On eating meat

by Andie Mitchell on March 9, 2014

farmphoto by Kevin Dooley

I, Andie Mitchell, am crazy about animals. So let’s start there. I’m one of those annoying people who emails friends with the latest video of a squirrel and a duck playing together. I can’t pass a dog on the street without breaking into a wide-eyed grin and saying hello in this really crazy, babyish voice (absolutely as terrible as it sounds). I cry when I pass a dead raccoon on the side of the road. Just a month and a half ago, I found a teeny tiny mouse, curled up in a ball, dead, in the corner of my living room, and I was convinced he’d died because he had no way to escape my apartment since we blocked this small hole in my closet. I cried like you wouldn’t believe. And yet, I eat meat almost everyday.

 chicksphoto by Thomas Vlerick

I have a very difficult time reconciling my love of animals and my eating meat. I really do. Not for health reasons, but for ethical ones. In the past, I’ve gone through periods where I’ve completely eliminated meat, and each time, I’ve failed. After a few weeks, or maybe months, I eventually find myself at a friend’s table, or a restaurant, or on some food tour, and I just can’t will myself to abstain. Meat is plentiful, a convenient source of protein, fat, and calories, and sometimes regrettably for me — delicious. Burgers are the reason I stay married to meat.

 calfphoto by Martin Abegglen

I give in not because I don’t care; no, I give in because it’s easy to give in, and I’m certain that’s not a good enough reason. I’ve spent a long time debating the ethics of consuming living creatures. At this point in my life, I just don’t know if I am capable of completely giving up meat. I can rationalize eating animals as being ethical and healthful — meaning, I listen to the argument in favor of eating animals and all of the positives behind doing so; I understand them, and I can certainly acknowledge a large part of the validity —  but honestly, I’m not all the way there in believing that it’s right for me.

pigletphoto by Neil Turner

People often use the argument that eating meat is OK because other animals do it. “Is it immoral for a lion to eat a gazelle?” “Would a shark have an ethical problem with eating you?” The difference is that humans are capable of moral reason, sharks are not. Other animals are not bound by morality because they don’t have the capacity to comprehend the consequences of their actions. I have other food sources available to me; I don’t need to rely on animals to sustain me. And at the very base of it, I just don’t like the idea that I have the power to decide when another sentient being dies.

calfphoto by langleyo 

One aspect of this debate that I absolutely cannot ethically stomach is the role of factory farming. Animals in factory farms are largely treated inhumanely and the environmental impact of the industry is potentially disastrous. The meat produced by these farms is often less nutritious than the meat from animals that have been raised and slaughtered on farms where they’re able to roam freely and eat their natural diet, and that’s in large part because of the widespread mistreatment and the poor and unnatural conditions in which they live. And so, even though I have accepted meat as part of my life, I do strive to eliminate meat from factory farming sources. I’m not wholly successful because of the prevalence of factory farmed products (when I’m out to dinner, I can’t always be sure where the meat is from), but I avoid it whenever I can. One important thing to note is that animals can and do play an important role in sustainable farming, so I think there is a sound ethical argument for eating meat that comes from these sustainable sources.

I am not entirely sure of the point of this post, or where to leave it. I’m not trying to convince anyone to eat meat, or to avoid it. People are generally aware of the arguments on either side and have made a decision for themselves. And that’s what we’ve all got to do. It’s so personal. It’s cultural. Societal. You need to do what you need to do.

I’d love to hear about your thoughts on eating meat.

{ 74 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah C. March 9, 2014 at 3:11 pm

At least you’re grappling with this issue – a lot of people are blithe about this matter, even though they “know” the ethical and environmental implications of meat consumption (“know” in the sense that they are vaguely aware of the debate, and some of the issues; I would contend that if more people really read up/witnessed some of these issues they would know in a deeper and more meaningful way). I have not eaten meat in more than 20 years and I know I never will, yet I eat a diet filled with delicious and varied cuisine from around the world. It’s a diet that satisfies me in a culinary way, as well as filling me with a wide variety of nutrients and keeping me healthy. I know that for me, vegetarianism has been the cause of my learning to cook and eat types of foods that I never had been exposed to, and expanding my palate.

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M March 9, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Thank you for sharing this. I’m pleasantly surprised to see you spotlight this. Many of your meal plans (which I miss, by the way!) seemed to be quite centred around meat and I know you said your mum enjoyed it, but it seemed a bit of a shame that people looking for examples of healthy meals would maybe follow that – it’s easy to do, I know. It took a necessary dietary change for me to re-think my diet and grasp what potential there is – we tend to follow patterns without realising it. Awareness, questioning things and being open to change are some of the most powerful, valuable and neccesary aspects of life – so always good to see.

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ro March 9, 2014 at 3:20 pm

I 100% get where you’re coming from. I was a vegetarian for about 10 years, largely because I grappled (and still do) heavily with the implications of being responsible for another creature’s suffering. I have tendencies towards anemia, and don’t tend to absorb iron as readily from non-animal sources. That aside, I think meat is DELICIOUS. I LOVE meat. And here is the source of conflict for me. Even though I still, to this day, feel conflicted about being a meat-eater, I genuinely enjoy meat and I don’t have the willpower to eliminate it completely. Like you, I do the best I can to source my meat ethically, but I still feel conflicted (and I think I always will). No great answers, just empathy, because I get it, Andie, I really do.

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Chezzie March 9, 2014 at 3:20 pm

I love bacon, it is really the only thing that stops me from being vegetarian, I have always cooked meat for my son but he has now decided that he wants to eat much less so I have been delving into vegetarian cookbooks and this is one that I absolutely love, Herbivoracious by Michael Natkin, he also has a very good blog where he recommends vegetarian books and recipes from other authors and cooks. http://herbivoracious.com I prefer fish to meat and I think it is much healthier but each to his own!!

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Jenn March 9, 2014 at 4:23 pm

I am right there in the same boat with you. About 2 years ago – I went vegan for an entire year. Not because of ethical reasons, but for health reasons. During that time, I found that not only did I feel better physically, but I felt better mentally as well. I also struggle with eating animals and being an animal lover. I started reading books like “The China Study” and “Forks Over Knives” which led me in the vegan direction for health, but ended up reading books like “Eating Animals” that made me so sad.

