Do You Eat Flesh?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Are you vegetarian? Are you raising your kids to be vegetarian? Our kids are vegetarian thus far but we are not completely sure, yet, how important it is to us to raise them as strict vegetarians. I am one of those born-and-bred veggies--both of my parents are vegetarian and my sister and I were raised in that tradition. This was in the 80s in Michigan so you can imagine the confusion of those around us.

"Wait. You don't eat any meat?"
"Not even hamburgers?
"Well of course we eat hamburgers, just not any other meat, don't be silly."


Now firmly-established in Berkeley, it is less weird to be vegetarian that it is to be the kid who eats sugar instead of agave nectar. Definite cultural shift. Across the country it seems that more people have warmed to the vegetarian lifestyle. And, while I never really chose to refrain from meat, I have come to embrace the lifestyle and I came upon this article that, at first blush, made me feel proud and responsible to be a vegetarian which, in turn, made me more committed to raising vegetarian kids. According to the article:

If everyone went vegetarian just for one day, the U.S. would save:

● 100 billion gallons of water, enough to supply all the homes in New England for almost 4 months;

● 1.5 billion pounds of crops otherwise fed to livestock, enough to feed the state of New Mexico for more than a year;

● 70 million gallons of gas -- enough to fuel all the cars of Canada and Mexico combined with plenty to spare;

● 3 million acres of land, an area more than twice the size of Delaware;

● 33 tons of antibiotics.

If everyone went vegetarian just for one day, the U.S. would prevent:

● Greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 1.2 million tons of CO2, as much as produced by all of France;

● 3 million tons of soil erosion and $70 million in resulting economic damages;

● 4.5 million tons of animal excrement;

● Almost 7 tons of ammonia emissions, a major air pollutant.

My favorite statistic is this: According to Environmental Defense, if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads. See how easy it is to make an impact?

Like I said, at first blush, this article had me fluffing my feathers. Look at me, eco-conscious mother of the world. I'm all for anything that paints me to be a world-savvy, responsible person--it's nice to have delusions about ourselves...! But, upon a little more contemplation, these statistics seem--well--for lack of a more scientific term: totally whack. Obviously, even if the entire world went vegetarian tomorrow, we wouldn't just stop feeding cows would we? And what about all the people in the meat industry--what would become of them? And why doesn't the author cite any sources for such sensational statistics?

In some ill-defined, nebulous way, I do think being vegetarian makes sense and if I had to choose right now in a gun-to-the-head moment (oh the irony) I would say, yes, I want to raise my kids to be vegetarian. In part because it seems better for the environment and it appears to have health benefits, but in part, also, because it was the way I was raised and as I have said many times, I think we often come to see our childhoods as the Holy Grail of how things should be done. But, my husband is not vegetarian. And I am well-aware of many vegetarians, such as myself, who often load up on carbs and dairy--which doesn't seem particularly well-balanced or healthy. I also happened upon this article, which claims that kids who are raised vegetarian are at greater risk for developing weird eating issues later in life. Go figure: You can find statistics to support both sides of this issue. Quel surprise.

Thoughts? Many Indians are vegetarian--are you? Is your spouse? Do you want to raise your kids to eat flesh?!? (Yes--I know it is a loaded way to phrase the question...!)

H.U.T. said...

Great question and one we are currently strugglng with as our son becomes aware of all the food options around us. Not being vegetarian myself, I worry it's too limiting a lifestyle and will breed picky eaters.

Anonymous said...

those statistics are amazing and i am not that skeptical of them. if you have ever visited a meat farm or factory you see all the waste (not to mention the horrific conditions and the sad, sad animals). vegetarianism is an evolved way to live life. i am not there yet but ia m trying.

Kar A. said...

its interesting thinking about this. growing up with indian parents both of whom were vegetarians, it was interesting that my mom encouraged my brother and i to develop a taste for eating chicken. my parents often found it difficult to dine out back in the day when there was no real vegetarian options. [when they asked the waitstaff if there had any vegetarian items on their menu they'd suggest fish, poultry or salads with baconbits in em =)... ahh the good old 80s]. and so not having to face the same plight as them they wanted us to have atleast one more option on a menu than they did!

i remember as a kid i refused to eat meat because we were "supposed" to be vegetarians. it wasnt until well into highschool i would occasionally eat chicken because i didnt wanna be that one fussy kid with the weird dietary requirements.

now i like to label my self as "vege-preferenced", especially when dining out id usually choose a vegetarian option i there was one...though the occasional chicken curry is hard to pass up every now and then!

Kiran K. said...

I've had the "wait, you are vegetarian but you don't eat lamb/chicken/hotdogs/etcetera" conversation a million times. Is it that hard to understand???

Anonymous said...

Eating meat in moderation is a healthy choice. Every vegetarian I know binges on carbs, has iron deficiencies or some other nutritional issue. That means something.

Anonymous said...

"The eating of meat extinguishes the seed of great compassion."


curly said...

Interesting post. I am a vegetarian but hubby dear is not. So far, we are raising our son to be vegetarian. When he is older, he can make his own choice on which way he wants to go. My husband is on board at this point as he typically eats veggie most days of the week...we'll see what happens as the years progress.
As for the balanced diet...we try to balance the load of carbs with protein and veggies (not just carbs and dairy). Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Ushi said...

