XLVIII – Why I Stopped Eating Animals

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” Hippocrates

“Animal industries are one of the most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global” UN report, Livestock’s Long Shadow

“I decided to give myself the chance to prove my beliefs wrong.” Scott Dinsmore, on why he decided to try out a Vegan diet

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This post is more than communicating a new habit in my life, it’s about bringing awareness.

This post is not to sit in judgement of your habits, just expanding on my realisation.

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Back in April/May 2016, out of curiosity, I went 10 days without any meat or fish in my diet. My main goal was to try a different diet for a while and listen to what my body had to tell me. In the end, it didn’t tell me anything different. I felt the same. Though I remember having some cravings when the girls had steak or Cat cooked a nice lasagne.

After those 10 days, I had lamb chops for dinner and the familiar scents and flavour did feel good. My digestion, however, was one of the worse I remember having. I spent the entire night with a heavy stomach that struggled to breakdown what I had fed it. After a few days, all went back to what it had been before the trial.

 

Following that first “meat free diet” experience, I began reading and listening to some very interesting podcasts on the subject. My level of knowledge and awareness rose to the point where the decision to stop eating meat was ever closer to being an obligation.

The tipping point came late September 2016, in the form of a very meaningful conversation with L. over a book he lent me – ‘The Plantpower Way’ by Rich Roll and Julie Piatt – which I read overnight.

This time, the conscious decision to stop eating meat and fish was not sparked by curiosity but rather by environmental and ethical reasons – the moral dimension played an enormous part in my decision.

My pragmatism led me to investigate the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing such a diet.

Some of the most common challenges are:

  • Lack of protein: This is a rather general misconception (I was one such). Adequate levels of protein can be found in numerous plant based foods – broccoli, almonds, oats, various seeds and quinoa. Not forgetting animal products that don’t require them to die – eggs, milk, yogurt and cottage cheese.
  • Different eating habits from friends and family: This is my biggest challenge. I’m struggling very hard with the idea of my next trip to Portugal. A place where every meet-up revolves around a meal and every meal requires at least one animal to have died. The prejudice I am sure to encounter is also something I will have to learn to manage. Anyway, years ago I was also judgemental of the first vegetarian I ever met, but I learned. In fact, I learned a lot from him – Obrigado, puto!!
  • Eating out: This is becoming less of an issue as vegetarian options are entering menus more and more. In Portugal though…
  • Relearning how to cook: I see this one more as an advantage than disadvantage. It has allowed me to learn and experiment new ingredients and flavours that have been adding immense freshness to my repasting experiences. It takes more time to prepare a meal as there is usually more preparation work to be done, but I always found cooking to be therapeutical so it’s definitely a good investment of my time.

My reasons for opting out of meat:

Health

“Vegetarians have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and tend to be a little bit thinner, so vegetarians are automatically going to be at lower risk of certain chronic diseases” Virginia Messina, M.P.H., R.D.

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  • Research shows that type 2 diabetes goes hand-in-hand with consuming a lot of animal protein;
  • By eating less meat and more fruits and vegetables the world population would be healthier;
  • A meat free diet reduces the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and certain cancers;
  • If you stop eating meat, your cholesterol will plunge;
  • There is widespread use of antibiotics in animal farming and we’re choosing to ingest it second hand;
  • People on a plant based diet, are more likely to weigh less – you were looking for the next best diet, right?

Having said all that, and even though I am pragmatically compelled to believe in all the research I undertook, I feel as healthy as before. Of all my reasons to stop eating meat, concerns for my health were not at the top.

 

Environmental

“While using public transportation, shopping with reusable bags, and taking shorter showers are all commendable, none of these actions has as big an impact on the environment as what you eat does. When it comes to climate change, animal agriculture is the leading culprit.” http://www.peta.org/

The environmental impacts of eating meat and meat production.

How driving is less environmentally harmful than what you eat.

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Climate Change:

  • According to a report by the Worldwatch Institute, 51% (or more) of global greenhouse-gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture;
  • If the United Nations are to be believed, a global shift toward a vegan diet is necessary to combat the worst effects of climate change.

