Learning to Eat Without Relying on Meat
Considering the instinctual recoil I always felt as a kid when surrounded by the bloody packages of meat in the grocery store, I should’ve known that someday I was bound to experiment with vegetarianism.
I have often been mistaken for a vegetarian and taken offense. I always had the impression that vegetarians were smug and militant about their beliefs.
I don’t actually have a problem with the idea of eating animals. Human beings have been doing it for as long as we’ve been kicking around this earth — it’s natural for us to be omnivores. What strikes me as unnatural is the extremely low quality of life the animals we eat are afforded.
I had no intention of becoming a vegetarian, but about 30 pages into Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Eating Animals,” instead of possessing some vague notion that the meat industry is unethical, I was reading about specific instances of animal cruelty and the lack of government regulations that make them possible. The horrifying image of so many chickens jammed together in cages that not all of their feet can touch the ground struck me and keeps popping back into my mind.
Although some people I’ve talked to choose a vegetarian diet for health and environmental reasons, many others have been driven to vegetarianism — at least temporarily — by the thought of such cruelty. Learning about farming practices is one thing, but the real impact comes when reframing the way we view animals, and questioning the sense of entitlement we have about eating them.
For some, this lifestyle lasts just a week, others two years or five, and some, a lifetime. The older vegetarians I’ve talked to had to make some concessions due to health — some vegetarians get sick from nutrient deficiencies — and build some amount of meat back into their diets.
be the ultimate outcome of my vegetarianism, but for now it’s easier to work within a label that keeps me from getting lazy. And I can sleep a little easier without the guilt of eating mistreated animals.
Though to many, the idea of abstaining from meat seems absurd and unfeasible, for others, the opposite is true. It may not be the most active form of resistance, but vegetarianism is resistance nonetheless and holds symbolic meaning for many who prefer not to directly support inhumane animal practices.
I wonder when I will officially be considered a vegetarian, or if it will just become another phase that didn’t stick. It’s difficult to commit to the idea of never eating meat again in my life, but at least for now, I’m exploring what has personal value, and learning what actually defines me.