Last September, after copious amounts of reading and research, I decided to go vegan – no meat, no dairy, no eggs.
I am not here to talk you out of eating meat, nor do I intend to criticize dietary choices that differ from mine. I only pose a simple question: is it right to take another life under the faulty reasoning that it tastes good?
We can scrap the argument that meat is necessary for human survival. Let’s face it: we are pretty ill-equipped hunters, armed with no claws, slow-moving bodies, and a pretty laughable set of tiny canine teeth. Countless people around the world lead perfectly healthy lives following plant-based diets – and not just “hippies” in America.
So how can we justify a six-piece McNugget meal? We don’t. We just prefer not to think about it, is all.
My father is one of the biggest animal lovers I know. I mean, I’ve only seen the man cry twice in my entire existence – once when his mother died, and once when our 10-year-old German Shepherd was put to sleep. We joke that if the house was on fire, he would save the cat before any of the rest of us.
“You have legs!” he retorts.
Yet, despite his (and others’) intense love for animals, his favorite weekend meal is a cheeseburger fresh from the grill.
Probably because he prefers not to think about it. The grocery store even helps us out – it’s not “cow,” it’s “beef,” and that Styrofoam tray wrapped in plastic bears little resemblance to the dewey-eyed bovine that it once was.
Along with blissful ignorance, I believe the stigma attached to vegan food can be a turn-off for many meat eaters. Usually, the mere mention of “vegan cooking” is enough to send even the toughest man running. The main culprit: tofu.
Sure, tofu is gross if you eat it out of the package when it’s cold and floppy. Would you eat chicken or bacon right out of the package? Like anything, tofu needs to be marinated and cooked to a delicious golden brown. Add a little olive oil and some bread crumbs into the mix, bake at 350, and you’ve got yourself some fine tofu nuggets, my friend.
Some people simply don’t know about the horrors that make up the meat, dairy and egg industries. Uneducated about the truths behind these products, consumers allow labels like “organic” and “free-range” fool them into thinking what they’re buying is humane.
The label “free-range” gives shoppers mental images of happy clucking chickens strutting around fields and doing happy chicken things. In reality, a hatchery that consists of a long, crowded shed with a small opening at the end can label their eggs as being from “free-range” birds. Aside from that, there is the simple fact that all male chicks are slaughtered directly after birth, because they are incapable of producing eggs and are therefore labeled “useless.” Kind of takes the “easy” out of eggs over easy, doesn’t it?
I don’t write this column with the intention it will cause you to immediately shun the hot dogs in the caf, or that you’ll switch out your coffee creamer to coconut milk (though it is quite delicious). If you put this paper down and wrap your leftover bacon cheeseburger in it, then I respect that as your adult choice.
What I do urge, however, is educating ourselves about our food – where it comes from, what process it goes through from farm to table, what chemicals or antibiotics it’s being sprayed with or fed.
We probably can’t stop the whole world, or the whole country, from eating meat. With that said, there are attainable changes that we as human beings can implement if we find that we absolutely cannot live without animal products in our lives. If other living things, with the ability to suffer, must die for our appetite, then they should at least have ample space to move and we should have a better appreciation for life.
Educate yourself and initiate change. You owe it to your burger.