Water Use:

  • It takes an enormous amount of water for one to have a burger. Water to irrigate the crops that the cow will eat; water the cow will drink (over 100l/day); water to clean the filthy factory farm; water to clean the bloodied abattoir.

Deforestation and land use:

  • The lungs of our planet are being decimated for grazing (more than 90% of all Amazon rainforest land cleared since 1970 is used for this purpose) and to plant crops to feed livestock;
  • To use land to grow crops for animals is vastly inefficient. Planting to feed humans Vs planting to feed animals to feed humans – you work it out;
  • According to the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification, it takes up to 10 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of meat;
  • In the United States alone, 56 million acres of land are used to grow feed for animals, while only 4 million acres are producing plants for humans to eat.

Pollution:

  • In the U.S. alone, animals raised for food produce about 500 million tonnes of manure per year (according to the EPA). It may come as a surprise, but there are currently no animal sewage processing plants, so the solution to manage all this excrement is to store it in waste “lagoons” or spray it over fields (But that’s OK, I’m sure that only windless days are chosen to spray, so don’t worry about breathing shit);
  • Contamination of ground water, rivers and lakes by runoff water from factory farms.

By electing a meat free diet, one is able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save hundreds of litres of water and rainforest and pollute less.

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Animal Cruelty

“(…) death for no reason is murder” The Smiths, “Meat is Murder”

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This is by far the biggest reason for me to have chosen a meat free diet.

I believe that all animals have as much right to live as I do and that their lives are as precious to them as mine is to me. And no, I don’t buy into the argument that nature has always been like that – lions and sharks don’t have a choice, we do.

No point in me describing what animals go through to end up on our plates. I’m a strong believer that a picture is worth a thousand words, so take a break from reading and bask in the magic of youtube for a moment. I have already been accused of extremism because of my choice, but tell me how moderate this is, and this, and this, or this? Fair warning, these videos are not for the faint hearted.


 

Some “internet facts”:

  • Cows must consume 16 pounds of vegetation in order to convert them into 1 pound of flesh;
  • Raising animals for food consumes more than half of all water used in the U.S.;
  • It takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce a pound of meat but only 25 gallons to produce a pound of wheat;
  • Producing just one hamburger uses enough fossil fuel to drive a small car 20 miles;
  • Of all raw materials and fossil fuels used in the U.S., more than one-third are devoted to raising animals for food;
  • A typical pig factory generates the same amount of raw waste as a city of 12,000 people;
  • According to the Environmental Protection Agency, raising animals for food is the number-one source of water pollution;
  • Of all agricultural land in the U.S., 87% is used to raise animals for food (45% of U.S.’s land mass);
  • The meat industry is directly responsible for 85 percent of all soil erosion in the U.S.;
  • More than 80% of the corn we grow and more than 95% of the oats are fed to livestock;
  • The world’s cattle alone consume a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people – the world population in 2013 was 7.1 billion.

 


 

I had read that our taste buds adapt. I can now confirm that this is so. Whilst my mum was visiting, she cooked a beef stew. The familiar and pleasure trigging scent I experienced getting through the door from work, was one that made me consider my dietary decision there and then – I did try a piece of broccoli from that stew and the taste was nothing but awful. I also tried a bit of beef that Cat made and whilst the initial salty, greasy flavour was pleasant, as I chewed the meat tasted rotten and I had to spit it out.

Both experiences gave me a renewed sense of purpose/accomplishment and also triggered some thoughts on the dissociation of senses. It had always been my experience that scent and taste were perpetually interconnected… apparently not.

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Today, 6 months after I last had any meat, I feel great. And my blood tests, taken early in the year, show that I have no nutrient deficiency and that I am indeed healthy. On the short term, I plan to keep doing regular blood tests for reassurance purposes alone. I mean, it’s only natural that my body will take some time to adapt and rebalance after terminating a 35 year (heavily) meat based diet.

I like to think that, just by changing my eating habits, in these past few months I have saved the lives of numerous animals . If I also got you reading this far in this (exceptionally long) post means that some of these arguments resonate with you. Good, now you can, more consciously, take some action.

Strongly suggest this movie: Forks Over Knifes

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