I recently made the decision to open my Facebook posts to the public. Figured I needed more exposure (especially for my writing) than the 5% of the 5000 friends that would see my posts if I kept them private (friends only).
Not sure if it was a good decision or not.
Yesterday I commented it was a week until payday and my food budget hadn't stretched as far as I'd wished; I was going to have to go without meat for a few meals. I am a traditionalist; meat, potatoes, veggies are a meal. No huge biggie, I've done it before. I can live on veggies, rice, and noodles for a week. I do have some chicken broth, so at least the rice will be meaty-flavored.
Somehow, that little innocuous post became a tirade with multiple posts against eating meat. Now, before I get started:
I have NOTHING against those who choose the vegetarianism or veganism life. One of my best friends is pesco-vegan (basically vegan with an occasional fish). More power to her. It's just not the lifestyle for me.
First, a nutrition lesson:
FACT: Humans need protein to survive. Proteins are made up of amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids; we need to consume from food nine of them (i.e., nine are essential because our body can't produce them).
FACT: Those nine essential amino acids must come from food; our bodies require these nine essential amino acids to function optimally.
FACT: Two of those essential amino acids are found fully and complete in animal meat and products.
FACT: Yes, you can 'create' those two amino acids by combining certain legumes and vegetables.
FACT: You need iron in your diet. Animal meat is high in iron.
FACT: A lot of vegetables are high in iron as well. (And no, spinach is not, relatively speaking, high in iron.)
So yes, it is possible to be a vegan or vegetarian and be healthy, but it takes research and a little more work to make sure you are getting the essentials your body needs to function properly.
Now, a history lesson:
FACT: Ever since our ancestors came out of the trees and onto the savanna, they have eaten meat. Meat met most of their nutrition needs. There is no denying the fact that our body is designed to eat meat. (Just look at our teeth.) The discovery of fire made almost all meats more palatable and easier to digest.
FACT: Even when we settled down into agrarian societies, we still ate meat. For some, during the winter months after a poor harvest, meat was the only thing that kept them alive.
FACT: A lot of animals are carnivores. For example, if you try to feed a cat a vegetarian diet, IT WILL DIE.
FACT: There are millions of cows, sheep, chickens, pigs, turkeys, etc. on farms in the USA alone. Without human intervention, they would starve, become easy prey, and generally, not thrive. But this would happen only after a few hundred generations, as there are so many of them right now.
FACT: Dairy cows need humans to milk them. If they are not milked and do not have a calf to take their milk, their udders will literally rupture. Extremely painful and more than likely, deadly.
FACT: A majority of farm-factory animals are mistreated. (I get this, I do. Which is why I support small local farms whenever I can.)
So, now that you know your nutrition and your history, we can discuss this like adults.
A majority of Americans eat meat. That is not going to change, no matter how much you rant and rave about animal cruelty. As we learned above, yes, with some effort and research, you can live without meat, it is easier to eat meat and not worry about what foods you have to combine to keep your body working. It's a fact of life that we tend to take the easiest path. (Which is why I have the utmost respect for vegetarians and vegans WHO DO IT RIGHT.)
Of course, being that as humans we tend to take the easiest path, there are quite a few vegans and vegetarians who don't do the research and are doing harm to their bodies. I knew a vegan who lived on french fries and apples. Is it a wonder she was always sick and had no energy? If I had to guess, she was extremely anemic [low iron] (which, if not treated, can lead to organ failure). I wonder about her to this day.
This world has enough problems without people attacking others about their diet. My post was more about economics that it was about my diet. We've all been there; the food budget just didn't reach far enough. I've had friends offer to buy me food - which I politely declined. I HAVE food. Just not particularly the food I want to eat. I'm not a vegetarian. I like my bacon, steaks, seafood, chicken ... and I know where most of it comes from. I lived on a farm; neighbors had cows. I've seen them born and I've seen them loaded on the truck for slaughter. I've seen chickens taken by their necks and swung around by an old lady to prep for a fried chicken dinner. I've caught and cleaned fish.
Do I sometimes feel a little regret? Eh, perhaps if I'm honest with myself, yes. But then I remember we have bred these animals to be dependent upon us, to serve us. How do I make the distinction between a pet and food? It's hard sometimes. Some cultures consider horse a delicacy; ours, it's repulsive to think about eating horse. Some cultures consider dogs a cheap meat; we can't even fathom eating man's best friend. It's all relative.
I'm an omnivore. I enjoy meat, milk, cheese; I enjoy vegetables and fruit, and even the occasional bread and pasta. What I don't enjoy is being told falsehoods about nutrition (you WILL get smacked down for that) or being told that I'm committing murder or about the suffering of the animals. I know where my food comes from and I know the problems associated with factory farming. I choose to support local farms when I can and strive to turn factory farming around to a better treatment of animals (through boycotts, petitions, and letter-writing).
So the takeaway from all this? To each, their own diet. I just hope that each and everyone one of you eat healthfully, regardless of what diet regimen you follow.
- Born and raised in Southern Indiana, this Hoosier transplanted herself to the Windy City after graduate school. Her passion is teaching, with writing come a close second and gaining momentum. She currently teaches College of DuPage as an adjunct professor in the physical education department and runs a martial arts studio in Naperville, IL. She holds the rank of 3rd Dan in the United States Hapkido Federation.