Ultimately, I gave up the experiment after a year because it was HARD. I travel weekly for work, and finding (good) vegan options in airports and hotels was almost impossible. Granted, maybe I just didn’t try hard enough, but isn’t that up for us to decide and not let people make that decision for us?

I think in the end it’s about doing what’s right for you. Certain groups always want everyone to go to perfect extremes to be a “true” vegetarian or vegan (I call them the vegan police) when the reality is, if you eat meat even a few times less per week than you did before – you are doing your part. If you truly do care about animals (and I don’t mean you, just “you” in general), wouldn’t you be thrilled with people doing something as small as trying out a Meatless Monday. Why shame people into believing they’re not doing enough?

It’s a very interesting debate. I am really glad you wrote about this!

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Rebecca March 23, 2014 at 5:11 pm

This is kind of where I’ve landed–I’ve never tried eating vegetarian or vegan, but I’ve gone through brief phases where I didn’t eat much meat. I’m trying to make the switch over to grass-fed, “locally” pastured meat and poultry (here in Philly that may mean from Lancaster or something, since there just aren’t that many farms in my extremely suburban neighborhood). It’s just so expensive!

I watched Vegecated recently, and one line particularly struck me; paraphrased, it basically said that it really isn’t about being a perfect vegan, it’s about reducing suffering. That could mean environmental suffering, or animal suffering. If I eat less meat, and that meat is sustainably and humanely raised and produced, I’ve reduced suffering just a tiny bit. That, to me, seems worthwhile.

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Jordan March 9, 2014 at 5:15 pm

I am so glad to see that you think so honestly about this issue. Animal welfare is near and dear to my heart. I was a vegetarian for about a year before my husband decided to go vegan “cold-turkey” so I agreed to try as well. It’s been over a year now and I’ll admit, it is hard sometimes. It is much easier to be a vegetarian, there are sooooo many options out there. Vegan is a bit trickier but I feel so at peace with myself knowing that I am not at conflict within like I was before.

It’s hard to know what to do. I always suggest trying a Meatless Monday or a vegan meal once a week or something small like that. If you can get in touch with some people who live vegetarian/vegan lifestyles they can show you how easy and delicious it can be. And with your creativity in the kitchen, I’m sure you would adapt to it wonderfully. But this isn’t about “converting” you, haha.

I suggest reading a book called “Why we Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows”. It goes into why these issues are so personal and ingrained in our society and comes at the topic in a different way than other health or ethic-focused books do. Good luck on your quest =)

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Valerie March 9, 2014 at 5:36 pm

I’m not sure there’s a lot of conscious thought about the subject of eating meat.

People do it because they’re brought up as meat eaters and it’s convenient! If you want a good source of animal protein, take a trip to the supermarket and make your choice at the meat counter.

If people did stop and think about what they’re doing, they might recognize that we do not need to be killing animals for survival; we can live on other protein sources.

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robin March 12, 2014 at 6:13 am

I agree with you. I think its the way a lot of us were raised. People from my generation for sure. Im 51. I just now at this point in my life wondering do I need to eat meat daily? I do feel if we stopped and thought it through we would consider to make changes I have taken on the practice of meatless Monday and I don’t think anyone in my family even noticed because I just didn’t make a big deal over it.

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Danni March 14, 2014 at 9:44 am

In many parts of the world people can’t really choose to eat meat or not to eat meat, they have to eat what they’ve got to survive. take Mongolia or Siberia, there isn’t much choice in those places, even now.

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Jaime March 9, 2014 at 6:55 pm

I was a vegetarian for 4 yrs. It was for weight/health reasons though not ethical ones. I went to college and decided that it didn’t go well w/ dining hall eating (it was easier to just eat the meat.)

I have no problem eating meat but these days I try my hardest to eat organic/ethically raised/local meat. It costs more, so in turn most weeks I eat less than I did before.

Question for those (like a previous poster) that don’t eat meat but do eat fish, How do you justify killing fish for food but not killing cows and pigs? Fish are living animals too, no?

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Kim Cronin March 9, 2014 at 8:05 pm

I once called my roommate from the grocery store and told her, “I’m starting to feel sorry for the animals I eat. Please don’t let me start talking about becoming a vegetarian.” Still eating meat but we will never eat lamb, veal or pate – all for ethical reasons.

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Lori March 9, 2014 at 8:11 pm

I love this post. Thank you. I feel the exact same way. I do avoid meat as much as I can. We buy our meat from our local CSA so the animals have had a great natural life. They eat what God intended them to eat. It is a harder decision for some than others but it is a proven fact that the animals raised in commercial farming are not as healthy as those raised on CSA’s.

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Whitney March 9, 2014 at 9:03 pm

Thank you so much for this post I’ve been struggling to explain my meat guilt and you’ve just hit it on the head. It’s reassuring to know others struggle with this same issue. I try to reconcile my guilt by trying to eat every last bite of whatever meat I buy/order so that I can feel better knowing no part of that animal died for no reason. And I REFUSE to eat veal/lamb. I’ve been trying to incorporate a lot lot of the gardenia meatless meats into my diet as well. Thanks again love this post!

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Cinnamon Vogue March 9, 2014 at 9:17 pm

Andie I am like you. Conflicted. As a young boy I saw a cow being slaughtered for meat and didn’t eat beef for years. Then many years later I gave up meat entirely, until I suffered from a lack of B12 so I had to start eating meat again. Yes you can get B12 from supplements but many of these tablets create more health problems and many are animal based I believe.

As someone who was born a Buddhist this conflict is even more difficult. The best we can do is make sure we eat animals that have been treated humanely. Buy organic free range meat which at least gives some dignity to the process. Treat animals humanely. But we also don’t need to eat so much meat. There are others sources of protein like lentils and we need to eat plenty of green vegetables. Now I also try to find restaurants with good quality organic meats whenever I go out. It’s a tough process but there are sites that list good organic restaurants. That might make a good blog post Andie.

