Realizing I had no clue exactly what went into making my chicken sandwich was a life-changer for me. I had cooked chicken before, but, at one point in my life, I had never watched or, better yet, taken part in killing a chicken I would eventually eat. It’s not something most people think about. If anything, it’s a thought a lot of us directly avoid. Who wants to envision an animal being plucked from its home and placed upside-down in an agricultural guillotine, prepped and ready for slaughter? It’s much easier to live in denial and separate the reality from what ends up in your cart at the supermarket.
It wasn’t until I watched the process of beheading a chicken take place a few years ago that I realized I no longer wanted to ignore what I knew constantly occurs or accept it as a required step in feeding myself. Instead, the dead chicken immediately convinced me to give up eating meat.
Before you cast me off as a stereotypical vegetarian who categorizes all meat eaters as inhumane, hear me out. I am not here to shame anyone, but I do aim to convince others to adopt a lifestyle of moderation. Though that can come in many forms, I want to start a conversation about how eating meat relates to the typical American diet. Most of what I will write about is based on personal observations and experience, but also various data I’ve read about regarding the massive agricultural industry and factory farming system our population unnecessarily relies on.
Seeing a chicken die provoked my action partially because it was difficult to watch, but mostly because of the commentary included alongside the YouTube video I saw it in; the commentator’s sole purpose for visiting a chicken farm had to do with him not feeling right eating meat unless he had taken the life of an animal himself. That is what has truly stuck with me after all this time. Thus far in my life, I have not killed an animal, nor can I imagine doing so. Because of this realization, I do not feel I have the right to order a beef burger from a fast food restaurant or grab chicken wings from a buffet line. For me, the basic explanation for giving up meat is that I believe I have no right to eat meat if I cannot also physically take the life of said animal.
Since making this choice, I have discovered various other benefits gained from reducing meat consumption as well as overwhelming evidence that the meat industry takes a significant toll on the environment.
When I gave up meat, I noticed various effects it had on my body. In the months that followed, I dropped 20 pounds and felt much healthier. I have no idea if it will have the same result for others, but I started feeling less weighed down by food and started enjoying good-quality meals. This experience is entirely anecdotal, but there have been studies conducted that support the health benefits of reducing meat consumption. For example, a journal article published in the Permanente Journal discusses the cost-savings and healthy benefits of a plant-based diet. And health is just benefit number one.
One of the most significant impacts you can make by reducing your meat consumption has to do with some of the biggest problems it contributes to in the first place: climate change, water use, and pollution. A 2017 study found that the top three meat firms emitted more greenhouses gases in 2017 than all of France. Additionally, as freshwater becomes more difficult to gain access to across the world, conservation is becoming a major concern. While beef requires 15,425 l/kg, the average vegetable at 322 l/kg. Water pollution is also becoming a serious issue as factory farming grows and animal feces, antibiotics, and pesticides run into nearby bodies of water.
One thing I want to make clear in this blog post is this: MEAT CONSUMPTION IS NOT INHERENTLY BAD. Die-hard vegans want to cast off anyone who consumed animal products as the bane of human existence, but that is entirely unreasonable. Not only has eating meat been part of human culture and biological ability as far back as 2.6 million years, but plants can “feel” too. Without delving into why it’s technically okay to eat meat, transforming diets to become more plant-based takes much less of a toll on the planet and has positives effects on human health, so it’s worth a lifestyle and cultural adjustment aimed toward moderation.
If you want some more convincing on why or how to reduce your meat consumption, I highly recommend watching the documentaries Food, Inc. and Eating Animals.