Vegetarian or carnivore?
Whether you see Bambi’s doe eyes every time you reach for meat, or chow down on hamburgers without thinking twice, discussing eating habits can spark a meaty debate. Is eating animals morally wrong? Should the animals you eat be raised humanely? Does a vegetarian diet benefit the environment? And what happens when you put three meat-eaters and one vegetarian in the same room? beijingkids sat down with four students from St Paul American Preparatory School to find out.
Liu Park, 16, is from South Korea and has lived in Beijing for two months
Puje Lkhagvasuren, 15, is from Mongolia and has lived in Beijing for one year
Ben Bernazir, 15, is from the Philippines and has lived in Beijing for six months
Natalie Lavallee, 15, is from Canada and has lived in Beijing for two months
Is anyone here a vegetarian?
Natalie: I became a vegetarian when I was 9 because I didn’t like that I was eating animals. I found it unfair that they were living beings that had to be killed. I was strictly vegetarian for a year. I didn’t eat fish, and I didn’t wear leather. It was really hard because my parents eat a lot of meat, and they had to make special food for me. Now I still try to be a vegetarian, but sometimes I just need a little bit of meat.
Would any of you ever consider being a vegetarian?
Liu: No, animals taste nice. Why would I want to be a vegetarian? I’ve been eating meat all my life; I can’t just stop one day.
Puje: I tried to be one, but in Mongolia it’s cold and it’s hard to grow vegetables, but we have a lot of meat, so it was too tough. I want to be a vegetarian because I feel guilty like Natalie, but I have to eat meat.
Ben: My mother always forces me to eat vegetables for vitamins, but I like meat more. Meat makes me strong.
Do you ever feel guilty about eating animals?
Liu: Not at all. I don’t feel so guilty about eating animals.
Ben: It’s OK if I eat steak, but I have a cat, and I’d feel bad if I ate cat meat. For me, the cat is a friend. Sometimes they are smart animals, they’re sweet – I’d feel bad if I ate them. Also, people in the Philippines don’t eat cats.
Why is it OK to eat some animals and not others?
Natalie: To me, cats and cows are equal. If you have a farm, then all the animals are like pets. One of my friends was a vegetarian and she ate fish, but I don’t eat fish because it’s still an animal.
Ben: If I had a cow or pig as a pet, I would still eat them. In the Philippines, we don’t eat dogs or cats, but it’s a tradition to eat cows and pigs.
Why do you think you have different views about this?
Natalie: I grew up with two dogs, had two cats, a hamster and fish.
Puje: I don’t have any pets. I think it’s a factor.
Liu: I’ve tried to raise animals, but it didn’t work well. I would eat dog if I had the chance. If the dog was my pet, then I wouldn’t eat it, maybe – if we had grown up together.
What do you think about veganism?
Natalie: That would be too difficult. There’s milk and eggs and animal products in many different things. I can see veganism being a good cause, but I don’t think I could do it.
Puje: I’d never try that.
Does it matter to you if the animals you eat are raised humanely?
Ben: It doesn’t matter. It’s the same. People will kill them and then make food.
Puje: I think it does matter. It would be better in their lives if they ate good food in a clean place.
Natalie: They should have a good life before they’re killed. I think it’s unfair. If you know someone’s going to die, you make that person as comfortable as possible before they die. I think we should do that for animals.
Liu: I agree with her.
Would you become a vegetarian to better the environment?
Liu: No. I don’t think so. If I want to help the environment, I shouldn’t drive a car, but I don’t understand why eating more vegetables would help the environment.
Do you think there are other reasons people become vegetarians?
Puje: I have many friends who are vegetarians, and they say meat doesn’t have nutrients or vitamins, just protein, so it doesn’t do anything for your body – it’s healthier to be vegetarian. But, like I said, it’s too hard. I still eat meat. My grandma is a vegetarian because she’s Buddhist.
Liu: I have some friends who don’t want to get a lot of protein, so they try to eat vegetables.
Ben: I don’t have any vegetarian friends, but some people are vegetarians for religious reasons in the Philippines.