My vegetarian awakening

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By: Erin Cafferty

ecafferty@radford.edu

Some people react with intense confusion and even disappointment at what I am “missing out on” when I tell them I am a vegetarian. The question I get the most though is one I can’t believe I even have to explain – So, what are you allowed to eat? I can eat whatever I damn well please. I am just choosing to take a stand on the barbarism of the slaughterhouse industry and restrict my body from ingesting the abomination that is meat in this country right now. I can eat beans, rice, eggs, cheese, bread, peanut butter, noodles, quinoa, avocado, apples, ice cream, bananas, pizza and more! I am allowed to eat anything; I just choose to exclude meat.

Since only recently becoming a vegetarian and knowing practically nothing about nutrition and health, it has forced me to start reading nutrition labels, asking what my meal is made with before I eat it, and doing research on what actually goes into the food I am buying. From my experience, I found that most vegetable soups are not actually vegetarian because they contain chicken or beef stock. If you are buying eggs and the carton does not specifically say “pasture-raised” or “antibiotic-free,” you run the risk of buying a product where the animal was raised its entire life in a cage too small for it or in a barn with thousands of other hens. It also doesn’t indicate what it was fed (animal by-products anyone?) or the use of antibiotics. There are even certain salad dressings and cheeses that contain bacon fat and enzymes, which is just another way to say proteins from an animal stomach. I shouldn’t have to tell you how they get those proteins. Choosing to go meatless is a lot easier said than done, but once you make the decision, you will never contemplate going back.

For anyone wondering why I decided to ditch meat, watch the documentary Food, Inc. I am an extremely passionate person and my love of animals was taken to a new level when I realized what the meat industry was doing to them for the sake of demand. Stop the demand, stop the massacre. There is no reason we cannot cut back on our consumption in order to force the industry to raise its standards and feed us real food, not fillers and extenders. Learning to not just eat whatever is available in the store has changed me in more than one way. My health has skyrocketed because I am not putting harmful things into my body any longer; I eat fruits and vegetables and smaller portions because my food is filling me up with nutrients. I cook meals instead of heating up ramen and I can say no to fast food simply because I don’t want it.

Becoming a vegetarian is a lifestyle change I believe people should put a lot of thought into before partaking in. It is not a diet and it won’t make you lose 10 pounds for summer. It will however cause you to be more conscience when buying items at the grocery store and will allow you to make a personal statement against the inhumane execution of animals for food in this country. For something I feel very strongly about, boycotting the meat industry is the least I can do. There is definitely a difference between simply not eating meat and being a vegetarian, and I am happy to be the latter.