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Illustration: Zach Bulick

"Dear Mom & Dad, I’m a Vegetarian” Open Letter by Linette Schut
Illustration: Zach Bulick

Dear Mom and Dad,

             I’ve become a vegetarian.
             I know – we’re a meat-eating family. Because we’re Dutch, roast beef with potatoes and beans are a must. We barbecue multiple times a week in the summer. Sunday soup must have meatballs. But before you raise your eyebrows, your voices, or your fists, let me explain.
             After moving away from home, it’s become all too clear to me that in places other than our small town, meat does not grow up in the backyard. I’ve appreciated being able to see the annual cow get fat in the back field before it’s loaded up and butchered at Vanessa Meats. I love that every trip to Opa and Oma’s yields a dozen eggs from the chicken coop. I’ve relished growing up so close to family farms, close enough to know that they are real.
             But I was lucky. The chicken I’ve eaten since moving comes in a huge box. When I fry it, a literal puddle of water forms in the pan from all the water they’ve injected it with. The $5.99 steak from the super store definitely did not grow up in any back fields – you can almost taste the growth hormones.
            This isn’t a huge lifestyle change – you know I’ve turned up my nose at pork chops for years and could easily say no to that juicy steak. This isn’t the first time I’ve thought, “Why not just become a vegetarian?”
            So I started doing some research, actually looking into the animal agriculture industry outside of your backyard. It turns out that according to a University of Chicago study “the livestock sector is responsible for 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, around 40 per cent more than the entire transport sector – cars, trucks, planes, trains, and ships – combined.” And while I’m not the biggest animal rights activist – growing up with a loving grandfather who just happens to shoot cats when they overpopulate the farm really cuts down on animal sentimentality – the way animals are treated at your ordinary factory farm or slaughterhouse is absolutely appalling. Did you know that a large percentage of cows are still alive and conscious when they are skinned?
            I’ve rolled my eyes at PETA commercials, I haven’t even watched Food Inc., but I’m serious when I say I’m not going to eat any more meat. I’ve found my reasons to actually make the step and cut meat out of my diet. I figure that if not supporting the livestock industry is as simple as choosing not to eat meat, I want to make that decision.
            Even though most of the meat in your freezer really does come from the backyard, I am going to pass on the steak. I won’t try to convince you to stop eating meat and you don’t have to make tofu next time I’m home; I’ll eat the salad and cook myself an egg.

Love, Linette



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