Last weekend when talking to a friend she says to me, "I understand why you don't want to eat meat, but what's the reason for not eating eggs and cheese and milk?". Then I realized, there are probably a lot of you reading this blog (mostly my family and IRL friends) who are probably wondering the same thing, but just haven't asked. So, I thought it seemed appropriate to answer that question for you.
To really get to the answer of that we're going to have to go back a bit, and revisit why I stopped eating meat in the first place. I decided, as a personal challenge, to stop eating meat. Initially there were no health, environmental, or ethical reasons for not eating meat. It was simply a test, can I do it or not? So, a few weeks passed, I hadn't eaten any meat, and it really didn't seem like something that was going to be too terribly hard to do. OK, so I can do this vegetarian thing, now I need to find out why people are vegetarian, and in particular, why I should remain meat free. So, lets start doing some research.
That research leadsme to some very compelling health reasons for not eating meat. According to numerous studies (which you can find all over the internet), vegetarians have lower rates of almost all chronic diseases, and in particular diseases of the heart. Now, there isn't any heart disease in my family, but, it seems to be less and less a hereditary thing, and more and more directly related to our diets, and in particular the Standard American Diet, ironically abbreviated SAD. Vegetarians also have lower BMI's and lower waist to hip ratios than their meat eating counterparts. Sounds like a good reason to stop eating meat doesn't it? By just doing an internet search you can come up with many more health benefits to not eating a meat based diet.
In researching health and vegetarianism, the link between factory farming and the environment kept coming up time and again. The most prominent of these issues seems to be the pollution that factory farming causes to our water, via run-off. Another major issue I learned about was the vast areas of land that are required for factory farming, not necessarily for the animals themselves, but for the massive amounts of corn and soy that are grown to feed these animals (the same amounts of food which could be grown to feed a lot more people than the animals feed). It also takes lots of water, lots of energy and lots of dangerous chemicals to grow the crops meant for these animals. Factory farms also produce some of the highest amounts of greenhouse gasses.
So, given the fact that we had been putting a lot of energy into reducing our impact on the Earth, it only seemed logical that we become vegetarian. How could we make all of these changes that we'd previously made for the Earth, yet continue to contribute to what may be the largest source of pollution out there?
Obviously, the decision had been made, I wasn't going to eat meat, and I was never going to look back. So, I started buying vegetarian cookbooks, finding recipes on the internet, and cruising the vegetarian and vegan blogs. One of those blogs that I frequented was/is Eat Air-A Vegan Food Log. While looking through the blogs one day I came across a post on Eat Air about the Vegetarian Food For Thought podcast. Out of sheer curiosity I decided to listen. After listening to just one episode I knew that I had to make the change.
I am ashamed and embarrassed to admit that I really had no idea how horrific the animal slaughter industry is. I mean, I knew that the animals had to die, and I knew that there were reports of animal cruelty, but I also knew that cruelty wasn't the norm. Wow! Was I ever wrong. The animals that are used for our food are treated absolutely horribly. Honestly, I'm not a huge animal lover, but even so, I can not contribute to such horrendous suffering and abuse (both to the animals and the workers).
So, that still doesn't explain the whole no eggs, no dairy, no animal by-products thing, now does it? Well, it does. Even the animals that are used for eggs and dairy are eventually slaughtered, and therefore have to suffer the same horrible fate as those that are used for direct consumption. Not only that, but the reproductive systems of the hens and cows that are used for egg and dairy production are egregiously exploited. The male offspring of these animals, which are obviously of no use to the egg or dairy industry, are either slaughtered or used as veal. The conditions that these egg and dairy producers live in are unbelievably bad. Really, the list goes on and on. The long and short of it is this....I just can't be a part of the abuse and suffering.
Becoming vegetarian was easy, I did it cold-turkey and I've never looked back. Becoming vegan is not as easy, it is a process, a process that I am slowly conquering. A process that we are all still working through. Mairin for instance isn't quite ready to give up cow's milk, cheese, and eggs. I'm ok with that. I've made it quite clear to her several times that I'm ok with whatever choice she makes, vegetarian or not. I will provide her with the information she needs as it becomes age appropriate, and what she decides to do with it is hers. Of course, I hope she chooses not to participate in the needless suffering, but forcing my ethics on her, or anyone else for that matter just doesn't seem right.
This was a very long answer to the question, but I felt that it was necessary for those who truly want to know.....I don't eat meat, dairy and eggs because I don't need to. I don't want to contribute to a systen that produces so much unnecessary waste and suffering.