I am a vegetarian. I love the colors of the rainbow that greet me at the produce section. I crave the fresh flavors of the vegetables and fruits that the earth has provided me. I love strolling through the farmers market smelling the natural foods from hard working farmers. Most importantly, I love animals more than I loved the taste of meat. A large part of my identity is the belief in the ethical treatment of animals.
Vegetarianism is a lifestyle that is adopted based on health reasons or personal beliefs. (Vegucated, though about veganism, is a great documentary found on Netflix). An animal-based diet provides many nutrients that I need to find elsewhere. There are many types of vegetarians and food options available for those who are not able to or choose not to eat meat. For me, protein comes in the form of beans, blueberries, nuts, quinoa, and tofu among other things. I take Vitamin B12 supplements, normally found in animal based foods, to help with the formation of blood cells and to keep my nervous system healthy.
I stopped eating meat last August after watching a disturbing video that revealed the torturous process animals go through to become food. My family and friends could not understand why I would subject myself to such horrific images. Many choose to overlook the provenance of our meat, but my curiosity got the best of me and I could no longer ignore the process. I decided that I do not want to consume food that another living, breathing being suffered to become.
Graham Hill, founder of TreeHugger.com and LifeEdited, gave a Ted Talk that explains the reasons he chose to be a weekday vegetarian. His points eloquently state my own sentiments, but he enjoys meat on the weekends. This serves as a great example of a varied ethical diet. If you’re not ready to adopt a vegetarian diet, at least consider a more ethical approach to meat consumption. It is much better to buy meat from local independent farms where animals are organically fed and treated properly vs factory farmed animals who live in restricted conditions.
Vegetarianism is a lifestyle that many respect, and one that others do not fully understand. I’ve experienced both perspectives. One time a convenience store employee tried to convince me that I was going through a phase when I asked where I could find Vitamin B12. Don’t be that guy.
On the flip side, I have a family that spoils me by making vegetarian versions of our dinners together and friends that make sure we get half veggie on our pizza order. Many of my close friends and family cannot imagine a life without their morning bacon or hearty Minnesota hot dish without meat, but they respect my views as I respect theirs.
I believe it’s important to respect others’ dietary and lifestyle choices. I also believe it’s important to feel good about what you choose to fill your plate with, whether that be a plate full of grilled Montreal burgers or quinoa avocado salad. Every dietary choice has its pros and cons, and it’s essential to do what feels right to you.
Being vegetarian has given me the gift of mindfulness. I look forward to preparing a meal of fresh ingredients that nourish my body. It has allowed me to slow down and fully experience the taste and smell of a plant-based diet. Filling my plate with colorful, fresh food from the earth gives me great joy. Living a life based on principles of nonviolence is vital to my identity.