This week I bought six quarts of vegetable oil at Aldi's. The lady in front of me at the check out counter asked if it was for a turkey. I answered "No way-- I'm a vegan. No turkey for me." I told her that I use vegetable oil and peanut butter to coat my cubed bread for the birds and pigeons.
She said that she had tried to be a vegetarian but found it difficult. I told her that it was incredibly easy for me - once I learned how our food animals were raised in factory farms and killed in slaughterhouses. I soon determined I neither needed or wanted to eat meat any more. My family thought I was foolish. I have never regretted that decision. My only regret is that I ever ate meat at all.
I thought about this last year when I went to a search wagon to find out if the number of vegetarians/vegans had increased since I became one 30 years ago. I hope that the 6.7% increase I found there is a conservative estimate, and that it has since risen even higher as more people are realizing the benefits to our health and environment as well as experiencing the wonderful fruits of compassion related to becoming a non-meat eater. In the 70's- per this article only 3.5% claimed they were vegetarian or vegan.
At this site I also saw two comments re this topic. I am quoting both of them--Mary who so well represented my view on the benefits of a meatless diet and Scully who probably speaks to the majority view of meat eaters.
Mary wrote: "I would say most people eat meat because they do not consider the negative impact of what they are doing. When an individual sits down to consume meat, they rarely think about the animal it once was but, instead, how delicious it now is.
Another reason--as others have said (at this site) is that the majority of Americans are raised from birth to eat meat and it is very hard to independently convince yourself that your parents and peers are incorrect about eating meat. Along those lines, being vegetarian or vegan is not the cultural norm, and it is hard for many to break away from that barrier and do what they may truly think is right.
Lastly, the majority of opinions on this subject are uninformed and believe that the only way to a healthy, well-balanced diet is to consume meat. Furthermore, most people are not aware of the gruesome situations in factory farms, slaughterhouses, laboratories, etc. This is unfortunate, and the reason (it should be) a priority of vegetarians and vegans to raise awareness."
I thought she did a very credible job re the benefits of a non-meat diet. And now for those 'chomping on the bit' --wanting to give "their" side, is Scully who may or may not represent your thinking: ".......'Vegetarianism' carries a number of meanings for differnent people as does vegan(ism). The "reasons" are historical. Amer-European culture is "meat-based." Plant-based diets were inextricably tied to religious/spiritual practices. And those religions are usually Eastern. Such practices are not part of Christianity, the predominating religion of Amer-European culture. There also is availability of meat and dairy that is more predominate in Amer-European lands because of lush grassy meadows, open expanses of plains, and presence of animals that were used for meat, clothing, etc. from the beginning of their existence."
He then launches into his explanation of "flexitarian" vegetarians and veganism which I was not interested in reading -- though he believes that accepting those statistics will signifcantly lower the percentage of vegetarians and vegans BECAUSE FANATICS OF ANY KIND RARELY CHANGE. (In my opinion, this is a low blow by any measure.) He also feels that V & V in American culture are becoming as extinct as dinosaurs. He certainly does not seem to be current on the need for ALL of us to at least reduce our meat comsumption for the good of planet earth.
I believe that our forebears ate considerably less meat than we. Today we are decimating rain forests to make pasture land for cattle. Cattle raising is also depleting our valuable water and grain reserves. And Eshel and Martin of Chicago Univ. have said that meat eaters are more responsible for the harmful greenhouse gases expulsed by cattle into the atmosphere than non-meat eaters. They are not alone in this belief.
Then of course, the way our animals are killed --including chickens and turkeys is often beyond description. Mercy for Animals devoted a newsletter to "The Noble Turkey." I was surprised to read that one study found that 75 percent of a bird's brain processes much in the same way as the vaunted human celebral cortex. (So much for the deprecating name -bird brain.) And Dr. Ian Duncan of the University of Guelph, Ontario, states that "turkeys possess marked intelligence as revealed by such behavioral indices at their complex social relationships and their many different methods of communicating with each other, both visual and vocal."
A portion of the newsletter also vividly portrays the terrible cruelties experienced by these birds when they arrive at the House of Raeford's poultry slaughterhouse in Raeford, North Carolina. "Sam's" undercover
work documented their fate and his story is entitled "The House of Horror."
There was one tiny story of rescue. "Cecelia" was rescued by an MFA investigator who found her lying in the front of her battery cage as her eight cagemates trampled her tiny body. She was sick and weak from dehydration. Her skin was covered with scars and scabs and her wing was infected. Treated by an avian veterinarian, she is now fully recovered and will enjoy the rest of her life in a beautiful sanctuary. If only there could be many, many more happy stories as hers.
PS. I tried to find the number of vegan/vegetarians there are today. Most sites said this was difficult to assess since some people considered themselves vegetarian if they occasionally ate meat!
When asked what is a vegan I usually answer - a strict vegetarian - no animal products period. Today I read that someone wrote that a vegan is a PURE vegetarian. I liked that!
Then I came across the site "Famous Vegetarians Main Directory." I was amazed at the number of people whom I recognized on this 532 numbered listing. I knew that Leo Tolstoy and Gandhi were famous ones but was surprised to find Clint Eastwood and Brad Pitt listed here as well. There are many more actors and actresses as well. And I loved seeing my favorite president among them: Abraham Lincoln.