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Morgan March 10, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Hello Cinnamon Vogue,

I am very sorry to hear that you had a B12 deficiency. I am curious to know why you are against B12 supplements? I read your post and that particular statement stood out to me. Would you mind elaborating? I ask because I am a nutrition major that is a pescatarian – I don’t eat fish every day (certain types are a great source of B12) and I take a vitamin B12 supplements (also known as cobalamin).

Thank you,

Morgan

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Anne F. March 10, 2014 at 1:27 am

Talked about giving up meat about 30 years ago because I ate so many vegetables. Couldn’t do it. I was raised on corn fed slaughtered meat from a farm in the family. Since the beginning of time we have eaten meat because it was there and plentiful. Wish I had given up meat. Would be healthier.

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greta March 10, 2014 at 2:13 am

I feel much the same way. A couple of years ago, when I was grappling with it, I asked my old landlord if I could help him slaughter a chicken when the time came. I figured that if I was going to continue too eat meat, I was going to have to suck it up and see what really happened prior to seeing it in a neat little package on my shelf. I did it. I would do it again. It was unpleasant, but it gave me an appreciation for the chicken’s life, that I didn’t have previously. Some day I will have my own chickens and that will help me to resolve my struggle with commercially raised animals. One thing we did this past year was to invest in a 1/4 cow from a local, pasture-only cow. It’s an amazing farm, and i feel good about knowing exactly how this cow was treated and raised prior to arriving on my plate. I can be ok with eating animals as long as they were humanely raised and I consume them mindfully.

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Grazing Dani March 10, 2014 at 5:59 am

I’m so glad you highlighted this topic! It’s definitely one I struggle with and I feel like the book I’m currently reading really does this topic justice. It has certainly given me a new perspective on eating meat (and other foods).

The book highlights the fact that there are ethical implications in all our food choices – vegetable or animal. The fuel its takes to ship food from one side of the world to the other, the chemicals that are sprayed on plants that ruin biodiversity (pollinators being just one example) and the forests that are cleared for farmland all have a significant impact on the environment, animals and humans.

The book is called “Animal, Vegtable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsoliver (http://www.amazon.com/Animal-Vegetable-Miracle-Year-Food/dp/0060852569). She believes in eating meat that comes from animals that have had a good life and eating local foods (meat included), which don’t have to be shipped hundreds of miles and are grown by farmers that don’t use pesticides on plants and antibiotics on their animals. I’m slowly starting to shift my purchasing habbits, buying more local produce and cutting back on how frequently I eat meat so I can afford to buy better quality when I do.

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Jen March 13, 2014 at 8:13 am

I absolutely loved this book-I’m so glad you mentioned it. The movie Food, inc. was also very good and pertains to animal husbandry. Good for anyone to see as we should all be conscious of where our food comes from.

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N March 10, 2014 at 8:39 am

I truly believe that animals are here for us to use for food. If no one ate beef, there would not be any beef cows around. If no one ate chicken, then we would only have chickens for eggs. I agree that they should be treated ethically. Both of my grandfathers raised beef cattle. The cattle lived in grassy meadows until time for a quick slaughter. These animals are raised specifically so we can eat the meat, otherwise they would only be seen in zoos.

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Lindsey March 28, 2014 at 2:16 pm

So… You feel that if no one ate cows/chickens/pigs they would cease to exist? How do you explain Deer? They don’t exist to fulfill Americas consumption yet exist in vast populations. Otters, mountain lions, turkeys, big horn sheep, bears, wild boars (basically pigs!), moose… Just a few animals that live in the wild with out human interaction! It’s true that modern day chickens and cows would have a hard time surviving because they have become accustomed to being fed and cared for but if we were to all give up meat (never gonna happen, but theoretically) the new baby cows/chickens could potentially be put in an controlled environment where they would be able to let their natural instincts take over. Over a few generations they could easily become wild and function just fine. Livestock are grazers, it’s not like they’d need to learn to hunt. They’d just need to learn to find places to bed down during the cold months.

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Kirsten March 31, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Amen!

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Carolyn March 10, 2014 at 9:09 am

Andie, what an eloquent post on this topic, so glad you brought it up. I myself struggle with this as well. For the past 7 years (when I first read the book Skinny Bitch, and several other books since), I’ve cycled through being vegetarian, vegan, omnivore and back again, primarily for ethical reasons (but health reasons are a close second). Over the past year or two, I’ve been cooking almost exclusively vegan at home, which has pushed me to become a much better cook (anyone can make something taste good with butter, bacon or cheese, but it takes true skill to excel at vegan cooking!). Eating this way has also led me love ethnic foods more (Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Ethiopian). However, it is definitely hardest when I am out at restaurants or social gatherings. You don’t realize just HOW prevalent dairy, eggs and meat are in our society until you try to give them up.

I finally went vegetarian again about 6 months ago and have not looked back. I went vegan on January 1st and made it 7 weeks without even a craving or a temptation. But then a couple weeks ago the wheels came off and I started eating some dairy again. It’s such a struggle, because cows in the commercial dairy industry are treated just as horribly (if not worse) as those destined for meat. Dairy cows don’t just “give” milk, they have to be impregnated and have babies just like any other mammal, which are then torn away from them within hours of birth (and then the insemination process is repeated to keep the milk flowing). So sad. And the veal industry is a direct by-product of the dairy industry. And yet I still struggle to give it up simply because it “tastes good” and is “convenient.” These are not good enough answers for me, either.

I will leave you with this quote by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau: “Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. Do something. Anything.” If you say hamburgers are why you stay married to meat, why not give up all other meat except the occasional hamburger? Or make an effort to only eat meat 3 times a week. Doing something is better than nothing, and is at least a step in the right direction. : )

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Stephanie March 10, 2014 at 9:27 am

I feel your pain girl. I also love animals like you do, and have to talk to every dog I pass by being walked. I have a dog and a cat myself, which I very much humanize. I would have also been very upset by the dead mouse. I don’t want any living thing to ever suffer. But, I eat meat. And it makes me mad at myself because of my internal conflict. I do buy all my beef from a friend of mine that raises cows. At least I know the cow had a good life. I also try to buy free range chickens and eggs. But, my husband is the biggest carnivore I have ever known and when he grills out 3 times a week it is a huge temptation. I know I will be vegetarian one day, just haven’t committed yet. :-/

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Mandy March 10, 2014 at 10:28 am

I always said I couldn’t give up eating meat, although i’ve always loved animals and if I actually thought about that i was eating flesh it made me sick. Then I watched Vegucated and was like I’m gonna try it. That was almost a year ago and I’ve never looked back. I know everything I eat never had feelings and that makes me super happy. I have from time to time considered oh just have this or have that, but then I really think about it and its not worth it. When I consider the health benefits and the ethical benefits, I know I will never go back.

