or Spring Break = I have too much time on my hands...
This post is not about any of my usual blogging topics. That is, it's not about running, reading, or teaching. But it is about what's been on my mind today, so I'm putting out there. Thanks for indulging me. :)
Let me backtrack a little bit. I've never been much of a meat eater, but my reluctance to eat red meat was always more of a health choice than anything else. It wasn't until midway through college when I started considering the ethical side of eating (or choosing not to eat) meat. I hadn't given it much thought before, but once I started to really think about what I was eating and where it comes from, I knew I had to make a change. So, in August 2007 I ate my last california roll and said goodbye to meat and fish. It was surprisingly easy, and while I do have occassional comfort food cravings, it has never been a choice I've regretted, and rarely one I think about. Choosing to eat a vegetarian diet has just become a natural part of my life and, with that, a part of who I am.
I am a vegetarian because it makes me uncomfortable to consume animal meat when, in the United States, they are more often than not raised in an inhumane and abusive manner. It pains me to think about the factory farms and genetic engineering that happens to bring chicken and beef to our tables, and while I can't change that in the grand scheme, I see choosing not to eat meat as doing my small part.
The greatness of a nation and its moral progress
can be judged by the way its animals are reared.
Let me be clear: this is the right choice for me, but in NO WAY am I writing this because I feel that everyone should be a vegetarian. That is not my judgment to pass, and just as I expect people to respect my choices, I would never dream of thinking negatively of those who disagree with me.
While I said I don't put a lot of thought into eating vegetarian (actually, I don't put a lot of thought into eating...I'm the laziest eater, worst cook, and biggest "grazer" you'll ever meet), I have been thinking a lot about it the past few days. It started when I read a post on vegetarian "gray areas" on Healthy Tipping Point and reread a post on No Meat Athlete about non-meat foods that contain animal byproducts. Enter my "existential crisis" (or some less dramatic label).
I am not a vegan. I consume dairy and eggs, as well as honey. While I have an intense admiration for those that live a vegan lifestyle, I have never really considered doing so. But lately, I've been wondering if I "should" be doing more as a vegetarian. Let me clarify: when I say "should," I don't mean to insinuate that any vegetarian "should" be doing anything in particular--being a vegetarian is a very personal thing, and while there is very little black and white, there is a whole lotta gray. I do what works for me, and strongly encourage all vegetarians and all people to create their own diet rules based on what works for their health and lifestyle. That being said, since there is no "rule book" (other than the generally accepted "no food with a face" rule), it makes sense that there will be gray areas that every vegetarian must explore his or herself.
Then there's rennet, which I haven't really given much thought to before now. After doing some research, I've learned that it's not in all cheeses, but if I'm not mistaken, there are enzymes in all or almost all cheeses, not all of these being animal based. But it gets sketchy until you start really doing research: there is no stream-lined labeling method for cheeses. When I checked the labels of the cheese that's in my fridge, all of them just listed "enzymes" as an ingredient, but didn't specify if these enzymes are animal or plant-derived.
Anyways, those are my thoughts for the moment. And I give myself full permission to change my mind at any moment, because being a vegetarian is about what is right for me right now. Just like what's right for me might not be right for you, I am allowed to change my "gray area" rules at any time. I don't know how many veggie readers I have--I doubt very many--but if you are one, I would love to hear about what your "comfort zone" is as a vegetarian and why you choose to live there.
What we eat is within our control, yet the act ties us to the economic, political, and ecological order of the whole planet. Even an apparently small change--consciously choosing a diet that is good for both our bodies and for the earth--can lead to a series of choices that transform our whole lives.
Frances Moore Lappe, Diet for a Small Planet
NOTE: While I included a PETA image, I do NOT agree with the way PETA chooses to voice their message. In fact, more often than not I think PETA gives vegetarians a bad name. I just think that logo is really cute. Also, the Veggie Tales picture has nothing to do with this post, but how could I NOT include a picture of Bob and Larry when talking about vegetables?!