During an average dinner outing in high school, I was laughing and enjoying my friends’ company while munching on a delicious cheeseburger when one of my friends looked at me square-in-the-face and said, “That cow was probably tortured in some way.” Uh … rude much? Even though I wasn’t a vegetarian, I understood and supported my veggie friends. Vegetarianism had always seemed a valiant effort to me. That’s not why I was offended. I was offended because it was my own freakin’ business whether or not I was going to eat that cheeseburger.
When I was 18, I maintained my position that vegetarianism wasn’t for everyone, but I did decide it was for me. I made a commitment to stop eating meat in 2006, and I made a simultaneous commitment to never become one of those “annoying vegetarians.” I never wanted anyone to be uncomfortable or dislike me because of my diet. As a result of this type of thinking, I cringe when anyone asks me why I am a vegetarian. I give short answers. I don’t want to draw attention to the morality of what my meal partners are eating. In fact, I go above and beyond to make sure people around me are comfortable. Sometimes I purposely tell others how good their meat looks, how delightful it smells.
The subtext of all these comments is, “Please don’t think I think eating meat is wrong!” But, the truth is I do think eating factory-farmed meat is wrong. Actually, I am so sure of my opinion that I have permanently augmented my life’s diet. Actually, I am so sure of my opinion that I will augment my opinion from saying “I think eating meat is wrong” to saying “Eating factory-farmed meat is wrong.”
Here’s the deal: eating meat is wrong on a few levels. It is understandable if you don’t care about one or two of those levels, but unless you are a total nihilist, you probably care about at least one of these things: cruelty, environmental collapse, governmental corruption, or the deterioration of people’s general health. The U.S. meat industry is hugely guilty when it comes to all of these issues. Every single piece of factory-farmed meat we buy was treated inhumanely in some way, caused some pollution, contributed to corruption, and is by no standard natural or healthy for us to eat.
There is not a single animal on a factory farm that lives a humane life, and a huge majority of them die treacherous deaths. Environmentally speaking, it is a proven fact that meat farms produce just as much carbon monoxide (if not more) than all the transportation worldwide. The meat industry also perpetuates insane amounts of waste with its products — concerned only with profit, meat factories use the absolute shoddiest measures of disposing of their carcasses and manure —inherently leaking into the ecosystem and directly into neighboring towns’ water and air.
Why does this happen? Because we give the meat industry so much money, and the industry uses part of that giant income to support the government. Thus, federal regulation for farms is nearly impossible, and the media is cornered into promoting meat.
As far as physical health goes, factory-farmed meat is stuffed with drugs and feces. And then we eat it. And if you care about the mental health of others, consider the scarring experience of being forced to work at a slaughterhouse because the factory has taken over your entire town, and your family needs food to eat. Imagine waking up and slitting chickens’ necks for a full work day. Would you ever ask anyone to do that for you? Chances are, you already have. Eating factory-farmed meat IS wrong.
So, clearly, I know eating meat is wrong, and yet, I have been too cowardly to stick up for myself. If I saw one of my friends, or anyone for that matter, chucking their garbage out their window, bribing a senator, putting steroids in a child’s food, or cutting a dog’s face open, I would scream, “JUST WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?” And yet, at dinner I smile and say, “Your chicken smells so good.” So, here’s my resolution after four years of polite vegetarianism: No more Mr. Nice Guy. But, you say, we need protein! Well, there are lots of ways to get protein. Even for a powerful athlete, protein can be easily gathered through nuts, beans, and vegetables. It is scientifically proven. Look it up. But, you say, it’s hard for some people to give up the ease of meat! Yeah, and slavery made fieldwork a picnic, but we thank God for those brave folks who learned to live without it! We thank God for those who told others to think about their actions.
With this new resolution under my belt, I am in a tight space. Of course I always hate the sin and not the sinner. Just because someone I love continues to eat meat does not mean I will hate them or constantly guilt them. It just means I will make sure he or she knows exactly what they are doing with their money, knowledge, and support. I still remain non-judgmental of meat-eaters, but I refuse to let information go unsaid anymore. I hope whatever you find passion in, dear reader, you fight for it — maybe you already do. Society commends you for that courage. That said, when others are passionate about something, like my passion for winning power away from the U.S. factory farm, think about changing your ways!
My sister is a veggie, but my parents are not. I know they love me, and they want to value what I value, but vegetarianism just isn’t for them. This year for my birthday, I told them all I wanted was a promise that they would be meat-free for a month. They are in the middle of the process and finding that maybe veggie-life isn’t as hard as it had once looked. I have come to realize that people might not care about your causes (because everyone has his or her own worries), but they might care about you, and through that you can promote change that our world so needs.
If you have just read this article, and you want to lessen the meat in your diet, do I have a treat for you! Over the years, I have created a menu of my very own veggie meal creations all made quickly and easily in the Scramble Room. I now share my ten favorites with you:
Alice’s Alternate Scramble Room Veggie Menu
–Veggie Cheesy Pasta: get plain pasta and add cheese, broccoli, and fake bacon bits from the salad bar. For vegans: trade cheese with lemon juice.
–Fruit Torte Quesadilla: spread strawberry cream cheese on a tortilla and add chopped fruit (banana, orange, kiwi — whatever is available). Put another tortilla on top and Panini to perfection. For vegans: substitute cream cheese with honey.
–Banana Burrito: spread peanut butter on a tortilla. Place sliced banana and chocolate chips on top. Drizzle on honey and wrap it up.
–Pita Pizza: grab some mozzarella from the salad bar, meatless sauce from the pasta bar, and spread on a warm pita.
–Protein-Packed Potato: when sweet potatoes are served, mash one up with black beans and cinnamon sugar. If desired, enjoy with sour cream.
–Ants on a Log: travel back to kindergarten with peanut butter spread on celery and raisins on top.
–Stir-Fry: get rice from the pasta bar and gather up any veggies from the salad bar. Microwave veggies and add to rice with soy sauce (always available near the check-out line).
–Bean Burrito: tortilla, black or pinto beans, cheese, and salsa.
–Tea-Time Sandwich: bagel with cream cheese and cucumber, tomato, and lettuce.
–Go-Pita: when you’re on-the-go, grab a pita, cut in half, pour in yogurt and a soft cereal like Special K. Munch and walk.
*All general facts about the meat industry can be found from hundreds of sources, but I got mine in particular from Jonathan Safron Foer’s book Eating Animals.