Pro-Vegetable or Anti-Meat?

From a reader:

I’m curious why you take the anti-meat approach instead of pro-vegetable. Your blog is interesting but I find that you talk a lot about meat substitutes and various ways to “fool” meat eaters. Why not more posts regarding the incredible health benefits of simple vegetables?

This one caught me by surprise.  Since the beginning of this blog, I’ve gotten many more emails to the tune of “I like that you promote vegetarianism without being preachy.”  I think this guy caught me just a few days post-Earthlings, when I was hating meat a bit more than I was loving vegetables.

But then it got me thinking.

Being vegetarian, vegan, or even a “selective carnivore” comes with some responsibility.  It’s not like being a huge fan of, say, apple pie, where you can just love the crap out of your apple pie and be done with it.  You can spread your apple pie love if you want, even preach it, but the only ones affected by your message are people with a choice.  Not the pie.

For us, it’s different.  Most vegetarians feel that, on some level, eating animals is wrong (or, more generally, that treating animals badly is wrong).  You can be a good vegetarian without spreading the message.  But when you tell someone else about it and help them to change their eating habits, you’ve helped more than just that person—you’ve helped improve the lives of animals that are treated so horrendously by the industrial food complex.

The question, then, is how best to spread that message.

The pro-vegetable approach is the one that has more potential to reach the masses.  Perhaps to the vast majority of Americans who eat meat as the main part of most meals, or to whom the idea that they eat a lot of meat (especially bacon) is for some reason funny, the pro-vegetable approach is less likely to be an immediate turn-off.  And those spreading it are less likely to be criticized.  In other words, it’s safe.

But safe has a shortcoming: By its very nature, it doesn’t hold onto passionate people to help share it.  I don’t know many passionate almost-vegetarians.  The passionate ones go on to become vegetarians, and the more passionate to become vegans.

Michael Pollan is passionate, and he’s created a passionate following of conscious eaters, even if they won’t give up meat entirely.  But he’s an exception: For the most part, I think people who claim to enjoy eating this way don’t actually do it. Plenty of people want to be the type who eat only ethically-raised animals (and I’m sure some especially like for others to see them as such).  But when the time comes to vote with their dollars, their vote is for factory farms, because of convenience, price, or really sadly, taste (how many people eating in restaurants really ask where the meat comes from?).

The other approach, anti-meat, isn’t perfect either.  It certainly spreads faster—wouldn’t you be more likely to read “7 Ways Meat Will Kill You” than “7 Benefits of Broccoli”?  And when you’re anti-meat, you get really mad. So mad that you feel you have to do something.  Anti-meaters tend to congregate, volunteer, and otherwise work to create change.

But as I wrote above, anti-meat also turns people off in a way that pro-vegetable does not, and I sense that the reader who emailed me was slightly turned off.  While pro-vegetable offers people an alternative or a new way of looking at things, anti-meat tells people that the way they live is wrong and they must change.  And nobody wants to hear that.

Neither approach is perfect, but they’re both infinitely better than doing nothing.

I’m asking you to choose one.  Or both.  Or make up your own.  Just do something.

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Comments

  1. I consider myself passionate in my almost-veganism. I stand firm that flexibility is necessary to fully enjoy your food, but I still consume so little of anything animal-derived that I feel I’m getting the best of both worlds. I feel good about what I eat because it’s my CHOICE, because I have a bounty of foods to select from and I select what I like best or want most. As soon as I tell myself I’m “not allowed” to have something, chances are, I’ll want it. So I say I can have whatever I want—then I go on to make my choice based on a combination of empirical data on what’s healthiest for my body, and what *I* most WANT to eat. It works for me :]

  2. As one of the “almost” vegetarians that you mentioned, I find that it’s very difficult to find sites that aren’t a complete turn-off. Yours is one of them!

    Why am I not entirely on the bandwagon? My husband. He is most assuredly a meat-eater, and communal meals are a challenge. However, once at a different site, I asked for suggestions on how to make our life easier (recipes, meal suggestions, the like), so that I could move towards being fully vegetarian. The hatred and anti-meat sentiment thrown at me truly turned me off of vegetarianism for awhile. Instead of encouraging words, helpful suggestions, or even well-formed arguments, these passionate folks insulted me for my weakness, and insinuated that I must be in a horrible relationship if there is any sort of debate about the issue.

    Sorry for the long comment, but I just wanted to clarify that I feel your posts are always well thought out, your arguments are strong, and they are truly encouraging to those of us that want to move in a better direction.

  3. I’m a lacto-ovo-pescitarian. I enjoy reading your blog because you’re not pushy, you just describe how you live, and why. I try and live that way–live according to my beliefs about food production, and tell people why when they ask. When they ask, I just calmly list my reasons, and usually the response is, “Wow, you really thought that out.” I even tell them that I frequently miss eating meat products, but I still won’t eat meat because of how I feel about the meat industry and their practices (hormones, ineffective land use, waste products, inhumane treatment, not wanting to kill anything I wouldn’t kill myself).

  4. I think you strike a nice balance between the pro-vegetable and anti-meat. I’ve been a vegetarian so long that I don’t need to be told why I shouldn’t eat meat, but the horrors of factory farming are reality. I don’t think you’re doing anyone any favors by pretending like that doesn’t exist. Also, this is your personal blog. You’re not being paid to write this and you don’t have an editor telling you what direction to take. So you get to write about whatever motivates you at the moment. Blogs that try to be too much to too many people end up being “meh.” I appreciate your passion!

  5. I’ve read Michael Pollan’s books and indeed they are well written and I enjoy them. I’ll even admit that he has influenced some of my eating decisions. However he is a journalist, why does everyone forget that? Two of his best arguments are 1) the fast food industry has the greatest buying power, and 2) goverment subsidies of corn and soy keep fast food cheap. Why do so many people overlook these well thought out and defended arguments just to jump on the “industrialized food” argument? The “factory meat” in the grocery coolers are a drop in the bucket compared to what McD’s purchases by the hour. That’s where the targeted effort should be, our dollars are our greatest voice weather we eat meat or not. CAFO’s and cheap corn only exist to serve fast food.

    I’m also tired of reading these info-lacking and North American-centric comments about “animals that are treated so horrendously by the industrial food complex.” That isn’t the case on the majority of farms. Why? Because unhealthy animals don’t make farmers money. Yes there are extreme ends of the spectrum (both ends), but in general the system in place is there to ensure healthy animals and healthy profits. Don’t believe me? Check out this vegetarian that went to a feedlot.

    http://www.precisionnutrition.com/cattle-feedlot-visit

  6. And since I read this regularly I imagine that you don’t just want a nice affirmation that you aren’t preachy about your choices. I would, however, agree this is true.

    In the debate between the two approaches, I think you can choose your strategy based on who the audience is, especially when you know the people you are talking to. Which is most likely to be receptive? Who is your audience, the first lesson in writing works for this too. I live in Alberta (aka Canada’s version of Texas) and with some folks, anti-meat is ant- livelihood for them and they take it very personally, which makes perfect sense. I have had some great success being anti-meat with some people, pro-veggie with others and then for the last group I keep my mouth shut and let them marvel at the 90lbs of me that is no longer there and let them come to me ;)

  7. Crazy wonderful post, Matt. I agree completely. I think I’m guilty of being overly compromising on my blog, because I know I write for various audiences of readers. I also know I’m writing to a lot of disordered eaters or formerly disordered ones, and I get frightened of telling anyone who’s already restricting food to go vegan right away, since I know he or she might not eat enough of the right things and might fail to thrive.

    And yet. I tend to forget that I don’t think it’s right to consume meat in our economy. And part of why I think that is bc the number of compassionate carnivores I know who really do live by those principles amounts to — NO ONE. I know people who talk the talk, but they’ll get turkey sandwiches in delis or order at a restaurant without asking where there meat is coming from. That isn’t compassionate — it’s selectively compassionate. And it won’t fix a damn thing.

    • I just had to comment, and defend myself and the few other compassionate omnivores out there. I have a longer comment below… but I just want to say we do exist.

      My rule is simple: I’m ultimately a vegan outside of my home, except when I can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the animal products are ethically raised.

      This means being annoying and asking questions. This means asking for things to be cooked in olive oil instead of butter. But I do it.

      I buy my eggs from a nearby farm, and have been known to take over my boyfriend’s Dad’s deep-freeze with a side of 100% grass fed and finished pastured beef because the farmer’s operation was too small for me to just buy a few cuts.

      I am lucky enough to live in Vancouver where fresh, locally, sustainably caught (and that is an important distinction as there is a substantial amount of wild fish caught in an unsustainable manner) is readily available. I buy straight from the docks, talk to the fisherman and am proud to support local business that way.

      We do exist. We may be few and far between, and yes most people assume I’m a vegan if they ever eat out with me, unless we’re somewhere with ethical options, and yes, I do grill the waiters. It’s important to me, and I’ve actually developed relationships with waiters by doing so as they are proud of the food their restaurant serves.

      I may have it easier then some living in Vancouver, a city known for its local-friendly ethical eating. I can generally, for 50C extra get organic eggs, or cheese etc, but the point is I DO walk the walk.

      • Maissa, I am jealous. Over here in Israel it’s very difficult to find ethically raised eggs or dairy products, not to mention meat (kosher slaughtering for one thing, and just overall disregard to animal welfare vis a vis savings).

