Micah and I don’t eat meat. I figured I’d just talk about how that happened, why we still don’t eat meat until today, and some general thoughts on the matter.
This post talks about our experience and does not endorse or vilify any diet. We should all eat in a way that best suits us and respect the conscious decision everyone makes.
How did it happen?
In 2018, Micah and I did our 200h Yoga teacher training in Rishikesh, India. What we didn’t know was that Rishikesh, as the self-declared birthplace of Yoga, is pretty much entirely devoid of meat. Not devoid of cows, mind (they were everywhere), but meat as a food item simply does not exist there.
At the start, this was pretty weird for us. Both of us were used to eat meat regularly, especially Micah. Anyone who knows about The Philippines will know how ingrained meat is in Filipino food culture. But there we were – no meat and barely any dairy products, which meant essentially vegan meals for a month.
Perhaps surprisingly though, neither of us missed meat at all. Maybe it was because of how tasty Indian food is, or because the city offered a large variety of non-meat food options and meals – probably it was a mix of both. But to make a long story short, we left India after a month and simply didn’t feel like eating meat anymore.
Why do we still not eat meat?
There really was no moral basis for us giving up meat. It just kind of happened as a result of the circumstances. But why, then, did we not get back into eating meat after leaving India, especially since we returned to The Philippines with its abundance of excellent meat dishes?
For Micah, it was that she developed an aversion to the consistency of meat. The texture and eating experience suddenly felt weird, which killed her appetite for meat forever. She also gets the runs from eating it. For me, it was a bit more complicated.
I used to have a rather pragmatic relationship with food. I need food to not die, so I will eat – that was about it. In the back of my mind, I always knew that there were serious arguments for cutting the meat out of my diet, both of the moral and the pragmatic kind (more on that later). Up until that point, I had left them there, probably to avoid the inconvenience of having to be consequential with them. Now, however, I saw an opening to just keep going without getting used to eating meat again and decided to take advantage of it.
To be fair, though, I had an advantage that most people do not have: Micah makes great food. Healthy, indulgent, sweet, really anything you could think of, Micah can make it. And, just like Indian food, she does not depend on meat to do an excellent job of it. So, I continued to not eat meat because coming out of Rishikesh I saw an opportunity to go through with it and because Micah’s cooking really made it easy to do.
Some thoughts on eating meat.
Is eating meat a problem? You could think so, seeing how animals and the climate are being harmed in the process. But I still would not say that it is.
First, on the most obvious issue: To eat animals, we must kill them first. But why is that a problem? Organisms consume each other to survive – this is how all life works. Where do we draw the line between animal and plant, organisms that are ok to eat and those that are not, and how do we justify it?
We could say it’s the ability to be conscious, which is why eating meat is wrong and eating plants is right. But as we learn more about the world of plants, we also learn more about their consciousness and ability to communicate – so that argument doesn’t really fly, since we need to kill most plants to eat them, too. Not to mention that a division between “animals” and “plants” is pretty vague to begin with. For example, where do fish, insects, or mushrooms belong? Ultimately, any line we draw here will be arbitrary and thus not very helpful.
This is why I don’t see any inherent moral problem with eating meat. However, a serious moral problem does arise from how we treat animals before we kill them: The cruel experience that most animals go through before they are slaughtered. There is abundant evidence of animals not only vividly experiencing the suffering but also of them being aware of their imminent slaughter once the time comes.
Second, the climate takes multiple hits due to our meat consumption. Destruction to make space for grazing and growing animal feed, water waste, methane produced by livestock, pollution from transportation and refrigeration, the list of problems is long.
Still, these problems don’t strictly arise from eating meat, but from the wider context of our meat consumption. Luckily, I think there is a simple solution: Eat locally.
Eating locally means that you know where your meat comes from and how it is produced. It also means that no extensive transportation and refrigeration is necessary to get the meat to you. Finally, local, decentralized meat production needs to rely less on the cruel practices associated with industrial livestock farming.
To add some perspective: Eating a chicken from the next farm over is certainly both a better moral and environmental choice than buying an organic avocado flown in from half a world away – or even than drinking milk produced in industrial farming lots, which also leads to its own share of cruelty even without directly killing an animal for it.
So, to summarize this post that already got way too long: Micah and I don’t eat meat because it just naturally happened that way, and we decided to go with it. We don’t think there is anything wrong with eating meat, but that there is a lot wrong with how we produce it. A simple thing everyone can do is to try and buy their meat, and indeed all their food, locally.