For over five months, I've been eating a mostly-vegetarian diet, with the exception of maybe five meals.
I am now saying adios.
I still haven't figured it out. I still feel uneasy and uncomfortably conflicted about eating factory meat. I still think it's disgusting and do not agree with the practices. I've read many books, articles, and blog posts on the topic of vegetarian and vegan diets over the last few months. I've nodded my head in agreement, and cried when reading of the heartless, cruel treatment of pigs, cows, rabbits, horses, chickens, turkeys, ducks, sheep, goats. The same intelligent, feeling animals my children pet at the pumpkin patch. I've learned that "humane certified" and "kosher" doesn't mean anything when it comes to what is acceptable in the meat industry. I've read of the devastation the industry has on the earth. I've read horrible stories about how working in the slaughterhouses effects humans psychologically and emotionally, and the percentage of people who are injured on the job due to poor work conditions. I've learned of the vile practices considered normal, and what makes for meat acceptable for consumption, my children's consumption. I've learned what goes in my food -- I've learned that a bag of chicken isn't merely a bag of chicken, but so many other things I would rather not think about. Several times, I have had to close books and pause and breathe through overwhelming information given to me.
Through all this, I've never been of the opinion that it was immoral to eat meat, or unhealthy, but I have so many problems with the practices, that I could not ignore it. I never had the intention of staying 100% vegetarian forever. I wanted to try it out until Thanksgiving, and reward myself with a big Thanksgiving dinner. We even talked about buying a local, ethically raised turkey for the family, but you know how much that would have cost? Over $120. That is a fifth of our rent. That is our health insurance bill. That is my children's new tennis shoes to replace the ones with holes, a much-needed winter coat, some new pants, a Christmas present, and a hair cut. That is an entire week's worth of groceries for us.
I wish so badly that we could afford ethical, local, sustainable meat. So badly, that I had to stop eating it and consider a vegetarian diet. I'm glad that I was able to stick to it for so long. But we've replaced meat with too many carbs, and that is not healthy. We do eat whole-grains, but I don't think having grain-based meals three times a day is good for us, and more importantly, for my children. Because of the lack of meat, I have also felt we are not getting the nutrition we need. I am not saying that a vegetarian diet can't sustain someone and give them everything their body needs; but for our budget, it isn't possible to meet all our dietary needs.
We are on a very tight budget for groceries, and while I do manage to feed us about 50% organic, 100% whole-foods diet, I felt I couldn't supply my family with all their nutritional needs eating a plant-based diet as I can when we are eating meat.
It's something I've been arguing with myself about for months.
By eating factory meat, I am supporting the industry. An industry that I find dispicable in every way. I do care about the animals. I do think it upsets God that we treat living beings the way they are treated in factory farms. It is absolutely heartbreaking to me. I can't ignore that! I won't ignore that.
But is the health of my family worth it?
Is the health of the planet worth us not eating meat?
What is needed more: for me to stop eating meat for a healthier planet long-term, for the ethical treatment of animals, or to continue to eat meat for the immediate bodily health of my family?
What does God want me to do?
Does he even have an opinion?
If he wants us to eat a vegetarian diet, or a diet consisting of locally- and ethically-raised meat, will he provide the means?
You probably think I am over-analyzing this. Maybe I am. But I can't ignore what I'm feeling in my gut. And this is a very hard decision for me. Perhaps, harder than it should be. And I still don't have the answers. I do know that I don't feel comfortable buying the package of chicken breasts I know I am going to pick up tomorrow at the grocery store. Knowing the cost to the planet, knowing the way these living beings were treated for human consumption.
I wish someone could just give me a quick, definite, clear answer.