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On Being Vegetarian: Take #2958290 - I Am What I Am

About On Being Vegetarian: Take #2958290

Previous Entry On Being Vegetarian: Take #2958290 Sep. 12th, 2006 @ 10:10 am Next Entry
I often get asked why I'm vegetarian.  It's a question that comes up repeatedly and the answer, for me, is complicated and so it's often hard to explain.  The best place to start is to explain how and when I became vegetarian, but that only covers a portion of my reasoning.

When I was in college, my BestestFriend was vegan (she eats cheese occasionally now) and she was my roommate for 3 years.  We shared the cost of groceries, and since we lived in a dorm the first year there wasn't room to store anything large like a steak or a whole chicken anyway, and so I got used to eating primarily vegetarian meals with an occasional meat sandwich for lunch.  Then I went on a study abroad program to England for 5 1/2 weeks where they served us meat for dinner every night.  The first few weeks I was there I constantly felt like I had an upset stomach.  At some point just the thought of eating meat made me feel ill, and so I decided to try going vegetarian.  My stomach illness went away.  The thing is, when you stop eating meat on a regular basis, your stomach stops producing the acid it needs to digest it.  Since I hadn't eaten much of it the past year, it was making me ill.   I stopped eating meat and I stopped feeling sick.

On top of this, I also happened to walk past an open meat market while I was there.  Bloody carcasses of dead animals were hanging in the windows and it only took about 5 seconds for my brain to make the link between the cow to the dead carcass to the hamburger.  When I look at meat on a plate, I don't see food anymore.  A steak is the muscle tissue of an animal that used to be a living, breathing, creature that walked around and enjoyed the sunshine.  I just can't eat that anymore.  I wouldn't eat my cat, so why would I eat a cow? To me, there's not a difference and my personal affection for my cat is irrelevant. 

Now, I realize that I eat fish.  Yes, I cheat.  Yes I know it's an animal too.  But what I never tell people is that I also feel bad about eating fish, but I do it anyway because it makes my life easier.  I'm human, I never claimed to be perfect even in my own convictions.  I also cheat in the sense that I will eat food that has been flavored with meat as long as I don't have to eat the actual meat. Because it makes my life easier, especially living in the south where even *salads* are often flavored with, yes, you guessed it, bacon.  

Even as a small child I wasn't fond of eating a lot of meat.  I wouldn't eat a hamburger until I was about 10 years old; if we got McDonald's I insisted on a fish filet even though they didn't come in Happy Meals.  And when I was about 5 or 6 someone fed me stew that had venison in it but didn't tell me until afterward that I had just eaten deer.  I cried and was fit to kill someone.  I distinctly remember being severely pissed off.  We had just returned from a walk through the woods where I got to see my first real white-tailed deer, and I couldn't believe I had just eaten one.  

When I pass an animal on the side of the road that's been run over, I feel like someone just punched me in the stomach and I can't breathe for a second.  And it's not because it's bloody or gross, it's because it's the evidence of a loss of life.  Yes, I know I'm crazy.  I'm okay with that.  

Shortly put, I don't want to eat animals.  I don't want to have to kill something to eat when I have plenty of other options available.  And don't get me wrong...if it meant survival, I would eat meat.  But I wouldn't be happy about it.  Fortunately I live in a society that enables me to eat the way I do.  I'm grateful for this.

Keeping all this in mind, the way I eat is my choice.  I can't eat animals because it makes me feel bad, stomach-wise and emotionally.  That does not, however, mean that I condemn anyone else for eating meat.  What you put in your stomach is your concern, not mine.  I even cook meat for my Jester and other friends on occasion.  People often ask me if it will bother me if they eat meat in front of me, and my answer is always No.  It's your body, you can put what you want to in it.  I don't eat beets because I think they're gross, but I don't care if you do. Meat is no different. 

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[User Picture Icon]
Date:September 12th, 2006 05:02 pm (UTC)
I can't remember if I related this to you yet or not... I almost became a vegetarian at the age of 5 or 6, when I realized at the dinner table that the "chicken" I was eating was the same as the "chicken" that ran around having a good time in barnyards. I had just never made the connection before, and kind of always assumed that it was some unfortunate coincidence when whoever-it-was went around naming everything. I was very disturbed to find that the drumstick I was holding was actually something's leg and filled to bursting with, well, a lot of the same parts that were in my own arm (I was always curious about what was under people's skin that you could feel but not see). And that was almost it.

The downfall of my budding vegetarianism? My mom's tasty cooking! Damn that chicken was good! So, to this day, I still eat meat but every once in a while get a bit grossed out. But then I remember Disney's "the Lion King" and the Circle of Life and all that, and I think that maybe, just maybe, I'm chowing down on a singing, dancing, way-too-happy-for-its-own-good gazelle or something, and it helps. (haha, j/k. I eat it cuz it's tasty.)
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Date:September 12th, 2006 05:42 pm (UTC)
Thank you for sharing that with me, I can't tell you how much it means to me.

And as far as it tasting good... I'll admit meat tastes good. I crave things like fried chicken, filet mignon, smoked sausage, and hot dogs even sometimes. But every time I think I might give in and have a bite, I remember what I'm eating and I just can't. Kristian also uses the "cycle of life" argument. Which I can understand, but my view is that if I'm intelligent enough and capable enough of eating an alternative, then shouldn't I? But, to each their own.
[User Picture Icon]
Date:September 12th, 2006 07:15 pm (UTC)
People only seek alternative methods when they have a problem with current methodology or practice. Thus, people who have no problems eating meat have no reason or desire to look for any sort of alternative. You wouldn't even think about seeking an alternative method to get to work, because you think driving a car to work is just dandy and feel the need for another method.
[User Picture Icon]
Date:September 12th, 2006 07:26 pm (UTC)
Well, of course. I did, so I looked elsewhere. If other people don't, that's their choice.

*kisses* I miss you.
[User Picture Icon]
Date:September 13th, 2006 01:34 am (UTC)
I've gone vegetarian numerous times throughout my life (Usually during Lent, but occasionally with my Bookstore Beatnicks in my hometown, they'd guilt me into it...), and I've always found that substitution is the best way to go.

I'm ALL about the boca-burgers, because with some mustard and/or cheese, I seriously cannot tell the difference.

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Date:September 12th, 2006 07:33 pm (UTC)
Yeah. The limited food choices, especially at restaurants, is what prompted me to start eating fish again. I've been vegetarian for 6 years, and the first 2 years I didn't eat fish. But like you mentioned, it gets really old eating the same things over and over again and I gave in. Although, I have to mention that I waited until my pet fish died. I couldn't eat fish while I had one as a pet because I would have felt too guilty every time I looked at it. No more aquariums for me, though, or there goes the eating fish again. :-)
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