We live in the midwest where vegetarianism, though not mocked, is not as easy to maintain. The produce isn't as good out here (I am originally from the west coast) and the options at restaurants aren't as boutiful. But I 100 percent believe in the health benefits in a mostly vegetarian diet and my kids (8 and 3) are thus far complete vegetarians. We eat fish sometimes because I am borderline anemic but I wish I could cut it out. Would like to live by the "don't eat anything with a face" rule!

Anonymous said...

verrry loaded way to pose the question. but i like it! veggie all the way baby!

Sara E said...

wow if these stats are true it seems almost criminal for us to eat meat while patting ourselves on the back for, like, recycling and thinking about buying a hybrid. we are both "flesh eaters" (ouch) and have toyed with the idea of switching but i dont think we could do it to be honest. old habits die hard. but it doesnt make sense to raise kids to be vegetarian when you arent either right?

Archana said...

I'm vegetarian because it's one of the most important practices of Hinduism for me. It's not always easy to find things to eat while out, but that's part of what makes it a religious practice for me - something to remember at every meal, to make me feel connected to the rest of life on the planet, kind of like what I imagine fasting must be for other Hindus and people of other faiths.

We want to raise our baby vegetarian. (My husband is vegetarian but not Hindu.) We're both very healthy and have never had problems with iron deficiencies. There are plenty of substitute products out there for people who want to be vegetarian and raise veggie kids so it's not a nutritional concern (I think those arguments are a bit of a cop-out these days...).

All this said, I recognize that I will be lucky if our son's biggest teenage rebellion in, say, 15 years is defying both of us and eating hamburgers. Ultimately it'll be his choice - but while it's mine, he'll be a vegetarian.

SM, DC said...

I was not raised vegetarian, in fact growing up I was an unabashed carnivore. But for the past 16 years I have been a strict vegetarian, mainly out of my love for animals. BUT, when I got married to a man who loved meat, we made a compromise (suggested by him). I would start eating seafood (which we could then both enjoy) and he would give up beef and pork. So now, although I cannot call myself vegetarian anymore, I am happy with the arrangement, especially considering my hubby comes from an Italian family that thinks not seeing meat in the pasta sauce means it's vegetarian.
And yes, my kid will be raised vegetarian until she finds her own way to a McDonalds.

Anonymous said...

i find this fascinating and very relatable. i am a vegetarian but my midwestern bf is not. he is respectful of my dietary choices at the table, but the discussion gets pretty heated when we talk about raising our future kids without meat. my diet has kind of been a persisting issue in our relationship as we live in a surprisingly unaccomodating city, dc (or at least not as accomodating as my native los angeles). some of you have mentioned that you are vegetarians and your partners are not - any advice?

parutron said...

I think by reading this post, I've supplied all Indians under 5 feet tall with water for 3 hours. Somehow. In the magic world of statistics correlations. But I've probably also put 3 more cars on the road, too. Tee hee.

That being said, I do *know* that eating less meat (or going all the way and being a vegetarain or vegan) is better for the environment. Which isn't why I was raised or have remaineD a vegetarian, but gets me thinking.....It's much easier for me to figure out how to get iron, calcium, and other things vegetarians might not always get than to figure out how to unclog my arteries or restore equillibrium to the environment.......I like to keep it easy! And would rather problems I create be mine to solve.

parutron said...

on top of thinking that eating flesh is gross, involves blood, sometimes mean, and there is a never ending supply of stuff to eat that is SUPER delicious that doesn't gross me out.

Anonymous said...

Am I the last honest meat-eater out there? I just love it. I understand moderation but it's my poison. Some people drink, some smoke. I like an amazing carpaccio. Not going to give it up anytime soon and I hope to give my relish of food to my kids. Is it just me or are there many vegetarians who don't seem to LIKE food?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this it's a very important topic. To the people who need proof of the statistics, please see:

Dr. David Pimentel at Cornell university has validated many of these claims.

Pimentel on unsustainability of US food production, meat vs. vegetarian diets.

Pimentel: 800 million people could be fed (more than 2x US population) on animal food, while reducing stress on natural resources. really old news!!

The "vegan is better than a hybrid" article:
(here's a non-tech summary:

More cited resources:

Anonymous said...

It always amazes me that sensible people who believe in evolution can't see that we have EVOLVED to eat meat. It's obvious.

Nikki said...

@ Previous poster: Are you being for real? You think it's more "evolved" to kill for food than it is to eat what grows naturally?

Tuco said...

My wife and I are vegan and plan to raise our children that way. I think the reasons to be veggie are overwhelming... actually I did a list once kind of about this : )

Vera said...

@ poster re advice: just like other issues in a relationship you guys have to come to an understanding. is vegetarian kids a deal breaker? how important is it to you? i was NOT raised veggie but my now-husband was. it was very important for him to have vegetarian kids so, lo and behold, thats what we have. i think the best advice i can give is pick your battles. it didn't matter much to me so he got to have his way with this one.

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