Today is Hug a Vegetarian Day! (Yes, it is a real and very random holiday.) And, since I am both a vegetarian and probably in need of a hug right now, I thought I might as well turn this into a blog post. And, since this is a book blog, I figured it would be perfect to talk about the book that turned me into a vegetarian. Which is…
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
I have been a fan of Jonathan Safran Foer since I was in high school and read Everything is Illuminated (highly recommend, especially if you like really quirky books – the movie is fun, too). So, naturally, I had been paying attention when this book was released 2009. I remember reading an interview where Foer talked about how he wanted to pay more attention to what he would be feeding his son and thought it was really interesting. And then waited until 2016 to read this book. I made it about eighty pages in before going completely cold-turkey with meat.
The point of this book is not to make you vegetarian or vegan, it just had that effect on me. Foer’s message is simply that we need to be more aware of how our eating habits are affecting the planet. America in particular eats an insane amount of meat. So much that it has resulted in pretty awful commercial meat production practices. Personally, I definitely give a crap about the suffering of animals. But even if I didn’t the stuff that goes into the meat we buy at the store because companies are racing to get enough of it out relatively cheaply is disgusting. I won’t go too far into it, because experience has told me most people don’t want to know, but I will never look at chicken the same way again.
But, as Foer states in this book, if Americans only ate meat products for ONE meal a day, instead of the typical three, we wouldn’t need to produce meat like we do now. And we’d all be healthier and happier (including the animals we share this planet with). Honestly, it has made a huge difference in my life.
I became vegetarian because I love animals, but also because I was very grossed out by some of the info in this book. But even when that feeling got easier to ignore, I knew I would never go back. Because I felt worlds better. No more being tired all the time, no more stomach issues after every meal, and (most importantly) the hormonal migraines I was having three to four times a week were GONE. I am not one of those health nut vegetarians, and I haven’t quite gone over into vegan territory yet (though I do try to eat vegan as much as I can). I love Hot Cheetos and soda and Sour Patch Kids. I have been pescatarian on and off over the years (meaning I will eat sustainable seafood, but no other meat). And even with that, cutting out meat has improved my health a lot. And I have this book to thank.
Other Vegetarian Books on My TBR
Despite Eating Animals basically changing my life, I haven’t really read any other books about being vegetarian. I think a part of me felt like I didn’t really need that much more convincing. But you all know I like to read, and it is definitely something I can explore some more. But there are definitely a few books that have caught my eye. They’re not at the top of my TBR at the moment, but they are definitely books I want to read at some point.
(Yes, I did read The Vegetarian and it was weird. Not sure I liked it that much, and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it if you’re looking to read books about being vegetarian or maybe why you should just eat less meat.)
Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism: The Belief System That Enables Us to Eat Some Animals and Not Others by Melanie Joy
Pigs are just as smart as dogs. So why do we eat one and not the other? Why do we eat (and wear) cows, but not horses? When I get questions like this in my brain, I just NEED TO KNOW. Which gives you a little insight into why I read so much nonfiction. I’m a naturally curious person, and I love to learn new things. And even though I don’t eat pigs (or dogs), I still feel like I need answers to these questions. So, basically, this book is just to satisfy my own curiosity, but maybe I’ll learn more things. Who knows?
How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease by Michael Greger
I am in my thirties and I have a chronic disease. So I really want to start taking better care of myself, and that starts with what goes into my body. This book talks about the benefits of a plant-based diet and the specific foods that can help with whatever health issues you have and can prevent things like heart disease or liver inflammation. Maybe this is the book that will convince me to finally take the plunge into veganism, but I’m hoping it at least gets me to adopt some healthier habits as a vegetarian.
Why You Should Also Do Some Reading and Think About What You Eat
Since most of us can’t hug a vegetarian for Hug a Vegetarian Day, maybe we should all just think about what we eat today. Personally, I am a vegetarian who doesn’t really get offended when other people eat meat. But I do think that we (especially as Americans) should think about how much meat we are eating. For the environment and for ourselves.
I understand everyone has different dietary issues – I have a friend who is allergic to most of the plant-based protein sources I rely on. It would be extremely difficult for her to be vegetarian. And that’s okay. But I think we should all just be a little better about the amount of meat we consume. If Americans cut out even half of the meat we eat (and we eat more than any other country), we wouldn’t have to torture our food before we eat it and then end up with food in the supermarket that is not very healthy and full of gross things.
Whether you chose to eat meat or not, be vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, or an omnivore, it’s worth putting some thought into. Eating Animals taught me how important that is. There is no one right option for everyone. So, while I highly recommend a vegetarian (or pescatarian), I’m not saying you have to. Try Meatless Mondays. Or cutting meat out for one meal of your day. It will make the world a tiny bit better, it might improve your health, and it’s really easy to do.
I’d love to hear what you think! Any other vegetarians or pescatarians out there? Any vegans? What led you to that decision? And if you are currently an omnivore, would you be open to reading some of these books? What do you think we could improve about our eating habits, as a society? Do you think we eat too much meat? Or could you just not bear to give up bacon? (Not gonna lie, bacon was the hardest for me – but I tried it after years of not eating it and it no longer tastes good to me.) Also, do you have any other vegetarian/vegan reading recommendations (fiction or nonfiction) for me?
No hate in the comments please! I won’t judge you meat-eaters, either (I may not eat meat, but I do eat an unhealthy amount of Hot Cheetos, so I feel like I don’t have the right to criticize). I’m just genuinely curious about your thoughts, and if you’ve given any thought to eating less meat.
And, I know most of us are still under restrictions from Covid, but if you can hug a vegetarian today, go do it! Let’s celebrate this weird holiday!