**words added by author italicized for distinction
It took three days. Three days after our first “date” to also become a vegetarian — not because they asked me to or pushed some agenda — because I felt then it had been a long time coming. I almost instantly watched Food, Inc. (a documentary I had been purposefully avoiding for some time, knowing that it would change my eating habits and desires as soon as I watched it) and bought Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer. There are many proven health and environmental benefits to becoming meatless.
My new partner had been a vegetarian for close to two years already, and easily. I had been living off hot pockets and frozen pepperoni pizzas, so transitioning to being a vegetarian — and a healthy one at that — was a big, worthwhile step for me.
Food politics is typically a touchy topic in the social circles I find myself in, one that I usually shy away from discussing. In learning about the dangerous conditions that factory farmers and workers go through, I thought I would be helping by being vegetarian. Not to mention, some of the lax health regulations that go into the production of meat convinced me I was also helping myself.*
Recently, however, my partner and I have started to question the effectiveness of our form of protesting. We are lucky to have access to a Dominick’s grocery store not even two blocks away from our home, which sells soy-meat products. We recognize that this a privileged access, whereas many individuals are not able to one, choose to be vegetarian in the first place, much less, two, have these products available to enjoy high-protein food items. Furthermore, the production of soy- and other fake-meats also seem to have a history of exploitative working conditions for people, as well as numerous health hindrances. Also, something we really had to consider was the fact that being vegetarian may be killing more animals in the process, instead of less.
So, taking all these things into consideration, we have to wonder if our personal form of protesting is making a difference (really not trying to step on any herbivores’ toes here, just our own methods seems curiously less effective than we initially thought). Pondering this and doing more reading, it’s possible that making intentional purchases of meat–that is organic, grass-fed, free-range, etc–would be making a more noticeable action towards the companies responsible for ethical production of animals for consumption. With the belief that consumers must create the change, the director of Food, Inc., Robert Kenner, created an online tool where people can find antibiotic-free meat in the area based on their zip codes. Increasing demand through the appropriate channels hopefully influences the nature of supply.
No matter what, it is not easy to switch gears, psychologically, physically, or materialistically. Just incorporating meat into a routine that has previously been so difficult to construct without takes a lot of mental energy. There is also the threat of feeling physically unwell eating meat, the body rebelling against a foreign substance. There are many reasons, not just political, to add meat or other animal products into a diet after being vegetarian for a considerable amount of time. Regardless of the reason, it would be wise to start slow and possibly take these guidelines to avoid being ill. Choosing a different eating lifestyle will not be easy, as there are many components to consider before making a change. First and foremost, we must become informed about where the products we choose to put in our body are coming from and how. Then we should all take actions in small ways, like buying locally, demanding job protection for farmers, or adapting our diets as we see ethical and right.
[*I could go into more details, but I don’t want to repeat statistics that we all can easily access just to prove my point when we all have different perspectives on the animal-product industries, though I would recommend reading the previously mentioned Eating Animals. Foer does a very thorough researching this topic and has a stellar, storytelling way of presenting facts and information in an un-biased manner.]
I only wish to incite thought and invite change surrounding our decisions about food: what we consume is not only important for our own bodies, but for our environment, our communities, and sustainability.