Photo by Mikaela Todd.

Recently, I’ve been re-thinking my vegetarianism. Animal and environmental protection are both extremely important to me, along with food quality of course, and so I’ve always told myself that being vegetarian was the best way to stick it to the man, go against the grain and save the world.

But then I read a food blog called Voracious, authored by a girl named Tasha, who was vegan for over three years. She recently posted a blog entry to her website explaining her choices for introducing meat into her diet again, mostly detailing her experience being unhealthy, weak and depressed. The one argument that stuck with me was that she was not content sitting on the sidelines, simply calling out big corporations for their inhumane treatment of animals and environmental degradation instead of doing something to counteract those evil practices.

By shopping locally, she argued, the meat consumer is helping farmers that not only treat their animals humanely but also contribute minimally to global warming fight against and compete with corporations like Tyson, stopping them with the invisible hand of the market. Instead of just activism, which Tasha said had become harder and harder for her because of her lack of energy, the combination of that and buying power is a more effective way to bring attention to the issue, in both her opinion and mine.

Reading her blog, I simultaneously laughed and cried as Tasha described her first experience eating meat, the way she felt once she had had her first taste, and the idea that she was not going to miss out on a single bite of life. Now she didn’t have to eat with guilt in her heart. Every word she said resonated in my mind, and I carried those words around with me for days, weighing my options and thinking hard about whether or not this was also the path for me. Eventually, I concluded that it was, but it was not an easy decision.

I want the same things that Tasha wants, food justice and environmental protection. I want to contribute to fighting the corporations in a tangible way. I want to feel powerful again and healthy. I want to be able to walk around the beautiful UC Santa Cruz campus and enjoy the scenery without having to focus on my too-heavy breathing.

And so, I bought fajita beef and made fajitas last Friday. I fried vegetables, onion slices and meat strips, heated tortillas and topped it all off with avocado slices, salsa, cheese, lettuce and jalapeños. My boyfriend made me count to three before I ate the first piece of beef. As I held the meat in front of my open mouth, my eyes teared up and I started crying, but he reassured me that I was doing the right thing. I knew I was. I closed my eyes and brought the meat closer, thinking all the while that I had killed the animal I was now bringing to my lips. At once it was in my mouth and I was chewing, the flavor exploding in my mouth, the texture something I had forgotten altogether but was now remembering again.

After my initial hesitation I picked up my fajita and ate another bite, and another, and another. I finished two entire ones within 10 minutes, with Jeff warning me to slow down but me refusing to heed his advice. It was too good, and my body craved it, had been craving it for years despite the fact that I had learned to ignore my natural instincts.

Obviously, everyone is different. I know many vegans and vegetarians who have been very successful with their diets, but my body is one that simply can’t be. I have become semi-anemic and very weak over these past few years, and I’m happy to find an alternative that fits my morals but doesn’t compromise my health.

I still wonder if I will notice changes in myself as I gradually reintroduce meat into my diet. It’s not going to be easy eating meat. In fact, I know that I will still be grossed out by it for a while. But besides being healthier, the most important part for me is that I am able to eat the food that I love without the guilt I have always associated with it, and that I know I am making a visible difference by buying locally and sustainably.

Like Tasha says on her website, “Life is short, and I don’t want to miss a single bite!”

Fajita recipe: http://www.texascooking.com/features/feb98fajitas.htm

Vegan blog: http://voraciouseats.com/2010/11/19/a-vegan-no-more/