Mostly Vegetarian

I was at a family reunion over Labor Day weekend, and my cousin Beth (who’s been vegetarian for as long as I can remember), asked my wife and me about our relatively recent conversion (February 2008).

My wife had no trouble tracing her inspiration to the book “Skinny Bitch” and its stories of animal cruelty. After fumbling through an answer, and including the obligatory “My wife’s a vegetarian, which pretty much makes me a vegetarian…”, I began to consider the whys of my (mostly) vegetarianism.

While we have a long way to go as a society regarding animal cruelty, humane farming methods, excluding hormones from our food supply, etc., these factors are not my primary motivation.

I realized that the heart of my conviction really comes down to ecology and sustainability. Given our world population, a diet consisting of such a high percentage of meat is not ecologically sustainable. Unfortunately, market and economic forces (supply and demand) cannot be trusted to keep this in balance.

Ideally, the true “cost” of the production of a good is reflected in the cost of that good to the consumer. As costs go up, demand falls, and equilibrium is achieved. However, in the production of meat, many of the costs of production are externalized, subsidized, and otherwise not reflected in the cost of meat in the grocery store. Examples of these “costs” include federal subsidy of diesel fuel, the environmental impact of fertilizer and manure runoffs, the carbon costs of clear cutting rainforests, etc. That’s not even considering the fuel it takes to transport meat and the energy to keep it fresh. Grains and dried legumes last for months (or years) at room temperature.

I guess Sir Paul really summed it up when he said, “If anyone wants to save the planet, all they have to do is stop eating meat. That’s the single most important thing you could do. It’s staggering when you think about it. Vegetarianism takes care of so many things in one shot: ecology, famine, cruelty. Let’s do it! Linda was right. Going veggie is the single best idea for the new century.”

Next up: The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

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