I not sure what started me thinking about this … perhaps it is the
comments I get from my family and in-laws of "you're not going to try to
raise your children vegetarian are you?" While I often try to re-evaluate
myself and my internal baggage, external comments like these seem
to bring it up all over again.
I first began dabbling in vegetarianism when I decided to eat healthier…
by healthier, I mean, not eating at fast-food restaurants. Then I got
somewhat scared at eating meat products at any restaurant. I mean, do you
really know who is charge of cooking your food? And this lead to
questioning the safety of meat at a grocery store.
As soon as I started cooking more interestingly, my meat consumption
dropped without regret. If I could eat flavorful Thai food that was just
vegetables, then I didn't feel the need to add the carcass of some animal.
Later on in my life, I actually had some allergy tests done, and found out
that I was allergic to most meat-- further confirmation that my lifestyle
was appropriate for me.
You can't be a vegetarian for any reason without considering the moral
issues. I personally think that death is not that big of a deal, and the
eating of another animal is just … well, life. However, the treatment of
animals while they are living is another thing. I avoid eggs from caged
hens for moral reasons.
Maybe this was the reason that I continued to eat fish, as I always thought that
the fish had a good life in the ocean, swimming around and all. Conquently,
it was a balance that I could reach with my father-in-law…an ex-butcher.
When my wife was preganant with our second child, she didn't get out much,
so he ended up doing most of the shopping and eating dinner with us afterards.
In his view, every healthy meal had meat in it, and so he would return almost
every day with some fish for dinner. I was getting quite tired of my only
form of meat.
But after my son was born, it was clear that he took after his old man in
terms of allergies, and after he was weened, I felt hopeless in trying to
find out the foods he was allergic to, so I took him to get him tested. Being a
year old, there wasn't much they could do, but they did do a hair test. I
thought that was a bit funny, since hair analysis is what is done to people to
see their long term chemical history, and he just didn't have that much of a
history to test.
However, the tests came back with mercury that was off the charts. It was then
that I realized that all the fish that my father-in-law was bringing into the
house was slowly poisoning us all.
It is getting harder and harder to eat.††See this Sierra Club article and this article about mercury levels in fish, as well as this article on overfishing at GreenPeace.
So now, when I eat out, its easier, for I order the vegan dishes, and in
Portland Oregon, it isn't considered that weird. However, there are times
when I will eat some fish, but while I'll admit that a little bit of mercury
won't kill me, I pretty much will only eat fish from Alaska.
Besides, while fish may not realize that they are caged (and may actually
prefer the life of ease where they don't have to hunt for their food
But what is clear to me is that wild fish from the ocean taste far better
than farm fish. Maybe I just prefer the spicy flavor imparted from a life
of adrenaline. And thinking of the well-maintained and managed stock in Alaska
makes the fish easier to swallow.
It is far easier to think about ideals… for living with them is such a bother.
My wife is not vegetarian, and unlike me, eats dairy as well. Of course, I will
let my daughter and son decide for themselves what to eat, however, it does seem
nearly impossible to me that anyone who reads about the life of a cow in the
industrial United States could actually eat beef.
Am I healthier for my near-vegan diet? Perhaps. Would others benefit from it?
Maybe. It is true that the planet would benefit from us limiting our meat intake.
But if you are intrigued by such a lifestyle choice, then you need to find food
that you'd rather replace it with than focusing on what you are missing.
Start off by stopping at a Thai restaurant and ordering a vegetarian version
of pad thai. It will probably still have egg in it, but you won't miss the
chicken. If you like the spice, then order the pad kee mao (drunken noodles),
for once again, it is so flavorful you won't notice the absense of meat.
Little by little, start looking for cuisine that offer meals without meat that
you like. I wouldn't worry about those silly meat-like things. They really
don't think they would help you out that much. But give it a try, and if you
find your are only cutting back on your meat consumption and finding some new
cuisines in the process, that can't be anything less than great.
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