BY SARAH CHAFFEE – ASST. FORUM EDITOR
Being a vegetarian at Thanksgiving is like being a new significant other brought home for the first time —you’re bombarded with questions, some jokes are thrown your way and you’re being a little bit judged.
Every year, for the past six, this has been my Thanksgiving — and I’m not complaining. I enjoy the flow of never ending “Tofurky” jokes from my uncle, the deeply concerned look my grandmother gives me before we eat, worrying I will leave hungry and answering the same question every year — “yes I’m still doing that ‘no-meat thing’ .”
This “no-meat thing” started during 10th grade health class while watching “Food Inc.,” the 2008 documentary which exposes the realities of America’s food industry.
My eyes were fixed to the small TV in the front of the room for all 94 minutes, never wavering or flinching. Until that point I had never thought about where our food comes from.
I went home that day declaring that I was never eating meat again.
My mom asked why I was purposely making life more difficult for her.
“How am I supposed to make a dinner that everyone can eat now?” she had asked, while furiously stirring a pot of soup on the stove which would serve as my replacement dinner while the rest of my family ate roasted chicken.
I hated being a nuisance, but I stuck to my new belief that animals are not ours to kill for food.
This is a belief most people don’t share. Only 3.2 percent of United States’ population identifies themselves as vegetarian, according to “Vegetarian Times,” a magazine dedicated to meat-free cuisine.
Being a part of this small group, it has never been, and will never be, my goal to convert people to vegetarianism or chastise them for eating meat. For me, not eating meat is a personal decision that I don’t care if other people know about or not. I don’t do it to make a statement against factory farms or inhumane butchering methods; I do it because I just really like cows as animals and not hamburgers.
There are, however, benefits that come with being a vegetarian. I get first dibs at the mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving since everyone else’s sides are the main part of my dinner. I save money eating out since vegetarian options tend to be cheaper. And from years of hearing vegetarian jokes, I know a few good ones — why did the tofu cross the road? To prove he wasn’t chicken.
But being a vegetarian is, surprisingly, not all about the animals. This lifestyle comes with some positive environmental perks as well.
If all seven billion of us were to stop eating meat, an idea People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA, and other animal rights organizations hope for, we could severely lower our greenhouse gas emissions.
A 2009 report from the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency predicted that “agriculture-related carbon emissions would reduce by 17 percent, methane by 24 percent and nitrous oxide by 21 percent by 2050.”
While not entirely realistic, some efforts have already been made to lower people’s consumption of meat, which in America currently stands at 71.2 pounds of red meat per person, according to “The Wall Street Journal.”
“Meatless Mondays,” for example, is an idea surrounding not eating meat for one day a week, hence the name. “VB6” or “Vegan Before 6,” is a popular book and weight loss plan encouraging people to refrain from eating meat until 6 p.m.
So at this Thanksgiving when my uncle pretends he heard the turkey gobble in the oven, my grandma pushes all the stuffing towards me with a concerning glance and that same question is asked yet again, I’ll happily answer it.