I am no vegetarian. A few years ago, I tried to, but I failed. It was too complicated. I did not want to make other people’s lives more complicated whenever they invited me to a meal. When I eventually consulted a nutritionist for the first time in my life, I learned a lot about protein and carbohydrates and why meat and fish are very efficient ways to give the human body what it needs. Unlike some vegetarians and vegans, I do not find meat disgusting. So, I became a “wannabe-vegetarian”: I only eat meat when I have a good reason, such as: I am invited by others, I do not find anything enjoyable vegetarian on a menu, or I really, really feel a desire for meat.
Nevertheless, I think there are good reasons to be vegetarian.
An ecological reason (which is also an ethical reason): Producing so many animals, transporting them hundreds and thousands of miles from the farm to the slaughterhouse, from the slaughterhouse to the food processing, from the food processing to the shops, from the shops to the kitchens: all that contaminates the land, expends unbelievably large amounts of energy, and pollutes the air. If we go on like this, we will ruin the fundament for our successors’ lives on earth.
An ethical reason (which is also an ecological reason): It is insane how much land we need to grow grain to feed animals for months and years to make them into food for humans. About one-seventh of the world population is undernourished. An eight-digit number of humans are presently at risk of starvation. It would be much easier to feed the starving if we did not use the land to produce grain as food for animals but produce grain as our own food. There is enough land on earth, we only do not use it efficiently for the nourishment of humankind.
Another ethical reason: We do not know what animals feel, what needs and hopes and fears they have, but we can observe that certain animals – at least the ones we like to eat – obviously feel something like joy and fear and pain, and they all desire to live. We need not put the animals’ needs above human needs, but we should never make any creation suffer without a good reason. The mass production of animals – regarding animals as a sort of industrial product – and the mass slaughtering of animals only for our own habitual culinary enjoyment is a sign of a receding respect for the nature that surrounds us.
Finally, a theological/spiritual reason: God’s Creation originally does not know meat consumption by humans or animals (Gen 1:29–30). The eschatological vision by Isaiah describes peaceful relations between animals that we know as predator and prey (Is 11:6–9). Christian monastic traditions have always administered vegetarianism. This does not primarily mean painful abstinence and chastisement, but instead, it is an eschatological sign that refers back to the origin of Creation. It is a sign of peace and salvation.
Maybe I should try again to become a vegetarian as good as I can. I could start with a period of, let me say, forty days.