've changed my life for the better...and I don't miss meat at all.


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