I just finished watching Oprah's episode about her staff going vegan. I know it's been almost a month since it aired, but it's been sitting on my DVR since then. Honestly, I was scared to watch it because I wasn't sure how it would affect my eating habits. I watched the episode a couple of years ago when she first featured Michael Pollen, who made the documentary "Food Inc", and I haven't shopped for food the same since.
The vegan diet has never been something that appealed to me because it seems like it's too much to think about. How would I get my calcium and protein without milk or meat? Do I have to start eating things I can't pronounce, like quinoa? Will I lose so much weight that people will think I'm anorexic?
So, after this vegan episode, I must say it wasn't as scary as I thought it'd be. What I got from it is that you should be conscious of what you're eating and where it comes from. I buy only organic and free-range meat when it's available at the store, and I try not to buy too many boxed, processed foods. As Michael Pollen suggested, I try to shop in the perimeter of the grocery store where things are fresh and refrigerated or frozen.
So the ethical question is this: Can I be an animal lover and an environmentalist if I like to eat meat or animal products? I know for a fact that I will never be vegetarian or vegan. I like steak, chicken, and cheese too much to give it up (and don't get me started on bacon!). But I am conscious of where my food comes from and buy from local farms or free-range sources when I can. I also only eat red meat once a week and make at least one vegetarian meal a week.
I know the environmental impacts of factory farms are detrimental to our water supply and contribute to global warming, but if the farms are smaller, treat the animals humanely, and are more conscious of their impact, then maybe it's not that bad. Last year, I learned about Temple Grandin (thru the HBO documentary about her life and contributions to the way cattle farms are run) and am relieved to hear that many farms, and even McDonald's, use her methods to treat the animals more humanely. If more farms were run that way, with more consciousness of how they affect the planet and the animals, we'd all be better off.
In my opinion, I CAN be an environmentalist and animal lover AND eat meat and animal products. I respect veganists and vegetarians as well. To each his own, right? Who said there's only one right way to eat anyway? Bon Appetit!