Sunday, March 17, 2013

Thoughts on Health and Meat-Eating

Oh hai.  Don't eat me plz.  (Source)
I'm an omnivore. A picky omnivore (I'm slowly getting better).

I have friends who are vegetarian and vegan. Some are more evangelistic than others. Some are just like "Eh, I'm a vegetarian. Big whoop." Others regularly post things about how much better, healthier, more moral, etc. their choice is.

And you know what? For the most part, they're right. Humans very likely aren't meant to consume meat in the quantities we (meaning Americans) do. Most of our meat is produced in wasteful and brutal conditions (which I get to see every time I drive through California).  The vast majority of wheat (70%), corn (80%), and soy (90%) grown in this country go toward producing meat and 50% of our water goes toward growing these things.  It's unsustainable, and it's unhealthy both for us and for the animals we eat.

So why am I not vegetarian?  Because meat tastes good and I'm picky.  Those truly are my reasons.

If I went vegetarian right now, I'd get sick from malnutrition SO FAST.  As it is I'm taking a daily multivitamin just to make sure I'm staying healthy.  Part of the issue is that, for whatever reason, I have a really active gag reflex; I gag at pretty much any unfamiliar flavor or texture I encounter.  I don't like it, but I have a hard time controlling it, and it's affected my diet since I was a child.  Beyond that, though, I'll try things once or twice and then never go to the trouble of eating it again, sticking with my old favorites (which are predominantly grains and meat).

It's bad.  It's really bad.  And I'm working on it.  I've found that having control over my food helps.  It's one thing to sit down to a plate full of colorful things which I don't know and I didn't realize were going to be involved, and which will therefore make me gag; it's another to take a bag of onions and, through the work of my hands, turn them into a miraculously delicious soup.  I made onions one of my favorite foods just through cooking with them over and over again.

But I'm still picky, and I still eat meat every day, mostly beef and chicken.  So going vegetarian isn't an option for me.

I think that's why I get uncomfortable with veg*ns (the inclusive term for vegetarians/vegans; also it takes less typing) who like to spread their message.  In general, what they say is true, but I can't/won't make the more ethical choice.  So instead, my mind fills with reasons why my meat consumption is justifiable:
I don't eat that much! 
My family buys meat that was raised in a sustainable manner! 
Early humans experienced massive brain development because of meat consumption!
I've even gone into fallacious territory:
Why aren't you concerned about the workers who produce the vegetables?  Are you making all of your food cruelty-free? 
What about cultures who subsisted almost entirely on meat?  What are you doing to help them become veg*n, if it's so important to you?
Yeah, it's awful.  That's why I've never said these things to an actual veg*n.  I just shut up and feel bad, because I know that these arguments aren't about the person who's talking, they're about me and my own guilt and desperation to make the guilt go away.  While I do think there are valid criticisms of how some veg*ns go about spreading their message (and the blindspots in their activism), they become invalid when used to defend my choices.

So, what am I going to do about this?  Well, right now, very little.  I'm still picky.  But I'm posting this to own up to my issues, to make them public.  And I'm gradually making myself less picky by introducing new things into my diet, or at least coming up with ways to cook things I already like but in a way that will make me desire them.*

That's the rub in all of this.  I don't want to eat certain foods or eschew others because of a sense of obligation.  I want to eat healthy because I want to eat delicious food that just happens to be healthy.  I want to eat less meat because I don't need it, because I have a delicious variety of things available to consume that, to quote Hank Green, "don't have a mom".

Will I ever give up meat completely?  Doubtful.  (At best I'll probably eventually give up eating meat except for special occasions, and not give a crap about eating food cooked with beef or chicken stock.)  But I can eat less of it.  It just takes a little bit of time.**

I'm going to let fellow guilty omnivore Hank Green play me out with two videos: one on the morality and sustainability of meat eating, and one on the potential future of meat production.

*For instance, lunch today was rice and sauteed red onion on romaine lettuce.  All ingredients I like and not a bit of meat in sight.
**Like all things in Botswana.

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