I wish there was a catchy way to combine those two words, like: Veganuary? No, that doesn’t work. Januarian? I don’t think so.
First, I hear you naysayers that begrudge PETA and vegans alike. I’m not trying out this diet to be politically offensive. However, I do think that once you reach a level of income that propels decisions about food beyond subsistence, eating becomes a political action. You are what you eat; you support the policies that allow the food you eat to reach your table.
I do think we live in a society with an abundance of cheap meat, made possible through government subsidies of grain. Chickens, turkeys , cattle, hogs and even farm-raised fish eat a lot of this cheap grain, something that is not in their natural diet. At the beginning of the 20th century, the average American ate approximately 120 pounds of meat per year, now we eat 220 pounds of meat per year (Forks Over Knive s[Documentary] 2011).
I spent last semester visiting various types of farms and listening to lectures and presentations from farmers, agronomists, agricultural economists and political experts on subsidies in a Ph.D. colloquium on sustainable agriculture. I believe that sustainable agriculture requires grazing livestock. In my opinion, feedlots are unsustainable and inhumane. I grew up on a farm with dairy cows. When a dairy cow has a baby, there is a fifty percent chance it will be a boy, right? Right. That bull calf is then raised as a steer and eventually reaches your table. I grew up with these animals. Steers are very friendly, curious creatures. When you enter their space, they crowd around you, lick you and watch you.
Dairy cows are fortunate to live out most of their natural life. They too have personalities. They can be lazy, bossy, paranoid, hyper, mean, sweet, etc. Once we had a very lazy but lovable cow named Lemon. I believe Lemon was one smart cookie. She laid down as long as possible before and after milking. She also stood in the same spot every day; a spot that allowed her a pretty good chance of being able to eat extra grain. Growing up, we had a mother and daughter pair that were both exceptionally white cows, with hardly any black. Robin and Aspen were their names, and I swear they were best friends. They were attached at the hip in the barn and in the pasture. This is a very long digression, but the point is that those of us fortunate enough to know these gentle creatures, know that they do not deserve to spend their life in a feedlot.
In the long-run I'd like to become a localvore. Someone that eats locally grown, seasonal food. Someone that only eats grass fed beef and views eating meat as a luxury rather than a necessity. Someone that avoids processed foods and enjoys cooking using natural ingredients. I am hoping that a vegetarian January will force me to learn some new recipes and break my addiction to meat. We'll see how it goes! I'm already missing bacon this morning!