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December 11, 2013

Starting the Conscious Eating, Meatless, No Animal Product Activist Journey

By Rob Kall

becoming a conscious eater is a kind of activism that impacts the environment, spending that formerly went to big bad corporations, including Big Agra, Big Pharma, fortune 1000 producers of processed foods, personal health, fitness and connecting locally, just for starters. Conscious eating is a major non-electoral way to walk your talk and make a difference.

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From http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Slaughterhouse_cattle_bodies.jpg: Slaughterhouse cattle bodies

I'm far from an expert on nutrition or cooking or vegetarianism or veganism. But I AM on a journey, shifting from being a meat eater to being somewhere along the road to being a vegan. That means I am far from being a pure vegan, not even a pure vegetarian. But I'm working on eating less animal products, eating healthier and in a way that is gentler on the planet. 

This is one of a series of articles I'll be writing about my experience. I've learned that becoming a conscious eater is a kind of activism that impacts the environment, spending that formerly went to big bad corporations, including Big Agra, Big Pharma, fortune 1000 producers of processed foods, personal health, fitness and connecting locally, just for starters. Conscious eating is a major non-electoral way to walk your talk and make a difference. 

I just got an email from Politico, a newsflash that the FDA is trying to get meat producers to cut back on the use of antibiotics:
" The FDA will issue two major proposals  on Wednesday  in an effort to cut back on antibiotics used on farms that can spur drug-resistant superbugs, making a final push to limit drugs fed to animals before they're turned into steaks and pork chops.

Got that? Superbugs, spurred by the use of antibiotics in meat.  Now that is reinforcement for me. I've been on my journey, attempting to become meat and animal product free for at least six years. It's not easy. I'm not perfect, but I'm getting better at it. 

Back in 2004 I volunteered as a driver for Dennis Kucinich when he was visiting Philly and running in the presidential primary. He asked to have some vegan items for his travels. The idea of becoming a vegan was not in my mind at all, at the time. But I did respect him for his practice. 

A year or two later, Hal, a Canadian colleague who's a vegan, took me to a vegan restaurant in Montreal. I not only survived, but I liked it. He persuaded me to start avoiding, at the least, chicken, which he said had the most antibiotics and drugs in them. So I cut back on chicken, way back. It was pretty easy, especially since I took a flexitarian approach and would occasionally indulge. 

In a way, cutting out chicken as a step towards becoming vegetarian or vegan was similar to the way I quit smoking cigarettes. I'd smoked from about 1968 to 1976-- from age 17 to 25. I finally quit be gradually cutting out situations where I smoked-- driving to work, talking on the phone, after a meal. That way, I didn't just stop immediately. I'd gradually reduced the collection of habits of smoking doing different things. Starting with chicken and getting used to not eating it made it easier for me, down the road, to ratchet back my consumption of all meat and dairy products. 

Over the years I've learned that a pound of meat is profoundly more costly in terms of environmental footprint than plant-based food. A big part of global warming comes from meat production. 

Then there are the health factors. Generally, health experts say that meat should be eaten as a side dish, occasionally, not as the main part of a meal. There are all kinds of studies which show that if you a lot of meat, you are at greater risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and more. Just cutting out meat, if you have any of those diseases can help to heal you. 

If you're not clear, a vegetarian doesn't eat meat but may eat animal products, like eggs, milk and cheese. They're called ovo-lacto vegetarians. Some people will not eat meat from critters with legs but they will eat fish. They are sometimes called pescatarians or ovo-lacto pescatarians. 

Vegans don't eat meat or any animal products... and don't wear clothes made from animals, like leather.

There are all kinds of in-betweens. I'm trying to be vegan as much as possible, but go flexitarian every now and then-- a pizza with cheese one week, fish (wild caught, not farmed) a few times a week, egg whites once or twice a week (like in Pad Thai and bakery items, like brownies) and meat, preferably organic, free range, without any drugs or antibiotics, every few weeks. On rare occasions I'll break down and  have some barbecue. I haven't found a place that offers free range barbecue brisket yet. 


