Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Thoughts on not being a vegetarian

One of my readers posted something on her blog about buying some fur and then not having the heart to wear it. Rather than leaving a really long comment on her blog I thought that I would write something on a similar subject here.

But before we get into that, I would appreciate it if more people would go back to Friday's post and answer the question about Soylent Green. So far I think that only two people have responded. Though to be honest, the party is Saturday, so at this point I would probably go ahead with it anyway.

I remember a few years back that a bunch of us somehow got on the subject of vegetarians. I think the conversation started about dieting and the possible health benefits of not eating meat, but my brother then started going on about how he didn't like vegetarians. He said that they were a bunch of weirdos, and that what really pissed him off was that they acted like the rest of us "normal" people were idiots, like they didn't even know that they were the weirdos. It's not like there is another immoral about eating meat, but that is the way they act.

For some of them, I'm sure that is the whole point. They do think that it is immoral to eat part of a cow who was minding her own business eating grass, and they will tell you so, if the subject comes up. My brother, on the other hand, would tell you that murdering unborn babies is immoral and having sex with a same sex partner is immoral and a number of other things are immoral, if the subject came up. But for some reason the vegetarians are supposed to keep their opinions to themselves, because they are supposed to know that they are weirdos.

While I will agree with my brother on the subject of murdering unborn babies and all of that, I tend to think that we non-vegetarians are the weirdos. Not that I give it much thought anymore. The fact that there are more "normal" people than vegetarians in this country doesn't matter. There is just something weird about eating dead animals. And the idea that "everyone is doing it" has never mattered on any other subject, and has not caused me to start smoking, drinking, or using other recreational drugs (exceptions being caffeine, chocolate, and sugar). I don't see that the vegetarians should see the error of their ways because the are in the minority.

I remember choosing not to be a vegetarian when I was five or six years old. I knew that I could not give up eating meat. I was just to accustomed to having it. I was addicted. I wished that my parents had done a better job of raising me at that point, but it was too late.

Before that I just hadn't realized that we were eating dead animals.

We were eating dinner, and for some reason I decided to ask why a chicken leg was called a chicken leg. Did it just look like a chicken's leg? And why was a chicken wing called a chicken wing? A chicken wing didn't look anything like a chicken's wing. The words thigh and breast meant nothing to me, so I did not ask about them.

My parents tried to explain that a chicken leg was in fact a chicken's leg. That made no sense to me. Surely there wasn't a chicken hopping around without one of her legs. Maybe I hadn't made myself clear? A chicken was a white bird that lived at Grandma's house and laid eggs, right?

My parents did finally convince me that the chicken leg did in fact come off of a chicken, and no, there was not a chicken hopping around on one leg. Earlier that year they had tried to explain about the rabbit's foot key-chain that I'd won at a carnival, but I hadn't really believed them. Being from the south, there was another name for Brazil nuts, and I was pretty sure that wasn't true.

To be on the safe side, I stopped eating Brazil nuts for a while.

So I did not want to eat any chicken after that. But then I found out what hamburger was and what sausage was and hotdogs and all of that. The dead animals were in just about everything. Except maybe spaghetti and cheese pizza and a few things like that. So I did wonder if maybe I could just eat spaghetti all of the time, but I was told that the rest of the family would continue to eat chicken and hotdogs and hamburger, and there would not be any extra meals of spaghetti or anything else prepared just for me without a good reason. That I just didn't want to eat dead animals was not a good reason. I would get used to the idea like everyone else.

I did think of one way out of this. I had a biblical argument all worked out. There were four guys in the Bible who refused to eat meat, and God rewarded them with all kinds of stuff. So I figured that I could convince Mom that it was okay with God for me not to eat chickens and such. And then she would have to help me.

But I never made the argument. The problem was that these four guys in the Bible did not eat spaghetti and cheese pizza and such. Mostly, they ate beans. And I hated beans more than anything else.

And I really did like eating chicken and hotdogs and all the rest of it. Though I think that I did have to have hotdogs explained to me. No way was I going to eat a dog.

So I keep eating the chicken and such, but for twenty years or so I did not add any new meats to my diet. Anything that I knew was an animal before I'd eaten it was off limits for a while. No goat, no frog legs, and no rabbit. Those were pets, not food. I still don't think that I've tried rabbit. But I did eventually get around to some of the rest of it.

At some point I learned about leather and fur coats. Leather seemed hard to do without, since that's what most of our shoes were made out of. But I think that most of the leather came from cows, and since I was already eating hamburger and hotdogs and such, then I might as well keep wearing leather.

The fur coats were a different matter. I didn't eat rabbits. And I certainly didn't eat foxes, and I never would, cause they were too much like dogs. So I shouldn't wear fur coats if I didn't eat whatever animal the fur came off of.

I watched game shows on TV and saw people winning fur coats. And I thought that if I were on those game shows and won a fur coat that I would have to give it back.

Bob Barker quit giving away fur coats on The Price is Right. Great. If it ever was an option, I could be a contestant on that game show.

When I was about thirteen, everyone was wearing rabbit coats. I didn't want one. Most of my friends had one, but I wasn't interested. And they weren't even good looking coats. They were soft and warm sure, but they were odd looking. Someone had killed all of those rabbits to make coats that weren't even attractive, and people were wearing them.