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Jordan March 10, 2014 at 5:03 pm

Mandy, that’s the same documentary my husband and I watched that inspired us to go vegan! I thought it was a really great documentary. We’ve also been vegan for over a year now and are very happy with our lifestyle now. =)

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Tamara C. March 10, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Last year, my husband and I decided to become “weekday” vegetarians. Neither of us intend to ever give up meat completely, but when we do eat it, we like to keep it limited to more ethically/sustainably-sound options. The transition was pretty easy, since we were already going meatless a couple times a week. The decision to try it was triggered by a TED talk on weekday vegetarianism, along with just knowing far too much about the terrible things associated with factory-farmed meat. I hope more folks come around to the idea on a larger scale, as our health and environment could really improve by doing so.

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Lisa March 10, 2014 at 1:11 pm

Wether we like it or not, humans naturally are omnivores. That does not mean, though, that we can’t decide on our own to adjust that diet according to our individual needs. I personally have never been much of a meat eater. I’ve just never needed it as part of my meal. Even if I do eat meat, it is usually a smaller part of the meal rather than the centerpiece. On thing that bothers me is how much meat some people do eat. Our protein requirements only demand a pretty small amount and since a living being needs to die in order to eat meat, I wouldn’t feel right binging unnecessarily.

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Mandi March 10, 2014 at 2:34 pm

I’m trying to eat meat only once per day now (versus 2-3 times per day.) More for health reasons than ethical ones. The thought of eating another creature and cutting apart their flesh does bother me sometimes, but I get over it quickly. Eating meat is just a part of nature.

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Hootie March 10, 2014 at 3:08 pm

I, like you, have educated myself on this topic.

With my biology background, I can tell you that more resources go into raising animals that ate plants than would be required to just feed those plants to humans (only 10% of energy is transferred along each step of the food chain so we are avoiding a 90% waste every time we skip a step- so…us eating corn directly versus eating the cow that ate the corn).

A few yrs ago I thought it would be a good idea to buy an audio book to listen to while driving to Atlanta. The book I chose was called “skinny bitch”. That’s safely centered on weight loss right? No!!! I ended up crying my eyes out during the entire drive and beating myself up every time I ate meat for he next several weeks and driving my family crazy because this book was a mindf***! It was really about the meat industry and described in graphic detail what they did to animals and all of the nastiness that goes along with processed factory meats.

This gave me flashbacks to my anatomy and physiology class when I had to do some things to animals that I really regret to pass the course. I got a C. We also were made to watch graphic videos on cruelty in animal testing so that we would then feel obliged to morally do tests on animals. I teach biology and personally think that with the technology that we have today that there is no legitimate reason for someone not going into the medical field to do a dissection unless it is one that produces a usable food product (e.g. Cutting into a catfish before filleting it). There are software and simulation programs that give much more useful (labeled) experiences without the trauma for HS and undergraduate students.

I tried a high veg and whole grain/ lower meat diet for a while and it initially worked but after a few weeks I started gaining weight and I think that it was wrecking my health. My blood sugar levels were not as good even though my cholesterol was temporarily improved. As someone that is overweight and with a history of diabetes in my family this alarmed me.

Then, I came across the blood type diet. I am a blood type B + and am in the rarest blood type. That plan is based on testing of how your blood reacts with certain types of foods (primarily agglutination of the blood). My blood type was found to relate to a group in human history called the Barbarians that travelled eating a lot of heavy meats and vegetables that could be easily picked or harvested without farming (berries, beef, etc NOT grains). Blood type A is the most common blood type and is found to relate to the farming people of the Mediterranean area and are the natural vegetarians. Because blood type A is the most prevalent studies that show what works for the highest percentage of people will usually cater to type A’s. Typical foods like chicken, corn, legumes, and buckwheat that are so great for type A people were found to literally cripple type B people when consumed in high quantities (think actually giving them diabetes or symptoms of MS). I tried this plan and felt like a million dollars when following it but found the food options to limit my fun and be bad for my relationship with food.

Since, I have found that following a plan of grass fed beef (known to not increase cholesterol but help it unlike corn fed beef), turkey, and fish (with other meats in low/moderation). And whole grains in very limited supply, and fruits and vegetables in plenty with very low toxin intake (avoiding medicine where possible and alcohol, sugar, fake sugars, etc).. has made it possible so far for me to have been a person that was on steroids for 5 yrs who has not been able to lose weight (but maintains the hope that I will) to beat the odds and not have any chronic diseases despite family history and have the blood work results of any skinny/healthy person willing to compare.

So, based on my knowledge and experimentation with my own body. I eat meat.

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Hope March 10, 2014 at 4:50 pm

I always find it so fascinating that you (and everyone really), seems to see this as an all or nothing thing. It doesn’t have to be.

I, mostly, think eating meat is immoral. I know it’s bad for the environment. I think eating meat leads to a lot of less healthy food choices than not eating meat. That said, I’ve never been a strict vegetarian.

Here’s how I live to reduce my consumption. My house is fully vegetarian. If I’m going to cook at home, it will be veggie, because I like the veggie stuff I make, and I’d rather not cook meat. If I’m eating out, I will order chicken or fish (I try to do more fish) on some rare occasions, but I’ll never order red meats for myself. If I go over to someone’s house, and they are preparing something, I will eat whatever the hell they put in front of me. I’d say this results in my eating pork or red meat MAX a few times a year. I’ve eaten, more or less, like this for 12 years. The less I eat meat the less I want meat – but I’m never strictly DEPRIVING myself of something if I really want it.