        We ended up being de-facto vegan, as even free range eggs (which are available) are part of the overall abusive industry (for example, the chicks are bought from the same hatcheries that kill male chicks inhumanely).

  8. I am pro-vegetable (despite the title of my most recent post, haha). I previously wrote 2 posts on why I think you *should* eat meat in moderation, but the for the most part I am simply a vegetable enthusiast. My opinion is that meat is not a problem, it’s just that we are consuming too much meat and have allowed it to displace fruits and vegetables from our tables. So you have the overconsumption of meat coupled with a lack of plant consumption and they’re both problems.

  9. Brilliant! I am passionately pro-veg, but I’m pretty hardcore anti-meat, too. I would like to echo what Gena mentioned above…I don’t know a single ‘compassionate omnivore’. They really do talk the talk without walking the walk. They will say they want humane meat, free range (unregulated marketing myths, by the way) but then….they will happily order a meat filled meal at a restaurant without asking where it came from.

    Some people will be turned off by the anti-meat argument, but others, like me, will be touched to the core so much that they will transform their lives and go vegan. It was a very explicit anti-meat video (meet your meat) that made me vegan in about 5 minutes flat.

    It really does take all kinds to make a movement successful. There are some people who take to the kind, gentle approach, and others who really need to hear it shouted from the rooftops. One size does not fit all, and that is a very good thing.

    Great post!

    • 100% agree. I first became interested in plant-based eating when I was practicing the martial art Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The branch of the family that developed the art, the Gracies in California, have put up enthusiastic videos of vegetarian recipes and fruit picking. What really got me intrigued was that the founders of this art were typically small men, weighing around 150 lbs, but won numerous consensual challenge fights over bigger opponents to prove their art’s merit while subscribing to a plant-based diet. Pro-veggie made me know it’s possible, in the midst of popular misconception that you need animal protein to be healthy.

      But what really got me to become vegan was discovering factory farming videos shortly afterward. I dealt and confronted huge conflicts, as I realized I shouldn’t look at backyard barbeques and steak & potatoes the same way anymore. Naturally, being anti-meat made me vegan.

    • Voracious Vegan, thanks for your comment. I guess we should be fair and say that truly selective meat-eaters do exist (some have commented here, and I believe them). But I agree, many who say they’re selective are only minimally so, if at all. I wish this were not the case, because this is a lifestyle that so many more people might be willing to adopt than vegetarianism or veganism.

      Glad you liked the post!

  10. While an activist by nature I would call my style “activist-with-love” I feel like the most positive changes I’ve been a part of in others (confronting homophobia, racism, sexism, etc) were not saying “you should” but rather by simply practicing what I preach.

    In the same way, early on in this dietary vegan journey, I’m not spending time telling people not to eat meat. Instead, I’m telling them about all the great things I’m eating and how great I feel (and look, so they say.) My husband eats meat. He’s a grown up so he’s responsible for making his own food, just as I am for mine. I notice that, at least at home, 40% of his meals are vegetarian. I haven’t asked him, I’m just eating delicious food and he’s seeing an alternative.

    • JL, I’ll agree with that. Practicing what you preach is the best way to create change. Like Andrew said with the Ganhdi quote. But if you practice what you preach, that implies you preach!

  11. Sean from Tampa says:

    Most people I know are set in their ways and an anti-meat stance would be an immediate turn off and cause a defensive reaction. In my limited vegetarian/vegan experience I have found a pro-vegetable stance to be more effective. I like to let my actions do the talking. Since becoming a vegetarian and subsequently a vegan, I have dropped weight and I am running faster. I also do all the cooking around my house and I found that by not labeling the meals I cook as vegetarian, I will get more compliments than if I do.

  12. I am a passionate ‘almost vegetarian’. More importantly, I’m a passionate localvore. I do eat some (very little) meat, but only if it is local and ethically raised. That means that when I got out to a restaurant, over to a friends house, or order a pizza, I never eat meat. In fact, a lot of people just assume that I’m a vegetarian.

    The difference is that when I go to the farmers market, sometimes I’ll grab some meat from a farmer I know.

    Cutting back/out meat is important for so many reasons: a healthier diet, the treatment of animals, and what I believe to be one of the most important reasons, the environmental impact. Soy products often have a larger footprint than your local cow. It is important to know where all of your food comes from, veggie or not. I’m definitely pro-veggie and pro-local, not anti-meat.

  13. veronica says:

    I’m a regular omnivore who loves vegetables, so I guess you could say I’m pro-veggie. I understand the activist, anti-meat message, but I have my own reasons for not going all-the-way vegetarian. I love your blog because I’m a runner and I go several days in a row without eating meat, so I can get good information on here without too much preaching.

