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Life as a recovering vegetarian; eating after being meat-free

By Eli Cangany
On April 20, 2012

  • Bre' Moore

I have been in recovery for almost a month. After two and a half years of eating nothing with a face, I dropped the habit.

It was never really about the animals for me. I just never liked the taste of meat; I think steak tastes like dog food. As I got further into my vegetarianism, I began to learn more and my reasons shifted from a taste aversion to a cause. Then I realized just because the animal is not being killed for its food product does not mean it is not being mistreated. I could not be a true animal activist and still eat mass produced eggs and dairy.

Being a vegetarian at DePauw is not easy; to get protein I ate an egg for almost every meal. This is when my own hypocrisy slapped me in the face. Factory farms are not just producing animals to be slaughtered, 250 million egg-laying hens are also kept in these horrible environments. They are kept in small barbed wire cages with five to eight roommates. With no room to do anything, the animals become aggressive and attack one another. To fight against the hen on hen violence the farmers sear off their beaks at a young age to reduce the harm a chicken can do to its roommate. After the chicken's laying cycle is over they are either slaughtered or forced into an early molting cycle so the next laying cycle can begin as soon as possible.

All of this for an egg, a ovo-lacto (egg and dairy eating) vegetarian's biggest source of protein. My biggest source of protein for almost three years. And I thought I was saving animals from harm by not eating meat.

Chickens sent to slaughter are genetically altered to have bigger thighs and breasts, to the point that at their end of life they cannot walk. Dairy cows are given growth hormones to double their milk production. After giving birth, a female can produced milk for ten months, to keep the milk lines flowing the cows are being constantly impregnated.

The cows are let out of their holding pins twice a day, to be milked by machines. After each cow can no longer produce such high levels of milk they are sent to the slaughter. Milk is in everything, we pour it over our cereal in the morning, it is an ingredient in almost every baked good, it's oreo's favorite beverage, it is the reason so many cows are raised in intensive confinement and are socially deprived of natural behavior.

If the problem lies with the mistreatment and hormone injections why stop with animals? Factory farms are only seen as worse than industrial farms because of the blood they spill. The modern industrial farm grows enough to feed a hundred people, but they can only do this with the help of chemicals: fertilizers and pesticides. Monsanto genetically engineered a new type of potatoes. The New Leaf potato can protect itself from it's biggest threat without the help of pesticides. A potato that can kill an insect. What are we putting in our bodies?

I do have a problem with the process of mass production food. I do think eating vegetarian is better for the environment. I could not live that life for almost three years without seeing some sort of value in it.

I see myself going back to being a vegetarian, I would even like to try being vegan but right now, living at DePauw, I can't do it. I specifically cannot go back to being a vegetarian until I have the access and means to purchase free-range eggs and milk. It is a fine line for me, I cannot preach an idea of saving animals if I still eat the result of mistreatment.

- Cangany is a sophomore from Indianapolis majoring in communications and English writing. She is the opinion editor for The DePauw. 

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