So, since telling my friends and family of my new dietary intentions there have been quite a few questions, some of them valid, others just those born of fear of change and the unknown or ignorance. Here ensues a little rant from me…
I have been vegetarian for about 20 years now and I am just preparing to take the final step trying to not eat the dairy products that I have come to rely far too heavily on in my existing diet. I do not intent to be extreme about it initially, but I would really like to try to take that additional step to make myself, and the planet healthier. My dietary choices are made based on factual information I have read from studies and a desire to be as non-violent and responsible as I am able to be in each moment, they are personal, educated choices based on a desire to be a healthy and positive influence within this world. Each of us his free to make our own choices and this is mine.
Today I was reading an open letter from Plum Village Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh about choosing a vegan diet and the staggering statistics that make me wonder why this information is not more widely reported and why we are not educating ourselves about the impact our food choices have on global warming, water pollution, famine and bio diversity.
“Over 80 percent of corn and over 95 percent of oats produced in the United States are for feeding livestock. The world’s cattle alone consume a quantity of food equivalent to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people, more than the entire human population on earth.”
My usual response to the “why” question is “I do not like to kill anything unnecessarily, I do not need to kill anything in order to eat healthily and therefore I don’t eat meat”. Every now and again I find myself holding back & biting my tongue when people ask me about my food choices, particularly when I feel I am being asked to justify my choices. What I’d really like to say is “Why are you interrogating me about my food choices instead of confronting your own! Why is it wrong or strange to not want to kill and destroy when I can survive extremely well without doing so?”
Watching the news a while back (Sky News if you want to know the channel) where they were discussing an article about the Meat-Free Monday movement, I just couldn’t help shaking my head when one of the presenters pipes up with “I couldn’t do it, I like the taste of meat too much”. This attitude is staggering to me; a seemingly well educated presenter being presented with a factually supported case about not only the physical health benefits of cutting back on meat intake, but also the staggering environmental impact it has, and all she could comment about was how good meat tastes! She couldn’t even consider cutting back on her meat intake. So basically what i understood from that attitude was that the future of the planet can go to hell as long as we don’t have to reduce our intake of something that we like the taste of……And then I see Facebook pages devoted to anti-vegetarianism and anti-veganism! I just can’t get my head around it; is it fear, ignorance, lack of empathy, despondency or what…I just don’t get it…why are there people devoting time and energy to verbally abusing and being against people wanting to not harm, kill or damage their environment any more than they can?
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) produced a report in 2006 that states:
“Livestock’s contribution to environmental problems is on a massive scale and its potential contribution to their solution is equally large. The impact is so significant that it needs to be addressed with urgency”
Well the global community and it’s governments are obviously addressing that with lots of urgency aren’t they; 8 years later and I haven’t heard anything from any government about educating or addressing this issue yet, have you? But really why are we waiting for our governments to act, why are we not making these choices for ourselves, what is it about eating meat that makes us so aggressively against giving up something so damaging to the future of the planet and the quality of life for our children and grandchildren? Have we really lost the ability to make our own choices and take responsibility for our own actions?
So people will continue to ask me, and I will continue to give a wishy-washy answer so as not to offend or invite ridicule and the usual ensuing constant digs and jabs…everyone continuing to offer me meat products and wave them under my nose in jest….But every now and again, I will challenge them in a way that might make them think about it, I will continue to make my own choice based on the facts and hopefully every now and again someone will think or decide to educate themselves and make more informed choices about what they eat and why.
Now before I finish, I want to make sure that I am clear; this isn’t about me thinking I am more moral, feeling superior or better than anyone else, far from it…yes, it’s a bit of a rant about the way people who are making their own choices for valid reasons come under fire on a regular basis, but this is also me trying to challenge people to educate themselves about what is going on and to try to empower people to make their own choices, but based on facts, not ignorance. So why not read more about it, educate yourself and make the choice for yourself once you have read all the facts?
“…if there is no collective awakening, then the earth and all species will not have a chance to be saved.” – An excerpt from the open letter from Plum Village Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh
Ref: United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) began an in-depth assessment of the various significant impacts of the world’s livestock sector on the environment. Its report, titled Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options, was released on November 29th 2006.
Their full report can be viewed or downloaded here: