“Why do you eat meat?” Working for Change with a Question

Written by Ilan Bubb //

People know I often push others to not eat meat, or at the very least consume less of it. In fact, I bring it up as often as I can. It makes some people uncomfortable, but hell, the animals that died to spark this conversation went through much worse than a slightly awkward dinner party.

Of course I wasn’t always this way. Both sides of my family were pig and cattle farmers in South Dakota. Meat was a central part of my diet for as long as I can remember. It wasn’t until my dad converted to the Hare Krishna movement when I was in middle school, that I had even heard of the term vegetarian. When he stopped eating meat, I noticed immediately. For over a decade my dad had been trying to get me to cut meat out of my life. He passed me information on the health benefits, videos on slaughterhouses and the unethical treatment of animals. He even tried to bribe me by taking me out to the various vegetarian restaurants around town. It wasn’t until I graduated high school that he asked me a simple, yet pivotal, question: “Why do you eat meat?”

It was such a simple question and my response quickly arrived to the tip of my tongue. “It tastes good,” I said. Immediately I realized how bad this answer was, and I had flashbacks to videos of brutal animal conditions, cages too small, laying in their own filth, cannibalizing themselves, and I thought to myself, “I’m supporting this cruelty, just because it tastes good.”

I don’t exactly know why this new insight was so powerful to me. It’s not like I learned any new information. But I was finally able to see the simple juxtaposition between the inherent cruelty to animals, and frivolous justification. It just clicked in me. Since then, my consumption of meat has dropped to once a month. Whenever I’m at the store now and I start craving chicken or a burger, or, more realistically, a McDonalds McChicken, I think of that question my dad asked me all those years ago, and I can often get past the cravings.

“Why do you eat meat?” This is the same question that I pose to people now when the topic of vegetarianism comes up. I don’t think showing people slaughterhouse videos changes many minds, nor does showing them a chart of the health benefits. People can ignore suffering when it’s far enough away from them. So for those who want to make an impact on others, ask them what their motivation for eating meat is. Change starts with a question, not an accusation of wrongdoing.

I’m still not happy with where I am. In a year I hope to be vegan as I wean myself off my favorite dairy products. But I can promise anyone who reads this that when I crave a glass of milk, or a slice of brie, I will ask myself “Why am I eating this?” and remember that the taste of something is not worth the suffering of other animals.


Ilan Bubb currently lives in Asheville, NC while working on his Masters of Environmental Management with a focus on the Coast. Food has always been a huge part of his life growing up with a family of famers. Since he was young he has had an inside view of the happenings that occur on small and large scale farms in the heart of South Dakota.

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