By Grace Meredith, Staff Writer
As anyone who knows me will surely tell you, I love animals. From over-enthusiasm when running into dogs on the street to pipe dreams of a future living in a veritable zoo, animals of all shapes and sizes are welcome in my heart. Therefore, my move to strict-vegetarianism over a year ago made sense. I had been a vegetarian for five years when I was a child and into my pre-teen years, but then smelled bacon one day and I promptly abandoned my principle. Still, I came back, and now I will not eat anything that has touched meat.
When people ask me why, I truthfully tell them I don’t judge anyone who eats meat, but the reason is simply I feel bad eating something that used to be alive. However, if I live by this creed, how much can I deviate before I lose my credibility?
I, like so many vegetarians, may have the best intentions, but how authentic can we be if we are still wearing leather and eating food made by companies that still use animal products, even if we are not directly consuming them? Furthermore, many vegetarians do not fully realize how far the meat industry really goes in its global influence.
One of the biggest pulls for many who become vegetarians is the environmental component. According to chooseveg.com, becoming vegetarian saves fifty percent more carbon emissions than driving a Prius.
This can be explained by the fact that right now, thirty percent of the entire earth’s land mass is being used to grow food for consumable animals, like cattle and swine. The meat industry is so dominant in the global corpocracy that, in areas like Africa, huge amounts of land are being used to farm food for animals that Africans themselves cannot afford to eat.
This is because the corn that cattle are consuming is inedible for humans, and cattle need this “special corn” to get all the nutrients they need before slaughter. So it’s not like we can use this incredibly abundant food source to feed the people who actually need it.
In the United States, seventy percent of grain grown is fed to farm animals. Seventy percent? We are now talking hundreds of thousands of square miles of corn, barley, etc. Imagine how many people we could feed with that food. We are taking better care of cattle than we are of our fellow species.
There are many reasons for going vegetarian, and many people adhere to animal rights or environmentalism. But something that many vegetarians do not realize or choose not to think about is that it is virtually impossible to be fully vegetarian.
Rubber is made from animal fat, many plastics contain gelatin (found in animal hooves), and almost all bath products contain collagen (found in bone). So even the strictest vegetarian (no leather, only drinks milk from organic farms) is constantly violating his or her rules without even knowing it.
Many vegetarians do refrain from buying leather and other animal-treated products but may turn a blind eye to knowledge like this because, if you’re really dedicated to the cause, it can be very discouraging to realize these facts.
However, these products of the meat industry really are just products. And the less meat is consumed, the fewer by-products there will be. But the culture of vegetarianism can be…pretentious, which makes people less likely to listen to vegetarian insights. I have found that many vegetarians are labeled as “preachy” or are described as “unnatural.”
At my job this Summer, tourists from all over America would consistently laugh whenever I recommended a vegetarian restaurant.
Granted, in a world where bacon smells so heavenly, it can be hard to refrain from temptation, but if vegetarians truly believe in the cause, perhaps more practical information about the environment or animal cruelty examples are more effective than arrogance or judgment.
Will we ever live in a cruelty-free world? Absolutely not. But the harder we collectively work to fight for the rights of those who cannot speak for themselves, the closer we come to this idea.