"So, why don't you eat meat?"
I get asked this question often and my response is almost always followed by some quip about bacon or protein deficiency. Nevertheless, I always give a quick but efficient answer because I like planting seeds in people's hearts and minds. I enjoy giving them something to think about the next time they dig into a pound of bacon and feel miserable a few hours later or walk by the meat section in a grocery store and see smiling, cartoon faces of chickens and cows on packages of their own slaughtered bodies or when their kid looks at their pet dog and asks why we love some animals but kill others.
Listen, I'm not saying that being a Vegetarian is a biblical value. Now, I could proof-text some scripture and twist it all up and convince some of you it is, but it's not and I won't do that. Jesus ate meat and there is nothing, inherently, wrong with it. However, I will (with 100% certainty) say that having respect for God's creation is a biblical value and scripture is very clear that God loves and cares for all of it (Genesis 1, Deuteronomy 22:4, Psalm 24:1, Psalm 50:10-12, Psalm 89:11, Psalm 104:14-21, Proverbs 12:10, Matthew 10:29, 1 John 4:7-8, and I could go on and on).
As a lover of God, of people, of animals and of the environment (you know, all of the things God cares about and created with love), I finally got to a point several years back where I couldn't, in good conscience within my own personal faith, take part in the mindless slaughtering of animals and the subsequent decimation of His beautiful earth just so I could have a cheeseburger when there are so many other delicious & life-giving options that don't require factory farming. Plus, it's such a small sacrifice on my part.
And, in case you are wondering, let me be clear that I don't say all of this to suggest that people who eat meat aren't following or respecting God. I do not believe that in the least. Anthony isn't a vegetarian (though he eats almost exclusively Vegetarian at home), my dad is an avid hunter (which, is honestly the more humane way to obtain your meat if you're not just doing it for trophy) and I have beautiful relationships with wonderful, selfless people (Christians and non-Christians alike) who eat meat freely. This is a personal conviction and calling that I share to simply offer some perspective with the suggestion that, perhaps, there are better ways to choose the foods we eat and products we buy and maybe, for some of you, that is worth thinking about.
As I've written about previously, one of my personal goals in life is to live gently and I am constantly striving to be better at it. I love the quote from Maya Angelou that says "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better." Those words really resonate with me and I try to live my life with that mindset. In the case of factory farming, I didn't know the truth for a long time. But now that I do, I've made it a personal responsibility to actively take steps to be better in regards to that issue and all issues regarding God's creation and my consumerism. I am by no means even close to being where I want to be, but I try. Sometimes I miss it or I'm financially unable to make the choices I want to because of the high costs or I simply have moments of selfishness along the way, but I continue to try.
There are four main reasons why I am a vegetarian with one all-encompassing theme, which is that I love God deeply and I have a healthy respect for Him so, likewise, I strive to love His creation and have a healthy respect for it because it is all a reflection of Him and His character. Yes, humans have a special place in his heart and the Bible speaks of His love for us in countless ways, but that doesn't mean we've earned the right to crap all over the rest of his handiwork and give zero regard to the beauty and life He designed all around us. So here they are...
the FOUR main reasons why I don't eat meat:
1. IT'S BETTER FOR THE ANIMALS.
Factory farming is genocide. The mass killing of animals so the industrialized world can get their excessive portions of hormone-pumped-meat neatly packaged in supermarkets without having to be connected to the process in which it came to be is completely appalling. I'll keep this brief, but the practices in which these factories use to slaughter these animals and the conditions in which they are raised, fed and kept is anything but humane or sanitary. Many of the workers in these factories are so desensitized to animal brutality that there are recorded incidences of people abusing and mutilating live animals for entertainment while on the job. And it's not just land animals; sharks are being finned for soup (shark finning is when a shark is caught in the sea and its fin is cut-off then the actual shark is thrown back into the water to die), fish are being raised inhumanely in aqua-farms, and many other aquatic animals (some call them "seafood") die terrible deaths and are becoming endangered just so we can have an interesting meal. It's disgusting, it's wrong, it's immoral, it's destroying our ecosystem, and I can't be a part of it. If I don't NEED to eat an animal to survive (and I don't) then I can't justify doing it.
For more information on this heinous genocide of animals and the terrors of factory farming, I suggest watching the following documentaries and/or reading the following books: Food, Inc. [documentary], Earthlings [documentary - be prepared, this movie makes Food, Inc. look like a Disney film], Skinny Bitch [book], The Kind Diet [book], Slaughterhouse [book], The Omnivore's Dilemma [book], to name a few.
