Throughout my entire life, I closed myself off to the idea of vegetarianism because I thought that my single choice would make no difference in the long run. I told myself that it would be impossible to change my diet because I had grown up eating meat, and it would take too much effort to change. My close-mindedness was not based on a dislike for animals or desire to hurt the environment, which I am sure is true for many people. It was based on ignorance in the purest definition of the word.
I have recently changed my diet to vegetarian in an effort to help the environment and for ethical reasons. A huge factor in this shift came from learning in a class presentation about the impact that one’s diet has on the planet. Having the facts shown directly to me was crucial in my decision because I was forced to face the reality of my previous diet’s consequences. I found myself unable to watch videos of animals being slaughtered, but wondered why I was completely fine with consuming the result of those slaughters. I left a mindset of blissful ignorance while eating meat to become passionate about changing my actions to benefit the planet.
This way, when I often feel like there are few things I can personally do to prevent problems with the environment, I know that I am at least moving forward in the right direction. Not consuming meat requires much less land to be sustainable and does not contribute to the huge amount of animal waste covering many production areas throughout the world.
A major argument I have heard criticizing a more plant-based diet is that there are limited options as replacements for meat. I too was wary of changing my diet for this reason. This might have been true without modern technology to aid the production of such replacements. However, there is a plethora of choices for people transitioning from eating meat available in grocery stores and some restaurants. These foods are designed to look and even taste like meat without contributing to the livestock industry. For anyone coming from a prior lifetime of eating beef, chicken and pork, meat substitutes are extremely helpful in the beginning stages of vegetarianism.
While I have to be more mindful of the nutrients and calories I consume without a large portion of the food I used to eat, I have found this change to be immediately beneficial for me mentally. No longer do I have to feel guilt or wonder about the negative consequences of my dietary choices. It gives me peace of mind to know I am being inclusive to all animals when I say I care for them. This small effort makes a huge difference in my life.
I’m not trying to simply convince people to change their diets to vegetarianism, but simply raise awareness of its benefits. It is a journey, especially starting from a lifestyle of eating meat. It could begin with removing a few meat products without completely changing your regimen. Being open to consuming more plant-based foods is an act that reaps benefits for your health and the environment on which we rely. These kinds of efforts affect our future as a community on this planet.