Wednesday, August 14, 2013

On Being Vegetarian

For the past couple of months, I have been consistently surprised with how easy it is to find good, healthy vegetarian food in Israel.  I suppose that I really shouldn't be this excited- after all, it is relatively easy to find kosher dairy restaurants where I can eat most things, and falafel stands at practically every corner.  in fact, whether or not i will fit into my jeans when i get back home is the main issue ;)

Anyways, what I find most interesting is that several people in Israel have asked me why I choose to be a vegetarian, and what significance it holds for me. Growing up in the liberal Bay Area, and then living in Boston, I have never really been questioned on my food choices, nor have I ever had trouble finding food that I can eat.  My experiences this summer have definitely prompted me to think more deeply about why I am a vegetarian.

The main reason I keep a vegetarian diet, although seemingly trivial, is habit.  My family is vegetarian,  so I never tried meat or felt an inclination to do so at home when I was young.  By the time I was old enough to think about what being a vegetarian meant to me, I was convinced that my body would just have a hard time digesting meat after years of not having it.

I also support the idea of eating lower on the food chain.  I'm not exactly vegetarian because of this reason, but I do think it's one of the reasons that I have never wanted to start eating meat. It takes more resources to produce meat than it does to grow vegetables, grains, and legumes, and being vegetarian plays a small but valuable effort in consuming less energy in this world.  While it is certainly true that indoor heating, cars, air travel, and several other factors play into energy usage, I'd like to think that maintaing a vegetarian diet is still a good step towards being conscious of the effect we as humans have on our environment.

Lastly, there is religion.  Certain sects of Hinduism emphasize a nonviolent lifestyle, and this includes abstaining from killing animals and eating meat**.  This is the main reason that generations upon generations of my family have been vegetarian, and I am proud to uphold the tradition!  I feel truly fortunate that I can lead a healthy lifestyle as a vegetarian, and I hope to continue it for as long as possible :)


**Edit, with input from my family: Hinduism does not actually prohibit the consumption of meat.  However, it suggests that the last sentiments of the animal which is killed (namely fear) will be transferred to the person who eats it.  Because these feelings might not be best for someone seeking mental nourishment and spiritual growth, a vegetarian diet is suggested.

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