Amy Roberts: Getting to the meat of the matter
As a native Nebraskan, I was born tremendously proud of my state’s contributions to the country: Steak and football. We’re fiercely defensive of these assets, and until someone starts bragging about the size of our mosquitoes, this is pretty much it in Nebraska’s “claim to fame” category.
At 18, I left the Midwest for college in Texas, another state very much known for its production of beef and football trophies. Given these geographic influences, when I decided to become a vegetarian in my early 20s, it was no surprise my friends and family struggled to understand my new meat-free vocabulary. Conversations like this were all too common:
“Let’s go to a steakhouse for dinner.”
“I’m not eating meat anymore, can we go somewhere else?”
“Don’t worry, you can eat there. They have pork on the menu.”
I’ve flirted with meatless meals for the better part of two decades; occasionally eating fish when on a tropical vacation and sometimes failing to skip the turkey on Thanksgiving, but otherwise avoiding meat. In the past few years I’ve become increasingly more committed and now no longer eat anything that once had a mom and a dad.
Truthfully, it wasn’t that difficult for me. I don’t crave meat, and I’ve seen one too many Sundance documentaries to assume cows and pigs and chickens live a beautiful free-range life right up until they end up on plate. Animal cruelty really leaves a bad taste in my mouth. But even if I was totally cool with animals being hung upside down while alive, anally electrocuted and having their throats slit, it’s a bit problematic to claim yourself both an environmentalist and carnivore.
Studies show more than 60 percent of the world’s biodiversity loss is from meat consumption. Farm animals generate loads of greenhouse gases, toxic manure, and wastewater that pollutes groundwater, rivers, streams, and, ultimately, the ocean. Factor in the pesticides and chemical fertilizers used to grow the crops to feed these animals and fuel to transport them, and it’s not difficult to make the connection — our planet has a beef with meat.
So for a long time I mostly ate squirrel food and assumed that was pretty much the equivalent of driving Tesla and I was doing my part, which surely was enough. But in the past few months, it seems the universe has been trying to force feed me a message.
It started last spring in Botswana. A country known for producing approximately the same number of vegetarians each year as Nebraska. But there of all places, I stumbled upon my tribe. People who don’t eat animal products because they are conservationists and because they don’t want to cause pain to any living creature. They weren’t abrasive or judgmental about it, just compassionate and thought-provoking and well-read. They were the first vegans I’d ever been around who didn’t make me feel like a murderer for putting cream in my coffee. I liked their energy, and clearly it didn’t come from cheese.
When I got back to Park City, I learned our mayor and a few city council members had embarked on a 10-day vegan challenge and were encouraging others in the community to do the same. A few days later I heard an interview with the authors of the book, “Vodka is Vegan.” They sounded normal, so I downloaded the book and found it hilariously informative.
That’s a lot of vegan influence in just a couple weeks. Still though, I wasn’t entirely sure about the whole thing. Would I have to start bathing in patchouli oil? Bring my own kale to dinner parties? And what would I do with the five remaining gallons of ice cream in my freezer?
Despite these questions and my hesitancy, I decided I could try it for one week. I googled my food options, and when I learned Oreos and wine are, in fact, vegan, I realized I could commit — that’s practically ¾ of my diet anyway.
I’m only a week in, but it hasn’t been as socially awkward or difficult as I assumed it would be. There’s a little more planning involved and some extra time spent checking ingredients for dairy and eggs. But all in all, I’m feeling pretty good about my chances for success. In fact, the hardest part so far has been getting up at 5 a.m. to milk the almonds.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
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