Vegetarianism Rant


PardoI ate a lot of meat this winter in Peru, and maybe that influenced my thinking (and my colon) a bit. But I’ve been altering my thoughts a little on vegetarianism. Before, I basically considered myself a vegetarian in spirit if not in action. I’ve never rightly been a vegetarian, but I do avoid meat in general and red meat in particular, and the times (winters) when I do not have massive meals prepared and laid out for me and I have to buy and cook food for myself, I do not eat any meat at all. I have always been sympathetic to the cause of vegetarianism, which is, as I see it, a socio-political one. There are many things wrong with our huge agri-business in America, not the least of which is the gross mistreatment and terrible living conditions of the animals being prepared for mass consumption. Then of course the sub-standards of the meat packing industry. I don’t think that eating the meat of highly stressed and overcrowded animals can be healthy. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some kind of linkage between increasing cancer rates and this nasty meat people are eating way too much of.
Anyways, all of that said, this does not mean that I do not enjoy eating well-prepared animals, nor do I object to their slaughter. As I said, I see the cause of vegetarianism as that of a socio-political one–I do not believe that it is wrong to take the life of an animal in order to gain sustenance from it. I love animals and respect them. And as long as the animal that I eat was respected in its life and respected in its killing, than I have no problem in eating it. Unfortunately, there are no kinds of guarantees on packaging which states that an animal was cared well for and lived a fairly healthy life and was slaughtered humanely and with respect. Simply because an animal was “free range” or “grass fed” does not mean it was treated with respect, although its meat will certainly be of higher quality than that of animals fed crap and stuffed into cages. Maybe we could have a designated official who puts a “kosher” type marking on respected and healthy meat packaging.
But here is the thing. I work and live and eat at a place which prepares a substantial amount of food for its guests and staff. This includes, of course, a lot of meat. And this meat will be there whether or not I choose to eat it. One beneficial cause I attribute to vegetarianism is that it does have an eventual effect on the meat market, because the less there is a demand for meat, the less it will be produced. But when it is already cooked and laid out for you. . .exactly what good does it do to avoid it, other than ensuring that it isn’t clogging your colon? In moderation, anything is ok. And this applies to meat, even disrespected and agri-business enslaved meat.
So basically, my beef is this: there’s vegetarians and vegans out there who act like they’re committing some kind of religious infraction (I’m not referring to those for whom it IS a religious infraction) by putting a tiny morsel of meat in their mouths, let alone eating vegetables or rice cooked alongside meat. These animals–they gave their LIVES to sit on your plate. So show them and the person who cooked it for you some respect. Eat it with respect. Give a prayer or some token of appreciation for the animal that gave its life so that you could enjoy it. Burp appreciatively.
I think the biggest problem with people is not that we eat too much meat. The problem is that we eat without any consciousness or concern for what we are eating, no matter what it happens to be. There are vegetarians who show no level of awareness of the crap they are putting into their body. Meat, veggies, cheese, whatever–it needs to be prepared with love and consciousness. It needs to be chewed well with love and consciousness.
And here’s another thing: I’m sick of hardcore vegans who make a big deal about how much they care for the well-being of animals, and then turn around and are abusive and angry towards other human beings. If you really have compassion for animals, then you should be able to have compassion for all that lives. I’m tired of vegetarians who act like they are better human beings because they choose not to eat meat, like they’re all self-righteous because they are abstaining from what the majority of people partake in. vegetarianism, done consciously, I support. But I do not support fanaticism of any kind, and frankly, I think there are way too many fanatic, obsessive vegetarians out there. It’s healthier to be a selective omnivore, in my opinion. It’s healthier to be able to appreciate anything and everything that might be prepared for you. A vegetarian, for me, becomes fanatical when they are in a stranger’s domicile, and they are given a home cooked meal that consists of meat–and they refuse to eat it. Hey, just suck it up and eat it. ONE MEAL of meat is not going to kill you. It is not lessening your cherished ideals. It is returning the hospitality and love which a stranger has given to you.

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Author: manderson

I live in NYC.

7 thoughts on “Vegetarianism Rant”

  1. A couple points:
    Your attitude sounds like the ancient Buddhist form of vegetarianism. Their morals prevented the personal ending of another’s life, but their religious lifestyle was supposed to mimic that of a traditional wandering ascetic. So basically: if you are given food in your bowl, or invided to sit at someone’s table, it was immoral not to eat it even if it was human meat. You just couldn’t kill the animal for your own selfishness.

    More globally, some writers like to point out that it takes ten pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef. So, in an impossible ideal world, there could be fewer crops & no starvation. But perhaps we should worry first about America’s obsession with waste, which goes back to your point about eating it if its been made for you, in your specific semi-common situation.

