25 Year Vegetarian Agonizes Over Eating Meat

Is it morally wrong to eat animals, do we really need so much protein to gain muscle, can we get the same goodness from plant and vegetable as from eating meat?

Agonizing

OMG. This topic is so hot on my head right now. I so envy the people that have a black and white opinion on this topic. I was vegetarian for 25 years and I have eaten meat for two years. It was not an easy choice.

I did it because I wanted a high protein, moderate carb diet that I really feel is a great way to maintain muscle and keep body fat low. I kept reading 1.5 grams per kg of body weight and thought this would be virtually impossible with a vegetarian diet.

I also started after watching a lion eat a gazelle. I decided that nature is cruel and I shouldn’t deprive myself of meat because I’ve been brought up to be more sensitive than I should be. The subject is hot again because I give my son meat.

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But after talking to my Dad who doesn’t know I eat meat I am once again back to this place where I wonder how I can eat a carcass when I would never kill that chicken/cow/pig myself.

Doesn’t that make me hugely hypocritical? I’m condoning its early death, unnatural lifestyle and preventing it from wondering round a field, eating grass, rolling in mud, having a family so I get convenience in my life.

I chose to eat meat to up my lean protein but the by products are the ability to eat a lean meal at a restaurant and a happy mother in law who no longer makes me soya burgers.

Are we supposed to eat meat, is it morally wrong to eat animals, do we really need as much protein to gain muscle, can we get the same goodness from plant and vegetable?

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Are humans naturally omnivores or herbivores as we share similar characteristics (sweat through pores, shorter intestines, blunt teeth).

Can we trust scientifically proven research from hippies that want to be kind to animals, can we trust scientifically proven research from conglomerate meat industries that like tobacco and alcohol make a fortune from their death riddled product?

Was the appendix designed so we could remove the toxins from raw meat? Is meat brain food? If I stop eating meat and eat moderate levels of carbs to aid body fat loss; what the hell can I eat? Did we evolve to humans by eating bone marrow?

If I go back to being a vegetarian will I frustratingly beat myself to death with a tin of lentils? Aaaaarrrgggghhhhh. Does your head hurt? Mine does.

Pick and choose what you answer if any, but if possible a non biased answer would be awesome. Thanks. TC

Savvy Vegetarian Advice:

No matter how you rationalize your dietary choices, in the end it’s entirely personal and subjective.

I think that your real reasons for eating meat after 25 years of being raised as a vegetarian have less to do with the pros & cons of a veg diet, and more to do with wanting to establish your own identity, and also fit in with your new family, have an easier life and so on.

That’s your choice, but you seem just a little conflicted about it! So I’ll go through your points and answer them one by one as briefly as I can.

With the caveat that I’m far from expert on human physiology or nutrition: From my own experience, and that of many other vegetarians, it’s quite possible to have a healthy high protein, low carb vegetarian diet to maintain a good body weight and build muscle.

Many successful athletes and body builders are vegetarian or vegan. For more info on this topic, see ‘How To Get Enough Protein In Your Veggie Diet’. From there, link to the plant protein chart and sample menus.

For the rest, it’s hard for me to be non-biased, but here are my opinions, take them as you will:

I disagree that nature is inherently cruel. It’s the way God or who or whatever made it, and includes both good & bad, beautiful & ugly – often together. Lions are designed to be meat eaters, and like all creatures, they must eat to live. They hunt the old, slow, lame or sick animals, culling the herds.

Comparing humans to carnivorous animals such as lions is misleading. There’s no way that a human could run that fast, bring down a running gazelle, kill it with teeth and claws, then eat it raw – all in competition with other predators.

From the evidence of our teeth, digestive tracts, muscle & skeletal structure, and other physical characteristics, humans are designed to be herbivores. We have adapted to an omnivorous diet, although there’s really no solid evidence that we need to eat meat for health, and plenty of evidence to the contrary.

As for the moral issues, it’s well documented that nearly all animals raised for food are kept in cruel conditions. Not to belabor the point, but that’s what you’re eating when you consume beef, pork, poultry, even dairy and eggs.

Even if you eat only animals raised organically and humanely, that’s not a widely available option, and in the end you still kill and eat them after being nice to them.

I doubt if you’re more sensitive than you should be – that’s more of the ‘life is cruel’ line of thought. This may not seem like a fair question, but could you happily catch, kill, skin, eviscerate, cut up and eat an animal yourself? Personally, I killed a chicken, and caught a fish – once – and those were the last I ate.

What else can you eat? Pick from the enormous variety and endless possible combos of beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, whole grains, vegetables and fruits. Check out Savvy Veg recipes, and download the nutrition report.

Even if you choose to eat meat for the personal reasons you’ve mentioned, which you feel are valid, you should still eat mostly vegetarian. That’s the norm in many cultures – lots of beans, grains, veggies, small amounts of fish or fowl, occasionally meat. Frequent meatless meals. That’s a possible compromise for you – easier on your conscience, better for your health, kinder to the environment.

I don’t see why you need to be frustrated. Just do your best to think for yourself, be who you are, and keep things in balance. Relax and enjoy life instead of beating yourself up with tins of lentils!

Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian

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8 Responses to “25 Year Vegetarian Agonizes Over Eating Meat”

  1. Sandy C says:

    I think vegetarianism is a choice we have in our culture, and it's a good choice for many reasons. It is obviously possible – and often healthier – to maintain a diet that is varied and consists mainly of vegetables and fruits.