People really like labels and guide lines, and “vegetarian” is one of those labels that people like to put on themselves. Regardless, even if I only eat meat once a month, I’d rather live label free and at least be able to be flexible. The fact is – I don’t want to go to your house and tell your mother I can’t eat her beef stew. By doing so, I’m getting (and conferring on to the world), nearly all of the benefits of being vegetarian (reducing my contribution to pollution, better health, etc.), but I’m not locked in to a label.

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michelle March 10, 2014 at 6:13 pm

I am soooo glad to read you struggle with this. I don’t eat pork because I saw a truck load of little piggies heading to market and their little tails sticking out of the truck just killed me. That was a year ago and I haven’t touched even bacon since. I don’t eat meat all the time I usually eat it once a month or so because I have trouble with getting the iron and protein that I need for THAT week. When I do eat meat though it’s local farm raised meat and eggs and I feel much better about that decision. I am from a family of hunters and farmers so needless to say my decision isn’t a popular one. I believe that most people are unaware whether by choice or because they just don’t know the nasty story of factory farming. Yes it’s cheaper in the short term however what it does to our environment and our bodies is awful and in the long run will cost much more. I say that as long as you make decisions you can live with it’s up to the individual person.

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Rebecka March 10, 2014 at 9:29 pm

Eat meat, don’t eat meat–I don’t really care what people choose. But please, please, please be educated on what actually happens in the farming/ranching cycle and not be beholden to some overly emotional words that are mostly inaccurate. We are farmer and ranchers in Wyoming/South Dakota and I guarantee we are more concerned about health/well-being of our livestock from the time of birth until the time of death than most people who enjoy the first world problem of toiling over such problems. We are conservationists, we are environmentalists in the ways that actually matter, and we farm and ranch with integrity.

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Ariel March 10, 2014 at 10:43 pm

I felt the same way for such a long time until recently when I adopted a pescatarian lifestyle. What truly pushed me over the edge was my pug, Daisy. She’s the first dog I’ve ever had and she is literally like my child. I love her more than anything and would do anything for her…and I realized she’s an animal just like the cows and chickens I’m consuming. It bothered me for a year and a half but I kept doing it, all the while watching her adorable personality and realizing it would kill me if anything happened to her. Then it dawned on me. All animals have personalities just like Daisy and I couldn’t bear to knowingly harm them.

For similar reasons to the ones you’re sharing here in addition to the difference in nervous systems/fear awareness in fish and other seafood, I’ve made the baby step of becoming a vegetarian. My boyfriend is a vegan so I am certainly no stranger to the meat-free lifestyle. It is honestly just as delicious and nutritious as a diet containing meat, and surprisingly easy to cook!

Since you’re in NYC, you should (and probably have) check(ed) out all the incredible veggie/vegan options the city has to offer. I find myself craving dishes from places like Blossom and Red Bamboo…and I even craved them before I was vegan! We live in Chicago now and have some incredible options for veggie lovers. You should come check them out :)

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Megly March 11, 2014 at 10:07 am

I have this conversation with myself regularly. If I couldn’t kill the animal myself — and I KNOW I couldn’t — do I really deserve to eat it? Like you, the guilty feeling doesn’t stop me from indulging. But every time I’m with my vegetarian friend (I only have, like, one) I wish my willpower was stronger!! After reading through the comments I might try to be a weekday vegetarian. That sounds like a doable start.

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Kayla March 11, 2014 at 11:46 am

Hi,
I found your blog through Pinterest awhile ago and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading about your thoughts on nutrition and your own success with your health. I think that you wrote this article well, especially on a touchy subject, but I wanted to point out a couple facts that were incorrect, that I’m afraid might give other people the wrong impression of the agriculture industry. You said that, “Animals on factory farms are treated inhumanely, and that the meat is less nutritious.” It is a well known statistic that 98% of farms in the United States are family owned. The term “factory farms” that many people think about is largely a myth endorsed by animal rights activists. Also there is no correlation between the production of an animal and the nutrition of its meat. An animal who is raised organically, grass fed is going to be just as nutritious as an animal who was fed grain and raised in a barn. A lot of research has been done on this, including medical institutions(here is a link for the Stanford School of Medicine http://med.stanford.edu/ism/2012/september/organic.html) Now animals who are treated inhumanely could possibly have less nutrition: less fat, less muscle(meat), and possibly less nutrients. But the fact is that animals are NOT treated inhumanely on farms from where you receive your food. Those pictures you see on the internet, or t.v. are pictures from animal rights activists of the very FEW bad farmers who give the agriculture industry a bad image. Because before your food is allowed to go to the grocery store it is inspected thoroughly and with very careful standards by the USDA(United States Department of Agriculture).
I’m not one to usually leave comments and I’m sorry for such the long one, but the agriculture industry is currently trying very hard to educate it’s consumers about what really goes on, on today’s modern farm, so I was just doing my part to help! Also I am currently a student at Purdue University, studying animal sciences, so I didn’t make all of this up!
Thanks and if you have any questions about agriculture or what goes on with your food let me know!

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Carolyn March 11, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Often you have to dig deeper to find out who actually funds these studies that downplay the nutritional benefits of organic and non-gmo foods… Monsanto could be a good possibility. Also, just because Purdue is a highly esteemed institution doesn’t mean it is without it’s biases. If you’ve seen Forks Over Knives, it is mentioned how one of Colin T. Campbell’s classes on plant based nutrition was cancelled without reason at Cornell University, most likely due to the university’s financial ties to the meat and dairy industries. It seems even an ivy league university must keep certain financial parties happy. I’m sure Monsanto and other large agri-businesses (ex: ConAgra, Cargill, etc) fund the pockets of many Agricultural and Animal Science departments of major universities, as it is in their best interests to influence the next generation of great minds. Even the USDA also has strong ties with the meat and dairy industries as is clearly documented, so we can’t necessarily trust them either. “PCRM won its lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), bringing national attention to the heavy influence of the meat, dairy, and egg industries in the creation of federal food policies. U.S. District Court Judge James Robertson ruled that the USDA violated federal law by withholding documents revealing bias among its advisory panel.” (source: http://www.pcrm.org/good-medicine/2001/winter/pcrm-wins-usda-lawsuit).

