Braving Vegetarian and The Thanksgiving Turkey November 15, 2012 16:35

Co-Authored by Alyssa and Ashley

If you ask people what are some of their favorite things to do, one of the most common answers is “eating”.  I have yet to meet a person who does not claim to love food.  The majority of our society does not eat to live, we live to eat!  It is a social, traditional and cultural aspect of our daily lives. This is one key reason why vegetarianism is so controversial.

Alyssa’s Take

I have never been a big meat eater, but I have yet to make the full commitment to become a vegetarian.  I don’t think eating animals is wrong, but I do think supporting factory farming by eating animals that come from such tortured conditions is wrong.  I also think it is unhealthy, kind of gross, and on top of that, I only have this one body so I better take care of it. 

In my experience, most people cannot understand why someone would choose to become a vegetarian or be anti-meat-eating.  I think education and research on what we are actually consuming is a game-changer.  But this is my belief.  And, same as I feel about my beliefs in anything else, I know I have the right to think this way but I must refrain from forcing this opinion on anyone else or claim that ‘I’m right and you’re wrong.’ 

So when people ask me, “Why don’t you eat chicken? It’s good for you,” I usually respond with a simple “Trust me, I have my reasons.”  Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Eating Animals, would probably be disappointed with this response, as he would probably tell me that I am passing up a prime opportunity to spread the truths about factory farming.  And yes, he’d be right. However, I do often follow up with telling people to read Foer’s book or any other testimonial about factory farming to learn more about my reasons for not eating poultry, etc. 

The tricky part for Ashley, who has long been a committed vegetarian, is how to raise her kids in light of this issue. 

Ashley’s Take

So, yes, I’m a vegetarian and have been for about 10 years. Even before I fully gave up meat eating, I dabbled in ‘boycotting’ certain meats due to the way the animals were treated or what animal parts were in the food. For example, I gave up hot dogs as a young child, upon learning what was actually in them. I quit octopus (a sushi favorite) as soon as I became aware of the animal’s high intelligence.

But it hasn’t always been easy. Since becoming a vegetarian, I have had lapses. A bite of filet mignon at a high end restaurant, a taste of steak grilled by our Argentinean friend, a sip of chicken noodle soup during a particularly nasty bout with the flu. And while I could probably count the total of these lapses on one hand, they have been enough to make me reconsider my choice to abstain from eating animals.

Ultimately, I have a lot of reasons for remaining vegetarian. Health, animal rights, humanity, concern about the impact of factory farming on our Earth, genetic modification, hormones, cloning and so on. I agree with Alyssa that there is a humane and responsible way to consume meat, and it is becoming easier to do so. But for me, I don’t feel that I need meat badly enough that a pig or cow or chicken needs to be slaughtered for my dining pleasure.

That being said, my children are not vegetarians. I have grappled with this decision for years, and my oldest son did start out as a vegetarian. What I’ve learned from feeding my family (which includes a meat-eating husband) is that it can be difficult to feed a child a fully balanced diet without meat. I know many people do it, and I applaud them. But children are picky eaters, and many of the foods they need to consume regularly to replace meat are often foods they do not like.

So for now, my children eat meat as responsibly as I can possibly enable – free range, humanely raised, hormone-free meat from local farms. I know where their meat comes from and what’s in (or NOT in) it. We will educate them about what eating meat means for their health and the planet, and the risks associated with factory farming. In time, they will have to choose for themselves, and I will support whichever decision they make, (though I secretly hope they choose vegetarian!).

In light of Thanksgiving, we will be serving Turkey, and my family, not including me, will be eating it. But our Turkey will be from a local farm, and will have lived a happy turkey life before it is served at our table. It’s not perfect, but it’s the balance that our family has achieved.

How does your family balance traditional holiday foods with your moral beliefs?

-Alyssa and Ashley