After a 52 comment debate on Facebook, I decided it was time to write about my favourite topic; vegetarianism.
Twelve years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting someone during a break in Spanish class that would come to have the most influence on my life ever, yet he will never know it. I wish I could remember more of what happened or who he was.
He mentioned he was vegetarian and me not understanding why anyone would be that, I asked why. He told me about A Diet for a New America and how this book changed his life. Curious, I asked my parents to get me it for Christmas. My dad having owned several health food stores in Vancouver and knowing about it, concurred that it was indeed a must-read.
It was written by John Robbins, the son of one of the part-owners of the Baskin Robbins ice cream chain. It was the first book in the ’80’s I believe to expose factory farming to the public and the demise of the family farm.
Diet For A New America
I read it in between calls while working in a call centre and during nights after school. I wasn’t even half way through before I quit eating meat. I literally quit cold turkey; pun intended!
The book opened my eyes incredibly. I couldn’t believe the things they did to animals which were considered standard practice, like castrating piglets with scissors and docking their tails without any anesthesia. We wouldn’t dare do such things to dogs, so why is it ok for pigs? In the new age of farming, or rather factory farming, animals are nothing more than dollars signs, and treated like discarded broccoli.
It was the perfect book to read while going through business school. It taught me about how businesses try to keep sensitive information (like this) behind closed doors so the public never questions it.
When I started being a vegetarian, it was for animal rights reasons. I didn’t know there were health or environmental benefits at the time.
As a kid, I had always been curious about where our meat came from. My mom always reassured me that food animals were humanely killed and never suffered. I never really bought that that though. I mean, we are talking about killing here, how could that happen so peacefully in a dirty slaughterhouse? It’s not like the pigs and cows are jumping for joy on their way to be stabbed at the slaughterhouse.
I grew up with pets. They know damn well when something frightening is coming, like pulling the vacuum out of the closet or taking them to the vet. They react, whether by putting their tails between their legs or running away and hiding. Chickens, pigs and cows are no different. They are living beings after all.
Piglet tail docking without pain killers
About a year or two later, I had the pleasure of meeting Ingrid Newkirk, the founder of PETA who spoke at Concordia University in Montreal.
I remember walking into the theatre, passing some tables with vegan literature on them and saying to myself, “Pfff I’ll never become a vegan“. On my way out, I remember saying “F* now I have to be a vegan”.
Mother cow seperated from calf
I had never realized the link between milk and veal. Of course, it all makes sense now. The only reason cows produce milk is because they’re impregnated. How do you keep a cow lactating? Well, she has to give birth of course, and thus, the veal industry was created.
I’m proud to say I’ve never eaten veal in my life. My mom forbid it in our house saying that is where she drew the line at animal cruelty. Baby calves stolen away from their moms minutes after birth, chained to live in darkness and fed a diet to purposely make them anemic so their flesh would be tender. Ugh, the thought just disgusts me. Maybe it’s because I’m female and one day, I’ll have children, but I can’t imagine the pain and suffering the female cow goes through, losing her baby after she gives birth. So technically, if I continued to drink milk, I was being a hypocrite as that is what keeps the veal industry in business.
Welcome organic soy, rice and almond milk. And in case you thought dairy was necessary for calcium intake, dairy actually has little to no benefit preventing osteoporosis yet comes with a wealth of potential health concerns.
Several years later, I learned about the health and environmental benefits of a vegetarian diet. I also noticed the sharp increase in my immune system and the decrease in the number of colds I got. To be honest, even if vegetarianism was harmful for the environment, I’d still do it for the animal factor, but the fact that it’s not only better for my health but also for the environment, just reinforces that I’m making the right decision.
Keleigh and I reunited in Phoenix both as vegetarians 10 years later
What’s funny is that most of my closest friends in life, when I met them 10 years later at my high school reunion in Vancouver or my college reunion in Phoenix, had also turned vegetarian, not to mention my sisters’ friends and my mom’s best friend. It seems so common to be vegetarian these days. I know so many and they’re normal people who wear make-up, party and work hard. The days of vegetarianism being for the unshaven hippies are long gone.
Have I gone through awkward social moments? Absolutely! I’ve spent a lot of time in France and at fancy business dinners where you get the proverbial eyes being rolled at you or the ignorant questions like “But how do you get your protein” or what I like to call the caveman debate to which I like to reply, “Ever heard of evolution?“.
But these days, no matter what circle I’m in, I’m rarely the only vegetarian and most people are fairly educated on the topic, quick to ask questions like “Are you lacto-ovo?“, or “Can you eat eggs?“. Now I get comments like “Ok, cool, have you tried “X” vegetarian restaurant” or “We love seitan” or “We really don’t eat that much meat!”
Vegetarian food; just feels so right, so good for you, pure happiness
To me it’s simple, if you don’t need meat to survive, can spare animal suffering and leave less of an ecological footprint on the planet, then why the hell wouldn’t you be vegetarian? Not to mention, you are so much healthier, sparing yourself from heart disease, high-cholesterol, certain cancers, (most notably colon and breast), high-blood pressure, kidney problems, antibiotics from dairy (makes you antibiotic resistant), growth hormones from meat (loads of side effects here like children going into puberty at 5), and pesticide residues (which lodge in your fat cells).
Then there are what I like to call the sexy side-effects. Since you no longer have meat rotting in you, you smell better and well, taste better!
For more info on vegetarianism, including recipes, visit goveg.org, watch The New York Times best-selling author Kelly Freston discuss vegan health benefits on Oprah or for a fun read by two ex-models, read The New York Times Best-seller Skinny Bitch.