As I sat on my 13-hour plane ride, I thought what better way to fill the time than watching two depressing documentaries about climate change and meat consumption: Seaspiracy and Cowspiracy (both can be found on Netflix). 

Some facts from the films:

  • 1 pound of beef requires 2,500 gallons of water to produce (Cowspiracy)
  • A farm with 2,500 dairy cows produces the same amount of waste as a city of 411,000 people. (Cowspiracy)
  • Agriculture is responsible for 80-90% of US water consumption. (Cowspiracy)
  • Livestock covers 45% of the earth’s total land. (Cowspiracy)
  • While we are using metal straws to save the turtles, the real issue lies within the fishing industry. Plastic straws create 0.03% of the plastic that enters the ocean, while 46% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is from fishing nets. (Seaspiracy)
  • Every time you eat fish, despite the logos labeling them sustainable, there is a very high chance countless other fish/sharks were killed in the process through bycatch. Approximately 50 million sharks are killed every year as bycatch. (Seaspiracy)
  • The equivalent of a garbage truck load of plastic is dumped in the sea every single minute. (Seaspiracy)
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Basically, by the end of the 3 hours, I decided to try vegetarianism.

Disturbed not only by the lack of governmental regulation but also by the non-profit organizations’ (which claimed to be advocating for the environment) false advertising, I was sickened by the entire meat and fish farming industry and the reality of this issue. 

Somehow, though, by the time I reached home after the journey back from studying abroad, all I wanted to eat was my favorite chicken burrito.

My issue is that I have always known the damage to the environment that the meat and fishing industries cause, but by the time I’m hungry, all of that knowledge seems to be forgotten! It’s almost like each time I see a glaringly mortifying documentary, fact, article, Tik-Tok, etc. I am shocked all over again, like I’m seeing it for the first time.

After I watched the documentary, I wondered how they concealed all of this information from us. I then realized that it was not concealed. All of the direct effects humans have on the environment are right in front of us, but somehow many of us choose to turn a blind eye.

The documentary makes a bold statement that anyone who still eats meat is not an environmentalist. I agree with this (despite considering myself someone who cares about the environment… while also occasionally eating meat). But how can you advocate effectively for a problem you contribute to regularly? I’ve considered that statement a lot lately, and I feel a bit pathetic admitting that I don’t think I’m ready to go fully vegetarian. That’s the end goal, but now I’ve made an attainable goal of eating meat/fish only twice a month and eliminating all red meat. 

The unfortunate reality is that how meat and fish are consumed globally is not sustainable. Even if I only eat meat twice a month (about 12x less than the average American), it’s still unsustainable. Despite products being labeled sustainable fishing/farming… it’s simply not.

Upon research, I found that this minimization of meat/dairy products without complete elimination can make you a “reducetarian”. This mindful practice helps ease the harsh transition between one’s current diet to a plant-based or vegetarian diet. You might find it helpful.

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Now, I know that no one reading this really cares how often I eat meat. I bring up my personal experience, though, to show that if you are like me and want to become vegetarian but are still wrestling with the practicality of that, you’re not alone… but you can start small today. Make a goal of limiting your meat consumption by at least 50%. Go watch these documentaries and others (listed below). Research all of the amazing meat alternatives out there, and check out the list of restaurants below with great vegetarian options in NOLA. Good luck!

Must-see documentaries:

  • Seaspiracy (Netflix)
  • Cowspiracy (Netflix)
  • What the Health (Netflix)
  • Food Inc. (Hulu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV)

Restaurants with good vegetarian options:

  • Mediterranean: 
    • Saj: Mediterranean salad, green tahini salad, hummus, labna, saj bread
    • Shaya: Cauliflower hummus, kale tabbouleh, falafel small plate, falafel sandwich
  • Mexican: 
    • Val’s: Elote, chips + guac/salsa, sweet potato tacos, vegetarian breakfast burrito 
    • Barracuda: Mushroom tacos, vegetarian quesadilla, chips + guac/salsa/queso
  • Italian: 
    • Sofia NOLA: Kale salad, insalata salad, cacio e pepe, margarita pizza
    • Gianna: Brussel sprouts salad, mushroom pizza, ricotta gnocchi
  • Other:
    • Turkey and the Wolf: Collard green melt

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