Just food for thought. :)

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LG March 11, 2014 at 12:53 pm

Personally, I eat meat and focus my concern (and funding and time) on what’s happening with humans…orphans in my city, refugees in Burma, etc. I do what I can to eat ethically raised animals, but the rest doesn’t seem worth my time compared to what’s going on with humans. Of course, this has to do with my religion and believing that humans are more important than animals. (I know. People be all up in my grill about saying that.)

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Carolyn March 11, 2014 at 1:00 pm

Why does it have to be one or the other? Compassion need not be exclusive, but can encompass all beings, human and non. :)

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Renate March 12, 2014 at 6:47 am

Another great post :) I just also wanted to mention, that I have recently added a blogroll page on my blog with blogs I love to keep up with and yours is def one of them! So thank you for and congrats on being so awesome ❤ (not that I think it’s an accomplishment, that I think you’re awesome… I just… I’ll stop now)

Renate from
http://thecuriousklutz.blogspot.dk/

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Katelyn March 12, 2014 at 12:16 pm

I definitely agree that this is something people should be more aware of! My mom is about to graduate with a PhD in animal welfare and raised/sold grassfed beef in the early 2000s. I would argue that instead of people just completely abstaining from meat, they should definitely take the time to educate themselves about the industry. Factory farming is absolutely harmful to the animals, harmful to the environment, and harmful to you! But there are better ways. There are people who care about the welfare of our food animals, and there is a lot of research being done about how to effectively treat the animals in a humane way and still make a profit. (Because, let’s be real, companies are trying to make money.) If instead of just giving up the “bad” meats, I think maybe we could all rally and make some real changes in factory farming! There is no reason that it has to be so harmful. Definitely care about where your meat is coming from! And if you’re finding information you don’t like, find out who you can contact to start making it right. We don’t live in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle anymore, but the food animal industry is still not where it should be. Kudos to you, Andie for taking the time to give this some thought!

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Eliza March 12, 2014 at 9:52 pm

It’s really nice to see you grappling with this issue. I grapple with it too, but from the other side. I’ve been a vegetarian (for ethical reasons) since I was 8 years old (that’s a long time ago, fyi). For years I was okay with other people around me eating me in any capacity–I had a laissez faire attitude towards it. But lately, I find myself more and more upset by seeing people I respect and care about eat meat. Beyond the ethical, compassion reasons, the evidence that the factory farming industry is destroying our environment is insurmountable. I am baffled that I have so many highly educated, thoughtful friends who care about climate change and the environment and continue to eat meat. But I guess it all boils down to how much you let other people’s choices affect you. As I sometimes wish I could make my friend’s choices for them when it comes to romance, I definitely wish I could make their choices when it comes to meat ;)

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Mhm March 13, 2014 at 12:40 pm

I’m having trouble getting your posts in blog lovin. Help. I’m missing good stuff!

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Kellie March 13, 2014 at 1:29 pm

I appreciate that you are giving some thought to what happened before food appeared in your kitchen, but the whole notion of “factory farms” blows my mind. I raise beef cattle on the farm where my father was born. I am a 34-year-old Mama, a lover of animals, and I enjoy cooking.
I am aware of what some educated people believe and disseminate about modern agriculture, but I live it, and if anyone wants to truly know about the food you eat, please make an effort to ask the people actually doing the work. I realize that’s much more difficult and time consuming than searching Google or streaming a shock-umentary, but do you really want to know about food production, or simply want to join in the trending conversations? Believe me, they are not the same thing. I mean this with all due respect to whatever you choose to put in your mouth or in front of your family and friends. If a person does not want to eat beef, I’m certainly not going to make him or her, but the notion that I don’t care greatly for the animals on my property that will enter or contribute to the food chain is disappointing and frankly hurtful. I welcome any questions about our operation, and I mean it. I’m hosting a family tomorrow afternoon (weather permitting) and I can’t wait to show them what we do.

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Amanda March 13, 2014 at 4:46 pm

As long as you are sincerely grateful for the food you are eating, and derive true nourishment from it, whether it is plant or animal, I do not see an issue. Truly appreciating your food, where it came from, and how it got to your mouth is good for you!

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Catherine N March 14, 2014 at 9:11 am

I eat meat, local meat. Chickens, veal, lamb, duck (when I find it), pork, turkey and beef. I don’t eat a lot of meat, I use it mostly as a flavoring/side-dish. I grew up in Egypt, where we’d see the sheep being herded to slaughter through the streets, or the headless corpses hanging up outside the butcher shop. So I’ve always been aware that the meat came from a cow.

That being said, local, sustainable meat-eating is really the way to go. I read a book called “The Compassionate Carnivore”… fantastic book. (I also echo the Kingsolver book) I don’t eat a lot of meat, and I eat a variety. I try to eat the organ meat (and this is where you can tell the difference between “factory farmed” and local/and/or/organic, btw) Open up a container of “regular” chicken livers, horrible, horrible smell, just a reek. Open up the local/organic ones, no reek. I don’t think anyone believes that anyone who is farming doesn’t care about their animals, but the problem is more than just the farmers. It is the feed that you are giving the animals, it is the waste from the animals, it is the animals bred to live in tiny boxes. We don’t doubt that you care about your animals, but the antibiotics that are in the feed, in their daily existence, to be able to survive, are causing all kinds of other health issues in the world at large.

Anyway, I notice a difference in flavor and texture, being able to eat local meats. I’m supporting smaller farms, happier animals, even the veal (“pink veal”) which is the bull calves, which were able to run around a bit and have happy, albeit shorter, lives. I just wish that I could find some older, stewing chickens/roosters. Even veal has a place at the table when it is raised sustainably.

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Kellie March 14, 2014 at 9:50 am

Actually terms like “largely treated inhumanely” and “poor and unnatural conditions” imply exactly that we don’t care about our animals.
And just to be clear, the last time a bovine on our place was given antibiotics was about 2 months ago when a heifer had an eye that had gotten scratched and infected, which I suppose is “unnatural” treatment, but the other option was letting her lose her eye. Before that, a bull that had pneumonia 3 years ago was the last. Both animals were treated by our veterinarian. The idea that we’re all eating animals that have lived on a daily diet of antibiotics from birth to slaughter is false. I’d be interested to know what the “health issues in the world at large” are to which you refer.

