I am often asked why I don’t eat dairy or meat. There are several reasons to pursue a vegetarian or vegan diet and lifestyle. Often, they are very personal, so I want to share a few of my reasons in case one possibly resonates with you.
1. Inhumane Working Conditions
I first became a vegetarian when I was in college, but it was not because of animal cruelty. Rather it was due to the inhumane working conditions in slaughterhouses around the country I learned about in Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation.
According to the book, slaughterhouses in Texas, Tyson facilities, and many other mainstream meat companies employed numerous immigrants at low wages put unskilled workers in hazardous conditions and did not provide worker’s compensation in many situations.
I later read So Far From God and became aware that the belief in the American Dream was sold to many of these immigrants to entice them into unhealthy working conditions. After reading these books I decided I could not support an industry that treated the people in it so poorly by cutting wages, benefits, and unions since the 1970s.
2. The “Gross” Factor
I drove to West Texas after college to check out the meat farms. Tiny pens with cows on top of cows lined the highways. Cows covered in their own feces and without hair sat inside on a dirt floor. There was no grass to be found. I thought at that moment – “Gross, I never want to eat that again.” I also didn’t want to support that kind of treatment of any animal either.
My father was diagnosed with colon cancer about four years ago. The doctor at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas told him it was most likely brought on by his diet high in red and processed meat.
Turns out, vegetarianism can also be cancer prevention. The doctor’s words also made me think more about my decision to become a vegetarian. I realized meat production was more than just inhumane to workers, but that our bodies are also telling us that it is wrong.
Cow’s milk is for baby cows just like human milk is for baby humans. So, if you want to grow big and strong to be a cow, then I suggest drinking cow’s milk. If you do not, well, it might be smart to stay away from dairy. Even goat’s milk presents the same issue - my body doesn’t need to be dealing with the hormones made for baby goats.
I get bloated and fart when I eat cheese. I cannot eat cheese if I expect to be close to anyone twenty-four hours after I eat it! Does it do this to you?
In Graduate school, while pursuing a certificate in women’s studies, I read The Sexual Politics of Meat. This book presented a case for how our meat-eating culture has normalized an attitude, language, imagery, and actions that animalize women as well as sexualize and feminize animals. Therefore, I believe I that committing to a vegetarian lifestyle resists a patriarchal structure that renders both women and animals as objects.
7. The Environmental Impact
Meat agriculture has negative effects on the planet, which in turn is hazardous to humans and many other species that inhabit the Earth. The documentary, Cow Conspiracy, explains this connection well. There has also been a ton of research on the hazards of meat agriculture you can find here.
After years of listening to my body and researching the environmental, political and health impacts of animal agriculture and consumption, I concluded meat and dairy were unethical and harmful to us as a society and planet. Ultimately, I am so thankful I have been given the tools to educate myself on a healthy lifestyle and eating habits and I hope my story encourages readers to research more and make holistic, ethical, active and smart diet decisions.