I have been a vegetarian for six years. People often ask me, "Are you a vegetarian because you don't like meat or because of... (awkward pause) the animal thing?" People are very curious, but I can tell that they don't want to get me started into some long tirade about the horrible things that are done to animals. I became a vegetarian based solely on the fact that I didn't like meat (mainly things like a big hunk of steak or a pork chop) but once I deemed myself vegetarian, I started doing some research about the effects of food production on animals. That only solidified my decision and is the reason why I have stayed a vegetarian for six years, and probably will for the rest of my life.
I haven't eaten chicken, cows, pigs, horse, alligator or any other kind of meat (besides a few accidental burrito confusions) in the past six years. However, I have eaten fish. I don't particularly like fish, and won't order anything with shrimp or, say, a hunk of salmon at a restaurant, or eat a tuna sandwich, but I do really like sushi. This confuses some people ("You're a vegetarian; you can't eat fish!") but I have maintained that I can eat whatever I want because it is my choice.
I am still on the fence about the whole fish issue, though. I feel guilty when I eat sushi, but I really do like it a lot. Unlike some, I do not believe that fish are lesser animals than a cow or pig, and I know that eating a ton of fish does not have a smaller impact on the environment than, for example, the effect of raising massive numbers of cows for consumption.
Unfortunately for my conscience, I am very aware of the effects of fishing on the environment. According to a PETA website, FishingHurts.com
, commercial fishing has "stripped millions of miles of ocean and pushed some marine species to extinction." Overfishing is a huge problem, with the demand for certain kinds of fish causing populations to go so low that it is not even possible for fishermen to get enough of these fish. Entire marine ecosystems are disrupted by overfishing, and by commercial fishing in general. According to Greenpeace, the practices of commercial fishing cause death among many other species, including sea turtles, dolphins and sharks, and is so severe that "undiscovered aquatic species could be wiped out before we even realize they exist." Overfishing has led to fish farms, which contaminate the ocean waters with a huge amount of fish feces, and farms that leave behind "drugged feed and animal corpses that upset the natural balance of the aquatic ecosystem." Plus, any fish that are kept in these farms that are not native to the environment can escape the farms and disrupt the ocean's ecosystems even more. We are all aware how fragile our oceans are and how much of a beating they take already, and commercial fishing only adds to this strain.
More than 17 billion fish are killed for food every year in the U.S alone.
All of these facts are hard to ignore (especially for animal-loving vegetarians, and people who care about the planet). It would be extremely hard for me to give up sushi, and I know it would be for a lot of other people out there. I'm going to try and keep my instances of sushi consumption down to about once or twice a month. I would like to point out that you don't have to be a hardcore, strict vegan to make a difference on the environment via the meat industry. You can do as I do and choose specific things that you will or will not eat. Or, you can even make the commitment to eating a few vegetarian meals a week. Every time you choose to eat something besides meat, you are making a difference, and I think it's important that we all realize that.