Art by Sacha Irick
Although he was known more for his contributions to the world of science, Albert Einstein — who is considered to be one of the most intelligent men of all time — was also a proponent of the vegetarian lifestyle. He once said, “Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances of life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”
Since that time, the concept of vegetarianism has moved beyond the stereotypical hippie to a lifestyle with numerous benefits. However, much of America is still on the opposite end of the spectrum, scratching its head at the idea of a plant-based lifestyle. After all, being a vegetarian means giving up meat and leaving behind our beloved steak and bacon to dine upon tofu and kale instead.
So, why be a vegetarian? Why make the change?
There’s more to vegetarianism than meets the eye. For me, it started out as a love for animals. Ever since I can remember, I have loved animals. However, I also loved meat. I never could understand why I would eat animals if I loved them so much. Part of me — and I think part of all of us, really — knew there was a disconnect between loving animals one moment and dining upon them the next. As much as I enjoyed meat, I couldn’t get that thought out of my mind. Finally, at the age of 12, I decided to become a vegetarian and hope for the best.
My whole family thought it was “just a phase” and that in a matter of weeks I would be back to my old omnivorous ways. To everyone’s surprise, including my own, I continually dove deeper into the issue, eventually becoming a full-fledged vegan — meaning not only no meat, but no dairy or eggs either.
Although worthwhile, vegetarianism has not always been easy, especially when it comes to certain stereotypes. Many people are confused about vegetarianism and veganism because of common misconceptions. To begin, meat is not the only source of protein. In fact, if you have a well-balanced diet, it is basically impossible not to get enough protein. Common sources of plant-based protein include legumes (beans, lentils), nuts, seeds and whole grains (quinoa, oats).
Also, there’s more to vegetarian food than just salads; believe it or not, since becoming vegan, my diet has significantly expanded! There are countless recipes I enjoy — from sweet potato crepes with cilantro-tamarind sauce, to cinnamon mocha cupcakes. By closing the door to meat, dairy and eggs, I unknowingly opened up countless other doors to delicious foods I would not otherwise have known existed.
Lastly, from my stance as a Christian, God did not put animals on this earth for us to eat them. In the Garden of Eden, God’s original design, we were vegans. God describes His perfect world as one in which carnivorous predators, such as the wolf, befriend their former prey, such as the lamb (Isaiah 11:6-7).
Being so young, I didn’t understand everything I was getting into. Like any significant change, becoming a vegetarian proved to be a learning process. I learned that I could survive without meat. I learned that there are other options out there besides picking ham off of a ham and cheese sandwich and calling it a meal. I learned how to cook, and I learned that I loved cooking. I learned that the meat industry contributes more to climate change than the entire transportation industry. I learned that if everyone became vegetarian and there was no food waste, then we would have more than enough food to feed the growing global population. I learned that not everyone is supportive of other people’s good intentions. I learned to stand up for myself and for those without a voice. I learned that animals in factory farms are subjected to deplorable conditions that should be considered animal abuse. I learned that, on average, a vegetarian saves the lives of 95 animals each year. I learned that vegetarians live longer than the average person and that vegans live even longer. I learned that heart disease, cancer, type II diabetes, obesity and other “Western diseases” can be prevented and even cured with a plant-based (vegan) diet. I learned that I have a passion for nutrition. Becoming vegetarian, and eventually vegan, taught me who I was meant to be.
Keep in mind that there is more to this lifestyle than what one sees at first glance. After all, how many of us actually know where our food comes from, what it is doing to our bodies and what it is doing to God’s world?
Am I saying that all of our answers lie upon veganism? No, I’m not. Nor am I condemning omnivores for eating meat. What I am saying is that there are a lot of things that most people don’t realize when it comes to meat, and it is our duty as Christians to look at the whole picture instead of turning a blind eye. I encourage you to dig a bit deeper and find out for yourself what this whole veganism thing is about. The answers you find may surprise you and bring veganism into a new light.
As published in the Aug. 26, 2013 issue of the Pepperdine Graphic.
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