On (not) being a vegetarian (cont.)

We had the first conversation at our house last night contemplating a different family approach to eating protein. It arose from a couple of threads that have been entwining in my mind for a while: the processed nature of soy protein and the environmental values of grass-fed animals and getting it locally.

As I've related before, I'm not a vegetarian, and don't expect ever to be. But under the influence first of my sister-in-law Beverly and her children, then while trying to cook for my more-vegetarian-inclined wife, I've been tending that way for years. I gave up red meat about 15 years ago, and now it's rare not to have at least one vegetarian or even vegan lunch or dinner every day.

I gave up the red meat mostly because I thought it would hasten, or supplement, my weight-losing, by reducing fat, a vague assumption based on a friend's marrying a vegetarian, falling in with her plan, and dropping a bunch of weight without trying.

There are, of course, at least two much better reasons to go V: environmental, and animal cruelty/exploitation. Georgie, my wife, is one of the latter group; Doug and Val, her brother and sister-in-law, are vegans of the former camp.

Of those two, I'm more with them; you may have seen a previous post I did on God and vegetarianism that addresses the morality of eating animals, and to me, the case is murky at best.

But the environmental case is practically endless! The methane of the cows, especially when they're fed corn instead of grass; the dependence of factory agriculture on chemical fertilizers and chemical pesticides; the aquatic dead zones that result from runoff; the concentration of animal excrement, a form of hazardous waste, that gathers at CAFOs (confined area feeding operations); the food miles the spiral from the routine importation of Chilean grapes and New Zealand kiwis, and plenty more.

But local sourcing will address the food miles, and grass feeding is a far more virtuous circle, as I learned from Joel Salatin, related by Michael Pollan in "Omnivore's Dilemma." You need far less pesticide, if any; the excrement becomes fertilizer; the animals are happier and healthier; and so on. Additionally, growing grass in this way enriches soil instead of burning it up, and makes it an impressive repository of carbon, the exact opposite of what happens when we pull carbon from the earth, in the form of petroleum, and convert it into fertilizer and fuel for transport.

Incredibly, this manner also mitigates the cruelty by putting animals into pastures instead of confining them in shit-soaked pens for the majority of their misbegotten lives. Yes, they still must die for our meal, but for that part, I again refer to my previous essay; in short, we are carnivores by nature, and nature ought to be a strong argument for anything in the natural world.

There's still another thread to this, but this post is too long already, and I'm saving it for the next one.

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