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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 25 June 2002 Issue


By Judith Marie Gansen

How and Why A Stubborn Activist Finally Stopped Eating Meat

I had been an activist/animal advocate for years and had read all the
information out there concerning why we should not eat the flesh of other
creatures.  I agonized over this issue as I ate my burgers and tried not to
think of the suffering this caused animals.  I read PETA's magazines and
other animal education publications and felt these were the best kind of
caring, compassionate people but they allowed their hearts to rule their
heads where health was concerned.  I honestly believed that I needed to eat
meat to be healthy as most doctors will still tell you today.  I rationalized
that if I didn't eat meat that I would most likely die younger and any
contribution I could have made to further the cause of animals (not to
mention what it would do to my loved ones) would die with me. I felt I still
had a lot of living to do and a lot to give to make the world a better place.
 I was actually scared that if I did not eat meat that I would get some
devastating disease or shorten my life span and even found articles written
by dietitians and doctors who supported this idea.  I read there were
substances in meat that humans need in order to be healthy and meat was the
only place to get them.  (note: interestingly, B-12 deficiency has often been
discussed being found in vegetarians.  However, I took B-12 shots before I
quit eating meat for this deficiency and since becoming vegetarian have not
needed them!)

However, since I have always been a searcher for truth and knowing the
majority is not always right I kept on investigating--reading articles that
most doctors would tell you were written by people "out there" in their
thinking.  I spoke to people about this--my wonderful, intelligent and fellow
"searcher of truth" chiropractor had an interesting opinion.  While she is
very health conscious and believes in prevention and eating organically, she
said she believes we need to eat meat to be healthy.  When I pressed her as
to why she felt that way she said that the only vegetarians she saw were
unhealthy.  She also takes a conservative Bible perspective and said that it
states in the Bible we need to eat meat.  (My niece-in-law later found
scripture that supports a vegetarian diet.)

I have two issues with that thinking.  First, that only unhealthy vegetarians
would be more likely to go see her to begin with (if you feel good you tend
to not go to doctors) and she did not see enough vegetarians to prove that
all vegetarians are unhealthy--her reasoning was flawed here.  Second, while
I consider myself to be a Christian, I have a problem with a doctor of
science using the Bible to advocate eating meat.  The Bible is subject to
interpretation--even top religious experts don't always agree on its content.

So here I was--not very healthy and chowing down on meat even though it was bothering me that I was eating a fellow creature who lost its life and had to go through pain to lose its life--I had to live didn't I?  I at least drew
the line at never eating things like lamb--that was a baby after all and I
never ate veal knowing how horrible those baby calves are tortured.  I quit
eating pigs after I read a story in Reader's Digest about a pig that saved a
little girl's life.  Burgers were my favorite because the meat was ground up
and I never had to look at yucky things like veins or marbles of fat--that
way I could ease my conscience somewhat as a burger is the best way to
disguise a life to look like "food." 

One of the police officers I worked with years ago was a tall, blonde, good
looking guy who told me he became a vegetarian and was never healthier.  It
was the first time I "met" a living breathing vegetarian.  I kept wondering
if he was going to drop over dead or something at any minute.  He was, after
all, only one vegetarian but he didn't have a lot of sick days and was very
strong and really seemed to have it together as a person and officer.  He
inspired me to keep searching.  I also lost my beloved mother to cancer years
later and began doing research on people who got cancer as I didn't want to
die the way I saw her die--suffering terribly for 14 months.  I remember
reading that when Japanese people migrate from Japan to Hawaii and adopt a
Western diet, their cancer rates go way up.  We are digging our own graves
with our own forks.

I found out that famous people were vegetarians including Johnny Weismuller,
the original Tarzan.  He was a champion Olympic swimmer too.  Nothing weak about that man!  I learned there were other famous athletes, celebrities and famous people who chose not to eat meat.  Yet I was still afraid to risk my
own health and go against what my chiropractor and also my regular doctor
told me.  They had more knowledge about health than I did, right?

My Vegetarian Epiphany

I then found the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

And began to subscribe to their magazine, Good Medicine.  In spite of the
fact there are over 5,000 physicians who belong to this organization and in
spite of the fact that every article written in the magazine made sense and
could be proved, I still was fearful of not eating meat.  We had and still
have many diseases and conditions in our family and I wasn't about to play
"Russian Roulette" with my life.

