We’re happy to welcome Michelle Kretzer as our new expert on vegan dining! Michelle blogs for the PETA Files and has a contagious passion for meatless eating. Learn more about Michelle below, and look for her first column tomorrow. – KK
While pursuing my journalism degree, I took an agriculture course as an elective. Part of the curriculum concerned factory farming, and I was shocked when I learned how these farms force animals to live in filthy conditions, routinely mutilate their bodies, and haul them through all weather extremes to painful and terrifying deaths. I immediately decided that I could not continue to give my money to factory farms and financially support that cruelty to animals. So I stopped, just like that.
You know, there are so many vegetarian and vegan options out there now that it really wasn’t hard at all. For almost every animal product, there’s a healthy vegan alternative, such as “chicken” nuggets, “ground beef” crumbles, and soy cheese. So I looked at it like, “I can buy the animal product, or I can buy the other option, which costs about the same, tastes about the same, is much better for my health and the environment, and didn’t cause animal suffering, and I’m still eating basically the same stuff. Why wouldn’t I do that?”
One great reason is that raising animals for food damages the environment more than almost anything else we do. It uses up a lot of natural resources, including land (both to raise the animals and to raise the crops to feed them), water, and energy. And the Environmental Protection Agency says that the runoff from all this intensive factory farming (mostly tons of fecal matter) pollutes our waterways more than all our industrial sources combined. Raising animals for food is also one of the largest sources of carbon-dioxide emissions and the single largest source of methane and nitrous oxide emissions, the three gasses that cause most climate change. So if someone cares about the environment, eating vegan is the best thing that he or she can do to protect it.
Well, people ask me all the time, “So you eat a lot of salads, right?” which is funny because I’m not really a big fan of salads. And then they’ll ask, “So, then, what do you eat?” And I say that I eat whatever I want and just leave out the couple of things I don’t want, which everyone does with certain foods that they don’t favor. And then inevitably, people will ask where I get my protein. I think it’s unfortunate that our western diets are skewed to focus every meal on protein, rather than on a healthy mix of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new “MyPlate” food guide recommends having protein be only a quarter of your daily calorie intake. And I get that from legumes, vegetables, nuts, and soy-based mock meats.
Oh, man, choosing a favorite restaurant would be way too tough. Mellow Mushroom pizza makes a soy-cheese pizza that will knock your socks off. And my favorite Italian place has a penne, asparagus, and Kalamata olive dish that I could live on. It also makes a great pasta primavera. I love to go to Japanese restaurants and get the vegetables cooked on the hibachi grill and the veggie-roll sushi. And at Mexican restaurants, I like to get burritos made with rice and beans and dip my chips into them. And I love any restaurant that makes a good bowl of vegetable soup, like Panera Bread. I’m a huge breakfast lover, too, and breakfast-for-dinner is one of my favorite meals. I also have an insatiable sweet tooth, so you don’t even want to see me inside a bakery!
Michelle Kretzer learned about factory farming while pursuing a degree in Journalism at the University of Kentucky. She immediately stopped eating meat and dedicated herself to the cause of animal rights. When she is not writing for PETA, Michelle enjoys doting on her German shepherd mix, Hannah, traveling, collecting Beatles memorabilia, and finding great cruelty-free shoes and bags.