I’ve always teetered on the edge of Vegetarianism. It started when I was little and my mother would place a juicy steak on my plate. My sister found it amusing to taunt me, reminding me that this steak was once a living, breathing cow. As salty tears ran down my face, my nostrils were suddenly filled with a flesh-like smell and I would immediately grow sick. I don’t blame my sister for pushing me toward vegetarianism, to be honest, I just never found the taste appealing.
Despite my frequent distaste for meat products I never actually committed to being a full vegetarian. The reason being, I travel. Not only is it sometimes hard to be a vegetarian while traveling, but a goal of mine was always to experience new cultures and see how life is lived on the other side of the planet. I used to take this very seriously, to the extent of happily complying when I was offered beef for breakfast, lunch and dinner in Brazil, hand-fed a steak by an over-enthusiastic pub owner in a small town in Australia or merry-making at Oktoberfest with veal schnitzel. This to me, was being a traveler who was open and willing to experience new things. I convinced myself I was growing, personally and being a gracious guest. However, with new information surfacing about the consequences of consuming meat, I am starting to rethink how I travel.
A recent article published by the Guardian, gathered from various studies, stated that agriculture is a significant driver of global warming and causes 15% of all emissions, half of which are from livestock. This article also discussed that cutting beef consumption would have more of a positive impact on our environment than not driving a car! That’s HUGE!
My days of traveling and making excuses for eating meat are done. Caput. Finito. My role as a traveler, and maybe yours as well, has shifted slightly in 2017, the year of sustainable travel. I have a lot of changes in store for the way I travel, but one of the biggest changes I am making is fully committing to being 100% vegetarian and being vocal about it. I now look at my job as a global citizen, to be an ambassador for our planet, rather than a passively gracious guest.
Now, you might be thinking this is incredibly insensitive and rude of me. There are thousands of people who live in small towns around the world who either need to consume or produce beef and other animal product in order to survive. When faced with the choice of feeding your family or saving the environment, most will choose to feed one’s family, and I get that. There are numerous cultures in which consumption of animal products is a traditional way of life. I also understand that it’s hard for some people to change customs and traditions, even though it’s high time we make changes to save our planet. So, don’t worry, I won’t go as far as turning this into another religion to be preached and forced on people. I won’t be one of those vegetarians who judges the small beef farmers for putting food on their table. I won’t go telling people their way of life is wrong, but I will start intelligent and rational conversations. If I am offered meat, I will politely decline and if I am asked why I will state the dire state of our environment and hope conversation ensues. If I don’t do this, then the conversation may never happen. A person, city, town or village may go on none-the-wiser to the dire state of our climate. Change will never happen without action and conversation.
I always though of travelers as messengers of the world. We have the rare privilege to travel to far reaches gathering information as well as spreading information. So, if I can open the door to conversation with one person, if I can plant the seed in one town, which grows, encouraging one person to dig deeper into the topic than I will have done my job.
It is time to do our job as travelers and begin to have conversations, as well as take action, about saving our planet. What changes are you making this year in 2017, the year of sustainable travel?