If you only have time to read one paragraph in this article, please read
this: Then an article written by Dr. Neal Barnard (who has testified before
Congress) of PCRM changed all that.  Dr. Barnard used reason and science in
his article by comparing vegetarian and carnivore animals.  All vegetarian
animals have long digestive tracts to digest fruits and grains unlike
carnivores who have short digestive tracts to process meat quickly out of the
body.  Carnivores have pointed teeth and a long jaw designed to grab, tear
and rip flesh--but vegetarian animals have flat teeth and a short jaw
designed to grind plant material.  Carnivores have claws to attack prey and
rip them apart but humans have an opposing thumb and forefinger designed to
pick berries, fruit, etc.  My God, he was right!  He was right because we are
animals too.  There is no argument against this wisdom.  Our bodies were not
designed to eat meat to begin with--no wonder there is so much disease and
illness out there in humans.  We eat something we aren't supposed to be
eating and it stays in our digestive system too long because we have a very
long digestive system just like other vegetarian animals do.

I then made many attempts to stop eating meat.  I sometimes failed and would
berate myself afterwards but I admit those burgers were hard to give up plus
I was often in a hurry and eating on the run--kind of hard to do with a
salad!  I learned there are five different levels of vegetarianism with
vegans being the most strict (and people I really admire as that is the
toughest level to maintain in our meat-oriented society).  Finally about 7
years ago, I made the only New Year's Resolution I have ever kept--I quit
eating meat for good.  Several of my health problems have dramatically
improved.  My husband has not quite "arrived" to where I am yet, but he gets
better every day.  His last cholesterol check was excellent and that makes me
happy because he has drastically reduced his chances of dying from a heart
attack.  I love him and want us to have a long life together.

An article in Consumer Reports several years back mentioned that the food
pyramid was in the process of being changed by our government and the
nutritionists wanted to cut back on the meat and dairy in the food pyramid
which is the standard put out for our health.  The beef and dairy people
(they have powerful lobbyists) intervened with our government and meat and
dairy in the food pyramid remained the same.  How horrible!  Consumer Reports is not an animal rights magazine of course but a well-researched consumer protection nonprofit publication.

A vegetarian who is a good friend of mine years ago went to a new doctor and
back then really didn't like to tell anyone she was a vegetarian.  She had
blood work done and the doctor came back in and said "you never told me you were a vegetarian."  She was shocked that he knew that and asked how did he know because she never told him--he said "I can always spot a
vegetarian--because the blood work always comes back so clean."

Most importantly, since I no longer eat meat I feel a great peace inside
myself that I never felt before--I feel closer to God because I am no longer
part of the cycle of violence against a fellow creature.  I can look into the
eyes of a cow without guilt and appreciate these creatures for the beautiful,
sentient beings they are--able to feel pain and fear as we do.  I still eat
junk food (hey, I am not one of those perfect vegetarians)! But I am working
on that too.  I have learned more about how to protect my health from the
PCRM publication than I have from ANY doctor ever.

Take responsibility for your own health.  Save yourself from having to live
at the doctor's office, more hospital bills and a lot of grief and prevent
disease from happening to begin with by exploring this wonderful lifestyle. 
At our house I don't enjoy hours in the kitchen (I am too busy working on
animal issues as well as other things).  I use a lot of Morningstar Farm
products or Boca Burgers, etc.--all soy based.  The crumbles I have found can
easily be mixed with regular quick fix products where you are supposed to add
meat.  We make BLT's with the Morningstar Farm bacon which is a great quick sandwich.  I make vegetarian goulash that we love with the crumbles or
spaghetti with vegetarian meatballs.  Vegetarian pizza is easy and you can
come up with all kinds of combinations of veggies for the top.  One of our
favorites is a fake cheese pizza with fake sausage, green peppers and
mushrooms.  Adding fake bacon bits to a salad pizza is easy and great
too--it's fun to see what combinations work.  Take regular recipes and
substitute the soy products and they usually come out.  The Boca Original
Chicken patties are so good that my husband asked me recently "is this real

Yes, I've come a long way, baby!!!!!

Staff:  Animals in Print  (free online animal publication)

Pawprints, Footprints & Animal Chatter
[email protected]
"We exist to educate and through compassion and knowledge improve the lives
of all beings."

Return to Animals in Print 25 Jun 2002 Issue

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