To veg or not to veg; that might not be the question…

I might as well get this out of the way. It’s that age old argument against eating meat. Eating a vegetarian or vegan diet is easier on the planet and, in many cases, better for our health. However, there are those of us who can’t. Yes, really. We can’t. Let me explain.

I am constantly searching for a better way to feed myself, especially since I have Fibromyalgia. Better nutrition means less pain. (That’s also one reason I choose to grow my own food, but that’s for a whole new posting.) I tried being vegetarian for a year. In that time I was routinely getting sick and couldn’t quite shake the unrelenting fatigue. I finally went to my rheumatologist who tested me for food allergies. Apparently, I have quite a few. The big ones were pretty serious, as it turns out:

  • Vegetable proteins, including nuts, seeds, soy, all high protein veggies
  • Nightshade plants – potatoes, tomatoes, peppers (yes, all of them) and eggplants
  • Grains – almost every one
  • Tropical fruits
  • Dairy products

All of these were making me very ill. The weird fact was that the only proteins I wasn’t allergic to were meat, poultry, and fish. I have no choice. If I don’t want to be sick constantly, or die from lack of protein, I have to eat meat. What’s an animal lover to do?

I talked with my Tibetan friends, whose Buddhist beliefs teach them to revere all life as precious. They also have traditionally lived at or above 10,000 feet where not much grows. For thousands of years, they have lived off of meat and dairy as those were the only things available. To balance their resources with their beliefs, they have put practices into place, mitigating loss of life. One large animal feeds many people as opposed to smaller animals which can’t feed as many. This is why rivers in Tibet don’t get harvested for their shrimp or fish. It would take many lives to feed one person.

When they came to the U.S., many of them tried to become vegetarian. They became ill because their bodies weren’t used to that diet. They had to go back to meat and dairy. Even His Holiness, the Dalai Lama tried to be vegetarian once and had the same experience.

My Blackfoot friend, Bob, comes from a tradition of great reverence for the animals, bison mostly, who give of themselves so that people can live. His knowledge of the Northern Plains and his deep understanding of the natural world gives me a glimpse of what it means to regard animals not as other, but as us. It means that we must be thankful for every life-sustaining thing we receive from the world, not just once in awhile, but constantly.

I have conversations with my friend, Nancy, who is vegan and understands why I eat meat. We’ve really come to the conclusion that people must choose what’s best for them. I eat nutritiously and do what’s right for the environment, insofar as it’s possible. I make sure the meat I eat comes from producers I know. I know how they raise their animals. I don’t waste anything. I do my best.

Okay, that’s done. On to more farming talk…