I have always loved the flexibility that not labeling myself a vegetarian provides…probably more than the actual eating of meat itself. Not being a vegetarian means that I don’t feel judged as a religious freak or a hippie tofu lover (what a lot of the world thinks of vegetarians). Those misconceptions of vegetarians can't get in the way then. Being vegetarian has just always seemed more inconvenient to me. I felt like I could connect with others (my friends that aren’t Adventists, people I randomly meet that aren’t vegetarian, and those I run into while traveling who don’t find vegetarianism even applicable). When I was in Egypt for a year, not being a vegetarian meant that when I was invited over to a student’s home, I didn’t offend their family when they offered me their best – meat. (Egyptians don’t understand vegetarians at all) I also didn’t get sick. Which was a definite plus of not being vegetarian.
But…convenience and flexibility should not run my life.
Meat has never been a staple of my diet. It has always been the “occasional.” When I was young, Mom would fix beef stew, chicken patties or salmon once and awhile and ordering meat when we ate out was an option. We were mostly a loaves, pasta, fruits and veggies kind of family who did enjoy their Thanksgiving Turkey and the occasional carnivorous consumption.
But…being vegetarian is socially responsible…oh darn. I feel a change coming.
I watched Food, Inc.–good idea/bad idea? For sure good, but bad because that movie is a world rocker –life changes are included in the extra features! Am I ready for the information that I gleaned? I want to be.
I HATED what I saw:
•Capitalism at its Worst
•Mistreatment of animals & Human Workers
•Government working for big business instead of what is right.
•Monopolies doing DIRTY deals to kick the little guys in the shins and rub their power in everyone’s faces (P.S. We HATE Monsanto)
But…[sigh]…don’t get overwhelmed Jess…stay passionate, stay compassionate.
This is where I wish I could return to my old familiar soapbox. “Flexibility is key, being a vegetarian is inconvenient!” It is familiar, it supported me well, it meant I didn’t have to change. But…change is good. Right? It is...when it is coupled with intellectual and spiritual growth. When it is backed by thought and logic. When the voice inside your head won’t shut up. :)
I read the book Rich Christians in and Age of Hunger by Ronald Sider awhile ago and it started or continued a lot of the thought processes I have been having about life, resources, stewardship, and corporate social responsibility. I went back and read a section about how being a carnivore is very UNsocially responsible.
“The demand for cheap beef by wealthy North Americans and Europeans also contributes to tropical deforestation. In Brazil and Central America alone, 15,000 square kilometers per year of forest are cleared for cattle ranching. Much of this cleared land is used to grow exports for the developed world. Tragically, this is the least effective use of rain forests.” (pg. 156)
He goes on to explain that deforestation because of land being used for cattle kills all the nutrients found in the soil, kills even the most aggressive and hardy of grasses and leads to even more deforestation when the grass has been all eaten up.
Then another issue is brought up. The questions are asked…
“Why do countries ravaged by famine export food? Why do poor nations today sell vast quantities of food to rich nations while many of their own people are malnourished or starving?”
“The reason that countries with many hungry people willingly export food to wealthy nations is that the poor people in those nations do not have the money to pay for the food, and we do…They send us cotton, beef, coffee, bananas, or other agricultural products…The system favors the wealthy, and the poor suffer.”
“The story of beef provides a striking example. In the 1950s, almost all beef slaughtered in Central America was eaten locally. Then in 1957 the first beef-packing plant approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was built. By the late 1970s, three-fourths of Central America’s beef was exported. By 1978, Central America provided the U.S. with 250 million pounds of beef a year. U.S.–backed development programs built roads and provided credit to facilitate the expansion of beef exports. From 1960 to 1980, over one-half of all the loans made by the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank for agricultural and rural development in Central America went to promote the production of beef for export.” (pg 160-162)
“…By 1980, one-half of all El Salvador’s beef was going to the U.S.–and 65 percent of the rural households were landless.”
“…The national security forces trained by the U.S. often used repressive tactics, including torture and murder, to put down peasant protesters.”
“…the poor suffered to produce cheap hamburgers for American consumers.”
No wonder my hamburger didn’t taste as good as I remembered it once tasting. Mistreatment doesn’t taste good. Profit without a heart doesn’t taste good. Pain and poverty doesn’t taste good either. Ketchup and a Special Sauce can’t hide what is hidden underneath anymore.