The Merits of Pescetarianism

Since my return to the U.S., I've been surprised at how much meat we Americans inhale.
For the entire two years that I lived in Jordan, chicken on Fridays was the norm.
This meant lentils or potatoes Saturdays-Thursdays.
Occasionally, there would be goat meat or, for the annual celebration of Eid al-Adha, camel meat. My favorite days were when my neighbors' daughter, with her 10-month-brother on her hip, would be standing at my door when I came home from teaching, and in one breath pronounce, "My mom made fish for lunch today and she wants you to come over and don't forget to bring the coloring book that you brought last time because then we can play after lunch while she takes her nap." Fish, or samak in Arabic, was a delight; my neighbor would stuff the fillets with a concoction of tahini paste, parsley, tomatoes, and spices, then bake them in a simmering sauce tinged with flavors of whatever was fresh from the fields that day.
While traveling in India and Nepal, meat was a luxury that I actually learned not to miss. When the whole country subsists on a daily diet of dal, or lentils, and they cook it perfectly, you don't find yourself craving anything else. Without trying to, I was a vegetarian in India and Nepal for two consecutive months. Their curries and vegetables are so fresh, and paired so perfectly with turmeric and cumin, that I never once thought, "A fat, juicy steak would go really with this nan bread."
I know Americans love meat, but it still shocked me how regularly they consume it. At least once a day. Sometimes, you even have different meat options on the same dinner table (especially at a Chinese dinner table).
When I first arrived back on American soil, I voraciously gobbled up meat when I went out to dinner with my family and friends. I satiated myself with second and third helpings of the Main Meat Dish at home-cooked meals. It felt good to use those molars to gnaw away at a rare steak or to bite down into a chicken breast.
Then, a series of fortunate events fell into place, and I found myself proclaiming to the world that I am a Pescetarian! My family looked at me in confusion. Was this some sort of mutated branch of veganism? Has my daughter been overly influenced by the baba gis and bizarre hippies she met in India? Is she turning anorexic?
No, no, and no.
My new adopted lifestyle is simply that I consume any and every food except for the meats of land animals. I still eat fish (note to future dates: I love sushi), still eat cheese (note #2 to future dates: I love cheese), and still eat eggs and dairy products (note #3 to future dates: I love ice cream). I have converted to soy milk, but I still eat regular yogurt and cheese products.
I'm proud to say that I've been pescetarian for over two months now. And truthfully, in some small way, I feel like I'm making a difference. It's not just about animal cruelty; it's also about the health benefits.

I recently ran into a PETA booth, and grabbed some quick facts that justified my switch to pescetarianism and actually made me consider turning vegan.* Besides the obvious claims advocating for animals' rights, here are some to consider:

- A USDA study found that 96% of broiler chicken carcasses had detectable levels of E. coli, indicating fecal contamination.
Translation: In every package of chicken, there's a little poop.

- In the U.S., we have the highest permitted upper limit of milk pus cell concentration in the world - nearly twice the international standard of allowable pus cells.
Translation: Got pus? Milk does.

- Raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined.

- Going vegetarian does more to fight global warming than switching to a hybrid car does.

- Raising animals for food requires more than 1/3 of all raw materials and fossil fuels in the U.S..

- Cattle-ranching is the #1 cause of Amazonian deforestation.

- The meat industry causes more water pollution in the U.S. than all other industries combined.

Let's close with a good one from Bill Maher: "Meat is dirty. I wouldn't touch a hot dog without a condom on it."

*I didn't turn vegan. But I thought about it. Then I thought about sushi and cheese.

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