Save the planet! Go vegetarian!

>> Tuesday, September 16, 2008

As my children and I drove across the country earlier this year, my First Son spotted a truck of piglets driving past us and shouted gleefully, "Look, Momma, piggies!" Oh, to have a child's innocence. Unfortunately, I knew where those piggies were really going, so seeing a truckload of them didn't fill me with glee.

I've been a vegetarian for 11 years, and although I've often said that I would never force anyone to go veggie (including my own children), I sincerely wish more people would make the choice.

There are many, many reasons to choose a vegetarian lifestyle. Mine was because of the inhumane treatment of animals in modern factory farms. Chickens are crammed into ridiculously small cages with conveyor belts underneath to catch the eggs. Cows spend most of their time standing on cement slabs (rather than in pastures) where they are fed a corn-based diet (rather than grass). Cows are also given drugs to make them grow fatter, or in the case of milk cows, to make them produce more milk, and they often grow so fat without any ability to exercise that they become crippled under their own weight. Check out this recent article from CNN. Why do we think it's okay to treat animals like that?

But even if you're not moved by the treatment of animals, there are plenty of other reasons to choose from. Consider that 70 percent of the grain grown in the U.S. is fed to animals. Consider that 20 vegetarians could live off the land required to feed one meat eater. Consider all of the Amazonian rainforests that have been harvested to use the land for cattle. Consider the health benefits. Consider the poor working conditions and low pay of the people who work in slaughterhouses and factory farms.

Since this blog is about making buying choices that are good for people and the planet without going broke, I should mention that supposedly, a vegetarian diet is cheaper than eating meat. I wouldn't know. I've been a vegetarian my whole adult life. I briefly bought meat for a year or two after I married my meat-eating husband, but I gradually weaned him off of eating meat at home, and I have no memories of how much I was spending on meat then. But because I wish everyone would choose to go vegetarian, I'm going to agree with what I've read and say that eating less meat will save you money.


Emily September 19, 2008 at 11:53 AM  

Hey Erin! (Emily here). I am now on the west coast (Portland) and making my own efforts to be as green as possible. (my personal pride: I now bike to work full time!) Love the blog.

Ironically, my first comment on your veggie post will be about meat. You can delete it if you want (given it was a great vegetarian argument). But there is NO WAY I will ever convince my extremely French, extremely meat-loving partner to go veggie. And she does all of the shopping :).

One way we have foung to at least buy better meat is to get the "organic free range (and expensive)" stuff on clearance (when it must be used that day). We then cook it immediately and pack lunches/dinners for the week, or freeze it immediately, and use as needed. This trick has given us a better quality/better earthwise/healthier meat. We actually do the same thing with our vegetables too, it is just a little harder that way, because freezing isn't an option, and it requires marketing every couple of days.

Conscious Shopper,  September 19, 2008 at 1:42 PM  

Emily, Great suggestions for meat-eaters. (Michael will also never be vegetarian, though he has made great strides since I met him.)

Another suggestion - I've heard of meat CSAs (community supported agriculture) where people pay an annual fee and then get a share of the meat raised on a farm. These are usually organic farms with grain-fed cattle and free range chickens. I've been trying to look for a dairy version of that around here, but haven't had any luck yet.

Also, just eating less meat can make a huge difference.

Conscious Shopper,  September 19, 2008 at 2:33 PM  

Sorry, meant to say grass fed cattle (not grain fed) in the post above.

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