Neidrich: Respect vegetarians for their choices

By By Anastasia Niedrich

By Anastasia Niedrich

Some “food for thought” from famous animal rights activist, animal-lover and author C. David Coats:

“Isn’t man an amazing animal? He kills wildlife…by the million in order to protect his domestic animals and their feed. Then he kills domestic animals by the billion and eats them. This in turn kills man by the million, because eating all those animals leads to degenerative and fatal health conditions…So then man tortures and kills millions more animals to look for cures for these diseases. Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed by hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being used to fatten domestic animals. Meanwhile, some people are dying of sad laughter at the absurdity of man, who kills so easily and so violently, and once a year sends our cards praying for ‘Peace on Earth.'”

Oh, the irony. I would be one of those “dying of sad laughter at the absurdity of man” if it weren’t for the seriously absurd truth to the statements above.

I’ve been an animal lover and vegetarian/vegan for a long time-almost half of my life. I have usually taken the “live and let live” stance, acting in line with my beliefs while respecting others’ different choices. Lately, though, I’ve had so much flack for my choices and been so disrespected by meat-eaters that I felt it necessary to respond and plead for some consideration and understanding for myself and other “veggies.”

According to a nationwide Harris Interactive Poll conducted in 2003, approximately 4 to 10 percent of the American population call themselves vegetarian. Vegetarians don’t eat animal meats, but they might eat animal products such as eggs. The same poll found that 1.8 to 2 percent of Americans call themselves vegans. Vegans do not eat animal meats or animal products.

For those of you who are counting, that means there are about three to five times as many vegetarians and vegans in the U.S. as there are persons of the LDS faith (assuming there is minimal or no overlap between the groups).

I am continually and severely disappointed by the awful lack of food options for vegetarians and vegans at almost all events I attend. A recent example is how at my last debate tournament, the tournament organizers’ idea of vegetarian/vegan fare for two-thirds of our meals was a plain, iceberg lettuce salad mix with vinaigrette dressing. Although I was grateful for the free lettuce, it just wasn’t filling. Needless to say, I lost a few pounds that week.

I find situations such as this absolutely unacceptable given that vegetarians and vegans constitute a sizable proportion of the U.S. population and that being a veggie is by many accounts more beneficial for the environment than driving a hybrid car. Taking into account all of these things, why is it that I and my fellow veggies have to make special requests for accommodations just to have food when we’re the ones doing the least harm and eating the smallest amount of the world’s food resources?

I understand that we are a minority population, but I don’t feel that it is right that in almost all instances we’re inconvenienced or not accommodated simply because we’re doing what seems to be the best for the aspects (the animals, the planet and humans) involved.

While estimates vary, a commonly agreed upon figure is that it takes 800 gallons of water to bring every pound of meat to the dinner table. That includes all the water needed to raise the cow, from giving it water to drink to watering crops for it to eat to processing and preparing the meat. And that’s just the water needed for meat-that doesn’t include all of the grain or other resources used to “fatten up” livestock before slaughtering and eating them.

By comparison, it takes less than one-fifth of the amount of water or other resources to bring one pound of tofu to the dinner table.

Everyone makes choices for different reasons. The reasons why I don’t eat meat or animal products are probably very different from other veggies’ reasons and definitely different from the reasons others choose to eat meat. Although I will never understand how someone can justify killing another living thing for reasons such as, “I like animals, but I like how they taste more,” I try to live and let live.

I understand that the vegetarian or vegan lifestyle might not be an easy choice for everyone. But if you haven’t investigated whether or not vegetarianism or being vegan is right for you, I encourage you to do so.

At the very least, if you choose to continue eating meat, please don’t be ignorant about the environmental costs and the suffering of animals involved in bringing meat to your plate. Please understand and consider accommodating those of us who make choices not to eat meat or animal products like you do, even though we’re the minority.

In the end, if you can look into a cow’s eyes and know every gruesome, horrific detail of what it goes through before becoming your meal and you can still go to sleep at night being okay with your choices, good for you (although that’s still bad for the cow).

If ignorance of animal suffering is bliss, I hope none of us are ever happy.

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