Here I sit, on the far side of an epiphany I’ve known was coming for my entire thinking life. As a teenager, I was the most avid carnivore you were likely to meet. Not in the literal sense, of course, but aside from the occasional salad, side of potatoes, or plate of KD the meals of my early life were comprised largely of meat.
As I grew up and gained some independence, I heard about the horrors of the slaughterhouse, saw the PETA ads, but always managed to push them to the back of my mind whenever friends suggested we get some steaks and fire up the grill. We ate deliriously huge quantities of animal protein.
It was greasy.
It was cholesterol-laden.
And, my god, it was delicious.
However, even in those days, feasting away the summers with my friends, I had a sneaking suspicion that one day I would have a change of heart. It is the curse of a person with an interest in personal health and the environment that eventually you will see, read, or think something that creates a barrier in your mind between personal beliefs and the enjoyment of eating animals.
For me, the killing blow came in the form of a one-two literary punch and purely by coincidence. Since the beginning of this year my girlfriend, my oldest friends, and I have been on something of a health kick. I’ve been running more, doing push ups, and feeling good. Naturally, my reading habits tend to parallel my behaviour. So when I discovered that one of my favourite authors (A.J. Jacobs) had released a new book about becoming the healthiest man in the world, I jumped at the chance to read it.
Drop Dead Healthy is classic Jacobs. Funny, informative, thought provoking. All-in-all a very good read if you have any interest in becoming healthier. One of the least surprising things that recurred throughout the book, though, was the suggestion that eating a lot of meat isn’t the choice healthy people and cultures seem to make. Upon finishing the book I was left to ponder its lessons. As I did, I casually flipped open my e-reader to start something new.
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safron Foer has been in my suggested reading for quite a while. As obviously contentious as a book with that title is bound to be, I didn’t think much of giving it a chance. Safe to say, my blood-thirsty lifestyle was doomed from the first page.
In the past 4 days, I’ve eaten no meat. Each time I consider it, I’m confronted with the vivid images that Foer describes of chickens stacked on top of one another in cages, the torturous conditions they face when slaughtered, and the generally nauseating stages that make up processing (the most memorable of which involves soaking the meat in feces invested vats of water to plump them up, making them less hygienic and more expensive).
When faced with such considerations, reaching for an apple or a package of oatmeal hasn’t been the challenge it once was. Couple these revelations with the fact that animal husbandry contributes roughly 30% of total global greenhouse gas emissions, and you have a recipe for my avoidance.
I won’t pretend I’m a full convert. I’m sure at some point in the next few days I will cave and have a burger or a piece of chicken, but it won’t be the care-free practice it once was. The guilt is officially part of my consciousness and it’s not something I’m prepared to ignore. Even if I can cut meals with meat in them down to once or twice a week, I’ll be able to sleep a little better.
In writing this, I’ve become what I once dreaded… the preachy enviro-vegetarian. I understand this is an unpopular issue, believe me. A few weeks ago I wouldn’t have even bothered opening an article with this title. But odds are, if you’ve made it to the end, I’ve touched on something you consider to be worth thinking about; and, as a writer, that’s the best I could have hoped for.