I’m not a vegetarian. My wife is.
If you order a bloody steak, she won’t make a peep. If you have a dinner party and serve only meat, she won’t complain as she tries to make her parsley garnish last until we get home to the fridge.
In other words, she doesn’t have an opinion on what you eat. She doesn’t tell you that you should be a vegetarian. She doesn’t say that it’s better, or that it’s right. When pressed, which for some reason she often is, she may say that it’s right for her.
Recently, I mentioned this vegetarianism to some people at work, and found myself, once again, dealing with those who are annoyed by vegetarians. They were annoyed with a vegetarian they had never met, simply for choosing a different set of foods to eat from.
I don’t get it.
Why do people get so bothered by what someone else eats? Do they assume that her decision is a way to condemn them? Usually, these people complain that they don’t want vegetarians telling them what to eat. But I know a LOT of vegetarians, and they mostly just quietly eat their meals, hoping that no one pushes a hamburger on them or demands that they explain themselves.
The pushy people are the omnivores. They’re the ones who want to say how unnatural vegetarianism is, or how it’s no better or more honorable.
And then, in my conversation at the office, when I mentioned that every once in a while my wife will eat a marshmallow, even though it has gelatin in it, the response was that she’s hypocrite. Not that she sticks by her morals 99% of the time, only allowing herself the occasional little treat, but that she’s more or less a liar for pretending to be a vegetarian.
And then come all the stories of people who are vegetarians but wear, or sit on, leather. Sometimes I allow my eyes to roll. Sometimes I don’t.
My take on it is pretty simple. Don’t bother me and I won’t bother you. I know that I have morals which I don’t follow to their logical conclusions. I believe in honesty, but not all the time. I believe in the law, but I still sometimes break even the ones I agree with. And there are a lot more.
And the “natural” argument is a joke. People only care about what’s natural when they want to say that someone else is wrong. Everything humans do is natural, because we evolved to have a brain that second guesses our older instincts.
Stone-age humans ate meat when they could find it. Definitely. But the average American eats many times what stone-age humans ate. Is that natural? (And before the stone age, developing humanoids ate even less.)
But who cares, anyway? We’re not early humans and we can learn to do things that they didn’t do. Cannibalism is an ancient and widespread human (and pre-human) habit. Is that natural? Does that matter?
And the leather thing. I guess that some people find that actually chewing and swallowing an animal feels more wrong than wearing its skin. I can understand that. We all draw lines somewhere. Many people who eat meat wouldn’t be willing to cut a chicken’s throat to avoid eating veggie pasta for dinner. Are they hypocrites? I don’t think so.
Now that I think about it, and I’m on a roll, I get some of this same stuff for being environmentally conscious. I drive a hybrid car, when I drive. A certain kind of person can’t help pointing out that I’m not perfect. For example, I use electricity, or I take a plane to visit my mom.
Of course, my usual response is, “No, I’m not perfect, I’m just better than you.” That’s because I’m not as sweet as my wife. I mean, go to hell. Anyway, I DO push environmentalism on my friends, so I deserve it more than my wife does.
I guess that the parallel here is that people don’t like it when other people seem to be making moral decisions that they themselves don’t make. Good or bad.
And it’s so wearying, because each new meat-eater or SUV driver thinks that the argument they’re making is novel and persuasive. But, guys, we’ve heard it all before. We have the same information you do (or more) and we make a different decision.
So. This discussion reminded me of something I posted to “Why, Oh Why” a couple of years ago (link to Why, Oh Why is on the right side of the main weeklyrob page). As I said at the time, this isn’t a call to action, but just some interesting thoughts:
If the whole world were vegetarian, here are some things that I think we would no longer have on earth, or we would never have had in the first place:
1. The Flu. A deadly disease that kills millions and, even when it doesn’t kill, costs the world billions in lost productivity and medical care. If humans stopped handling domestic birds and pigs, influenza would cease to be a concern. (There would still be a human form of the flu, I think, but it does little to no damage.)
2. SARS. Same as above.
3. AIDS. Ok, we’d still have AIDS if everyone BECAME vegetarian today. But scientists seem to believe that the first human cases were due to the consumption of animals. So maybe if we all became vegetarians today, we’d avoid the next big plague that’s waiting.
4. Ebola. Same as AIDS.
5. Widespread Hunger. This is arguable, of course, but it’s much cheaper to grow vegetables than it is to grow animals, and it uses much less land. It’s also easier to transport seeds than animals to places in need.
5. Sadness. Just kidding.
6. The destruction of the rain forests. Rain forests are mainly destroyed because of the need for grazing land for cattle.
Ok, we’d need to do something about the vitamins that would be missing from a pure vegetarian diet. Other than that, though, the list is mainly positive. I can probably think of more.