  14. I have to say, I consider myself a passionate, compassionate flexitarian if you must label it. I am a huge Michael Pollan fan, and strongly believe in his way of ethical eating, and yes I do practice what I ‘preach’ (not that I really preach… but you know).

    I buy all my eggs from a nearby farm, where I can see the chickens running around in their roomy, and spacious coop while I buy my eggs (I’ve fed and petted them before too). They certainly look happy.

    I buy all organic meat, and I’ve actually been to the farm it comes from and was satisfied with the way the chickens were being treated and raised (again, cage free, actually free-run etc.) It’s a small operation, and it costs me a lot, but I value my food enough to put in the money.

    When I eat beef, which is very rare as I don’t really like the taste, I buy grass-fed and finished. Again, I’ve been to the farm and met the cows myself.

    I am vegetarian at all restaurants, except the ones I know serve organic food. Indeed, if I can’t be sure of the quality of the eggs I go vegan.

    I don’t eat any dairy due to a dairy allergy, but I make sure the milk my boyfriend buys is equally organic. I actually dragged him to the farm where the dairy cows are raised to make sure they were, in fact, happy cows.

    Now as to the question of the cost of all this. Time wise, it is substantial. Then again, its a good excuse to spend time together outside exploring farms and supporting small-farm owners. So I spend my Saturday’s checking out chickens instead of at home on the couch. I’ll take it. Money-wise, yes I spend more on food. But the average American only spends 9.9% of their income on food, compared to Western European countries where the average is closer to 17%. Also, I don’t eat meat very often. I have chicken or fish (all wild, and sustainably caught, again I do my research, thoroughly) once or twice a week maximum, and beef maybe once a month, if even.

    To me it is about value. I value myself and the food I eat. I recognize that when I chose to eat meat it represents the death of an animal, and I want to feel good about what I am eating.

    Just wanted to raise my hand as a conscious eater who actually follows through. I think we’re becoming more of the norm as people become more educated.

    • Hey Maissa!

      I know you guys are out there, and I’m sorry if I made it sound as though I don’t. I simply haven’t met any of you guys — the folks who follow through even in social settings and dining out. Thanks for sharing your habits with us! I admire them.

      Gena

  15. Vegan now for about 2 years but not much of a veggie promoter or meat-hater – sometimes I will bring the boys some barbecue ribs from Central Texas.

    However, they are not blind and they can see what I look like and how my state of health compares with their friends’ dads of the same age, who are invariably on several kinds of medication, dealing with diabetes, gout, ED or some other debilitating health issue.

  16. This isn’t a judgement, I simply don’t understand…If one is going to be ok with slaughtering an animal and consuming it’s flesh, isn’t it a bit of a paradox to be concerned about how ‘humane’ the being’s short time on this earth was? How is it that it’s ok to kill when there are so many nutritious and incredible foods…and then somehow feel justified knowing that it was “free range” etc. It doesn’t add up to me. Choose to be an omnivore if you can stomach the fact that you ingesting another being…but hiding behind the ‘I only eat animals that were ethically or locally raised’ argument just doesn’t add up… in the end, the poor animal is dead….by buying the meat and consuming, you are contributing to the slaughter.

    • I think that people who consume “free range” meat are ultimately on the lookout for their own health more so than anything else. Yes, the animal still ends up dead (maybe even shipped to the same slaughterhouse and killed the same horrible way as the rest of them) but the person has the comfort of knowing they are eating hormone- and antibiotic-free meat. I also fail to see how eating a sustainably raised animal does anything for the animal… well, it doesn’t. The animal still experiences the same levels of pain and fear upon being slaughtered; who cares if it had a happier life, really.

      • Marina, I’m not sure if I agree with the end of your comment. If I were going to be slaughtered one day, yet had no knowledge of that fact (perhaps some animals do though), I think I’d rather live my remaining days being treated well rather than poorly. But I do agree that many people consuming “ethically-raised” meat are probably doing so for their own health, but I’m fine with that.

    • Peggy, I wrote a similar response to Marina. I think ethical treatment does make a difference, even if the animal will be killed eventually. I’d agree that by buying meat you’re contributing to the slaughter, and that sucks. But I think slaughter AND a terrible life is worse than slaughter and a decent life, if the animal is truly getting that.