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Catherine N March 14, 2014 at 12:19 pm

It is my impression, from my reading, that there are antibiotics in the feed itself. Well, there was a recent article stating that antibiotics in feed was linked to the weight gain this country has seen. Antibiotics in feed is also linked to the lessening efficacy of antibiotics in the medical world. With the routine low-level dosage of antibiotic in the feed, this has created superbugs who are immune to all the antibiotics we have on this planet. And that is going to get worse. (It is also from routine overdosing of antibiotics in general, but has been linked with CAFOs as well) http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/meat/safe/overview.html
The “unnatural” treatment is that they are given manufactured feed that contains things that cattle don’t normally eat, and that they are kept inside, not allowed to roam and eat grass.

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Leah March 16, 2014 at 3:22 pm

Thanks for the post, I found it interesting. Personally I’m ok with the idea that I’m eating an animal that was killed for human consumption, but what I’m not okay with is how I imagine the animal was treated during its life. There seem to be little to no standards on animal treatment. I wish there were more laws, more oversight, more accurate legal definitions for things like free-range, etc. When I buy and eat kosher meat, I know that at least the animal was slaughtered in a humane way – instantly and painlessly – but there’s no guarantee on how it was raised.

However, I thought it was a bit odd that you referred to animals as sentient. You could say they are by the most simple definition of the word – conscious, able to feel pain – but there not sentient by the commonly used definition of the word – able to reason and think complex thoughts.

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Julie March 18, 2014 at 11:10 am

Andie, I love that you wrote this. I, too, struggled for years with being an animal lover and simultaneously consuming them. I never thought I’d be able to make such a huge (what I perceived as) sacrifice and go vegetarian, much less vegan. Last November, I made the plunge and I’ve never better. Physically, yes, but (I realize this sounds cheesy) also in my soul. I don’t feel that disconnect and discomfort that I felt when thinking of my beloved animals. I know that being a food blogger complicates things even more, but know that following your heart will inspire others, not push them away. And there is a LOT of delicious food that also happens to be vegan!

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Kathy Gollmar March 18, 2014 at 5:15 pm

The question you should ask yourself….on a desert island, stranded. Would you eat human meat to survive? If yes, then you should have no problem justifying your choice to eat meat. It is the putting of value on the meat that causes angst. I would eat rat, dog, horse etc. to stay alive….I just don’t need to unless I want to. I love to eat a good burger, a nice steak, a yummy chicken stir fry, but I also love to eat my veggies, grains, beans. I just look at them as food.

I eat meat because I choose to. I eat eggs for the same reason I eat brussels sprouts. They are yummy and feed my body. I have no problem with people who choose differently…it is none of my business. I would hope that they give me the same latitude to live my life and make my choices.

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Julie March 18, 2014 at 7:06 pm

Ah, yes, the desert island scenario. How likely is it that any of us will ever be stranded on a desert island? I think using what-ifs and far-fetched scenarios is absolutely the most illogical way to justify what you choose to eat.

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Kathy Gollmar March 21, 2014 at 4:27 pm

Thank you Judgy McJudgerpants.

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Mia March 23, 2014 at 5:48 pm

Thank you Kathy for your comment. I read this post with an internal groan knowing that the follow up comments would be passively judgmental against those who eat meat. So it’s refreshing that someone who does eat meat was honest about the reason why – meat is delicious. Like you, I love eating meat, like I love eating (certain) vegetables. It’s a personal choice, and like religion or politics, it really isn’t anyone’s business but your own.

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Austin Andrews March 19, 2014 at 2:35 am

I am so impressed with your ability to bring to light an issue that is a delicate as this. Thank you for expressing your thoughts simply for the goal to begin the civil conversation. My goal is always to empower the local and sustainable and responsible. Sometimes I can afford the goal, sometimes not, but I really appreciated your thoughts!

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Abby March 22, 2014 at 11:19 am

Thank you for posting about this! I too struggle with the ethical feelings, the choice that I have, and sometimes the intense food shanking I will put myself through after eating meat. It is easier to shop for local meats during the summer, when the farmers markets are in season. Basically, that’s what I’ve decided to do. I rarely have meat in my house unless I fork over the cash to pay a farmer direct for his hard work. Eating out, well, that isn’t easy at all…but I try to balance my good feelings with the not so good by knowing I do what I can to have an ethical household.

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bossymommy March 25, 2014 at 3:59 pm

Meat guuuuuuuud.

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Stefi March 26, 2014 at 7:41 am

Hei girl! Just wanted to let you know the blog is not updating on Bloglovin for some reason :(

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Lori March 27, 2014 at 9:48 am

I have wrestled with the same thing. I have pretty much come to the conclusion that for me, I like meat. But I choose to eat it much less than most people. We often have cheesey dinners or beans (I love my bean burgers and beet burgers). We probably end up having meat three times per week for dinner. Generally, for lunch- mostly not meat. Breakfast- mostly not either. This is how I reconcile with myself. And honestly, I come from a family of hunters. I would rather eat deer than any crap in the supermarket. At least that deer lived free and happy roaming around. If we all ate less meat even it would be so much better.

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M March 27, 2014 at 10:49 am

The blog Farmgirl Fare recently gave me a bit of a wake up. There’s such lovely pictures and stories of life on the farm, including the heartfelt struggles and reality. After the cutest lamb pictures and the glimpse into just how demanding it is for all involved nurturing the new life round the clock, I questioned why they were doing it in freezing temps which must be so hard on them… to fatten them up in time to get a good price at easter. Oh yeah, of course…

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Aqiyl Aniys March 28, 2014 at 7:00 pm

I eat a plant based diet. I started eating this way over two years ago on a whim. I haven’t gone back. My main reason for eating this way is I haven’t been sick in 2 years. Well I did just have a runny nose 2 days ago that lasted for 1 day, but that is it. I love feeling the way I do. I am 46 and now I am back to my weight when I was boxing in my 20′s. My energy and endurance has gone back to where they were when I was in my 20′s. I am feeling fabulous. I didn’t stop eating meat for ethical reasons, I did it for health reasons. But along my plant based journey I started to learn about how animals are mass produced, factory farming, and it is horrible. We are what we eat, so we take in the diseases of these horribly treated animals. It should be against the law to raise animals the way the are raised. Animals are raised in disease infested conditions which makes it necessary to overdose them on antibiotics. They still live with illnesses and many die, or pass on disease. These animals suffer for their whole existence. It is horrible.

