My secret is, that since becoming vegetarian, I haven’t really talked about it openly with anyone outside of my household. Having been vegetarian before, I know what challenges I’m likely to be met with: Individuals who view my decision to not eat meat as a personal affront on their decision TO eat meat; Insulting jokes at my expense told to my face and behind my back; Insults about my food; Challenges about my habits (Oh yeah? But I bet you wear leather!); People eagerly watching me to make a ‘slip’ (“Oh! You said you’re vegetarian but YOU’RE EATING YOGURT! Hypocrite!”)
It’s exhausting to be met with this barrage of scrutiny and criticism. In my own house, I’m lucky to have the loving support of my husband who wants to make sure that when he does cook, that I have an option that will make me happy, and my kids are curious but non-judgmental.
When it comes to the outside world knowing about some of what I do, in this very small, VERY rural, conservative area, it’s hard to openly ‘be me.’ The other day, though, I took a step outward. Boy, did the consequences of that decision come quickly and furiously!
At my mother-in-law’s house, hubby slapped a couple of steaks and chicken breasts onto the grill. I popped on one of my veggie burgers. My nephew went to turn the food over several minutes later, saw my veggie patty and snorted “What is this? Dog food?”
“That’s my home-made veggie patty,” I explained.
He snorted and made a couple more derisive comments. I ignored them and moved on.
A few moments later, my son asked what we were having for dinner. We told him steaks and chicken breast. “I don’t want meat,” he declared. He’s always been very borderline vegetarian anyway and has never cared much for meat beyond, to my dismay, McDonald’s hamburgers and bacon. When I jokingly told him in front of everyone that he’s “vegetarian like me!” (my way of light-heartedly coming out), all the in-laws swooped in to do their social conditioning thing (“Oh no, meat’s healthy, he’s growing so fast he needs meat,” etc.) Then, someone did the whole “Oh, you’re vegetarian, but I bet you wear leather!” bit.
Outwardly, I just smiled and nodded. Inside there was an angry sailor swearing at them, shaking his fist and threatening to blow them away with a cannon.
Here’s the thing I feel I need to scream out to everyone who makes an ignorant joke about what it means to be vegetarian or vegan: I’m vegetarian because there is enough damn suffering in this world.
I honestly don’t see how anyone who takes a look a the facts can continue to buy into a system that is destroying our planet. In terms of the environment, in terms of health, meat-eating is killing us. All you have to do is a little looking around online and there are scads of statistics that prove this fact.
Also, as someone who follows many of the tenets of Buddhism, it really has become impossible for me to ‘live mindfully’ and continue to buy into a system that perpetuates suffering on so many different levels. It’s not just about the animals. It’s the environment, it’s my health, and it’s the fact that we know now how to live without meat and be perfectly healthy … so why cling to the status quo? Because it’s what we know? Because it’s comfortable? To what end???
It angers me that people have time to look through junk on YouTube, Tumblr, FaceBook, StumbleUpon, and Pinterest, but they “don’t have time” to take a fraction of their free time to look through some facts that directly affect them. It’s like they don’t want to know that PETA isn’t the only organization that knows that animal farming is hurting our environment and our health. Any governmental, non-profit oriented, neutral sources you look at all say the same thing: Animal farming pollutes land, water and contributes to the destruction of many acres of forest a day. Farming animals for the consumption of meat is not sustainable on any level. Impact of this pollution on humans is not known. That’s not the same as “nonexistent,” yet the public very much wants to just toss that to the side and pretend that all is well.
“We can’t research everything,” we say. “We can’t sit here and read articles and look at stuff about what’s happening to the planet. What am I supposed to do, research EVERYTHING?” (I know these excuses because I’ve used them too).
No, but you do sit there and go through your Buzzfeed, don’t you? You look up babies eating lemons for the first time, and people who have no business recording themselves dancing doing just that, and we are happy to point and laugh at them, relieved that who is in the video is not ourselves.
Why remain ignorantly blissful? What is the point of that?
I’m not saying take away all your free time to do serious thinking. Certainly and without doubt, we all need some time to tune out and shut down. I do, too. That being said, with a little effort made, you can easily find out how much rain forest is cut down every year to make room for cattle raised for beef. You can find out how much pollution (it’s not only a little, by the way) is created by waste created by these animals, the machinery needed to keep them going, from the slaughtering, and from packing and shipping. You can also find out who is offering biased information on these facts, and who is not.
Instead of Googling “Baby eating lemons for the first time,” Google “waste created by animal farming.” I did, and here are a few quick links from varying sources, ranging from the EPA to other “dot-org” sites:
I came up with those links in 30 seconds. I read enough of their articles to know that I’m right in what I’m saying. Read. Look. Listen. THINK.
Then come back and tell me you think my choice is silly. Or that my food looks like dog food. Or that you love your meat. Or that you think I’m exaggerating and that I’m a conspiracy-theorist.
My question to those who accept things as they are is this: If you know that what is happening in our world is causing these issues, why are you choosing to make choices that perpetuate this cycle? What is the point of THAT?
If you believe that you alone can’t make a difference by simply making a change in your diet, consider the fact that half of the vegetarian foods that we know and enjoy now, were relatively unknown when I was vegetarian just 15 years ago. Those people who thought they were striking out as vegetarians and vegans alone weren’t lonely for long. There’s a reason for that: Not eating meat is starting to make more sense.
And by the way, my being vegetarian isn’t my statement against YOU. It’s my statement against a culture that continually tells us to numb our brains, dull our senses, kill our bodies, our planet, and our animals. It’s my statement against a system that brain-washes us to sustain our bodies and our lifestyles in an unsustainable way. It’s not just about not being cruel to animals. It’s about our planet and how we, as humans, choose to live our lives in the short time we have on it.
If nothing else, watch this video. It illustrates wonderfully the idea that everything, everyone, is connected. It shows us that our choices matter, how we spend our time makes a difference, where we put our dollars makes a big difference, and what we THINK ABOUT makes a difference too.
I found this video on BuzzFeed, among the drivel about how adorable my pet cat is: