I feel really apt to share these thoughts on what for me, and many that I’ve spoken to, is a sensitive topic. Ever since I plunged into vegetarianism in my first year of college, I’ve received lots of bewildered, intrigued, and defenesive responses. Fluctuating back and forth between eating meat, eggs only, vegetarianism, and veganism, I’ve come out of the perspective of each group. And only honesty and critical self and societal reflection can really bring any progress to this hotly contended, gridlocked debate.
My main reason for shifting down towards the vegan end of the spectrum is ecological. It is blaringly obvious that massive effluent-producing feedlots, along with the high-input conventional monocrops needed to sustain them, are inefficient, wasteful of resources and human ingenuity, and destructive to the ecology of the Earth. Therefore, I would not rationally support a product that promotes such destruction.
Another central reason comes from the unknowing and fear around death. I do not understand death, and the deep fear that I hold on to regarding my mortality causes me to tread cautiously when wishing death to other beings.
An additional personal reason for abstaining from animal-sourced food is shame/guilt around privilege. Since I feel that having so much provided for me economically throughout my life has put me in the same sphere as the lopsidedly consumptive and oppressive sector of society, I seek out ways to go against that current.
I can’t fail to mention figures of guidance in my life, as well as generally admirable well-adjusted people I’ve met who’ve adopted veganism, compelling me to imitate their eating philosophy in order to be accepted and worthy of their love.
With vegetarianism, the specter of death falls to the background though adequate knowledge of the sacrifice required for commercial egg/dairy production can create a kind of mental dissonance, and an incapacity to rationally continue consuming those products. For instance, the killing of baby chicks in egg production and the separation from the mother and slaughtering of young cows are confronting facts of these industries. However, the vegan argument is that we are still enslaving these animals and not recognizing their full sentience/potential regardless of how much we pretend to be their caretakers.
Furthermore, the nutritional reasons for reducing meat consumption stem from concerns over increased risks of heart disease, obesity, and various other diseases linked to increased meat consumption. With less meat, vegetables are often emphasized and thus the plate becomes more nourishing and nutrient-rich.
The case for eating meat that the farmer I interned for this summer gave me was unique and convincing: that animals are the highest form of consciousness of the food/energy web, and therefore we are taking on that consciousness and elevating even further by consuming them, and also deriving energy from the energy niches otherwise unavailable to us (grass and forage). So, why not?
In my own experience, I notice an uptick in energy, strength, and intensity the day after consuming meat or animal products. My digestion improves, and I feel like something clicks into place in me. However, I’m open to the possibility that I’m not properly balancing my amino acid intake while excluding animal products or that I’m more psychologically fulfilled than I am physically.
A driving force that makes it very difficult for me to maintain a vegan lifestyle is the desire to be powerful/strong, to maintain healthy digestion, and especially the accumulating resentment from feeling like I’m taking on a huge burden that everyone else is ignoring and perpetuating. I recognize my tendency towards perfectionism, and that self-understanding blurs any dietary dogmas in that diet seems to be self-imposed rather than self-manifested. In addition, I reel against any artificial supplementation due to a strong belief that nature provides everything we need naturally, including vitamin B-12 (contested topic).
Having the privilege and time in my life to explore this topic, though, along with my keen, obsessive, and at times unhealthy interest in food, I will follow my firm belief that it is best for the biome to reduce human consumption of animals. My own moral sacrifice reducing/eliminating animal products need not be a cycle of guilt-tripping and endless striving. Rather, I wish to open the possibilities on the other side of our animal-centered diet to fill it with as much communal exuberance as possible and lessen the burden our food choices pile on us. There are alternatives and possibilities that make such decisions less of a burden and more of a celebration.
Beans, legumes, and grains can be fermented to form meaty, digestible proteins. Nuts can be cultured into digestible, respectable cheeses. Vegetables can be fermented to enhance their depth and richness of flavor. Tomatoes contain huge amounts of glutamate/umami, while mushrooms can be roasted/dried and even turned into an umami-enriching powder. Let’s not forget about miso and soy sauce. There is no need to mourn the loss of meat in/on the bowl/plate. And together, we can gather around and celebrate that flexibility and freedom, that openness to what we know to be ultimately fruitful decisions around how we eat, how we interact with the Earth, leaving shame and blame behind.