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Why I am a vegetarian (hint: it's for the spirit + the environment)

Photo taken by Danielle Cohen - www.danielle-cohen.com

Photo taken by Danielle Cohen - www.danielle-cohen.com

Full disclosure:  There have been times in my 20's when I did waver in and out of being vegetarian.  However, since 2009 I have not eaten meat (including fish).

I often get asked: Why are you vegetarian?

For me, my reasons behind being a vegetarian have layered on top of each other as I dive deeper into my spiritual path and gain wisdom and knowledge about the impact that eating animals has on myself and the world around me.  But it all boils down to energy and the environment.

It first started when I was 17.  At the time, I worked in health food store and on quiet Sundays would spend a lot of time reading through various magazines and books that we had on the shelves.  I see my work at this store as really planting the seeds for my spiritual path - it was here that I discovered the idea of energy healing, dove into my love for plant medicine, and learned the concepts of manifestation, chakras, and other metaphysical topics.  One day, I was reading through a new pamphlet that was on the shelf that spoke about the way that animals in factory farms were treated before they became the meat that we see in stores and on our dinner plates.

In that moment, it hit me:  if the last emotion that these creatures felt was fear and suffering, then that energy must be still lingering within the meat.  While there may be no scientific proof of this, it felt like a truth in my heart.  Did I want to eat that kind of energy?  Did I want to participate in something that would cause that sort of feeling to come up for animals?

For me, the answer was a clear no.

As I continued my vegetarian journey, I learned about the environmental impact that the meat industry has on the world.  Something I haven't really spoken about here on this blog is that I am an environmentalist at heart.  When I was 8, I read 50 Simple Things Kids can do to Save the World, and was filled with a passion for helping the world to be saved from any environmental destruction.  My first website that I created when I was 14 was focused on explaining environmental issues such as global warming, acid rain, and ocean pollution.  When I was in middle school and high school, I wanted to become an atmospheric environmentalist.  

With a strong concern for the health of the planet in my heart, my reasoning behind being a vegetarian became totally solid when I discovered how factory farming was harming the planet.  In 2006, the UN released a report that said that the animal agricultural industryreleases more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than the transportation sector.  This article states that animal agriculture is responsible for 65% of nitrous oxide emissions, which has 296 times the Global Warming Potential of CO2.  Additionally, animal agriculture is responsible for huge amounts of water usage, land usage, species extinction, and waste.

As a woman who considers herself a priestess and stewardess of the earth, I can no longer eat meat with the wisdom that it is contributing to climate change.

As a yogini who studies Buddhism, I see being vegetarian as a way to practice ahimsa, or the act of non-harming other creatures - both of animals and the humans on this planet.

I often contemplate  the magnitude of the positive impact that we would see within the environment if we all even reduced our meat intake.  While vegetarianism works for me, I know it is not an option for everyone, and I do not judge others for eating meat.  But I do wonder - could we reduce the effects of global warming if all meat-eaters reduced their intake by half?  What would happen if subsidies were given for vegetables instead of meat?  What if we supported small-scale farmers who work in a different way than large factory farms?  

If you are a meat-eater wondering about good vegetarian food, I recommend picking up the cookbook Plenty and Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi, a respected chef from London.

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