I spent most of last week on a vegan/vegetarian diet out of respect for my houseguests. It’s not a stretch for me; I give up eating meat every year for Lent. I found out last year that there is actually a Catholic initiative around this practice to go beyond the obligation into personal penance of giving up meat altogether.
I used to give up fish, too; I feel like fish are second-class citizens in the fight against inhumane treatment of animals. Most fish can’t cry out in pain nor show expressions of fear (I guess eyelids are the key). They are caught with a huge net, then suffocate. In “better” circumstances, they are hooked and released. I think catch and release is awful because of the injuries it causes.
I changed my mind on giving up fish when I realized the reason to eat fish on Friday is to remind us all that we are fishers of men (Matthew 4:19). It is purposeful and respectful. It is one of the things that I do in my daily life that keeps me reminded of God. So my preferred source of fish is me: go deep-sea fishing, hook the fish, then put them in a cooler of ice water so they slowly go into torpor instead of gasping to death. It’s the same technique I’ve used on my pet fish who are suffering to death. I was telling a friend I’ve never practiced euthanasia with a pet, but I guess I have. If I don’t kill one fish, he/she’ll die in the tank and infect all the rest of them.
If you know the horror of cattle feed lots (and the E. coli from cows packed into tiny, unhappy spaces and covered in dung), you’d do what I’ve done and buy ¼, ½, or a whole cow for your family from a local farmer who lets the cattle roam free and doesn’t use feed lots or antibiotics. I buy only organic, free-range eggs so that I’m not buying from hens that are mutilated to be squeezed into tight cages where they can’t even walk. I buy organic chicken as well.
I cook a lot to avoid the overprocessed foods in our culture. We add chemicals, strip nutrients, and inject color to make foods look more vibrant. So I buy whole spices, whole chickens, whole grains, you see what I mean. I shop for organic even when the prices are outrageous.
I was feeling pretty good about myself until this week. When someone I truly respect says “no life is worth a flavor,” it gives me pause. Am I doing the right thing after all? Then, quite coincidentally, my best friend announces she’s becoming a vegetarian.
I felt vaguely angry. I searched myself for the answer, then asked Carlton why I felt this way. He said, “because you know that you’ll never be able to do that.” He was right. I felt left in the dust by people I love and respect. I want to do what is right but I am never going to measure up to their sacrifice and commitment. No, life is not a competition, especially among friends; however, I can’t help but feel like they are doing what I wish I could do. Frankly, my best friend has a much harder road than the California boys: the Midwest is not kind to vegetarians.
Carlton and I always have fish on Fridays, so he suggested we add another dietary day and eating vegetarian one day a week. I haven’t picked what day, but it is a start, I guess.