  17. isn’t it hypocritical to be vegetarian but not vegan if the welfare of animals is your primary motivation? i thought elizabeth kolbert’s article on jonathan saffron foer’s “eating animals” was excellent (link to the full article below):
    Meanwhile, it could be argued that even a vegetarian diet falls short. As Foer is well aware, some of the animals that suffer most from the factory-farm system aren’t the ones that end up on the table. Most dairy cows spend their lives in sheds, where they are milked two or three times a day by machine. Many develop chronic udder infections. Laying chickens are kept in cages, jammed in so tightly that they don’t have room to spread their wings. To prevent them from cannibalizing one another, their beaks are trimmed with a hot blade. When their production begins to decline, they are starved for a week or two to reset their biological clocks.

    http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2009/11/09/091109crbo_books_kolbert#ixzz0uRhIcG2y

    i think your writing comes across as being more pro-vegetable than anti-meat (despite the name of the blog). part of that could be the influence of thrive – brazier concentrates on the benefits of the thrive diet more so than the negatives of other diets. it’s about improving performance and doing what’s best for the earth, not about tearing down others who disagree with your views.

    • Matt, interesting stuff. I think “hypocritical” might be the wrong word here, unless you’re talking about people SAYING that concern for animals is their primary concern but not being vegan. If they’re not making it public, just thinking it, then I think it’s more an issue of not being true to themselves (which is just as bad).

      But that’s not the point of your comment, I realize. So if welfare of animals is one’s primary concern, should one be vegan? I don’t think so, necessarily. Let’s say welfare of animals is 50% of your concern, your own health is 25%, and enjoying food another 25%. In that case, I’d say those ratios should govern how you eat. If you don’t think vegan is the healthiest way, then looking out for your own health will prevent you from becoming vegan.

      If you replace “primary” by “only” in your comment, then I’d agree with you.

      Also, that argument that the life of a dairy cow is just as bad as (or worse than) the life of a cow destined to become hamburger is one that has helped me a lot. In terms of my own priorities and concerns with respect to eating, knowing that and reminding myself of that has greatly reduced the amount of dairy I consume. I’m not fully vegan yet, but the more I hear stuff like that the closer I get. Great comment.

  18. When I first became vegan, I was very anti-meat. For me, it’s about ethics first and foremost. But I forgot about the veggies! Now I am pro-veggie and anti-meat (and anything that cruelly exploits animals). You are simply renaming whether people should go veggie for health reasons or for ethics. Basically, the ethics are what sticks, because health fads tend to change.

    • Bitt, that’s a really good point. Pro-veggie focuses on health benefits, anti-meat focuses on cruelty. I didn’t think of that. And very interesting to think that health fads change while ethics don’t. Great comment.

  19. I don’t avoid meat (so I’m probably not your average reader of your site) but I recognize that vegetarian meals can be very tasty and very healthy.

    My wife and I will go days at a time without eating any meat, but don’t have much interest in completely removing it from our diet.

    Maybe one of these days I’ll convince her that we should go for 30 days to see what we think, but she hasn’t been too keen on it. I’ll settle for most of my meat coming from local sources, not so much because of the animal rights issues but because of the health and environmental benefits. (The animal rights issues are more a bonus.)

    • Blaine, you should check out Thrive if you want to get inspired to try being meatless for 30 days. I say that because the focus there is so much on health, followed by environment. The animal rights part is hardly mentioned.

  20. Interesting topic. I usually go pro veggie…vs. anti meat. And to be honest- its mostly because I hate the retaliation that meat eaters lay on me when I take the anti meat approach. I try to win they over with my love of veggies and then hint at the bad side of farmed meat.

  21. To be honest I think being anti-meat is counterproductive. Just live the change you want to see in the world. Can’t remember who said that but it is especially true with regard to this issue.

  22. Great topic and post, it’s really interesting to read everyone’s comments and opinions on the debate. I myself eat eggs (from a co-worker of my Mom’s who has personally assured me of the conditions of the chickens) dairy products, and occasionally some fish (which I check to make sure it’s sustainable on labels and websites first). I rarely eat other types of meat and when / if I do I make well certain I know where it’s coming from.

    I don’t like the idea behind all of the labeling – that’s what gets people upset and disgusted in the first place – but I simply try to have a diet that fits my needs and lifestyle. I’m not perfect, and neither is the next person, whether or not they eat meat, ask where it comes from, or abstains from all animal products period.

    Again, very thoughtful post, keep up the great content. :)

    • Daniel, I agree about labels. I wish I were able to not think in terms of carnivore/vegetarian/vegan, but I have trouble with the slippery slope. I used to eat fish occasionally, especially the ones that I (somewhat arbitrarily) viewed as “lower,” like shrimp and crabs. But if I can’t call myself vegetarian, then would be easy for me to allow other fish on occasion. And then I could see it moving to chicken. And so on. That’s part of why I’m vegetarian and not a selective carnivore.

  23. I live this post. You should read Eating Animals if you haven’t already. It does a good job of motivating me to discuss more openly the reasons I don’t eat meat without too much preaching or judgement.