    The most recent converts to any religion are always the noisiest.

  2. As a vegetarian, the reason that I don’t eat meat at friend’s houses is because if I do it then, they will expect me to eat it all the time. They will prepare servings for me and I prefer they just save the meat for themselves.

    I always bring a vegetarian dish along to share at dinner parties. It’s a good gesture to bring something anyway to share and it guarantees that I will have something I can eat.

    I hope that my friends and family will respect my wishes to not participate in eating flesh.

    I appreciate your opinion. I believe you put a good deal of thought into it.

  3. Laura, I totally understand in a situation where you are with friends or family who you would frequently eat with; I was talking more about a situation where you are at the abode of strangers or someone you wouldn’t eat with normally.
    Again, I am definitely not at all against vegetarianism in any way–I was just venting about extremist vegetarianism, when it becomes a dimunition of life, rather than a celebration of life, as it should be. Cheers!

  4. I think we agee for the most part on this issue. I’m a former vegetarian, and was also vegan for a couple of years… It became clear that it was not a healthful diet for me.

    I believe we can get a lot of wisdom by observing nature :) Animals eat animals, but animals in the wild don’t generally eat or take more than they need. They don’t cage their prey for a while, and fatten ’em up with chemicals and other crap…

    I agree it’s an arrogant position to take to say that we are not meant to eat animals. In fact, it makes no sense when you consider that so many nutrients are missing from a vegetarian diet — b12, coQ10… It stands to reason that if you’re having to supplement you’re diet with manufactured vitamins and enriched products because you’re not eating meat, then something’s not quite right with the way you’re eating. It also seems absurd to point out that one is saving animals by not eating them, and yet in the wild, animals are eaten by other anmals every day all day long. If one’s mission is to save all the animals, then you’d have to, well, kill all of them, ya’ know? They need meat, nature knows what it’s doing. We clearly don’t so much ;)

    Ironically, most vegetarians have the attitude that they are above animals with regard to eating them. But the lack of nutrition (and the poorly skinny way many vegetarians look) is a good indicator that this simply isn’t true. Often I wonder when I see a vegetarian (many have that skinny, mal-nourished look), I wonder if they can see themselves…but apparently they are too wrapped up in their high ideals to consider this.

    But I have to counter the point regarding eating meat just because you’re at a stranger’s home and they have it prepared. I do believe eating lotsa veggies is a good thing and I eat meat/fish only two or three times per week. Only free-range/organic red meat. I believe that red meat is very healthful for most people in reasonable amounts (it’s about balance in my view). Healthy red meat, not the meat that has been treated horribly while living, and fed crap and injected with who-knows-what. It is that aspect of it that causes the health problems. Understandably. And I’m not going to eat meat that I’m sure was treated in that manner…or if I don’t know, then it’s not going in my mouth :)

    I’m not big on tradition or conformity. Eating is personal. Eating has to do with MY BODY, nothing is more precious or sacred than our bodies. I’m not going to eat something just because some STRANGER slapped something together and tradition says it’s rude if I don’t eat it. I’ll be “rude” any day of the week over dishonoring my vehicle in this amazing life, my body. I don’t see that as being fanatical, I see that as being wise and self-loving :)

  5. I think you’re definitely more on the anti-vegetarianist side of things than me, but I agree with your points. I think I have been moving naturally towards that perspective without having fully thought it through. The brief periods of time that I have been fully vegetarian I have either been 1) malnourished to the point that I began looking at meat with longing not because of its taste but because of its protein and iron; or 2) sick very frequently. These experiences made me move into eating meat on a more consistent basis. But I do think that a vegetarian can get a well rounded set of nutrients if they are eating right, but I don’t really know anything about nutrition either. I know there’s a lot of literature out there on both aspects. For myself, I find that a conscious omnivorism makes the most sense. I try, like you, to limit my meat intake to free-range and organic pasture fed, although I also will eat other meat when it makes more sense for my budget (damn the market and its unethical pricing!).

  6. I agree with what you say about respect: respect towards animals goes hand in hand with respect towards humans.

    As a vegetarian, I find the dilemma when a stranger invites you to a meal (with meat) a tough one. It’s basically a conflict between my own principles of showing respect to people and showing respect to my own decisions/values.

    You wrote:

    “And this meat will be there whether or not I choose to eat it.”

    This is a lame excuse, I think, comparable to what my grandmother says: “They’re already dead”!

    Keep up the great posts,

    Arjen.

  7. Thanks Arjen. Yes, perhaps a somewhat lame excuse! But in that particular living situation, beyond the laws of supply and demand, it was true—and also, oftentimes, the only nutritional option. Now I don’t have that excuse anymore. . .

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