Definitions, just to be clear:
-Vegetarian: does not consume meat (e.g. red meat, poultry, seafood, any other flesh of an animal)
-Pescatarian: consumes seafood, but no other forms of meat
-Vegan: does not consume meat or any animal byproducts (e.g. milk, eggs, ice cream, etc.)
-Flexitarian: consumes a mostly plant-based diet, but occasionally consumes meat
-Compassionate eater: consumes only meat that has been humanely raised and slaughtered
Just a few days ago, on January 1st, marks the one year anniversary of being a “vegetarian.” I’ll explain why vegetarian is in quotes later. I do want to explain my story however, because it’s a very important part of my identity and life. So actually, ever since my freshmen year of high school, I had wanted to be a vegetarian. I had watched a documentary, called “A Peaceable Kingdom,” that follows the moral conflicts and transformations of farmers in the mass production agricultural business. I was also a part of an environmental club that exposed the tremendously negative implications of factory farming (i.e. the immense costs to mother nature). Both of these contributing factors led me to being a half-week vegetarian, in which I only ate meat 3 or 4 days a week. I kinda continued to do it in college; unintentionally though, because dining hall meat wasn’t very appetizing.
Things changed during the fall semester of my junior year when I read “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer. Two fun facts: 1) My friend actually brought me to his book signing in Chicago during high school, and 2) I randomly found this book in the library and checked it out because I liked the cover. Little did I know that this book would change my life. The book documents Foer’s own investigation into the many facets of meat production and vegetarianism, which includes many vivid stories and insightful interviews. My favorite part of the book was when Foer suggested an alternative to the growing meat consumption in the United States- eating dogs (hundreds of thousands are put down a year anyway… what’s the difference between eating dogs and pigs anyway? It’s all meat, right? It’s a provocative idea, so I suggest you read the book!). Overall, my takeaway from the book was: Vegetarianism just makes sense 1) morally, 2) healthily, and 3) environmentally. I’ll explain: 1) mass meat production by factory farming results in animals being tortured and slaughtered in the most ineffective and cruelest ways, 2) do you know what they inject into mass produced meat?! Tons of hormones, antibiotics and chemicals! I’d rather have longevity, thank you very much, and 3) factory farming strains our environment by creating huge quantities of waste and pollution, and requiring so many other resources to maintain operations (e.g. the millions of pounds of corn and grains that have to be grown, processed, and then fed to the animals, the gallons upon gallons of fuel needed to transport the meat, the many acres of land needed to grow food for the animals and for grazing land, etc.). This is why it made so much sense to me.
However, I still wasn’t sure how vegetarianism would tie into my faith. Since becoming a vegetarian would affect every aspect of my life, I knew I had to consider it prayerfully and search for the truth in the Bible. In the book of Genesis, God created all living things and gave humans dominion over them. In other words, humans were given the job of ruling over the animals and plants, as well as take care of them. However, the “marvels” of food production today such as factory farming and produce doused in pesticides and chemicals, seem contrary to the commands of stewardship that God gave us. In fact, I would argue that such methods strip food of their original integrity. Another note on meat however, people continue to eat it throughout the Bible, including Jesus. I’m not positive about how they raised animals back then, but I know for sure it wasn’t by factory farming. Therefore I’m pretty sure part of having dominion over animals (and plants) is the ability to consume them for food (i.e. it’s OK to eat meat). However, I believe that superior stewardship over both plants and animals means treating them with care, compassion, and integrity. I believe that’s how I can glorify God too. And that’s why I’m all for cruelty-free meat and organic, pesticide-free produce. I now consider myself a compassionate and conscious eater.
Sadly in the United States, it’s very difficult to find cruelty meat (though, Chipotle chicken holla!) and organic produce is really expensive, so I can’t always eat the same as my beliefs, but I try. And this is why I love Lumbisí so much! Not only is the produce organic and pesticide-free, but the animals are raised and slaughtered humanely. In fact, the chickens are taken care of well by their families or are running around in the mountains. None of them are treated with chemicals or debeaked. They’re just homegrown and delicious. I still haven’t eaten too much meat here yet actually… But hey, everything I’ve consumed here thus far has contributed to my feelings of fantasticness and fulfillment.
I don’t mean to sound pretentious, so sorry if I do! I want to challenge you though, to think about where your food actually comes from. Especially in developed countries, most people are so disconnected with the process of food production that they just become blind consumers. Considering you eat every day, you should care more about what you’re putting into your body, because it has lifelong implications for your moral beliefs, spirituality, health, and the environment. And if you’ve already thought about all of these and still want to eat what you’ve always been eating, that’s fine. I understand that people are different and are called to live different lifestyles. This post isn’t meant to convert you into believing the same things as me or subscribing to the same habits. I just wrote this to share my food journey and give a different perspective on the whole vegetarian issue.