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Shauna March 31, 2014 at 7:22 am

After watching Forks Over Knives and Vegucated, I switched to a plant- based diet. It’s hard to argue with what I saw on F.O.K., and I just feel better eating this way. :)

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Kelsey March 31, 2014 at 3:30 pm

It’s funny you should post this now as I’ve recently been thinking of going completely vegetarian but have decided against it. I know for sure that I would cave and I feel like my diet is better balanced when there is some meat in it. It is also delicious. I do however try to go for organic meat that has been allowed to roam and live a happy life, and if money is tight, I have no problem having a smaller portion because I’d rather do that.

I finished an animal management course a while ago which opened my eyes to the cruelty animals suffer and it really turned me against factory farmed food. Now I have hazelnut milk as a replacement the majority of the time, eggs from a local farm and meat from a butchers. I’m also more willing to try veggie or vegan foods because I think as a “foodie” you should be open to trying new things. It’s fun to know that you can make something without animal produce and it is still tasty as hell!

Thanks for posting about this in such a considerate way? I don’t know haha but you always manage to tackle big issues really well so I appreciate that :)

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Kirsten March 31, 2014 at 7:37 pm

Oh, the conversation you and I could have about this! For my entire life, I was an animal advocate, volunteering, donating, and fostering for animals. I’ve always loved animals–I accidentally hit a prairie dog with my car one time, and I sobbed for three days. But when it came to the meat industry (because it IS an industry) I would turn a blind eye. I couldn’t bear to even think about what’s discussed in Food, Inc., and when my best friend (who doesn’t even like animals that much) stopped eating meat for a month because of what she read in Skinny Bitch, I wouldn’t let her tell me what she’d learned. I just couldn’t stand to hear it. Also, I really, really liked orange chicken from Panda Express. Like a crazy lot. And burgers. And meatballs. But one day in 2010, my husband and I were grocery shopping, and I was picking out some chicken when he said, “If you love animals so much, why do you eat them?” I said, “What do you mean?” and, knowing I can’t handle mistreatment of animals, he just said, “They’re treated really badly. Like, REALLY badly,” and that’s when I decided I shouldn’t shelter myself from an animal’s abuse, and I looked into it (a little bit). I gave up meat the next day (cold turkey, if you will), and haven’t looked back since. Now, I’d like to say I sacrificed and it wasn’t easy, but it really was easy for me. When I learned how much shit had to happen to an animal for me to feast on its dead carcass I really didn’t find it appetizing; I actually just became grossed out by the idea of eating an animal. I couldn’t see it the same way anymore–and, to be fair, I’d never been a “steak-and-potatoes” girl, anyway. I’d always liked veggie burgers just as much as regular. If it had been hard for me to give it up, I would probably have failed. I know I couldn’t be vegan, because my love of dairy outweighs that of most food groups–I’m just not that righteous, I guess. :) I do buy cage-free eggs though! I’d say if it weighs on your mind, maybe try cutting out meat on a small scale, like only eating meat on the weekends–or, if that’s too much too fast, do “Meatless Monday”–a lot of my friends do and are fine with it! That’s at least 52 additional days out of the year you’ll spare an animal, and that adds up!

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Kirsten March 31, 2014 at 7:40 pm
Debra April 1, 2014 at 2:57 pm

I am so fortunate to live on a small farm where we raise our own cattle. We treat our livestock extremely well. I love meat…all kinds but especially beef. High in protein and iron…I eat meat daily and have recently lost 40 lbs. despite doing so. Even more importantly my doctor was practically doing cartwheels after seeing the results of my latest lab work…cholesterol, glucose, all that …within the normal range. I’m well into my 50′s and wish I had my act together like you do at half my age. Thanks for your blog!

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Deedee April 5, 2014 at 12:13 pm

I totally get this, Andi. It’s something I struggle with too on a daily basis. I have had bouts of vegetarianism and even veganism, and I always give in an go back to my meat-eating ways. For most people, being vegetarian or vegan in our meat-centric society is just too hard. I’m in awe of those that can make the decision to give up meat and stick with it.

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Sally April 28, 2014 at 7:26 pm

You just put exactly how I feel in words. I know God sanctioned animals as food for us, but I still feel all the feelings you describe. I can’t and will never eat veal and won’t eat lamb or duck either.

When is your book coming out? I keep looking for it. I don’t want to miss it.

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itzhak May 27, 2014 at 12:53 pm

i became vegan after i got a really bad stomach disease and now i need to start losing weight all over again i have a blog and there i’m describing my struggle with weight loss! please make a visit .

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Allie June 5, 2014 at 11:40 am

Hi there, I just found your blog and this post (who knows if you’ll have a chance to read this comment, you clearly have a lot of traffic here!). I understand your struggle but as someone who eats 90% plant-based diet, I can say that like losing weight, this is a choice we all have to make. I ate meat for 27 years because I was used to it and that’s what my family did. I never really understood what factory farms looked like and the suffering I was causing by eating meat and dairy. Being vegan is NOT easy, I will admit that it can be tough, especially in certain parts of the country BUT it’s always a choice. I appreciate you grappling with it and hope you find a meaningful lifestyle.

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Jennie October 11, 2014 at 12:39 am

I feel the same way!! I swear I love animals more than most people and yet I eat them. I’m wondering how to explain to my daughter that it’s not ok to eat our cats, but random other animals are ok.

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Jennie October 11, 2014 at 12:40 am

And apparently I’m four months late to the party :)

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kitty kat October 24, 2014 at 9:47 pm

I won’t eat the baaaaaa or the quack quack or veal or game animals. But I eat beef and chicken and pork and wish I didn’t. I wish I were a veggie but I am so bad at it I get sick. I am glad there are others like me. Maybe together we can work towards a humanity that respects animals as the superior beings they are.

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