I love food! I always have. As a Mexican and Salvadoran American, my heart rejoiced when I feasted on menudo, tacos de fajita, barbacoa, tamales or carne asada. Like many Americans, I also indulged in some fast-food favorites like the Wendy’s spicy chicken sandwich. However, after every gloriously delicious meal, I felt guilty because I knew that my consumption of meat was detrimental to the world’s biodiversity, ecology, water availability and air quality. The devastating facts regarding the meat industry became increasingly difficult to ignore.
Raising livestock requires an immense amount of energy, water and land. The U.S. uses 2.14 million gallons of freshwater for livestock every day while people in developing countries go without potable drinking water. Soil is eroded; greenhouse gases like methane are emitted, and animal waste finds itself spewing into nearby water. We pollute our land, water and air; harm aquatic life; and exploit animals because of our unreasonable demand and constant desire for meat.
With meat in my stomach, guilt in my heart and knowledge in my mind, I knew I had a moral obligation to act. After eating meat with almost every meal for 20 years, I knew it would be a challenge to cut back. I tried different methods like limiting my meat intake to once a day or allowing myself to eat meat every other day. I was unsuccessful. It was frustrating. Despite the pressing motivation, I could not find the self-discipline needed to meet my goal. Instead of dwelling on failure, I focused on progress and growth. I celebrated every vegetarian meal I had, even if that happened only once or twice a week. However, I needed a new method, and I knew I had to fully commit.
My transition to vegetarianism required my full dedication, and I would not have been successful without lent. Encouraged by my spirituality, I made a pledge to cut meat from my diet for 40 days. Through that experience, I realized I could be vegetarian, so it only made sense to continue exploring the bountiful options of a plant-based diet. I owe my continued success to my mother’s support. Cooking traditional vegetarian dishes alongside her, like chilaquiles, lentil soup and veggie tacos has made me realize that vegetables can be just as savory, versatile and delicious as meat. Since February 2015, I have led a mostly vegetarian lifestyle. I do have an occasional fajita taco, but I think that is a lot better than having meat every day. You don’t have to be a full-blown vegetarian to make a difference—every meal counts.
Decreasing my carbon footprint, promoting sustainable food products, not contributing to the meat industry’s inhumane practices and living a healthier lifestyle are among the many reasons why I wanted to decrease my meat consumption. I’m glad I was able to accomplish what I set out to do, and I trust that I will continue to do so. If my story didn’t convince you to make the switch, these delicious recipes might:
Lentil soup (Bean soup, veggie sandwich and corn)
Veggie tacos (Taquitos rojos with avocado, beans, carrots, potatoes, purple cabbage, and salsa roja)
Whatever your reasons may be for decreasing your meat consumption, your efforts make a difference, and you shouldn’t be discouraged if you don’t meet your goals right away. Changing the way we think about our dietary needs is the first step—not giving up is the next.
– Mago Reza