I Cannot Vegetarian Today; Maybe I will Vegetarian Tomorrow

Someone once accused me of being an atheist because I just wanted to sin all the time with no repercussions.  “No,” I said.  “You are confused.  That’s not why I’m not a Christian.  That’s why I’m not a vegetarian.”

In the spirit of just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD do something, I object to using our planet’s limited resources to feed myself through the broken, dirty disgusting industrial animals for food complex.  Like maybe if I had my own chickens, and I cut their heads off and ate them, that would be ok.  But I suddenly do not want chicken so much after all.  And also I am a big wimp, and left to my own devices in the wild without a vending machine for more than four hours, I would die.

It’s not just the ethics of eating things with faces.  It’s not enough to address the whole question of  using animals for food when we don’t have to, what conditions farm animals should be allotted if we are going to eat them, and how long we before we all die from the superbug created by feeding livestock preventative antibiotics.  We really should question where all out food comes from.  Is palm oil destroying the rain forest?  Are almonds contributing to the drought?  If I really thought about where my food comes from, the origin of the seeds, what was sprayed on it, who got paid how much to pick it and under what conditions, what economic systems were effected by what subsidies, and whose corporate headquarters’ have shitty family leave policies every time I put something in my mouth, I probably would be really skinny. I gave up Chick-Fil-A.  What do you want from me?

I have cut most meat out of my daily life with the exception of all the lovely Asian broths and sauces I keep in my cabinet. I mean shrimp paste really shouldn’t count anyway because shrimp are bugs.  And fish sauce?  Well, I think they make that from squeezing ethically sourced sardines into a jar.  I’m pretty sure that’s how they make that.

Eating out is a different story, though I tend to stick to seafood.  I can’t quite remember the last time I had a big piece of steak or fried chicken or something like that.  Yet, the strength of my convictions is weak. And the tests are many.  One might argue that adopting a fully vegetarian lifestyle eliminates having to make these ethical choices over and over again. You simply adopt new habits supported by that one lifestyle choice.  But I am only a vegetarian on a case by case basis because I just really don’t want to miss out on anything.  Like Thanksgiving.  Or tamales made by someone’s grandmother.  Or drinking beer and sucking the heads of crawfish.  You really should try that at least once.  Really.

I have recently discovered Vietnamese food (I know I’m pretty late to the party).  My local establishment is happy to make me vegetarian banh mi, and menu options include both fried egg and tofu for your sandwich. That’s great because I am also open to trying out new vegetarian options.  (I strongly advise against tofurky.)  But I tried the pork banh mi.  Because I want to know what pork bahn mi tastes like, just once.  And Pho, just once.

Ok, not just once.  I want to eat Pho broth every day all day forever and ever.  What do they put in that stuff?  Apparently, it is the very souls of various dead animals stewed together for several days and strained out so you could pretend it comes from a very flavorful carrot if you want to. I think I might just do that.  I’m tired.  I cannot save the world today.  I am only a vegetarian like 70% of the time, and I feel bad about it.  Am I a worse person for believing it is unethical to consume meat and not following through, or a better person because I eat considerably less than the 125 pounds of meat the average American consumes in a year?

Confessions of a Failed Vegan

My first attempt at going vegan, giving up all animal products, lasted for 4 days.  At which point I was found crumpled in a ball on the floor sobbing with a bag of crushed Doritos in my hand.  Who knew there was dairy in Doritos?  And non-dairy creamer?  And cool whip?

I tried again and made it a whole 6 weeks, although I may have eaten tomato gravy and soy milk biscuits on every one of those 42 days before I was defeated by a turkey sandwich. Which I ate with Doritos.  I feel it necessary to mention at this point, in case I am discouraging you, that the Doritos in the purple bag are in fact vegan.  Also Oreos.  You can go far with a bag of Oreos.

This whole vegan experiment might have gone better if I was thoroughly disgusted by meat.  I am not.  I can eat a whole piece of bacon without contemplating the personal life story of the pig I am consuming.  This may be why I do not quite fit in with the vegan community.  I may have um…gotten kicked out of  a large vegan support group by suggesting it MAY be more ethical to eat a rabbit out of your back yard than some faux food that contains palm oil which leads to the deforestation of large swatches of orangutan habitat.  “We wouldn’t want people to think eating a rabbit was ok,” said the moderator.

The truth is I did a great deal of research before I attempted this feat.  In fact, if I had put as much effort into cooking as I did into reading, I might have done better.  There is a lot of dissension out there as to what the healthiest diet is, but cutting back on animal products is considered a good start by pretty much everyone except the cattle industry backed FDA. Most experts agree it certainly won’t hurt you to give up animal products as long as you take a vitamin B supplement.

As far as figuring out how bad meat really is for you, well that’s a challenge.  It may not be nearly as bad as all those processed foods we eat like Doritos and Oreos.  A diet of fruit, sweet potatoes, leafy green vegetables, and lean chicken is probably a really healthy diet.

But there are still some compelling reasons to simply opt out of the factory farm industry.  The animals we eat are kept in horrible cramped and squalid conditions.   They are butchered before they reach maturity and are treated daily with preventative antibiotics that could well lead to resistant superbugs.

For me personally, the environmental concerns are what have me reaching for the tofu instead of the steak (usually).  The amount of land lost to grazing and the production of feed crops is not sustainable as we feed an increasing population.  Eating animals causes 40% more global warming than all types of transportation combined, and livestock production is the main cause of water pollution.  The bottom line is it takes 10 times the water, 10 times the land, and 10 times the grain to support a typical American diet rather than a vegan one.

Cutting out meat and dairy and eggs is a radical lifestyle change for most of us, and I highly suspect it is more easily obtained in some parts of the country than in others.  I’ve been to plenty of events here in the Deep South where the vegetarian option is catfish. Are there not easier ways to save the planet?  What if I buy a bicycle?  Maybe it’s not an all or nothing choice.  Maybe it’s better to cut back than to go whole hog and then hide in the closet eating marshmallows and jelly beans (no, they are not vegan).

Now I know vegans have a reputation for being obnoxious, and I’m sure some of them are.  They are new converts on a mission to save the planet, and their urgency is a threat to your way of life.  I get it. I do.  I’m not going to ask you to throw out your cheeseburger.  Especially since my own dietary choices are up in the air on a daily basis.   But if you’re not oblivious enough to drive a hummer to work every day, you should also open your eyes to the destruction other parts of your lifestyle are causing to the world we want to leave to our children.  How about meatless Monday?  Have an Oreo.