  24. I loved reading all the comments, and hearing others’ opinions about this.

    I think it’s a complicated issue. Partly because not all vegetarians eat healthily…or even ethically. And partly because being staunchly anti-meat simply feeds into the world’s stereotypes of vegetarians/vegans, and ends up being counter-productive. You don’t want to turn people off from consuming less/no meat. You want them to see the benefits first. And then maybe once the benefits have been made clear, you can switch your approach.

    I’ve been a vegetarian for most of my life now, and the reasons for doing so have changed over the years. But I have to say that in over 10+ years of not eating meat, the thing that has “spoken” the loudest are my actions. I can understand feeling passionate about your diet choices, and the best way to fuel that passion is with righteous anger. But people as a rule don’t like the idea of being judged or forced to change. You need to prove the benefits of something before you can expect them to take you seriously.

    Maybe my approach is different because I look at the issue more from a public health standpoint than an animal rights standpoint (not that I don’t love animals and feel strongly opposed to how they’re treated…it’s just that making the nation healthier is my line of work and my passion). Right now, we eat way too much meat in America. So if I can inspire people to at least cut back on the amount they are eating, I see that as a little success.

  25. Though I don’t eat meat(aside from occasional seafood) I’m not anti-meat and I’m definitely pro-veggie. I hate animal cruelty and when I buy meat for my husband I NEVER get it at the grocery store but from the local farmer that I can actually see how he raises his animals.

    I think either one can be affective. Being anti meat but not pro veggie sort of makes you wonder if the preacher loves food? You have to show how good veggies are for people to buy your anti meat schtick.

  26. I’m definitely pro-veggie. I got into a really intense conversation with someone about this the other day. He asked me why I’m a vegetarian, and I told him it was my way of ensuring the food that goes in to my body is the healthiest source possible. Meat doesn’t fit in to my definition of what’s healthy. It may be the definition for some other people, though. To each his own.

    I shy away from being anti-meat, mainly because I tend to take a positive approach to everything. I’d rather tell people what they CAN do (“Hey, look at all the awesome food you can make with vegetables!”) than what they CAN’T (“Don’t eat meat. Meat bad.”) because the second you tell someone they can’t have something, they’ll shut you out.

    People automatically assume that because I’m a vegetarian, I’m depriving myself of the “pleasure” of eating meat — after talking to me, they realize I don’t feel deprived at all. I love food and I love eating and I love what I eat. Yay for vegetables!

  27. Wow, really great stuff here. On one hand, I am drawn to your blog as an “athlete” who leans toward no meat. We only eat humanely raised meat at home but GUILTY I do not always as, when out, where meat comes from. I do think “safe has shortcomings.” Keep up the passion. You can say no meat without making people angry, at least I think you can.

  28. Very simply, I am pro-animal (loving them, not eating them) I think people choose the veg route for many reasons. I initially gave up meat for health reasons, but am now committed to my vegetarianism for reasons of compassion.

    Also 17 days into my dairy-free challenge, so being vegan may be right around the corner.

  29. Now that I’ve had a few days to digest this post and really give some sincere thought my response is easy…I am anti-meat. If being a vegetarian were simply about health I wouldn’t be able to have sustained it for 8 years. I wouldn’t be so adamant that my daughters be vegetarian. And I certainly wouldn’t have had all the heated arguments with my family about the issue.

    For me being a vegetarian is less about health (although I will be the first to admit my health has increased exponentially in the past 8 years) and more about not being willing to participate in the factory farm, big business, government-hand-in-pocketbook situation that has been created in this country.

    I choose to vote with my wallet everyday by NOT buying meat. I may only be one person and that may not mean much, but I can rest easier knowing that no animals were tortured for my satisfaction.

    Volunteering, raising money and awareness have become welcomed side effects of my 8 year old choice and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    As far as being “preachy” I NEVER bring up the topic to others, but as soon as they ask me the all knowing question “Why are you a vegetarian?” the look on their face changes from interest to “who the hell do you think you are” almost instantly.

    That, I believe, is sad.

  30. I don’t think I need to choose one, although I’m more anti-meat than pro vegetables…

    The important things for me are above both, I’m pro education. Pro empowerment – helping people make better choices.

    The vast problem out there is sheer miseducation and misinformation. I can’t change anyone’s mind but I can help them to make up their own.

    So of course I’m anti-meat and pro-vegetable, but neither are a big part of my strategy when it comes to helping people make positive, empowered changes.

    Do I have to be anti-anything for meat to be bad? No, it’s just naturally that way and when you face facts and encourage others to do so, reality speaks for itself.

