On becoming a vegetarian

ON THE GARDEN PATH by Carolyn Herriot

 

I became a vegetarian in 1975 when I landed in Vancouver from London, UK and found myself sharing a cooperative house with five other people who were all vegetarians. The deal was we each took turns making dinner and because I loved cooking, instead of being daunted, I dashed out to buy a vegetarian cookbook that would teach me to cook something other than egg and cheese dishes.

I happen to believe ‘You are what you eat’ so after swallowing John Robbins’Diet for a New America, I was clear I did not want the energy of suffering and inhumanity that pervades concentrated animal feedlot (CAFO) operations to become a part of me. It was at 23 Dunbar Street in Vancouver that I understood why I needed to become a vegetarian. I shed 30 pounds, felt my energy lighten and I had a much greater sense of well-being. There was no going back and I have been a healthy vegetarian ever since.

It seemed to me from conversations at dinner parties that people were anxious about getting enough protein in a vegetarian diet, but I assured them this was not a problem. Our bodies are composed of 20 percent protein by weight and adequate protein is important for tissue growth and repair, metabolic functioning and the formation of disease-fighting antibodies. Protein molecules are composed of building blocks called amino acids. There are 22 known amino acids, most of which are synthesized in the body. However, there are eight that cannot be synthesized and they are referred to as essential amino acids.

All eight essential amino acids must be present at the same time and in the right proportions for protein synthesis to occur. Grains, beans, nuts, seeds and dairy are valuable sources of these essential amino acids and when combined ensure an adequate intake of amino acids for complete protein synthesis. One of the three combinations below – along with fresh vegetables from the garden – means you can quit worrying about getting enough protein in your diet.

  1. Grains combined with beans.
  2. Grains combined with dairy products.
  3. Beans combined with seeds.

If everyone in the US went vegetarian just for one day, the nation would save:

  • 100 billion gallons of water, enough to supply all the homes in New England for almost 4 months.
  • 1.5 billion pounds of crops otherwise fed to livestock, enough to feed the state of New Mexico for more than a year.
  • 70 million gallons of gas, enough to fuel all the cars of Canada and Mexico combined with plenty to spare.
  • 3 million acres of land, an area more than twice the size of Delaware.
  • 33 tons of antibiotics.

(Source: Kathy Freston, Huffington Post, www.alternet.org/story/134650/)

Then there’s the global politics of making meat the centre of the meal. I find it hard to stomach that we grow corn and grains to feed to animals when so many of us are going hungry. Imagine how easily we could feed the world if members of the meat-eating society cut back to eating meat once a week. And imagine how much suffering to animals we could alleviate if we banned concentrated animal feedlot operations.

Carolyn Herriot is author of A Year on the Garden Path, a 52-Week Organic Gardening Guide and The Zero Mile Diet: A Year-round Guide to Growing Organic Food (Harbour Publishing). She grows ‘Seeds of Victory’ at the Garden Path Centre in Victoria, BC. www.earthfuture.com/gardenpath/ The Garden Path Centre is open to visitors every Friday, 10AM-6PM until September 25, 2011.

cattle photo © Amanda Geyer

Leave a comment

*