Saturday, August 27, 2011

"You're a vegetarian!" Shock and bad-smell grimace. "Why?"

Telling someone I'm vegetarian always remind me of that scene in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" when Toula introduces Ian to her Aunt Voula and tells her that he is a vegetarian:

Aunt Voula: "What do you mean he don't eat no meat?!" 
[Party around them stops, shocked faces all around]
Aunt Voula, smiling: "Oh that's okay. I make lamb."

Mine has a slight variation to it: 
Carnivore: "You don't eat meat? But it's delicious!" 
Me, shrugs: "I do it mostly for health reasons."
Carnivore: "But you need protein!"
Me: "You can get plenty of protein from legumes like beans and soy and stuff."
Carnivore, usually makes a face by this time because meat eaters seem to have a strong negative bias towards the word 'soy': "You don't know what your missing out on!" 
Me, more shrugging. 

Why so much shrugging? Well, because I don't believe me ranting on and on about ALL the reasons I'm vegetarian is going to go anywhere. I know this because I was that carnivore once upon a time and no amount of sound reasoning was going to make me change my ways. In my heart-of-hearts, I believed that eating meat was "natural." That by NOT eating meat I'd be going AGAINST nature. Slowly (and that's the key here) I learned this to be far from the truth.

My first lesson was in understanding that my definition of natural was flawed. By natural, I thought of cavemen.

"Cavemen ate meat!" I'd think. "Eating meat is necessary to survive!"

SUCH a flawed argument. When was the last time you or anyone else you knew HAD TO hunt for their food? Not for sport, but HAD TO, as in: I will go hungry if I don't snag that wild boar! I, for one, have never done thing. A HUGE majority of us have NEVER done this. And maybe you do know that ONE guy, who did it that ONE time, for that ONE situation. But that's it, right? 

In my new understanding of the term, eating meat is as natural as making your own candles for a light source or using a printing press to disseminate information. That was natural back in the 1800's or so, but we now have electricity and the Internet. Basically, I feel natural is more of a PERSONAL CHOICE to what your situation is HERE and NOW in the 21st Century. Natural is what YOU make of it, not some rule SOMEONE ELSE made. 

I came to terms with my version of natural whilst becoming a vegetarian. I first became a vegetarian because I was trying to distance myself from the Western diet. Too much of my family has health problems stemming from eating mostly high fat foods, refined grains and red meat. I didn't want to have to deal with high blood pressure or diabetes or having no energy or the million other ailments that come with that way of eating.

Feeling good and healthy is my natural. 

I bet you're thinking "But what about moderation?" 

And I'll say, "I totally agree! I love me some cookies and cakes every now and again!"

I became vegetarian to stay way from the diseases that come with the Western diet, yes. But I've STAYED vegetarian not ONLY for health reasons but also for ethical and environmental reasons. And ESPECIALLY because of the human element of eating meat.

PEOPLE are affected by our desire for meat. Conditions in slaughterhouses are deplorable. The people who work their are treated like machines. (And even IF some of those working there are undocumented, by the way, a person is STILL a person.)

People go hungry because of our desire for meat. Land that could be used to grow crops like vegetables and wheat and that could feed MILLIONS around the world are instead turned into cattle or pig or chicken farms that will only feed a select, moderately wealthy population. (And again, a person is STILL a person, despite whatever their situation is that has gotten them to the point of starvation. NO ONE chooses to go hungry. NO ONE.)  

I could go on and on. (And I have as you can see.) BUT, at the end of the day I don't expect you to read this and decide right here, right now that you're giving up meat. That would be naive and silly of me. And although I can TOTALLY be naive and silly, I tend to be rather practical when it comes to trying to persuade someone into seeing things my way. 

Changing the way you eat is hard. Like REALLY, REALLY hard. I know. But if I made you even SLIGHTLY curious please, please, please learn more about vegetarianism.

Try this Vegetarian Times article

Maybe go over to Netflix and watch Food, Inc. 

Library or the bookstore your second home? Pick up In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan.

And STAY AWAY from PETA. In its efforts to help animals, they objectify woman. Not cool. 

Just go at it slowly. Become informed. If you do decide to try it out, take baby steps. Try going veg once a week or once every other day. Progress at your OWN pace. You know yourself best, after all.  

AND if you totally do not agree with anything I've written in this post, that's OK, too. Thank you anyway for even reading it!

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