When my friend Sarah and I were travelling along the West coast of the USA in May last year, we often looked for Couchsurfers with the keywords “indie” and “vegetarian”. Somehow this would increase our chances of finding cool people who ride bikes, listen to Joanna Newsom, and have interesting things to say, rather than have us ending up with some redneck with a mullet and a bunch of guns in the back of his pick-up truck/SUV.
Not in the least thanks to the Whole Foods supermarkets (and also because of all the lovely small cafés you can find everywhere), the places we visited were a delight for vegetarians (even though we did have a burger or two in California). In Portland (where else), I picked up a copy of Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. (Actually I didn’t like it that much. I was expecting more of a philosophical/ethical/anthropological view on why people eat meat or not, rather than just a series of accounts of atrocities committed in farms and slaughterhouses.) And back home I decided to stop eating meat altogether.
People still react in a weird way when I tell them I don’t eat meat. I mean, get over it. It’s weird how this remains such a sensitive issue, everybody tends to get on the defensive. Omnivores will tell you time and time again “Yes, I eat meat, but just a little”, vegetarians keep having to explain what they eat. (How about: everything else?) No mum, I’m not lacking any protein or iron. No dad, it’s not a disease, even though you sometimes make it sound that way.
I suppose there are a million possible reasons for not eating meat, some of them objective, some more personal. I can tell you the worst one right away: a fake feeling of moral superiority over carnivores.
For me it came gradually over the years, out of dietary/health reasons first, ethical ones second. I also dated a vegetarian girl for nearly two years, that kinda helps. I think if I’m really honest, I don’t even have fundamental moral objections about humans eating animals, but just when you look at the meat industry… (When I overtake a truck jam-packed with 200 pigs on the highway, I’m like: I don’t want to contribute to that.) And perhaps the most important reason for me right now not to consume meat is an ecological one: the meat industry puts a heavy strain on natural resources and cattle farming contributes a huge deal to global warming.
Still, I’m no militant. Live and let live. I also keep on eating fish and seafood, even though there are a lot of objective reasons to not eat fish either. I think it’s just too yummy. And I had grilled sausages over the fire in Poland last summer, because that’s what you do. And I’ve sinned a few more times over the last few months. If the veggie police wants to come and arrest me, so be it. But I don’t believe there is anything such as the veggie police.
So if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna fry me some veggies now.