My college experience taught me a lot about how the world works and the difference between problems we are actually facing and the hype. Along with that I learned ways that I could make small improvements by changing things about my own lifestyle.
I've come to the conclusion that a mostly vegetarian diet will suit my lifestyle and goals quite nicely. I'm all for animal rights but to be quite honest I don't think me being vegetarian is going to change the way the farming industry is run. What I do think my vegetarian diet will do is minimize my ecologic footprint - more on that in the "Reasons for Vegetarianism" section.
So I'm not committing 100% to not eating meat but since my diet consisted of very little meat anyway I thought it was a great place to start. Also, a mostly vegetarian diet doesn't prevent me from occasionally splurging and eating something with meat in it.
Why? Why should anyone consider reducing (or cutting out) meat products?
There are lots of arguments on both sides of this point. I'm going to go through some of the ones that are most prevalent from my experience. So below are some overarching statements and questions that may not be as cut and dry as it appears (or as some people say it is).
Reasons Against Vegetarianism:
Humans are naturally omnivorous - The mixed variety of teeth we have sort of proves this one. We have these real nice 'sharp' front teeth and canines for tearing meat and such and some flatter less-sharp molars in the back for fruits and veggies. That fact however doesn't necessarily mean you have to eat meat.
You 'need' meat to be healthy - this is debatable and I've heard good solid reasoning in both directions. At this point the whole 'complete protein' bit isn't true. From what I understand you get enough of each amino acid in a vegetarian diet and you don't have to eat a complete protein with every meal.Though meat does provide larger amounts of certain nutrients that you don't find in quite that abundance in non-animal products (e.g. iron). But that's not to say you can't get enough of them.
Cutting something completely from your diet is unhealthy - Yes, it can be REALLY unhealthy. BUT if you know and understand the nutritional value and substance of the foods your are cutting out you can (most often) replace them with something that will be nutritionally equal. Also, this supports the idea of going mostly vegetarian. More on that in just a minute.
It's Expensive - Again, yes it can be very expensive. But you know what else is expensive? Meat. I've not done a price comparison of meals that include meat vs. meatless but I haven't noticed a difference in the amount I've been spending on groceries. And as a side note my refrigerator always looks fantastic full of all the fruits and veggies and everything.
It makes eating out difficult and can be frustrating for you and other people - A valid point. Not all places have available vegetarian options but most places do at this point (besides fast food places, which is fine because we shouldn't eat that crap anyway. But really, where are they on this whole thing?). Also, yes this can be frustrating, especially for other people because if you are a dedicated vegetarian you've gotta ask what things are prepared, cooked, and fried with (such as: McDonalds fries have beef stock in them. Who knew?). Really though, if this is what you want, you just tough it out and it gets easier. But if you're a mostly vegetarian you can sorta get around this. It is good to know what is going into your food though and no one probably knows better than a people with diet restrictions or food allergies.
Won't you miss bacon? - Yes, yes I will miss bacon. This is a big one apparently. Nearly everyone I've told about my new eating regime has asked me this... people do love bacon (I can't lie, I love it too). But guess what? One of the perks of a MOSTLY vegetarian diet is that it is just that "mostly vegetarian". So, once in a blue moon I can go wild and have piece of bacon or two (WINNING!). But I very rarely eat bacon, so this was not such a big deal for me.
Reasons For Vegetarianism:
Meat is bad for you - It's not quite that simple. Meat CAN be bad for you. Specifically, red meat. Leaner meats life fish and poultry can be quite healthy (I mean probably not that beer battered fish and chips that are so delicious, but you know). Recently there has been a lot of research showing that red meat eating frequently can lead to all sorts of health problems (clogged arteries, high cholesterol, heart disease, etc...). Lucky for me, I'm not actually a fan of red meat anyway (very rarely I do like a nice steak but that's a rare occasion).
It's good for the environment - Yes, it is but again maybe not quite as simple as you may think. It does take a lot more energy and resources to grow a cow than it does kale, for example. But if you're growing lettuce in Nevada it might not be a ecological as expected (but still might better than eating a steak as far as the planet is concerned). A veggie based diet can decrease your ecologic footprint by an impressive amount - this was my main consideration when I finally decided that I would be mostly vegetarian. There are some really great studies out there comparing plant-based to meat-based diets, I'll link a couple I found useful. There are also some horrible ones. As with anything, try to look at these things objectively and don't blindly believe whatever they're telling you (even if it's what you want to hear).
This Ted Talks video is fantastic!
Why I'm a Weekday Vegetarian | Graham Hill
For a simple explanation of why being vegetarian is beneficial to the planet
Want to Save the Environment? Go Vegetarian
For a more scientific explanation this is a good study
It's good for the animals - I think anyone would have a hard time disputing this one. Our heavily industrialized agricultural industry is probably one of the worst possible things we could have done to our fellow creatures on this planet. I'm not going to get into it here because it depresses me beyond belief and makes me feel as if pieces of my soul are being ripped away. That sounds dramatic but if you probably understand if you've been exposed to it at all. If you, you really should but prepare yourself. It's unbelievably repulsive and if you weren't considering a vegetarian diet before, you will now. It's disturbing, but you should be informed. This is actually the whole reason I attempted a vegetarian diet in high school.
At this point I am eating very little meat (less than 1 serving per week) and I feeling really good about it.
What do you think of partial vegetarianism? Or working your way into a vegetarian diet? Could you commit to eating less meat?