“You know you’re not actually saving any animals, right? Would you eat this piece of chicken if I gave you 10 bucks? If you had to choose between jumping off a cliff or eating meat, what would you choose?”
These are all real questions people have asked me, unwavering and firm as they try to convince me that my dietary habits are meaningless. Whenever you tell people you’re a vegetarian, people instantly assume you’re going to shame them, yell at them, and buy into their stereotype of what a vegetarian is. It gets even worse when you explain that you’re a vegetarian not because of allergies or religion, but simply because of the environmental benefits.
A common misconception is that if you’re vegetarian or vegan, you don’t have a healthy lifestyle. While it’s true that these diets cut out some important nutrients, there are ways to make up for it. Since I don’t eat meat, I make up for the lack of protein by making it a point to eat a lot of eggs. And by cutting out meat, you also end up essentially end up cutting out a lot of unhealthy food (e.g. fast food).
While it’s not the same for everyone, and there definitely are vegetarians and vegans who don’t maintain a healthy diet, becoming a vegetarian can help ensure added health benefits.
And the truth is, being a vegetarian does help animals — not just by reducing the number of animals who are killed, but fighting against the cruel and unjust conditions of slaughterhouses. According to Vegan Outreach, most of these animals hardly have any fresh air or space, and are even conscious while their hooves or hides are ripped out. Additionally, these animals often suffer through intense heat or freezing cold for hours or days before their deaths.
It’s not just animals that suffer from these slaughterhouses, but workers too. Workers are often exploited and experience psychological trauma from the acts they have to commit.
In Jennifer Dillard’s article “Slaughterhouse Nightmare: Psychological Harm Suffered by Slaughterhouse Employees and the Possibility of Redress through Legal Reform,” a former slaughterhouse worker said “Pigs down on the kill floor have come up and nuzzled me like a puppy. Two minutes later I had to kill them — beat them to death with a pipe.”
These workers are taught to treat these animals as emotionless beings who don’t feel pain. Animals are not living beings, but simply another product utilized to fuel capitalism and profits — no matter who suffers the consequences.
There are also endless environmental benefits to being a vegetarian. It helps reduce global warming, chemicals released into the environment, and pollution through animal waste and hormones. In fact, the estimated water needed to produce a kilo of beef is about 13,000 liters to 100,000 liters. Conversely, the the water needed to produce a kilo of wheat is between 1,000 to 2,000 liters. (Penning de Vries, F.W.T., Van Keulen H, and Rabbinge, R.)
Being a vegetarian creates less of a demand for meat, meaning that less and less animals will go through slaughterhouses and suffer these injustices. For me, it’s also a part of my moral code. After learning about how terribly these animals are treated, I didn’t feel right continuing to eat meat.According to PETA, you can save about 100 animals a year by not eating meat. Knowing that I’m saving some animals every year — no matter how small — is important to me.
I understand that being a vegetarian isn’t for everyone, and I definitely don’t think less of anyone who decides it’s not for them. Being a vegetarian is a choice that I made for myself and I will never regret. But ultimately I became a vegetarian to fight against animal cruelty, and I hope that causes against animal cruelty continue to rally and grow stronger through coming years. I hope that people begin to take serious issues like global warming seriously, no matter how they choose to approach it. I hope that we began to shift cultural conceptions to view veganism and vegetarianism as an important aspect of society.