Once upon a time I was a good meat-eating American girl, who devoured her mom's beef stews and Sunday hams. When I grew up, I too served my kids hamburgers, bacon, and lamb legs. I can still vaguely remember the taste.
But I haven't eaten animals for twenty-five years now. The transformation began when, as an environmental journalist, I learned that farm animals are regularly shot full of antibiotics, mostly because of the unhealthy way they are forced to live. By the time I was writing about the Bovine Growth Hormone controversy in the late 80s, I was no longer eating red meat. Turkey and chicken soon followed.
Right away I began to discover delicious alternatives to meat flavoring--recipes and cuisines that call for a wide array of spices. I was also surprised to learn not only how little protein people actually need, but how many other things contain protein, like beans, lentils, tofu, and even grains.
Beside the fact that it's healthier for you to go meatless, and certainly healthier for the animals, environmental evidence is building about the damaging effects of livestock. In light of the current horrific oil spill, you should know that meat is very fuel intensive. More than a third of all fossil fuels produced in the U.S. goes towards animal agriculture. One calorie of animal protein requires more than ten times the fossil fuel input as a calorie of plant protein. That means ten times the amount of CO2 going into the atmosphere.
I once saw a cartoon of a man being followed by the ghosts of all the animals he'd eaten. It was quite a parade: sheep, chickens, turkeys, cows, and pigs, all floating along after him as he strutted down the street. So I would add to my improved physical health and my socially responsible satisfaction, my spiritual health. In fact, the most important thing to me about being a vegetarian has become the animals not killed for me.
I would take that even one step futher. I am proud that no animals at this very moment are leading miserable lives in order to become my dinner.