I get this question a lot: “Being a vet and all, you must be a vegetarian, right?”


Uh...no. Not so much. 


Most veterinarians, in fact, are NOT vegetarians. Truth be told, we’re pretty much like all animal lovers. Sure, that means that a higher percentage of us are vegetarian than the average human being...but we’re still mostly omnivores. 


It’s often the case, after fielding the dreaded question, that I’m asked to explain why I can be so animal-centric in my everyday life and yet consume animal protein on a regular basis. And the answer isn’t simple, but here it is:


Of course I love animals. And I most certainly understand that industrial animal agriculture, as it’s practiced in the US, is not necessarily so nice to the animals. And yet I still eat animal proteins in the form of eggs, dairy and meats. 


So how can I possibly reconcile these concepts? 


Not so easily. Nonetheless, here’s this vet’s four-step process to playing nice with her animal brethren––even as she consumes them.


1. I stay away from industrial animal products

That’s not as easy to do as it sounds. Because that means no meats at restaurants. (Though I do allow myself eggs, dairy and sustainable seafoods when I dine out––and the occasional cut of prime meat if the restaurant promises it’s sourced from a humanely-raised enterprise.) It also means that I can’t buy just any meat when I go to the supermarket. I’ve got to do my homework, checking into the farms my purveyors source from (which means I have precious few choices). 


2. I eat locally

Hooking up with a local group of like-minded omnivores can make all the difference. Local sources for humanely raised meats, eggs and dairy are not hard to find––if you do some homework, make connections, and are willing to pay top dollar per ounce.


3. I eat less animal protein

Yes, it’s more expensive to eat this way––that is, if you eat the same amount of animal protein the average U.S. citizen eats. But I’m pretty darn sure I spend much less on food than most people do. And that’s largely because my way of eating means I tend to buy ingredients instead of pricey prepared goods. I eat out less. And, most importantly, it also means I eat far fewer ounces of animal protein than the average American consumes per week. Not only is that good for my pocketbook, it’s good for the environment, for my health and for the animals. 


4. I grow my own

I’ve recently started raising goats and chickens. Not only is this reasonable for me because I’m a veterinarian and can provide basic healthcare for my two goats and five chickens, but it’s a great use for my one-acre lot in South Miami, FL (where chicken and goats are practically unheard of). It also means I can get fresh eggs from hens I adore and milk (cheese, butter, soap and yogurt) from well-loved goats. 


I know this last item isn’t exactly doable by all. But when it all comes down to putting your principles into action, you can’t beat the sweat equity involved in producing your own food.


So does it make up for my not being a vegetarian? That’s your call. What do you think?



Dr. Patty Khuly