    That said, I do think there is strong evidence that we are naturally omnivorous. Besides good physiological rationales, the majority of human cultures have maintained omnivorous diets (unless poverty-stricken.) Also, we have strong hunting instincts and abilities such as stalking, distance running, and on-the-fly teamwork that would be unnecessary for gathering plants or even grubs.

    We don't have natural weapons like a cheetah, but we don't hunt or kill like a cheetah either. Human hunting involves tracking, coordinated chasing, tiring out prey, and killing with weapons, which we are exceptional at creating and wielding.

    We generally don't use these skills for hunting these days. But let's just say if we were 100% herbivores, we probably wouldn't be very good at things like tennis and soccer.

    Surprisingly, I think something our bodies are not very well adapted to is grains. Grains are difficult to collect unless they are intentionally planted and harvested, which we didn't master until about 10,000 years ago. That means our physiology has had almost zero time to adapt to them.

    The Neolithic revolution heralded a decrease in average height, an increase in tooth decay and a number of deficiency diseases, and an overall decline in health. The past 10,000 years of grain-based agriculture has been devastating to human health, countered only recently by the introduction of sanitation, clean water, vitamin supplements, vaccines, and antibiotics.

    So have a little local, non-CAFO meat. It's probably better for you than bread.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Just ridiculous. Read "The China Study." It doesn't sound like you've done any of this for yourself.

  3. J Kingsbury says:

    Hi Amelia, thanks for commenting. Looking out for your own health, if it means moving toward a more plant based diet, is in your best interests, but I wouldn't say it's selfish. You are doing something good for the animals and the environment. If there were a lot more people like you, fewer animals would be raised as food, CAFO's would be forced out of business, and McDonald's wouldn't have to clear the rain forests to raise beef.

  4. Amelia says:

    I have to agree with anon @4:22pm; and baby animals are usually the easiest for the lions to catch. I also agree that hunters are proud when they bag the largest buck, the biggest fish, and the dogs tree the racoon (why, I don't know-do people eat racoon?). I do eat a little meat but have been toying with vegetarianism for a good while. I bought some quinoa today; I love brown rice and veggies. To be honest, I am looking out for my own health and not the welfare of animals. And that is selfish.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Nature is cruel.. not really. Nature is selective. The gazelle that got eaten by the lion was the one not fast enough to escape. (Okay, not always.. but mostly.) There is no selection process in a "meat factory". You can't even argue this is true with hunters, as hunters are obsessed with "bagging" the 10 point buck, the strongest, and biggest. The claims they make to be "thinning the population" are absurd, if you think that they are thinning them of the strongest and fittest. This spits in the face of Darwin. Also keep in mind that the gazelle the lion eats didn't live a life of agony and torture it's entire existence, or death would be most merciful in comparison.

    You can use whatever rationalization you want, when you eat a hamburger, but it has nothing to do with nature.

  6. J Kingsbury says:

    In response to the above comment from Kirsten: I've allowed the comment in the interest of fairness, as it's balanced and polite. However, just for the record, Savvy Vegetarian is not a fan of Sally Fallon who writes on behalf of the Weston B Price Foundation, a decidedly anti-vegetarian organization. Plus, I haven't found any convincing evidence that human beings are designed to eat meat, or that eating meat is necessary for a balanced, healthy diet. And there is plenty of evidence that human beings thrive on a healthy vegetarian or vegan diet. Anybody, whether or not they eat meat, will suffer from malnutrition if they don't eat an adequate diet. A vegetarian diet which includes plenty of fresh whole grains, fruit & veg, legumes, nuts & seeds is an adequate diet. Those who eat meat would do much better to increase those foods in their diets and drastically reduce the amount of animal foods they eat. Your health, the environment and the animals will thank you!

  7. Kirsten says:

    I am a meat eater. I believe most cultures on the planet evolved to eat some form of animal protein. Vegetarian/Vegan diets leave many deficiencies. Unfortunately, meat today is very processed and the animals are fed the wrong things. If you are on the fence about eating meat again, I highly recommend the book "Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon. She exposes the weaknesses in many diets, including Macrobiotic, Veg, etc. The trick is to find clean meat. Eating Jimmy Dean pork sausages every day will leave you fat, bloated, red-faced and sick. No one disputes that heavy meat eaters look and seem sick. And you certainly do not need meat at every meal. Hope this helps.

    Best,
    Kirsten

  8. Anonymous says:

    Dear 25 yr veg,

    Sounds like you're having a bit of a breakdown.
    You've described a lot of lifestyle reasons for eating meat, but you still go on agonizing about it.
    I think the thing you're missing is that a vegetarian diet isn't just a lifestyle choice, it's a spiritual choice as well.

    I feel for you, trying to bond with your new family and hold on to your Dad's esteem. Sounds like there's some pressure to conform from both sides.

    It's one thing to go along to get along, and legitimate practice when dealing with extended family.
    it's another entirely to compromise your spiritual identity for the convenience of others. When changing your behavior for family, make sure you're not giving up pieces of yourself that you'll miss.

    your mom-in-law will adjust to your dietary needs, and your dad will learn to live with your choices. You are the one you have to answer to.
    let go of outside pressure, and ask yourself who you are. Then be that person. Inner peace will follow. Outer peace I can't gaurentee.

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