  31. i LOVED this!

    i think it’s so tricky because even if you start your journey like me going veggie just for the health benefits, usually you find the meat/dairy industry more and more revolting as time goes on.

    i think that’s where you are, too. you keep educating yourself, so you keep uncovering things you wish weren’t true. and those things put the FIRE OF GOD in you.

    either way – your blog rocks. along with Thrive, it’s one of my favorite resources for fuel/tips. keep it up!
    -rebekah

  32. I’ve always considered myself animal-friendly, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized I don’t eat a lot of meat to begin with, so why don’t I stop altogether? I think I’m more pro-vegetable than anything else, but I’m not going to say I’ll never eat meat again. Even if I do eat meat at some point I think the fact that I’ve eliminated it for the most part, is still helping out in ways I never did before.

  33. Interesting post. I’m not a vegetarian but I eat very little meat typically. My husband and I are part of a local farm’s CSA. They raise their chickens naturally, roaming around, eating grass and compost from Whole Foods. If we buy red meat we get it from local organic farmers. We like to support the local farmers and know that the animals aren’t in feed lots and pumped full of antibiotics and such.

    I probably won’t ever became a full fledged vegetarian craving, but I do understand why so many people are choosing a vegetarian lifestyle.

  34. Sometimes what people NEED to hear is not what they WANT to hear.

    Also, “pro” versus “anti-” is a matter of perspective. Being *against* animal exploitation and cruelty is being *for* the animals that would be bred, exploited and killed for their meat, skin, secretions, etc. And I’m much more worried about the lives and suffering of those animals than making a few people uncomfortable with their own contributions to the suffering of those animals.

  35. A curious comment you recieved. I think you’re going on a good assumption that people are more turned off by the anti-meat message than they are the pro-veg. There are times in my life when I get so angry and horrified about factory farms that I probably have turned people off. I try to remain pretty chill about it all. I tell people what I am doing, if they have any questions about why I will answer them, but it doesn’t have to determine my identity.

  36. I have committed to only eating meat whose history I know- in that I know where and how it was raised. I won’t eat anything that wasn’t *truly* free-range, pastured, and humanely treated.

    This meat is insanely expensive, and so I have it once in a blue moon when I’m feeling spendy. I can buy it through local farmer’s markets. It is delicious. For the rest of my life, I’m a vegetarian (local milk and eggs from humane family farms are pricier than the factory-farmed ones, but still in reach for me.)

    I love the food I eat and I feel good about eating it. I guess I count as “almost vegetarian” and that’s fine by me. Vegetarian food is delicious!

    • JenB,

      “…how it was raised.”

      “I won’t eat anything…”

      Animals aren’t things. They are sentient beings, hes and shes. And even keeping them in pretty pastures and “humanely” slaughtering them is unnecessary and cruel and unjust. Please go vegan.

      • Thanks for this comment, Meg. Animals are indeed not “its.”

      • That’s not an argument that will sway me from eating meat.

        Health benefits, that might sway me.

        Nasty chemicals or disease potential from keeping animals penned up in their own excretions their entire life and pumping them full of drugs? That will sway me too.

        Denying that humans are omnivorous (or that carnivorous animals don’t have the right to live) does not hold any water for me.

        Not that I don’t think it’s not a good reason, just that it isn’t a reason for me to give up meat.

        That said, I do tend to prefer knowing where my meat came from and how it was raised. I also prefer supporting local farmers as I’d rather that my money stay in my own community.

        • Blaine,

          I would respectfully say that, while it may be nature’s dictate to say we are omnivorous, that does not mean it’s ethical. Nature’s brutal laws also compel us to rape, kill, and subjugate.

          I agree with all of your personally motivated reasons to be vegan–health, the desire to shield yourself from waste and chemicals, personal athletic performance, etc. But that doesn’t mean that the ethical reasons, while not as directly self-serving, aren’t also persuasive.

          Gena

          • Gena,

            That’s what I was trying to get at. I am not saying that it isn’t a good reason to persuade somebody else.

            I’m just saying that for myself, I don’t see the ethical problems with the way that I live my life.

            Ethics are not universal; they are a product of how we are raised and the culture we live in.

            While I’m not a hunter, hunting is a big part of my state’s industry; it keeps money coming into the state and it helps keep animal populations below a threshold where they are not a nuisance to the human population.

            I’m not going to refuse to eat a deer or a moose that a friend or family member shot, and you can argue that that animal was not (potentially) mistreated in any way right up until the moment it was killed.

            By extension, I’m not going to refuse to buy the meat from local farmers that keep them from closing their farms and allowing another wal-mart to be built on their property.

            Nor am I going to give up eating fresh fish caught in the wild (at least as long as I live a few miles from the ocean.)

            My family has no interest in evening trying to be vegetarian and I’d rather eat with my family than by myself, so if I did consider it an ethical problem (for me personally) to eat meat, then I’d be going hungry pretty often. I prefer not to be hungry.

