Why I'm vegetarian: ethical considerations

Why did you become vegetarian?

This is the second part in my series to answer the question I have received so often since I became vegetarian 17 years ago. There are several reasons I am vegetarian, including health, ethical, the environment and personal. In this post, I'll cover ethical considerations that led me to become vegetarian. 

When it comes to ethical concerns of eating meat, I generally consider animal welfare and world hunger. Everyone has to find a balance in regards to their own personal ethics. I feel good personally about my decisions and to me, that's all that matters. While your own beliefs may differ on these issues, I think it's simply important to at least critically think about them (even if the result of that thinking is that you are comfortable with eating meat). But ignoring these considerations all together, turning a blind eye to the implications of your meat consumption and saying "well it tastes good" is unacceptable. You can be a caring person, make sound ethical decisions and still enjoy the taste of a burger if you are willing to be mindful and make small changes.

Animal welfare

When I was a kid and started getting old enough to learn how to cook, that was when it really clicked for me that the raw chicken I was cutting up had bones, ligaments, skin -- it was a carcass of an animal. Up until that point, the fried chicken strips my mom served me didn't seem to have a face. To me, that realization got me thinking about farming, how that carcass made it to my plate and animal welfare. That realization got me reading up on farming practices. When I learned about factory farming and the horrendous treatment of animals in those environments, I just didn't feel good about eating meat anymore. Personally, I am against industrial farming and more for traditionally farmed meat or hunting/fishing wild game and fish. 

Maybe you don't even know what factory farming is, yet your daily food consumption supports it. Here is a video that does a great job of comparing industrial factory farms (the first half of the video) to more humane traditional farming (the second half of the video).

 

This only scratches the surface about factory farming, but maybe it makes you want to learn more about where your food comes from and possibly even make some changes. For example, if you are someone who just loves meat too much to give it up, are you willing to seek out more humanely raised meat, eat what you catch in the wild or simply reduce how much factory farmed meat you consume?

World hunger

Ironically Americans are more concerned about an obesity epidemic, but the fact is we are experiencing a global food crisis. In 2009, one billion people went hungry, meaning they were underweight, undernourished or died from starvation. Can you imagine anything worse than starving to death? It happens to children around the world everyday.

According to the American Chronicle:  

The USDA and the United Nations state that using an acre of land to raise cattle yields 20 pounds of usable protein. If soybeans were grown instead, that same acre would yield 356 pounds of protein. 

Here´s another way to look at it. According to the aid group Vegfam, a ten-acre farm can support 60 people growing soybeans, 24 people growing wheat, ten people growing corn and only two people producing cattle. Reducing meat production by just ten percent in the U.S. would free enough grain to feed 60 million people, estimates Harvard nutritionist Jean Mayer. Sixty million people -- that's the population of Great Britain, which, by the way, could support 250 million people on an all-vegetable diet. 

Are you willing to cut back your meat consumption 10 percent to prevent another human being from dying of starvation? How about 15 percent, which you could achieve by going meatless just one day a week? It's definitely a question worth considering that rarely crosses people's minds.

Here is a clip from a talk by author of Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer, who points out world hunger considerations of eating meat and how we can make a difference by simply reducing our meat intake. 

 

I leave you to your own ethics and decision making with the simple hope that this blog post gets you thinking in new ways about what's on your plate.