While I'm at it, I also try to eat organic, and am careful, if not eating organic to wash fruits and vegetables very carefully. I used to think organic was too expensive but I've found that it rarely adds more than two or three dollars to the cost of a grocery trip. 

Another factor I consider is GMO food. Labeling is not reliable. You can't trust if an item does not say GMO that it is not GMO. Some do, and organic food is much more likely not to be GMO. Just about all soy and corn products are GMO. If you want to learn a lot more about GMO, here's a brilliant article: How Monsanto and Friends Put the Frankenstein in Frankenfoods

So.... if you're already on the reduced or no meat path, please add your comments with tips for newbies. I can use all the help I can get. 

If you're thinking about starting on the path, pick a meat to cut out or dramatically decrease in your diet. Start treating meat as side dishes rather than the main attraction. 

If we all did this, the climate change problem would be much less, more poor people could afford to eat, people's health would improve and the rates of cancer, heart disease and diabetes would drop. 

Here's something to chew on-- an excerpt from a Mayo Clinic article on health impact of eating or not eating meat:

A plant-based diet, which emphasizes fruits and vegetables, grains, beans and legumes, and nuts, is rich in fiber, vitamins and other nutrients. And people who eat only plant-based foods -- aka vegetarians -- generally eat fewer calories and less fat, weigh less, and have a lower risk of heart disease than nonvegetarians do.

Just eating less meat has a protective effect. A National Cancer Institute study of 500,000 people found that those who ate 4 ounces (113 grams) of red meat or more daily were 30 percent more likely to have died of any cause during a 10-year period than were those who consumed less. Sausage, luncheon meats and other processed meats also increased the risk. Those who ate mostly poultry or fish had a lower risk of death.

If there's a single point I'm trying to get across here, it's that you can make a big difference for your health and the environment, without getting religious or extreme about it and quitting meat and animal products altogether. You can just ease off on the gas pedal when it comes to eating animals. There are always other options on the menu. At home, they are generally easy and fast to cook and you will also be buying less processed foods from big billion dollar corporations that donate to ALEC and to politicians who protect big corporations. 

Ideally, buy local, eat local and avoid stuff with a lot of ingredients, especially the ones you don't know how to pronounce and don't know what they are. 

Next article, I'll write about how to maintain adequate nutrition, protein and the like and to continue to enjoy some of the aspects of meat while staying off meat. In other words, I'll be talking about plant-based and not meat substitutes. 

I know that there are many other folks on this journey who read here. It would be nice to develop a conversation corner to discuss and explore it together-- from getting started to recipes and articles. One great source of information is Martha Rosenberg, author of Born With  Junk Food Deficiency. 

So, please share your experience, recommendations of food, books, videos, websites. And absolutely, consider writing about your experiences.





Submitters Bio:

Rob Kall is editor-in-chief, publisher and site architect of OpEdNews.com, President of Futurehealth, Inc, and an inventor. He hosts the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show, aired in the Metro Philly area on AM 1360, WNJC. Over 200 podcasts are archived for downloading here, or can be accessed from iTunes. Rob is also published regularly on the Huffingtonpost.com

Rob Kall Wikipedia Page

Rob is, with Opednews.com the first media winner of the Pillar Award for supporting Whistleblowers and the first amendment.

See more Rob Kall articles here and, older ones, here. To learn more about Rob and OpEdNews.com, check out A Voice For Truth - ROB KALL | OM Times Magazine and this article. For Rob's work in non-political realms mostly before 2000, see his C.V..  and here's an article on the Storycon Summit Meeting he founded and organized for eight years. Press coverage in the Wall Street Journal: Party's Left Pushes for a Seat at the Table

Here is a one hour radio interview where Rob was a guest- on Envision This, and here is the transcript. 

To watch Rob having a lively conversation with John Conyers, then Chair of the House Judiciary committee, click hereWatch Rob speaking on Bottom up economics at the Occupy G8 Economic Summit, here.

Follow Rob on Twitter & Facebook. His quotes are here

My articles express my personal opinion, not the opinion of this website.

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