Image source: PETA
I get asked the same series of questions very often: How did you stop eating meat? Do you still eat fish or eggs? What else do you eat? Do you miss meat? Why did you stop eating meat? The list goes on… This article should serve as an answer to all of the questions I receive and hopefully it will also serve as encouragement to going meat-less.
First and foremost, I want to mention that everyone’s experience when transitioning to a new diet is unique. Each of our physical body’s has its own set of requirements to be satisfied and properly nourished. The difficulty can range for everyone and not every food alternative will work for your palette. With that said, food can be a very personal subject.
We have been conditioned to believe a mass-producing meat industry is normal. For meat eaters, there’s this perceived convenience due to what they actually can’t see. Some of these thought-provoking things include: filthy living conditions for livestock, overconsumption of fresh water, high methane emissions, etc. If more meat eaters were aware of the process it took to get meat onto their table, they would most likely source it differently or change their overall eating habits.
As if the blindfold we live behind isn’t bad enough… current trends of accessibility to meat enable society’s meat eating habits. Citizens have more purchasing power with meat as opposed to plant-based foods. It reminds me all too much of environmental justice situations where our economy and governing systems idle on the communities that need change the most. Like when low-income communities or communities of color experience contaminated water supplies or landfill placement in proximity to them.
So why did I stop consuming meat? I use social media oftentimes to express that my reasons are multifaceted and there really is no one simple answer. The reasons are numerous and their severity vary in intensity:
- Majority of animals in the meat industry are given a lot of antibiotics and are sometimes even force-fed to make them gain weight.
- Cows have to endure being impregnated by human intervention (rape if you ask me) to produce milk as well as having heir newborn calfs taken from them so humans may have milk. Other animals can be in cramped or confined conditions that oftentimes are not as clean as they need to be. Animal abuse should never be tolerated, especially before animals are sacrificed for meat.
- Environmental effects (and climate change)
- Producing meat is a large uses of our fresh water. From the amount of water animals need to survive, to the amount of water necessary in production of meat, and even down to the water in vegetation that more and more livestock animals need to eat.
- Large livestock populations emit a large amount Methane from their excrement. Methane is more dangerous than Carbon Dioxide, allowing the atmosphere to heat quicker.
- Big spaces of land are also turned into grasslands for livestock, this causes the environment to experience a loss of land that could provide for a more biologically diverse community.
- In human’s history, meat was not an everyday delicacy. It was one that was recognized as a sacrifice of the earth and was ritualistic. Not only was it consumed way less frequently as it is now, portions were also not as big as they are now. The push for consumerism has taught us not to value the life of an animal to be quite frank.
Now, how did I stop eating meat? I honestly tried more than once to become a vegetarian and the first time, I relapsed. It was hard because I attempted to do it without any planning or prior research. But that attempt helped me to establish that I would no longer eat red meat (beef, lamb) or pork (pig).
Image source: PETA
To make it more of a successful experience, for my second attempt I transitioned slowly. In 2015, I began experiencing digestive issues and it was the perfect scenario to motivate me. Just as the human body takes time to heal, it takes time to adjust to new habits such as a diet change. I began eating chicken less frequently and intentionally looking for more alternatives to add to my diet. I found that: foods like mushrooms were tasty and provided awesome texture; vegetable mixes were underrated especially when you tried new ones together or made a homemade vegetable soup; and potatoes are filling plus can be eaten in many different ways. I stopped eating chicken too but I was still eating seafood.
I began limiting my seafood intake to only fish… and it difficult. Fish was my favorite of everything I was going to stop. So, just as I had done with chicken, I ate fish less and less frequently but also made sure I was adding to my alternative choices. At this time, I was already developing favorite snacks and meals.
Early this year, I completely stopped consuming dairy (milk, cheese) and eggs. Although I don’t have any inclination to drink milk and have been drinking alternatives for some time, I am extra careful when ordering drinks and reading ingredient labels. I have learned that reading labels becomes an art as a person with a vegan diet.
So the last and final question, do I miss meat?, and my answer is yes. There are times that I get an indirect craving for meat but it’s my body asking for something else nutrient wise . Earlier on, when I did give into temptation, meat simply tasted raw no matter how well cooked it was.