Monday, April 02, 2007

Why I'm a Vegetarian (again...)

pig bliss
Originally uploaded by deborah lattimore.
My most recent conversion to vegetarianism was spurred by mom's awesome recommendation of "The Family That Couldn't Sleep." The book was really eye-opening, discussing different kinds of prion diseases. Some are inherited, some come from unknown origins, and some come from infected animal meat. Fun! I never really knew what Mad Cow Disease was before reading that book, so I also didn't realize why I really needed to care about it. Well now I do. And now I don't eat meat. But then, after my eyes were opened a bit, I decided to tackle...

Jane Goodall's "Harvest for Hope: A Guide for Mindful Eating." Wow! I figured, if I'm going to eat healthier, avoid Mad Cow, stuff like that, I might as well know what I'm doing and why I'm doing it. Because, honestly, I don't think it's always wrong to eat meat. But the system we have now, i.e. factory farming, is so inhumane. However, I didn't realize the implications of so many of my personal food choices. This book tackles GMOs (genetically modified organisms), local food, organic labels, factory farming, egg labeling, the difference between cage free and free range eggs, etc. Basically, it covers all kinds of things I'd never even considered before and made me really think about my food then I was totally confused. Was it okay to eat anything? (apparently my vegetarian choices at the local grocery store are laden with pesticides and promote soil erosion and the destruction of small family farmers!) So, in a final attempt to find something I could feel good about eating, I checked out...

Peter Singer and Jim Mason's "The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter." Peter Singer wrote "Animal Liberation" back in the 70's. Although I've never read it myself, I know it was one of the first "animal rights" books on the market and revealed the truth about factory farming. So, of course, I knew this book would be a bit slanted. However, I felt like he gave a really fair review of three different dietary choices: the traditional American diet (meat and potatoes), the conscientious omnivore diet (organic meat and veggies,) and a vegan diet (no animal products, not necessarily organic.) I like the way he compares the diets and follows some food from each diet back to the farmer who raised or grew it. You get to see how different foods are packaged, and he explores the ethical dimensions of each choice. Basically, he made me feel better about shopping at Wal-Mart for organic food (vegetarian in my case.) I will go to local farmers markets for fresh veggies and fruits when they are in season and eat organic for as much of the rest of the food as I can. And if Nathan needs the occasional free-range, organic chicken, I won't feel like a major hypocrite if I eat some too.

I'm not sure if the rest of you are ready to tackle any of these food issues, but if you are, I'd recommend either of these books. And really, though this may seem boring to you, your daily choices DO matter and reflect your ethics. What do you care about? As Albert Einstein said: "Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet."

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