How I Became Vegetarian

Lets start by saying that I do not preach vegetarian as the healthiest diet out there. Nor do I think that it is unhealthy. As with meat eaters, there is a healthy way, and an unhealthy way to be vegetarian. I have been vegetarian for YEARS now. For me, it all started with refusing ‘weird’ meats as a child. It graduated to include not eating pork or red meat. Chicken held in for a while longer, but I always knew that I’d let that go eventually. Every step along the way carried with it an event or a realization.

 I’ve often said that I was born vegetarian. How could this be? Well, when I was really young I remember my parents taking me on a deep sea fishing trip in South Carolina. Adults all over the boat were catching fish and tossing them live into a bin. As the trip went on the bin got more and more full. The fish were alive and flopping around. They were struggling to live and dying a slow death. I was confused and angry. Why were THIS many grown ups allowing this to happen!? Not only did I refuse to keep my captured fish I was horrified that it was OK for these creatures to be left to die in such a manner. My thoughts on this did not change as I got older. I remain steadfast in my belief. Nothing should die in this manner despite your reasoning “fish don’t feel pain” or “they don’t think the way humans do”. There is good science out there to suggest otherwise. Fish do have pain receptors. And while I am well aware that it doesn’t register the same way for a fish as it does for a human, nothing should die a painful death.

 I clearly recall the day that I saw a pig truck on the highway. It was winter and I was concerned that they were cold on that truck. I was only about 6 years old. My parents told me that they were headed to the slaughter house and so, it wasn’t a big deal that they were cold, they were about to die anyways. And then I made the connection. They were going to die so that I could eat pork chops. NOPE. Not me! I’d happily eat vegetables from that point on to spare a pig’s life. See, it does matter to me. It does matter that these intelligent, clean beings were being treated so poorly. I know, my not eating them didn’t actually save a life. But I can choose what I contribute my money to. Money is energy and I decided when I was six that I wouldn’t contribute to anyone or anything that was OK with treating a being in such a fashion. At six years old I didn’t see the difference between eating a dog or a pig. I still don’t. Just because someone came up with a society taboo (not to eat dog) didn’t make it OK to eat an equally as intelligent animal. I was too young at that time to refuse meat altogether. In the early 80’s parents were less accommodating then they are now and convincing my parents to let me be vegetarian wasn’t going to happen. By the time I was a young teen I was able to say no though. I started to flat out refuse to eat beef. I told my parents that if I’d name the animal and spend money at a vet to keep it healthy, I probably shouldn’t eat it. I thought cows had sweet faces and friendly dispositions. They didn’t harm anyone and I would have loved to have one as a pet. Around the same time, I was at my great Aunts home for an afternoon. Her daughter (I guess my second cousin?) was vegetarian. I watched her picking the meat from her plate and setting it aside. I was young and remember thinking ‘you can do that?! – not eating meat is a ‘thing’!? Again, this was the early 80’s….gluten free, Paleo, vegan -all words that I’m not even sure were in the English language yet.

 So why am I not vegan? Well, I tried. I was vegan for a few years. Frankly, I felt like a pain in the ass. As if people don’t panic enough when they hear a vegetarian is coming over –try telling you new mother-in-law to be that your vegan. Well, I’m not strict about too much in my life, so why be strict about my diet. After a while I slowly added bread back to my diet (cause white bread and butter is delicious). I started melting a little butter for my popcorn evenings. While I’m not a fan of the dairy industry, I keep my contributions to them low. I still don’t drink milk, eat yogurt or cottage cheese (all of which I do love by the way). I do eat cheese occasionally. As for eggs. I am constantly horrified at the treatment of egg laying chickens. So I buy from local farms or my horse stable. Places where I can see the chickens running about, living life and eating well. If these eggs aren’t available, I simply go without. There are plenty of foods available in a western society that do not contribute to the terrible life and crappy death of a creature.

 Yes, there are health benefits to being vegetarian. But there is a lot of info out there addressing health benefits of eating lean meats. I don’t tout that vegetarian life is the healthy way to go. I think that everyone should listen the their own bodies and follow that calling. But listening to what your body needs is a far cry from bowing to every craving. Trust me, there is no health benefit in McDonalds chicken strips. But if you eat vegetarian for two weeks and pay attention, maybe some lean chicken breast is what your body needs. Like I said, I was born vegetarian. Chewing on flesh will never be what my body needs.

 My husband is not vegetarian. He eats meat when we go out for dinner sometimes. He eats meat over the holidays and sometimes he brings home a chicken breast to BBQ. I am not judging. I come from a family of hunters and apart from my second cousin, I don’t have any vegetarian family members. I love them all the same. I only write this to express my point of view, my vegetarian path and reasons. I also wanted you to consider why you eat meat. Is it just because it’s what you’ve always done? Is it because you don’t know what to eat otherwise? If that’s it – message me. A change is easier then you might think. Is it because you like meat? Well I like cheesecake. And yet, I don’t eat it everyday. It makes it so much more pleasurable when I do eat it. Is it because you’ve read about how lean meats are healthy? OK, but do you think you need to eat it every single day to maintain those health benefits?

 Ask yourself – why is it ok to eat one animal but not others. Consider that maybe society rules have told you to think that way.

 Money is energy. You decide who gets your money. You decide where to direct your energy. One less night eating meat DOES make a difference. You can eat less meat without going strict vegetarian. “If the walls of slaughter houses were glass, no one would eat meat”. Take a look at your dog or your cat and ask yourself – what is the difference? Why is it ok to eat one creature, but to mass produce and slaughter another? Puppy mills aren’t acceptable – and yet pigs are cleaner, more loyal, easily trained and more intelligent. I know I’m not stopping the terrible meat industry by my one choice. But I am deciding who gets my money/energy and I am changing my corner of the world and that DOES make a difference.

 I post recipes from time to time. I am always happy to provide more. Please always feel free to contact me, I am happy to help anyone eat less meat.

 Dana Smith DO(MP)

519 496 1008

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Dana Smith