            Not that that argument should sway anybody to eat meat. That’s just my own decision.

        • “Denying that humans are omnivorous (or that carnivorous animals don’t have the right to live) does not hold any water for me.”

          I’ve done neither. We are omnivores. Hence, we have a choice. Other animals might not, but we do.

          I think it’s very sad that you would only be swayed out of selfish fears for your own health and not because you have the choice not to exploit and kill others for your pleasure. But that is your choice.

  37. Blaine,

    My father’s family are all hunters and farmers from NH, so I’m not without sympathy for what you say. Nor would I deny the relativity of morals. But of course, that doesn’t mean we don’t try to fight for the morals we’ve chosen to believe in.

    G

  38. I’m pro-consciousness: I think getting people to think about what they eat is a huge step in encouraging them to make changes in their own lives. Most people eat without facing where their food comes from, much less what it was. I’m not an activist, but I do provide information to people who are curious about my own vegetarianism and encourage themselves to learn more and think about meat as a decision with a significant price, rather than a default. Oh yeah, and I cook yummy meatless things for them. :-)

    I also support flexitarians and people cutting down on the total amount of meat they eat, because you have to start somewhere, and the cumulative effect of several flexitarians is probably equal to a one or two vegetarians or vegans.

  39. People shouldn’t just assume that everyone can afford the option of going vegan or vegetarian, even if they want to. When you’re barely making ends meet, you’re about to lose your house and the only reason you still have the internet is because it’s necessary for your floundering home business, you don’t have the luxury of buying a wide enough range of animal-free food products to have a balanced diet.

    • Hi Mandy,

      First off, no one is too poor to be vegan. If you look at the definition of vegan (from http://www.vegansociety.com/about/who-we-are.aspx, the founders of veganism), it says, “Veganism is a way of living that seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing and any other purpose.” Note: “as far as possible and practicable”. In other words, you do what you can.

      Now, I can definitely imagine situations where someone can not be strictly vegetarian due to their situation. If they rely a lot on hunting/fishing or on handouts, they might have a problem, at least initially. However, for anyone who has even a basic grocery store and the ability to buy food (even with food stamps), a strictly vegetarian (aka “vegan”) diet is often VERY, VERY affordable. And, in fact, many people around the world adopt at least a vegetarian diet in order to save money. After all, most of the cheapest foods are vegan: beans, rice, lentils, potatoes, sweet potatoes, pasta, collards, and so on. While I personally prefer more variety and can afford it, I’ve seen others do quite well as vegans on an EXTREMELY tight budget. And yes, they are quite healthy for it — a lot healthier than most people with their food budgets who spend it on stuff like meat, dairy, and eggs.

    • Having experienced the life of a poor college student living in an expensive city, and then the life of an even poorer book editor (despite what anyone thinks about the glamour of publishing, the salaries are among the lowest of any industry nationwide) living in an expensive city, from both vegan and non vegan vantage points, I’ll say this: rice and beans and dried lentils were much cheaper than purchasing fish and dairy foods, period. A bag of chickpeas and a bag of rice, along with what produce I could afford, kept me nourished and on track with my budget for a week in my early days of struggling to pay my rent. Now, I can afford to spend more on “luxury” foods, but it wasn’t always like that.

      If you intend to be the sort of vegan who buys chia seeds, “superfoods,” macadamias and pine nuts, expensive snack bars, and organic everything, yeah, it’ll be costly. But that’s just one variety of veganism. The basics–grains, legumes, and what produce is cheap–are within any slim budget.

      G

  40. Also important: bulk bins! Buying legumes and grains in bulk is far cheaper than buying little bags of the fancy organic brands, or even the regular bags of Goya stuff. To this day–and as I reenter student life–I intend to live off of bulk bins. I won’t be buying goji berries or pine nuts anytime soon, or for a while, but I feel confident that even as my budget downsizes again, I can maintain happiness, good taste, and health as a vegan who eats high raw.

  41. Ok, I’m clearly a little late in the comment game… but I’m 100% pro-vegetable, and I’m really glad you posted this. I’ve been toying with the idea of vegetarianism for a while (I even gave up meat for lent this year!), but I don’t really feel the same passion you feel about animal rights. Really, I just love vegetables.

    I normally eat meat at about 3-4 meals a week, usually when it’s the best or only option provided (I’m a college student eating in a dorm so options are limited sometimes). The rest of the time, I eat a lot of plants. It’s not unusual for me to eat an entire plate of green beans with my dinner, plus fruit and some other sort of veggie.

    I’m definitely not a vegetarian, nor would I ever label myself a vegetarian, but I am passionate about my veggies.

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