“Be careful, buddy” is what I say every time I avoid hitting wildlife crossing the road. And for those that weren’t so lucky I offer a “Rest in peace, good luck in the next lifetime!” I have a hard time hurting or killing anything. I’m that person who takes a cup and a piece of cardboard to embark on a wasp rescue mission. The only exception I make are mosquitoes and I’m not proud of it but I claim self defense. Despite my love and compassion for animals, I have eaten meat my whole life. A typical German child, I was practically raised on meat and potatoes. For most of my life I chose to ignore the fact that eating a piece of meat required for an animal to die. When the time came that I could no longer ignore the obvious, I soothed my guilty conscience with excuses such as “one person isn’t going to make a difference” or “the cow’s already dead, I might as well eat the steak.” Once aware that those excuses didn’t cut it, I felt like a hypocrite with increasing frequency. Telling a cute deer to be careful out there on my way to the supermarket, then loading up the shopping cart with pieces of dead cows, pigs, and chickens didn’t work for me anymore, especially because of the way these animals are raised and killed. Unfortunately, the majority of meat that we purchase isn’t coming from farms where animals get to live happily until they are killed with as little suffering as possible. It’s coming from factories, in every sense of the word. It’s mass production with conveyor belts and automated processes (including the killing). The meat industry is exactly that – an industry. And it’s a disgusting one.
So a few months ago, I decided that I no longer wanted to be a hypocrite. It’s part of human nature to be hypocritical. We make excuses to justify fucked up decisions when it suits our needs. We all do that. My goal is to do less of it. Not being involved in the inhumane killing of animals seemed like a good place to start. Have I slipped up since making that decision? Absolutely. Hungry on the road late at night and the turkey sandwich seemed like the best choice? I went for it. My lunch crew at work wanted to try the new chicken place? I made an exception, justifying it with a half-assed google search about the idyllic farms this place sources their meat from. Mediterranean restaurant with an Adana kebab (lamb) special that tastes just like it did back in Turkey? Yes, please, for old times’ sake. Over time, those exceptions have become less frequent, and I’ve gotten better at finding things to eat that don’t invoke images of terrified baby animals that will never get to be nurtured and protected by their mothers because they’re being whisked away on a conveyor belt as soon as they can stand on their own two or four feet (see below). What I’m trying to say is this: I find the meat industry fucking terrible and disgusting on multiple levels and I don’t want to support it any longer.
What the fuck took me so long to get here? First, convenience. Especially as an athlete, meat is an easy source of protein. It fills you up and it’s easy to prepare (the grilled chicken, not the perfect filet mignon). There are significantly more entrees including meat than there are vegetarian ones on the average restaurant menu. It also tastes great, especially when some of your favorite childhood memories involve a juicy piece of meat coming fresh of the grill, made with love by your dad. I also thought I would be doomed to eating copious amounts of beans and carbs in order to ever feel full and that I would therefore have copious amounts of gas. The good news is (TMI alert): not any more gas than while eating meat. Also, not more pizza or baked goods than while eating meat. It really hasn’t been that hard, it hasn’t been a constant struggle to resist temptation. And if when there is temptation, it’s overpowered by feeling like less of a horrible person.