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.
I could never go vegetarian. While I respect, and maybe even slightly envy, those that can, I am far too picky and too lazy in my dietary habits.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with eating meat. Nothing… Definitely nothing wrong spiritually. There are times during the year (Lent comes to mind) when we are to not eat meat on Fridays, etc., but that is NOT because eating meat is wrong. It is simply a token of faith. The church could have said we should all wear togas every Friday, as a token of Faith. They chose abstinence from meat.
The only thing wrong is trying to make someone else feel guilty for their own choices.
I don’t know what I’m having for dinner tomorrow… But I’m sure it had parents.
That is of course a joke, thanks Seinfeld. Respect for life comes more easily while EATING meat, than it ever could while looking disdainfully at someone else eating it.
Hi, lbfh… I'm a cow and I know what you mean about vegetarians making you feel "guilty" about my delicious insides. While I know that it's not a sin in your religion to eat me, I sure wish you wouldn't. It's not about vegetarians trying to feel better about themselves, it's about -me- not getting slaughtered. I'm sure someone would speak up for you if you were tasty. If we were on a deserted island I'd understand that you had to eat me to survive; you or me, right? But we're not. There are many options that are actually better for you and the environment that don't involve killing me. Sorry if this doesn't move you; I'm a cow and it's difficult for me to articulate my needs, but I wish that you would reconsider your position with an open mind, unbiased by the vegetarian guilt trip you seem to have been handed. Making someone feel guilty about their own choices makes it sound like "killing" is a choice between vanilla and chocolate. We're talking about my life. Please let me live out my days, simple as they are, without pain and with my calves to care for. I wish that I were as cute as a dog or a cat or something, because for some reason it seems reprehensible to eat anything cute, but when it comes to "delicious" all bets are off. Damn this tastey rump!
I’ve known many vegetarians over the years and I don’t think I’ve run into any that have taken the “if you eat meat you are evil” high ground. Maybe it’s because a lot of them are pagans, so they are big on personal choice. That doesn’t keep them from extolling the virtues of a vegetarian diet, whether they are abstaining from meat for spiritual or health reasons, but they have never made me feel “bad” for being a carnivore.
At potluck dinners, my most popular item was what I called Hunter – Gatherer Fried Rice. It was Cashew Chicken Fried Rice for the Hunter dish, and I would take out half before I added the egg or chicken and put that in the Gatherer dish. The dishes were labelled with pictograph a la cave paintings, one with a spear and one with two wheat sheafs. People found it amusing.
What was I talking about?
I’ve only been at this two weeks, but so far it’s been easy to not eat meat when I’m finding my own meals. And for the first time in years I stopped feeling guilty for the suffering of animals that was partly my fault.
What’s weird is now I feel guilty NOT eating meat in front of the people around me. It’s like I’m on trial–they want to know what they’re going to be able to eat with me now, they look askance, they wonder why they have to be inconvenienced by my choice, they seem to think I-told-you-so. (This isn’t everyone, but I’m surprised this is happening at all!) For anyone reading, try to understand that this is a personal choice, but still one that might be the most important choice in the person’s life and therefore deserves respect. That respect may not mean you have act likewise (meatless) in the person’s presence, but that moment would certainly not be the time to announce how you feel there’s nothing wrong in eating meat.
I guess I’m struggling enough to figure out what I should eat now (going to a restaurant with someone is really hard), that I don’t need someone watching to see what I’ll pick just so they can feel self-satisfied that I’m being ridiculous. It’s still worth it to me–my personal peace by not killing an animal–but I’m torn by the dismissal of those close to me.