Giving up meat was not a very well thought out decision. It just happened. Same with dairy and eggs. I was traveling. Buying dairy or eggs...

Ethics, the Environment and my Health

Giving up meat was not a very well thought out decision. It just happened.

Same with dairy and eggs. I was traveling. Buying dairy or eggs didn't make sense without access to a fridge. And it wasn't so bad without them. Actually, it was great without them.

But it is hard to maintain. We were out in San Francisco late and needed dinner. Tired of the one vegan restaurant downtown, we thought we would try the Cheesecake Factory, figuring their extensive menu would have something vegan.

While they were super helpful and flexible about making me something to eat, my options were salads (sans chicken) with balsamic dressing, or their veggie burger without the bun. (Note: they will also happily sub broccoli, mushrooms, spinach etc, for chicken in their pasta dishes. Just request a dairy free preparation or let the server know you are vegan. Also, have them check that the pasta is vegan.)

It was a trying moment.

But it's worth it. Ethically, I don't have a problem eating an animal, provided that animal has lived in a healthy, natural environment. I'm not sure if I trust that to exist, or that I know enough to be able to judge.

I do not believe there is an ethical way to obtain dairy or eggs on any sort of scale, so I try my best to not contribute to their consumption.

It has become too easy to ignore the conditions that deliver animals to the grocery store. For most of my life, I ignored it. But, when buttery croissants call my name, it's also easy to remember those conditions--to make the connection between butter and the dairy cow. And however scary it is, however guilty I feel about the years I ignored it, it's worth it.

Furthermore, environmentally speaking, meat and animal product consumption is costly. I know I'm just one person, and my impact is small, but that impact makes me feel connected with the world around me. Trying to reduce our garbage production makes me think about the effect of landfills and trash flotillas in the ocean. Eliminating animal products has made me consider the toll farming takes on our environment.

Finally, it's worth it for my health. Everybody has different beliefs about the best way to eat. And every body has different needs. For me, it has become clear that whole plant foods are best. I could go into studies about cancer rates and a myriad of other diseases linked to animal product consumption. And anybody pro-meat could easily counter with soy and estrogen studies, among others.

That's not what's important. Studies do not a healthy diet make. Ethical and environmental concerns aside, I could probably build an equally healthy diet including meat, eggs and dairy in limited quantities. But, personally, I needed to give them up to re-establish the foundation of my healthy diet: whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts. Not packages of sweetened Greek yogurts, sugary fortified cold cereal or muffins and pastries.

For you, it might be joining a CSA, getting rid of packages, or going "Paleo". For me, it was becoming vegan. It became easier to make it at home than to read every label. And easier than making crackers, muffins and pastries at home was just eating cooked grains with fresh fruits and tasty sauces.

And, for my health, it's worth it to pass on the cheesecake and to replace the beef with beets and the bun with lettuce.

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