I touched on this the other day, but it deserves its own thread. What are my thoughts about vegetarianism? I’ll just start typing and see what comes out…
I’ve been a vegetarian my entire life. I’ve never eaten meat, at least not on purpose. (Dammit, Taco Bell, I said Bean Burrito!)
I was raised that way because my parents are Jain. Jains believe in non-violence ahead of most everything else, so they’re typically strict vegetarian. For me, that meant no meat, no fish, no eggs. Milk and cheese were ok, though.
To be clear, though, I wasn’t told to be a vegetarian for religious reasons. I was taught that killing animals was wrong, period, and that just happened to mesh with the Jain principle of non-violence. So when I became an atheist at 14, I could still see a lot of reasons to remain a vegetarian. Plus, to be fair, it’s not like I had to go through a rough transition. (I’m in awe of people who become vegetarians after having eaten meat their whole lives. That takes serious willpower.)
In retrospect, I see a number of problems with the reasons I was given for being a vegetarian…
For example, in all the time I was Jain, we never talked about why it wasn’t unethical to drink milk (that might involve animals getting injected with hormones). I always figured cows weren’t killed to get milk, so that’s why it was ok. There was no “in-between” harm I ever considered.
I was also raised to think that all eggs could be fertilized so we shouldn’t eat them because we’d be killing an unborn chicken. (Whether that was true or not was never discussed.) What about the treatment of the chickens? We never discussed that. I still avoid eggs now whenever possible. (I may occasionally eat a Rice Krispies Treat prepared with marshmallows but I won’t eat scrambled eggs.) The thought of eating an omelette and the smell of eggs at a restaurant still makes me sick. (If a chicken was treated kindly and just happened to lay an egg, would I eat it? Probably not.)
How do I reconcile that whole “fertilization” thing with being pro-choice? I honestly try not to think about it because I know there’s a logical problem there.
There are also a lot of gaps to my knowledge because I’ve never eaten meat.
I don’t know what a lot of meals taste like. Turkey, fried chicken, steak, bacon (I know…), Big Macs, shrimp. But I guess it’s not too big of a deal because I’ve never had a craving for any of those things. I wonder what would happen if I just sat down and ate a steak… if I would start to gag or whether it would taste good. No clue.
When I was growing up, I was always the only vegetarian in my class. When kids brought in treats on their birthday, I had to decline… or hope that the birthday kid brought in a “special” treat for me.
One of the greatest things about starting to work with atheist groups was that I was surrounded by other vegetarians. At every conference I attended, there was always a vegetarian option.
I think one of the reasons my parents were able to cope with my leaving their faith was that I was still not eating meat.
So why am I vegetarian and not vegan? If you cut milk/cheese from my diet right now, I would go crazy. I know there are alternatives, but going cold turkey (ha!) on that much of my diet seems too overwhelming.
If I’m a vegetarian because I oppose animal cruelty, why do I buy products and not even think about whether they’re made with leather or animal products?
Am I bothered by the fact that we dissected cats back in high school? Nope. I thought that was awesome.
If the animal can’t physically feel pain, would I eat it? Nope.
Do I support PETA? Ugh… no. In principle, I like them, but whenever I hear about them (or meet a supporter), I end up shaking my head and wanting nothing to do with them. I’m not a member and don’t have any desire to be.
If I were on a stranded island and the only way to live was to eat an animal, would I do it? Probably.
Could I date someone who eats meat? It doesn’t bother me as much now as it did before.
Does all that make me a hypocrite in those regards? I would think so…
I’m not saying my vegetarianism is completely logical. It’s a remnant of my religion and one of the few things associated with it that I still feel comfortable keeping around.
At the same time, I’m not at all evangelical about it. If someone is eating meat near me, I don’t even think about it. But if someone tells me they’re Christian, my “atheist” sensors go off and I have an urge to start debating religion…
So there you go. It’s certainly not an excuse, but maybe that sheds a little more light on how I equated hunting to dog-fighting the other day. I’m used to a world where any animal cruelty is treated the same way. There’s no middle ground. It’s always good to be reminded that’s not how the world really works.
I suppose I could be convinced to eat meat with some good arguments… or if you think I ought to go vegan, you can try to convince me of that, too.