I was raised omnivorous, but I chose vegetarianism in 2007. Ten years later, I’m writing these words to recall what led me to change and how has my experience been since then.
At school, I learned that vegetarians are those who abstain from meat consumption. Let’s define meat: the flesh of any animal—red meat, poultry, seafood. Being a vegetarian may also include refraining from by-products of animal slaughter, such as blood meal, collagen, gelatin, feathers, lanolin, leather, meat and bone meal, whey, etc. A vegan diet excludes any animal product, including eggs, dairy, and honey.
Before embracing vegetarianism, I was seeking to eat a healthier diet, so I chose to start adding more plant-based foods and restricting meat and poultry consumption. At first, being a vegetarian wasn’t even an option for me. But one day I came across a video called Meet Your Meat, which taught me about factory farming. I was horrified. After reading more about how food gets to our plates and the toll that it takes on our natural resources, I decided to become a vegetarian because factory farming is:
Unethical – It transforms animals into machines. It ignores the fact that animals are entitled to live long lives in the best possible conditions, avoiding unnecessary suffering.
Eco-friendly – It places a high burden on the environment. Producing meat requires more water and surface. It depletes resources quicker and creates more waste.
At present, food producers seek to make the most product for the least amount of money so that they can make the most profit. The results range from animals being grown faster by genetic selection, though not caring for the conditions in which the animals live.
Animals are being overfed and administered antibiotics to be kept alive as their living spaces are small and dirty since it’s a cheaper option than letting them live naturally and providing them with enough clean space:
One of the consequences is that people are eating sick animals with large quantities of drugs in their systems. But the victim here is not the uninformed consumer: it’s the animal that’s being treated like an object, a food-making machine.
Whenever I’m asked why I became a vegetarian, I cite animal rights and environmentalism as the main reasons. Health is also often mentioned in conversations. Although it is important, it is not the reason why I chose vegetarianism. Still, compared to omnivores, there are several benefits when eating a vegetarian diet: lower overall mortality rate, reduced incidence of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cerebrovascular disease, and certain types of cancer.
Last, but not least, I also chose vegetarian because it’s yummy. I’ve never missed any meat in these ten years.
UPDATE: As of September of 2018, I've been following a vegan lifestyle to the best of my abilities.