A couple of years ago, I used to be a lover of many kinds of meats. My favorite is and always was steak. However, over the years I have drastically reduced the amount of meats I consumed on a daily or weekly basis. This is all in an effort for an end result of a completely vegetarian diet. The number of people who become vegetarians is growing on a daily basis. It is not to look “trendy”, but rather for its ethical implications and benefits for mind and body.

Not too long ago, I watched this documentary called “Food Inc”. It was an inside look at the agribusiness that many rely on for their food sources. The first segment focused on the meat-packing industry. After watching the movie, it has become clear that not only is the industrial production of meat environmentally unsustainable but it raises a lot of ethical concerns as well. There are more cases of large producers of meat and chicken products getting the red flag than I’d like to remember. Whether its from sanitary concerns, incorrect advertising (as in “free range”), or just downright inhumanity to the animals, it makes me wonder if attaining meat from a large scale producer is even worth it. That is not to say all producers of meat products are criminals. There are many meat producers that invest in quality animals and dedicate time and care to making sure these animals are slaughtered correctly and “as humane as possible”. These meat products usually end up costing much more than the usual brands but they usually end up tasting better as a result. For the rest of the cultivators, meat-production is a business about profit maximization at any cost. Profit maximization when it comes to food, meat especially is bad news for the rest of us. These suppliers will use any means necessary to bolster their product, even resulting to artificial means such as growth hormone and inhumane slaughtering practices.

It is good to note where our tolerance of slaughtering animals came from. America is a nation with a Christian majority, so it is not surprising to see the doctrines of the Bible manifest themselves in our societal institutions. There is a passage in the beginning of the Bible, Genesis that states that “man shall have dominion over the earth” and all of its inhabitants. Not surprisingly, this includes animals. Many Americans have no ethical concerns over eating meat because they believe in the Christian God and one of the doctrines in the Bible is that we can eat meat because we decide the animals’ fate. Meat suppliers know and exploit this, this is why they get a free pass most of the time.

Beyond the many ethical arguments for and against vegetarianism, there are many undeniable health benefits. Many studies have shown that vegetarians on average live longer and have less diseases than those that eat meat. They also tend to have a healthier BMI than meat eaters and tend to have a healthier cardiovascular system than meat eaters. Vegetarians tend to have more energy than meat-eaters. This is no surprise considering the human body follows a strict “junk in, junk out” philosophy. Many of the obesity problems in America could be solved if people ate much more fruits and vegetables, ate less meats, and got more exercise. No “South Beach Diet” or “Weight Watchers” necessary. Many fruits and vegetables are cheaper than meat and they’re easier to make as well.

I know many people that tried a vegetarian diet. They quit after a period of time stating that “it wasn’t fun”, “they miss eating meat”, or “vegetables just don’t taste good”. Vegetarianism isn’t for everyone, obviously. However, it is worth a try to see if you would like it.

There are several types of vegetarians.

– The first one is the pescatarian. This vegetarian group only consumes fish but no other animal flesh. This is known as being “stepping stone” towards full vegetarianism.

– The second one is flexetarian/semi-vegetarian. This group occasionally eats meat but mainly sticks to a vegetarian diet. This would be I.

– The third one are the lacto-ovo vegetarians. These are the group people most think of when they think “vegetarian”. These people do not consume any type of animal flesh but will consume products made from these animals. These are dairy and eggs. There are also lacto-vegetarians, people that do not eat eggs but consume dairy products, and ovo-vegetarians: vegetarians that consume eggs but not dairy. If I were to become a vegetarian, I would most likely become a lacto-vegetarian as I do not eat eggs.

– The four group are the vegans. This group does not consume any animal flesh or product made from animals whatsoever. They also do not eat products derived from animals (no Jello). This group mainly does not consume meat for the ethical reasons behind it.

Vegetarianism also requires a lot of discipline. As aforementioned, vegetables aren’t always the best tasting food in the world and some may miss the texture of meat. It takes a lot of discipline to abandon a food that you have most likely grown up with during childhood. It also takes a lot of discipline to replace that protein that you would not gain from eating meat. Thankfully, there are many supplements and vegetables that contain high does of protein.

I view vegetarianism as a cost-effective, ethical, and healthy choice. One that a lot of people are afraid to make. Right now, I simply lack the discipline to give up meat. I enjoy eating steak and chicken occasionally. I go many days without meat and I seem to be just fine. However, giving up meat forever isn’t on my itinerary just yet. For those of you that wish for a healthier “you” in 2012, vegetarianism or semi-vegetarianism may be a step in the right direction.

– Scotia