** in an attempt to share my heart and passion for animals, humans, and the environment, i have decided to start a discussion about food and its impact on all of the above. this is in no way intended to call any one out or pass judgment on others. the purpose here is to share my experience as a vegetarian/vegan, to talk about the food we put in out bodies, health and wellness, and to challenge others to investigate what is in their food, whatever your diet may be! i want this to be a learning experience for myself and for others. there are many people out there who are far more knowledgeable than me, and i cannot wait to learn more from them. there are also many people who are interested in exploring a plant-based lifestyle, but don't know where or how to begin - and for them, i hope this series to be informative and encouraging. for those people out there who are content eating meat, and have never considered foregoing it, you are more than completely welcome too. i am glad to have each of you here. this is my journey from omnivore or vegan, and the things i have found out along the way.
like a majority of kids, i grew up eating meat and dairy. in fact, i did so for twenty-two years. and it was perfectly normal, of course. also like a majority of people, i was able to separate my mind from the actual animals these products were coming from. logically, i have always known that a hamburger is made of meat from a cow. and bacon comes from pigs. and eggs come from chickens. and so on. but, being so far removed from the process of how that animal became the food on my plate, i was able to eat it without actually thinking about that animal. my mcdonald's happy meal cheeseburger wasn't a cow; it was a mcdonald's happy meal cheeseburger. and, well, it made me happy.
but then, something happened. i became friends with a vegetarian. i didn't ask why, and she never forced the information on me. she ate her tofu, and let me eat my chicken or whatever in peace. then one day, after we knew each other for quite awhile, i was on the verge of tears about some cat or dead pigeon or something, and she said to me, "kalie, i am surprised you aren't a vegetarian." not in an accusing way at all. not judgy. it was just...a statement. of surprise, i would say. and it made me think. why am i not? i love animals, but am so emotionally detached from the food i eat. and that is when i started researching. my aim was this: i wanted to find out for myself where my food really comes from, whether i decide to continue eating it or not. because even if i decide to remain an omnivore, it is still my responsibility to at least know what i am putting in my body. during the process i abstained from meat. i wanted to see if i could do it. and, well, i could. not only could i, but i was feeling really good. i wasn't even missing meat. so, two and a half years ago in january of 2010, i decided to be a vegetarian.
really, i didn't know much at that point. my little bit of researching led me to some gruesome pictures of abused chickens and pigs, and that was quite enough for me at the time. that was all i needed to see to make up my mind. the only thing i didn't give up was fish. so technically, i was a pescatarian (a person who will eat sea food but not the flesh of any other animals - not that i actually knew that word then. but that's what i was). especially once i moved to seattle, it was all fish all the time. if you are a seafood eater, get yourself some fish and chips up here. do it for me. anyways. i also have always loved - LOVED - sushi. i loved sushi. i loved it. that being so, that was probably the hardest thing for me to imagine giving up. but i did, eventually. somewhere around the fall time in 2010. i saw a documentary on dolphins and whales (don't get me started on seaworld: that is a whole other discussion) and it talked a lot about the endangerment of many animals in the sea and how mass fishing is affecting these beautiful creatures. the problem is called bycatching. this is when fish, or other sea animals, are caught unintentionally in a fishery that is meant to catch another type of fish. shrimp trawling has the highest rates of bycatch. american shrimp trawlers, for instance, on average produce bycatch ratios between 3:1 (3 bycatch : 1 shrimp) and 15:1 (15 bycatch : 1 shrimp). um, CRAZY, right? for one itsy teeny little shrimp, as many as 15 or more other fish (or turtles or dolphins or sharks or albatross) had to die. because you know what happens to the bycatch? more often than not, it is discarded. wasted. unless the fisheries decide to make a little extra money on the side for good fish meat, in which case they will sell their unintended catch.
after being a vegetarian for a year, you find that you get asked a lot: why? and you realize, well, that it is not always the easiest to explain. because you don't want to talk someones ear off. they also don't want that. and also, people like solid facts. more than opinion, usually. and furthermore, after being vegetarian for a year, you kind of want to know more, too. you want more facts.
so, it was on to more research. and that is when i came across the book "eating animals" by jonathan safran foer. and believe me when i say, this book changed my life.