2. IT'S BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT.
Factory farming is destroying our earth. Here are just some of the horrifying facts about the effects of factory farming that I pulled from DoSomething.org: 1. Factory farming accounts for 37% of methane (CH4) emissions, which has more than 20 times the global warming potential of CO2. 2. Manure can also contain traces of salt and heavy metals, which can end up in bodies of water and accumulate in the sediment, concentrating as they move up the food chain. 3. When manure is repeatedly over-applied to farm land it causes dangerous levels of phosphorus and nitrogen in the water supply. In such excessive amounts, nitrogen robs water of oxygen and destroys aquatic life. 4. Globally, deforestation for animal grazing and feed crops is estimated to emit 2.4 billion tons of CO2 every year (my note: not to mention, we're losing our forests and these lands could be used for crops that could feed the world!). 5. Large-scale animal factories often give animals antibiotics to promote growth, or to compensate for illness resulting from crowded conditions. These antibiotics enter the environment and the food chain. 6. The waste lagoons on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) not only pollute our groundwater, but deplete it as well. Many of the farms use the groundwater for cleaning, cooling, and drinking.
Inhumanely breeding billions of sick, abused animals to raise more sick, abused animals so we can pump them full of more toxins which then get into our soil, water, and air which we will then consume while we use-up and destroy valuable land that could feed the world for their waste is terrible and is ravaging our planet. For more information on this, click here, here, and here. Also the above mentioned books and documentaries are great resources on this issue, as well.
3. IT'S BETTER FOR MY BODY.
When done correctly (because, believe me, there is a very unhealthy way to be a vegetarian/vegan and I still struggle with it from time to time), not eating meat is much better for your body. It is widely known that eating a plant-based diet (or mostly plant-based diet) puts people at a lower risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, food-borne illnesses, and various cancers (see here and here for more on that). Aside from that, however, it also promotes digestive health, keeps you regular (yeah, I went there... and you can trust me), and many people even see improvements in their hair, skin, eyes and nails. In addition, it just feels great. I used to have trouble digesting food which would give me stomach aches and I would often feel really lethargic after eating meals and those things rarely happen now. When they do, it's because I made a terrible food selection (Oreos are vegan, y'all) and I ate too much of it. Simply put, I feel better now than I ever did when I ate meat and I'm still able to push myself physically while exercising. Check out these all-star athletes that don't eat meat and get inspired!
4. IT'S BETTER FOR MY SOUL.
Not eating meat makes me feel connected to God and to His creation in a beautifully powerful way. I have found that over the past several years of abstaining from meat and having the peace of knowing that nothing was killed for my meals, my compassion for all life has skyrocketed. My respect for animals, the earth, and God increases exponentially each time I choose to appreciate and honor the creation I behold. When I choose to love and respect life, I just feel really, really good inside. It's as simple as that. I can look into the eyes of any animal I see and have nothing but admiration, compassion, love, and respect radiate through my spirit and never once do I feel personal guilt, shame, confusion, or dominance. The love for and connection to God's creation that I have is completely different as a Vegetarian than it was when I ate meat. It's a much better place to live from and I'm never going back.
So, there you have it. I should just start handing a card out with a link to this blog post when people ask me why I don't eat meat (I kid, I kid... kind of).
And, for the record, if you eat meat and choose to continue eating meat for the rest of your life, I still love you. I just kindly suggest that, if you are able, please try your best to make sure the animal you are eating was raised and kept in healthy, humane conditions, they were fed properly, and the killing-process was done as humanely as possible (this goes for dairy products, as well... lots of abuse going on for our milks, cheeses, yogurts, and eggs). How do you do this? Shop local, know your farmer, know your animal, ask questions, and do your research.
*If you're interested in becoming a Vegetarian or Vegan, first of all, good for you! I did it cold-turkey, but there are ways to enter into it slowly. For example, you could start by eliminating meat from one meal each day (for those of you that tend to eat meat with every meal) or you could eliminate it from an entire day or two each week. Continue on this path by eliminating more and more until it's off the menu completely. Eventually, if we're all eating less meat. the demand will go down and perhaps this issue could be resolved.
* If you're not interested in becoming a Vegetarian, there are other ways to avoid taking part in the genocide that is factory farming. First, eat less of it. It's not necessary to have meat at every meal or meat everyday. Eliminate it from one meal a day or from 1-2 days out of your week (Meatless Mondays, for example). If you decide that's not really an option for you at this point, I encourage you to "know your meat" - meaning, know where it comes from by knowing how the animal who sacrificed for you was raised, what it was fed, and how it was killed & came to be on your plate. Don't disconnect yourself from the process of taking a life for your consumption - that's not the way God intended it to go down. Be a mindful consumer by trying your best to be educated and knowledgeable about the process and make the gentler decision whenever possible. Shop local, shop humane, and always recognize that your meal was created and provided by God and He loves all of His creation.