This is America. Land of free. Home of the brave. The place where a meal isn't considered complete unless it includes a (rather large) portion of meat. Where baseball--the national pastime--just wouldn't be the same without a big, juicy hotdog. Where bacon is an accessory to everything from cheeseburgers to ice cream to chocolate. Backyard barbeques, birthday parties--the majority of social events--almost always include meat as the main menu item.
I haven't eaten meat in nearly three years. When I decided to give it up, most of my friends in my hometown of Springfield, Ill. had something to say about it. The Midwest is notorious for its "meat-and-potatoes" diet mentality, and Springfield is about as Midwest as you can get. The typical responses from my friends included:
"You aren't eating meat anymore? How will you get enough protein?"
"That's not healthy!"
"What will you eat then?"
I became accustomed to having to justify my decision to stop eating meat, and would tell them all the same thing:
"I love animals and I don't want to eat them."
Although there were many reasons I gave up eating animals--my health, the environment, etc.--my love for them far outweighed every other reason.
Now, working for AAHA and constantly being surrounded by animal lovers, I've often found myself wondering how some animals have ended up as our beloved pets, while others are on our dinner plates. How puppy mills outrage so many of us, while factory farms aren't even a thought that crosses our minds as we eat our bacon and eggs.
As a vegetarian who is married to a hunter, I think it is completely natural to consume meat. Humans have been doing it since the beginning. I choose not to do it, but understand that most people enjoy eating meat and would never give it up, and that's OK.
Today is World Vegetarian Day. As I sit at my desk, surrounded by my fellow animal lovers here at AAHA headquarters, I can't help but wonder why we cherish some animals and eat others.
Do you eat meat? If so, do you ever feel conflicted as an animal lover?
Photo credit:©iStockphoto.com/Nathan Allred