A Vegetarian Conversion
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Posted on 08/08/2011 by Jim
God took pity on me for my lack of an evangelical conversion experience and provided me with one. The only catch is that it doesn't involve my eternal salvation. It involves my diet. I've had a vegetarian conversion.
My Bible for this conversion was Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. I purchased it on a whim after reading a blog post singing it's praises. Meticulously researched and skillfully written, it's less a persuasive essay than an inner dialogue shared with the world. In the end it serves as a sobering presentation of modern meat eating.
Did you know that:
- Over 99% of animal products come from factory farms.
- We've modified the turkeys and chickens we eat so much that they are incapable of living to adulthood.
- The average chicken whose eggs you eat lives in 67 square inches of space. That's smaller than the computer monitor you're reading this on.*
- Free range? It just means there's a door somewhere that leads outdoors.
- It's not uncommon for animals (chicken, pig, cow, take your pick) to be alive during the butchering process because the stunning method fails.
I'll stop there. There are more facts to present than I have space for. I'd highly recommend that you read Eating Animals or do your own research.
In the end it's hard to argue with the facts. Modern meat comes from factory farms. Factory farms are almost inevitably cruel and inhumane. Shall I complete the logic?
Bacon is good. Bacon is really good. There's no denying that. There's also no denying that the pig you eat the bacon from probably never saw outdoors. It was fed a completely unnatural diet replete with antibiotics to keep it alive. There's a good chance it was born in a gestation crate not even big enough for its mother to turn around in.
How good is that bacon now?
And this doesn't even get into the public health, environmental, climate change, or nutrition aspects of eating meat. Not to mention the ethics of eating meat. But let's leave all that aside.
Knowing that you can eat a perfectly healthy diet without meat, is the cruelty worth it to you? Can you justify it?
One of my favorite passages from Eating Animals is Foer's response to the accusation that vegetarians are sentimentalists. He politely points out that people who eat meat do so because of tradition and people who don't because they know the facts of animal welfare. Who's the sentimentalist here?
Some would say that real men eat meat. I say that real men look at the facts and decide if their actions are worth it. I've decided mine aren't. Are yours?
I've asked a lot of rhetorical questions. So does Foer. But there's a reason for that. No one is going to force you or I to change our diets. There's no law against eating meat. It comes down to personal choice. A judgment call, if you will. You have to ask questions, of the meat industry, and of yourself. You may not be comfortable with the answers.
I challenge you to give it a go. Ask the questions. Read a book. Do the research. Maybe you'll have a conversion like me. Maybe not. But at least you'll know what it means for us to be eating animals.
* If you're on your iPhone, imagine a space about 6.5 times the size of your phone. Yes, it's that small.