Is­abel Fa­herty, Ridge­wood

MAK­ING A CON­SCIOUS DE­CI­SION TO GIVE UP MEAT

201 Family - - CONTENTS - – IS­ABEL FA­HERTY, RIDGE­WOOD

I’ve been a veg­e­tar­ian for ex­actly three years. The story of how I be­came one is fairly ar­bi­trary. My best friend at camp couldn’t eat meat be­cause of her re­li­gion. One af­ter­noon, out of the blue, she dared me to give it up. I’m not sure why I agreed – per­haps be­cause I wanted to chal­lenge my­self or be­cause camp food was medi­ocre at best – but I stopped eat­ing meat that day and have re­mained a veg­e­tar­ian ever since.

But, here’s the thing: I ac­tu­ally love meat. Whether it’s a juicy hot dog from Gray’s Pa­paya or my grand­mother’s fa­mous Filipino pork buns, my mouth wa­ters. If some­one talks about how well done they like their steak or whether Five Guys or Shake Shack has the bet­ter burger, I join in like a de­voted car­ni­vore.

So why be a veg­e­tar­ian, if I love meat so much? Rest as­sured, it’s not be­cause of some stub­born pride, hang­ing on to some child­hood dare just for the sake of say­ing, “I won.” And it’s not be­cause I love veg­eta­bles that much ei­ther. While some veg­e­tar­i­ansar­i­ans bond over their fa­vorite meals,als, ex­chang­ing recipes for quinoa bowls or tip­sps on where to gett the best sal­ads, I don’t ac­tu­al­lylly like to eat many of those foods..

The rea­son I’ve re­mained a veg­e­tar­ian is be­cause I be­lieve in veg­e­tar­i­anismsm (veg­eta­bles not so much). Specif­i­cally, I be­lieve in the wel­fare of an­i­mals and the harm that can be done to them and our en­vi­ron­ment as a re­sult of the over­pro­duc­tion of meat and the poor reg­u­la­tion of the meat in­dus­try. Af­ter my friend chal­lenged me that day, I found my­self read­ing books and watch­ing doc­u­men­taries about farms and food pro­duc­tion. I re­searched or­ga­ni­za­tions, such as PETA and the Hu­mane So­ci­ety, and re­al­ized that most farms across the U.S. don’t look any­thing like those de­picted in idyl­lic milk car­tons or through songs like “Old McDon­ald.” The truth is that about 94 per­cent of meat pro­duced in Amer­ica is from “fac­tory farms” – large, in­dus­tri­al­ized farms that mis­treat an­i­mals, work­ers and the com­mu­ni­ties around them. Through my re­search, I learned that 9 bil­lion an­i­mals are slaugh­tered each year in the U.S. for food, a num­ber that will grow ex­po­nen­tially as the global pop­u­la­tion in­creases in the up­com­ing decades. Many of these fafac­to­ries pol­lute the air and wat­wa­ter with tox­ins and ex­pe­di­te­ex­pe­dit cli­mate change tthrough the use of crop feeds grown­grow from ni­trate fer­til­iz­ers­fert sourced from­fro oil. An al­ter­nate ap­proacha wouldw be to con­sume meatm raised lo­cally,lo near our com­mu­ni­ties.com The food from these farms not only tastes bet­ter, but fre­quently sourc­ing from them would re­duce the detri­men­tal ef­fects of fac­tory farm­ing. It would help re­duce pol­lu­tion, cur­tail out­breaks of food­borne ill­nesses and ame­lio­rate the con­di­tions of the an­i­mals over time.

If you are not ready to be­come a veg­e­tar­ian like me but in­ter­ested in the is­sue, pur­chas­ing meat lo­cally from a source you trust is an op­tion. You can also grad­u­ally re­duce your over­all con­sump­tion of meat, prac­tic­ing things like “Meat­less Mon­days” or “Veg­e­tar­ian/ Ve­gan un­til 6 p.m.”

As for me, I love be­ing con­nected to the com­mu­nity of veg­e­tar­i­ans and be­ing able to help each other un­der­stand the prob­lems of the food in­dus­try. I im­me­di­ately get ex­cited when I hear some­one is a veg­e­tar­ian. I ask them why, to see if they are pas­sion­ate against fac­tory farm­ing (like me), or sim­ply some­one who doesn’t love the taste of meat and prefers eat­ing veg­eta­bles (un­like me).

It’s true that I some­times miss left­over turkey af­ter Thanks­giv­ing or a crunchy BLT for lunch. How­ever, it has made me more po­lit­i­cally and so­cially aware of an is­sue I care deeply about, and I have never re­gret­ted my choice.

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