With March being National Nutrition Month, I thought it would be a perfect time to share my opinion about vegetarianism.
To give some background, I am a junior nutrition/dietetic student with a goal of eventually getting my RD (registered dietitian) licensure and eventually focusing on sustainability. I have always had a love for animals and the environment, as it was how I was raised. Growing up, I never romanced the idea of eating animals—I was a vegetarian for a week in the fourth grade but that did not last long because, well, bacon. I also refused to eat crabs–which, for those that are unaware, is a Maryland sin– until I was about 16 just because I could not handle seeing its beady little eyes while I take it apart limb by limb.
Once I got over all that, I realized what I had been missing out on and devoured a bushel of crabs like a true Marylander. I just ignored the fact that I was eating something that was once crawling around the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay. I love chicken, and honey ham, and occasionally a nice juicy burger. Chicken is by far my favorite; it was healthy, easy to cook, and flavorful. In high school, I watched the documentary Food, Inc. and learned what really goes on behind the industrial farm doors. I thought about it in the back of my mind but I never really did anything about it. I figured “ignorance is bliss.”
When I did eat animal products, I tried sticking to the organic, grass fed, localized farm kind but that got too expensive.
Fast forward to this past summer, when I had some downtime before going into work as a server, I decided I wanted to watch a documentary—I have a love affair with documentaries. One of the ones that stood out to me was called Vegucated. It seemed intriguing: three meat-loving New Yorkers embarked on a six week journey in learning what it’s like to be a vegan.
I found it to be extremely relatable, especially because of the young girl in college who took the challenge, and I caught myself thinking, “Could I do this?” The part that got me the most was when they trespassed into a chicken and pig farm. I was absolutely sobbing because I couldn’t believe that these atrocious, barbaric events were occurring right under our noses and, in that moment, I decided “I can do this.”
This documentary inspired me to change. Why? Because I am in the profession that directly correlates to our food and this topic. I might not be able to bring down entire corporations and save the entirety of the Earth but I, myself, can make a difference by boycotting animal products and help spread awareness in the hope that our humanity might poke through to the surface and ignite a change.
Now, I could go on and on about what they do to these animals that are so awful but then this article would take up the entire paper. Besides, I think we all have some concept of what goes on behind those doors but we choose to be ignorant because we think it will not matter. But it does. People make fun of vegetarians and vegans because they think we are smelly hippies that believe we all need to sing kumbaya with the animals of the Earth. Sure, that may be the case for some but for most it is a different story. Being an herbivore means I have reduced my carbon footprint in half—more than I would if I drove an electric car. Many people are unaware that the agricultural industry causes more than one tenth of greenhouse emissions. It will destruct our country from within and without us even being aware until it is too late.
Since becoming a vegetarian, my skin is glowing and hardly ever breaks out, my hair is stronger, my immune system is at the top of its game, and my endurance level is just like when I was a kid. Anemia has always been a challenge for me, even as an omnivore. I take a multivitamin and make protein shakes to keep my iron, B12 and protein levels high. I just feel better. Being in the study of field that I am and having certain goals for my career, involves me being constantly exposed to this issue and because of this I cannot simply be“ignorant.” Instead, I made a choice: a choice for my health, the environment, animals and humanity as a whole.
I was a vegan for two weeks in July until I made the realistic choice to switch to a vegetarian due to the cost associated with veganism, plus having limited options in a college setting. I am a lacto-ovo-vegetarian—meaning I do not eat any animal products, including seafood, but I do eat eggs and dairy products. It has been eight months and 12 days since an animal product, other than eggs and milk, has passed through my system. When I am alone, it is easy but recently when I have been around friends, the wish for a giant slab of meat hits my salivary glands and my temptations are pushed. I am unsure of how much longer I will last. I miss meat. My body does not, but my mind does. Every time I think about erasing those past eight months with one bite, I remind myself of why I started in the first place. I am not against eating meat. I think it is natural. I just do not agree with how it is done. I always joke around with people telling them “if you went out and killed me a cow, I would eat it.”
So, if you come across a vegetarian/vegan, ask them why. I’m not one to force my opinion on you, but, if you ask me, I will gladly share. I highly recommend watching Food, Inc. or Vegucated and maybe, you too, will want to make a change.