When I was around ten years old I told my parents I was going to be a vegetarian. That lasted for about a day.
Back then I had all the wrong reasons for deciding to go vegetarian. My friend was an avid vegetarian so I wanted to be "cool" like her. In college, as I began to travel down the long and winding road of environmental awareness I learned about what my choices did to the world around me and I decided last year to give it a go. I started vegan but found that for my health, I needed a tiny bit of dairy (only cultured dairy because I am lactose-intolerant) and free-range, local eggs.
Eating meat used to be a big part of who I was. That might be a weird statement, but it's the truth. My father has been an avid hunter of wild game and passionate fly-fisherman since before I was born. I grew up in a family that believed in the value of living self-sufficiently. However, living in the city during college I could only get so much wild game and seafood. My father used to send boxes filled with frozen berries from their property and fresh game, but I soon realized what life is like for most American families who aren't lucky enough to have a hunter or fisherman in the family.
While Cooper still today is not a vegetarian, we don’t buy beef. Period. There are three reasons why we don’t buy beef. The first is that, as a majority, beef production in the united states is aggressively inhumane. We've all probably at some point seen a documentary or heard someone speak about the tragedy of domesticated meat production. We all wish the scene was as idyllic as the image posted on the packaging of so many dairy and beef products, but sadly its much darker with many more cows, little sunlight and even less "grazing" room. Even cattle that are initially raised on pasture are often shipped off be fattened in tiny cages with little natural light before they are slaughtered.
Cows that are not as lucky as those that start on pasture often spend their entire lives in tiny stalls, stacked as closely next to each other as possible with barely enough room to turn around. The ground is usually either dirt or concrete, both of which create serious issues for the welfare of the cattle. Concrete is hard on their joints, as they are almost constantly standing and dirt often becomes mud which can accelerate deteriorating hooves and promote bacteria growth. There is some grass-fed, organic, humane beef, but it's expensive and hard to find usually.
The second reason is one very few people would expect. Cows are contributing to global warming. How? Through their farts. You might be laughing (even I did at first) but it's a serious problem. The methane released from the hundreds and thousands of cows that are living in the united states, a population size that is far above normal, is contributing to the thickening of our atmosphere and ultimately speeding up global warming.
Finally, as we’ve seen so painfully in the Amazon and all over the world, the cattle industry is to blame for incredible destruction to forestland. “Raising” cattle takes a lot of space and more often than not, that space is in countries outside of the United States where cattle companies brush aside indigenous rights and purchase large swaths of land to be clear cut or burned and then converted into space to “raise” cattle.
For me, the choice is fairly simple; stop eating beef. Since I was raised on wild game, I never liked the taste of it anyways and I especially don’t know that I haven't eaten it in over a year. For those of you who can't stand the thought of giving it up, I would strongly recommend not only for the health of the planet but also for your health (as beef is laden with saturated fats) to make it a VERY occasional treat. If you decide to go vegetarian for three or more weeknights you'll be saving money (as meat can get pretty pricey), cultivating better health and saving the earth. Then, when you do go to find meat for the rest of the week, choose organic, grass-fed, humanely raised beef.