To Be or Not Be … Vegetarian

I hate to type it out but I’ve been considering becoming a vegetarian.

I even hate thinking of vegetarianism at all really but it keeps popping into my mind unbidden.

It keeps popping up partly because the oldest of the grandchildren-types is a vegetarian so every other weekend there is the what to make/what to eat dilemma. But it’s also healthier and better for the environment. The idea of going meatless also appeals to me because I don’t like the idea of harming another creature just to eat. I mean I can eat without killing something to do so, right?

That last part is the one that weighed heavily on me in the past. A few years ago for about 6 months I didn’t eat beef because we had driven through west Texas on our way to Carlsbad, NM. West Texas is acre after acre of feed lots intersected by miles and miles of train tracks and cattle cars. For the innocents that haven’t been confronted about the origins of their burgers – feed lots are where cows go to be fattened up before being slaughtered. And it turns out the idea of transporting ANY creature in a cattle car is horrific for me plus seeing all those cows packed into yards that were huge but allowed them little room to move made me realize how inhumane food is treated. Most cows in a feed lot do nothing but eat.

Cows, like most mammals, are social animals and as such in addition to having familial relationships can develop friendships too. Cows even calf-sit for one another. However, young cows, or older calves, are sometimes taken from their families and sent to those Texas feed lots. It is fairly easy to imagine that this is stressful for the animal. I was treated to a particularly hard to deal with sight driving past one feed lot. Two older calves, one a creamy white color and the other black, had wandered away from the food troughs and found one another in the center part of the pen. But they weren’t siblings or friends and they were locked in a head butting battle. There was no way to know how long they had been there pushing and straining against the other and no way to know how or when it would end. We passed a seemingly endless number of feed lots that day and, by the time we stopped for dinner, I was done with beef.

I still ate pork and poultry (weird how I was able to completely rationalize that, eh?) but even so it was occasionally hard to find something to eat, particularly when we went out for dinner. For a while I tried to find “happy” cows. Creatures that lived with their family groups, that ate grass as opposed to feed and antibiotics, and that were killed humanely. Finding “happy” cows is easier said than done and I never could find a reasonable priced, consistent source of beef that did not require the purchase of a deep freeze. After six months, I caved and ate a burger.

This time, however, I don’t even have an excuse for the senseless slaughter of chickens, turkeys, or pigs. The only thing I have is a reluctance to actually embrace the whole vegetarian thing. One of my concerns is it is a slippery slope from vegetarian to vegan and then I’ll have to get hemp sneakers and I don’t want to be that person!

If you’ve actually gone through the work of successfully changing a personal habit like smoking or dietary changes you probably already know there are stages to the whole process: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. I’m still in the contemplation phase but have begun “experimenting” by going a few days at a time without eating meat and preparing dishes that contain meat without it.

I’ll let you know if I take the plunge. Don’t judge if I end up in hemp sneakers.