Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Vegetarian Story

Hello, and welcome to Effortless English. Today is another spontaneous podcast, spontaneous English. And of course spontaneous means “without a plan,” and it’s the most natural kind of speaking. It’s speaking without reading, without planning what you’re going to say. And it’s the way we speak when we have normal conversations, of course. So today I was trying to think about, you know, what should I talk about? I need a general topic at least, and I was reading our Effortless English forums and noticed they had some Skype discussions about being a vegetarian.

Sri, one of our really fantastic members, who – she’s got so much energy and enthusiasm and motivation – she started a Skype discussion on the topic of vegetarianism. And I thought, “Hey, hey! Why don’t I talk about that?” It’s a good podcast topic because, you know, some members know that I’m a vegetarian, and I sometimes get comments or emails asking me about when did I become a vegetarian, why, how? So I’ll quickly talk about that. How and why did I become a vegetarian?

Well, I became a vegetarian about 15 years ago, and it actually was not easy for me because before I became a vegetarian I used to eat lots and lots of meat. I was a carnivore. In fact, my favorite restaurant was McDonald’s, and I would go to McDonald’s all the time, many times every week. In fact, the McDonald’s employees knew my order. I would walk in and they already knew what I was going to order. They would just start typing it. But then, you know, something changed. A few things changed.

The first thing that changed was I got a job as a security guard. This was after I graduated from university with my first degree – my first of three degrees – my undergraduate degree, which is in journalism. And I graduated and could not find any good jobs, so I had a lot of bad jobs, and one of those bad jobs was a security guard at a chicken plant, this big chicken processing plant. And what that means, in fact, is it’s a place where they kill the chickens. They bring in these big trucks with all these chickens, and then they put them into the factory and the workers grab them and put them on these machines, and the machines kill them, and the blood goes everywhere, and it’s truly horrible.

And I walked around this place as part of my job; I worked on the weekends as a night guard. Well, I only lasted two weekends. After two weekends, I had enough. It was too much; oh, it was horrible. I hated it, and I saw how the chickens suffered, you know. I could see they were in pain. They’re screeching and screaming, and it was horrible, and that made a strong impression on me. And I thought, “Hm, maybe I don’t want to eat meat.” So I started trying to eat less meat.

Also I wanted to become a little more healthy, because, you know, I was generally healthy but I had started running. Running, you know, first 3 miles, 4 miles, 5-6 miles, but running was very tough for me, very hard. I got very tired, breathing very heavy when I ran, and I didn’t enjoy it so much. So I had read that actually a vegetarian diet was really healthy, and that a lot of runners have a vegetarian diet, and tri-athletes have a vegetarian diet, or an almost vegetarian diet.

So I started trying to reduce the amount of meat that I ate, but I wasn’t a vegetarian until, then, I got a book called Diet for a New America. A friend recommended it to me, a friend who was a vegetarian, in fact, and the book is by John Robbins. It’s an excellent book, and it’s called, again, Diet for a New America. So I read this book, and it’s a really good book. It’s a book that it’s not trying to convince people, you know, “You must be a vegetarian!” But it – it just reviews a lot of the scientific research behind vegetarian diets.

It also talks a lot about the food industry, especially the meat industry, which is just horrible; the factory farming industry, terrible, terrible. And it talks about the environmental impact of raising animals to eat them, to kill them and eat them. And the environmental impact of going vegetarian. So I read this book and it was a very powerful book. I was convinced. I thought, “You know, this is – it all makes sense, and I have already seen, you know, how the animals suffer.” And I knew that cows suffer just as much or more, and pigs, really horrible, and I don’t want to, you know, contribute to suffering for any being, any sentient being, any being with a mind and emotions and feelings. I don’t want them to suffer because of me because I wanna eat something that I like.

So for all these reasons I started changing and really getting serious that I wanted to become vegetarian. And then the final straw, the final convincer for me, was I read Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography, and he talks a lot about his experiences with being a vegetarian. Of course, Mahatma Gandhi is just one of the great human beings of the modern era, maybe ever. A very deeply spiritual and ethical person, and that also affected me. And so, finally, I became a vegetarian. But after one month, I quit, because it was too difficult because I really loved meat and I had this strong habit of eating meat, and it was hard to change. So I started eating meat again.

But then I started thinking that this is a principle that’s important to me; I don’t want animals to suffer. I want to be healthier. So then I became vegetarian again. And then I quit again. And I did this back and forth, back and forth, for almost a year, until finally I completely became a vegetarian, and that was about 15 years ago, and I’ve been a vegetarian ever since. Something very interesting happened when I became a vegetarian related to my running. I noticed during that year when I was going back and forth, I noticed that when I was eating vegetarian I felt great when I was running, and when I would race in these races, like a 5K race, for example, I got faster times. But when I was eating meat, I felt more tired, it was more difficult to run, and my times in the races were slower.

So for me this was a bit of empirical kind of quantitative scientific evidence that hey, the vegetarian diet is healthier. I’m in better shape, and I can run faster and longer, and I feel better, when I’m vegetarian. And that was probably one of the things that was the kind of big thing that convinced me that you know what? This is the way to go; this is what I need to do. And as I said, that was 15 years ago, and I still have a lot of energy and I still feel good, and I’m still very happy to be a vegetarian. No meat for 15 years, and I feel great. So anyway, that’s my story of becoming a vegetarian.

If you’re interested in being a vegetarian – you know, I don’t try to convince people. I don’t try to tell people, “You should be vegetarian!” But if someone is interested, if they ask me, then I do recommend John Robbins’ book Diet for a New America. It’s a really great introduction to being a vegetarian. Okay then. So that’s my story of being a vegetarian. See you next time. Bye bye.

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hiroshi said...

AJ, what type of vegetairian are you? strict ones who eat only plants without eating eggs, fish and other food related to beings or the ones who can eat anything but meat?

there are several types of vegetarians, right?

speaking of vegetarianism, I remembered a book I had about vegetarian food in which it was said that nearly 126 million americans are overweight,,,,,
that is roughly the number of the japanese populution.

in a sense, we are what we eat:)

AJ Hoge said...


Fr the past 16 years or so I have not eaten meat, but have eaten dairy and eggs.

At the moment, I'm trying to become vegan-- which means I won't eat any kind of food from animals (no eggs, cheese, milk, etc.). Its a tough change to make, but Ill do it eventually!

You are absolutely right about Americans-- we have a super unhealthy fat epidemic and our horrible food is the reason!

Its one reason Im switching to Vegan. A new research study, called "The China Study", cites a vegan diet as THE KEY to a longer and healthier life :)

Ilka Afonso said...

You have a great story here !
I'm almost a vegetarian, I still eat chicken. However, I'm trying to give up eating all kinds of meat.
I've also given up eating mammals' meat because I think they suffer too much and we are mammals too. Mammals can dream... And I love my pets. Why should I love my pets and eat other mammals ?
I'm glad to find people who think like me. Usually, people think I'm a little crazy when I told them why I gave up eating mammals' meat.
On becoming a vegan, I think it'd be very difficult for me. I really love cheese!