Why vegetarians should give us a break
I am going to begin this letter by getting straight to the point: I like meat. And I have no problem with those who choose to be vegetarians or vegans based on religious or ethical values. What I do take issue with are the tactics that are often utilized by vegetarians in their quest to preach and impose their own values upon others.
As an Indian woman, I grew up in a culture where vegetarianism has been a common religious lifestyle choice, and find it perplexing that Columnist Barbara Saramak thinks people still find vegetarianism to be a "strange and unjustified lifestyle." What is truly strange and unjustified is the smug character of those specific vegetarians who believe it is their business to guilt me into changing my dietary habits in the midst of a meal.
While the author states, "Vegetarians aim to decrease their contribution to the deaths and cruelty inflicted upon these animals by not eating them," the bigger issue of ethical farming practices should be improved upon rather than eliminated all together.
Buying free-range chickens and cage-free eggs or supporting ethical ranching and grass-fed cows that are allowed to graze on pastures not only supports local farmers, but promotes better overall health to the consumer. It is also a good compromise that is environmentally sensitive.
The author also points out that "Vegetarians tend to live longer and have lower cholesterol levels and cancer rates than meat eaters." It should be clarified that meat eaters who indulge in too much red meat and processed meat are the ones affected, not those who stick to lean proteins and healthy, unprocessed red meats in moderation.
While some meats are high in saturated fat, the key to eating habits, again, should be moderation. An eggplant parmesan is not a healthy substitute for a lean grilled chicken breast. While I do believe that this is the fault of restaurants not being able to cater to the demands of a healthy lifestyle — vegetarian or not — I want to dispel the notion that some vegetarians have in thinking a three cheese sub or mozzarella sticks contributes to a healthy diet because it does not contain meat.
Soy-based "chicken nuggets" or "hot dogs" found at the local grocery store are often processed with chemicals to mimic the flavor of meat, according to a dietician from an article in the August 2007 issue of Food and Wine Magazine titled "Why Vegetarians are Eating Meat."
The Bogalusa Heart Study has also found that children who eat meat are less likely to have low levels of energy. Meat is a main source of vitamin B12, while red meat is the largest contributor of iron and zinc — which is crucial when more than 30 percent of the population is not getting enough iron or zinc in their recommended daily intake. Meat has natural vitamins that are easily absorbed by our body and high levels of quality protein that one single vegetable cannot give us.
Often times it feels as though animal rights activists put people who eat meat in the same category of those that support dog fighting, casual whale torture or the recreational clubbing of baby seals. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' ambush tactics and over-zealous use of overtly sexual celebrity endorsements grate upon the sensibilities of the average human being, leading us to dislike and disregard their overall cause, and only contribute to the existing stigmatization of vegetarians in American society. At the end of the day, no one should feel disrespected because of his or her personal practices, but it should be considered that the minority group is not always the victim; it can sometimes be the antagonist.
Sayani Das Chaudhuri is a Rutgers College Senior and current art editor of the Johnsonville Press.