I found a mutton jacket in the closet. Not the least bit in style at the time. But it was soft and warm and it was very pretty. It was almost twenty years old, and my mother had worn it. She hadn't worn it in about ten years and had no intention of wearing something that out of style, but somehow she never could bring herself to throw it away either.

I liked the coat even if it wasn't in style. It certainly looked better than those awful rabbit things that my friends were wearing. I reasoned that the animals that were killed to make the coat were already dead, and had been for about twenty years. There was no reason to let the coat go to waste. It wasn't like buying a new coat, which just encouraged people to kill more rabbits.

So I started wearing my mom's old mutton coat. This apparently got my grandmother and my mother talking. It was a pretty coat, but I shouldn't be wearing something that out of style. If I hadn't gone to private school, I would have worn all kinds of odd things. I didn't care what was in style, and I would have worn a number of strange things if I could have gotten away with it. The coat was really a minor thing, hardly worth mentioning.

For my next birthday, my grandmother bought my a rabbit coat. Not one of these ugly things that my friends had, but a really nice white one that looked good with my church stuff, but still didn't look bad with my casual stuff either. It really looked like "me", except that I probably would have picked the black one instead.

And, of course, since I didn't eat rabbits and was against buying new fur coats, I wouldn't have picked any of them.

My mother knew this, and she should have explained it to Grandma. But she didn't. And I just couldn't hurt my grandmother's feelings by refusing to wear it. And it wasn't so awful that my grandmother would buy something made from rabbit skins. My grandmother used to eat rabbits, so she didn't see a rabbit coat any differently than I did leather shoes. If you're going to eat something, you might as well not waste the skin.

So I did wear the coat, though it did take me a long time to get comfortable with it.

I don't have the coat now. My mother managed to take care of her mutton coat for twenty years, but I was a teenager and my rabbit coat didn't last anywhere near that long. I didn't store it anyplace special when I wasn't wearing it, so the second year it shed rabbit hair onto everything. My favorite color was black, even then, so the white rabbit hairs that stuck to my clothes really stood out. I think after a few years, my mother threw the thing away.

I don't think that I have any real fur now. I don't mind buying fur second hand. The money usually goes to some charity instead of someone who kills animals, and I don't worry that more animals will be killed to replace the inventory. But I'd never buy a new fur coat. There's some real pretty fake stuff now. I bought a bunch of fake fur for a costume, but after I got it home I couldn't bring myself to cut it. It's really pretty, and I'm afraid I'll ruin it.

Every once in a while, I still think about being a vegetarian. I've pretty much gotten past the fact that I'm eating a cow who used to be out in a field minding her own business. Somebody killed a cow so that I could eat it, and I'm still not crazy about the idea, but I try not to think about it. And if I do think about it, I reason that she probably would never have been alive in the first place except for the fact that someday she was going to be eaten. But once in a while I think about the health benefits, and the fact that eating meat takes almost a hundred times more resources than eating plants. And I'd probably lose a few pounds if I stopped eating meat, so that's aways something to think about.

One more thought on the subject. It really ticks me off when people call themselves vegetarians and then they turn out not to be vegetarians. If you don't eat any meat, you're a vegetarian. If you've decided not to eat red meat but still eat fish and maybe chicken, you're just on a diet, you're not a vegetarian.

I tried to explain this to one girl, who still insisted that it was okay for her to call herself a vegetarian, even though fish and chicken were killed to be part of her diet. "I'm not doing it for that," she said. It doesn't matter why you are doing it, the fact is that you are not a vegetarian, and you are very annoying for saying that you are, and it makes you look very stupid besides.

Okay. End of rant. Leave comments if you like.

And don't forget the Soylent Green question from Friday's post.


Purple Pigeon said...

its weird that i never had a problem with meat or leather, just the rabbit fur. Odd.

Though i do find people that wear stuff like tiger skins particularly repellant. Not that i know anyone that wears tiger, i've just seen them on tv programmes about tiger poachers.

Sorry, i've never heard of soylent green, but after what you've said about it, i may have to find the film!

David in DC said...


David in DC said...

As for the vegetarian topic, when I look in my mouth in the mirror, I see teeth that were designed, or that evolved, or both, for an omnivore.

And I also don't get why vegetarians think plant life is ok to eat but animal life isn't. Kinda shows an anthropomorphic bias doesn't it?

Lebourgeois said...

Firstly, thanks for ideologically supporting us, veggies.

In regards to leather: you don't have to be veg to go leather free. There are lots of quality alternatives, if you know where to look for them. I actually work for one of ethical fashion companies - www.bboheme.com.

I know for myself: as long as I make even baby steps I am moving forward: I have trouble with getting into a habit of recycling waste, but it doesn't prevent me from being a "cotton bag lady" and boycotting plastic bags in supermarkets.

RE: meat.
I used to love meat and still like the smell of barbecue (sorry brothers veggies), but there are plenty of meat alternatives. Some of them taste so much like real, that many veggies even can't have it for that reason.

David: we just don't want to have food that can runaway from us. Personally for me it is also a "pain" aspect: farmed animals suffer greatly all their lives, not even mentioning the butchering process itself. While plants feel "shock" when being cut, animals have very well developed nervous system, and feel not only "shock", but as much pain as a human would.