I overheard another teacher saying this to her students at work the other day. I laughed to myself. I have no idea what that means.

I have spent my entire life laughing to myself when people freak out about my diet choices. Normally, when people find out that I don’t eat meat, they react in a few different (hilarious) ways. Here are some of my favorite responses.

  • “I’m sorry! I never knew! I feel so bad!” The person acts as though I should have been wearing a sign or something, because now they feel bad that they didn’t know or notice. It’s as if this person were just found out that I have been in a wheelchair this whole time and they’ve ignored it.
  • “Oh, no! You just don’t know what you’re missing! Meat is, like, so good! (drool . . . )” The person first reacts as though I just lost a child. They look at me with sorrow in their eyes, and try to explain all that is good in the world by beginning to describe the tastiness of a hamburger or a chicken nugget. Eventually, they get so caught up in the description that they forget about me.
  • “Oh my God! Why?” This mixture of shock with curiosity is the most common response. I’ll try to address some of that here.

My entire life, I’ve calmly brushed off tons of other questions. What in the world do you eat, then? Um, what are you eating? How do you get your protein? And the list goes on.

What I’d like to do now is just give a few reasons that I choose not to consume meat products. I’m not religious about it. I promise. I just think it’s good for me, and I’m going to keep doing it. Here’s why.

  • Health: I’m less likely to develop heart problems, cancer, osteoporosis, obesity, food-borne illnesses, or diabetes. I also have a longer life expectancy. Statistics also say that my diet gives me a faster metabolism, which means more energy for fun with family and friends, play-time with (future) kids, productivity at work, projects at home, and other fun things!
  • Ethics: I understand that a lot of dying goes into my living, and I’m not going to go into the way that most of America’s farm animals are kept killed, because it’s disgusting. (The meat you see at your local doesn’t come from cute little  family farms like the one my husband’s grandpa owns where each cow roams free.) There is something to be said for the vote that I make when I choose not to support farms where animals never see daylight. I know they are going to keep doing it. I’d try to stop them if I wanted to. Maybe someday I will. Today, I’ll just choose not to give them my cash.
  • Stewardship: By choosing not to eat meat, I’m significantly reducing my carbon footprint. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), chemical and animal waste runoff from factory farms is responsible for more than 173,000 miles of polluted rivers and streams. Ew, right?
  • Human Rights: Unfortunately, lots of people starve to death because of the way our culture consumes the world’s resources. According to a professor at Cornell University, if all the grain currently fed to livestock were consumed directly by people, the number of people who could be fed would be nearly 800 million. I know I’m not getting off my bottom right now to bring these people food, but I like choosing not to contribute to this part of the problem.
  • Money. I like to have money. I know what you’re thinking. Not so altruistic now, are you Shannon? Hey, I said I wasn’t religious about it! I’m stealing this quote directly from Vegetarian Times: Meat accounts for 10 percent of Americans’ food spending. Eating vegetables, grains and fruits in place of the 200 pounds of beef, chicken and fish each nonvegetarian eats annually would cut individual food bills by an average of $4,000 a year.

So, there you have it. Aren’t you sorry you asked?

Disclaimer: Besides my little immediate Amundsen family, I know very few vegetarians. I mean, this isn’t L.A. It’s Kentucky — not really the most progressive (or healthy) region in the world. I just want to publicly say that I love all of my meat-eating friends and family dearly. I didn’t post this to attack anyone’s views — just to answer the question that so many have asked. Now, when people ask the ever popular “omgwhy!” I can send them here (and make them wish they never asked).

Find explanations for these reasons and more here.