I wasn’t sure I was even going to write this article. I’m a peace-loving person, and the topic of vegetarianism tends to get people very wound up. So here’s my warning: If you are easily offended, if you are a great meat lover, or if you disagree with the vegetarian lifestyle, please skip this blog post. There will be other posts after this one, which you can read and enjoy, but this one might annoy you. And annoying people is not what this blog is about. If you continue reading and you do get annoyed, well… I did warn you.
Some of you may know that I’m a vegetarian. I have been a vegetarian since I was 11 years old. So that’s over 14 years now. During those 14 years I have come to dread eating at parties or with people who don’t know me that well. Why? Well, it is in those situations my being a vegetarian is undoubtedly going to come up sooner or later. And it’s going to offend people.
Don’t get me wrong. I won’t be trying to “convert” anyone. I won’t be making radical “meat is murder”-type statements. When people find out I’m a vegetarian, the first thing they will do is ask me why. And I will tell them; I don’t want to eat animals because I don’t think it’s right. This is usually enough for people to get annoyed with me and start defending their lifestyle, even though I never challenged it. They will tell me the animals are going to get slaughtered whether I eat them or not and the meat will go to waste. Isn’t it worse to have them killed for nothing? Or they will state that as a human being I need to eat meat to survive, and a vegetarian lifestyle is very bad for you. They tell me all sorts of reasons why I should be eating meat.
And for the longest time I didn’t understand why people would act like this. I would say I’m a vegetarian, and when asked why, I would give them my own personal reason for choosing this lifestyle, and they would start defending their own, even though I never attacked their way of life. Or so I thought…
Eventually I came to realize I am in fact challenging their lifestyle, by not adopting it as my own. By being a vegetarian I’m making a statement. I’m saying “You’re lifestyle is wrong! Eating meat is wrong!”. I never meant to, but this is what I’m doing. Because if I thought eating meat was OK, I would be doing it. Just like everybody else, just like I was thought as a kid. I would accept it as a part of my life, without questioning it. But the problem is, I don’t.
I don’t think it’s right to eat meat. The very thought makes me sick to my stomach. When I was a kid, one of my best friends was a vegetarian Hindu girl named Joti. Joti was raised as a vegetarian and never questioned it, just like I never questioned eating meat. I loved spending time with her and on occasion I would stay over for dinner. Her family’s vegetarian lifestyle got me thinking. I’ve always been a real animal lover, and the more I thought about it the more I felt that it wasn’t right to kill animals for meat. Obviously the people who told me meat is a necessary part of the human diet where wrong, because here was a family who all did perfectly fine without it.
I decided to be a vegetarian and my parents went along with it, thinking it was just a phase. After a while my mom took me to the doctor’s because she had some concerns, and I wasn’t giving up. To everyone’s surprise, my doctor didn’t tell me to start eating meat again. In fact, my doctor was amazed at the discipline I had and the smarts to make such a decision at such a young age. She went on to tell my mom how a vegetarian lifestyle is much healthier than eating meat, and we found out that my doctor was a vegetarian herself.
However, I was a bit pale, so she tested my blood and I did have an iron deficiency. She explained how you can’t live of a meat-eater’s diet, without the meat. A vegetarian diet is slightly more complex than that, but you won’t need any artificial supplements.
I started reading up on being a “veggie” and the more I found out about the way meat is produced, the more certain I became of my choice. Even when you don’t take animals feelings into account, meat still doesn’t seem very appealing. The animals get hormones, antibiotics and bad food. All this stuff goes into the animal, goes into the meat, and then… goes into the bodies of people eating that meat. Eww… I could go further into this, but I would never get to the end of it. Basically, what I’m saying is; I made a choice, a well thought out choice. I have many reasons to be a vegetarian, but that doesn’t mean you have to be one too. I’m not delusional. I know eating meat is part of our culture, and it’s probably not going away. I know people are not likely to challenge their culture, and they don’t have to. I understand that, I respect that. But I did challenge my culture. I did question it and found it to be incompatible with my personal beliefs. And I hope some people can respect that.
So for everyone who ever felt the need to attack my way of life: Yes, when I became a vegetarian some meat probably went to waste, but because less meat is being bought, less meat is being ordered, and so less animals are being bred to be eaten. One person’s meat consumption may not make much of a difference, but I can sleep knowing I didn’t give my money to the meat industry.
And no I don’t need meat to survive. I’ve gone 14 years without it and am I dead? Are all the other vegetarians in the world dead, dying or ill? Don’t you think just maybe, we can live without it?
Thankfully, whenever I’m eating with people I don’t know very well, and someone is harassing me about being a vegetarian, sooner or later someone will intervene and say “Well, I think it’s impressive! I certainly couldn’t go without meat, it’s too delicious!” To that person I would like to say: Yes… yes, you could. If you really wanted to, you could. But you don’t… and that’s OK. I respect your choice, and you have no idea how happy it makes me that you respect mine. Thank you for that.
Making your own choices regardless of what you’re taught or what you culture dictates is hard, very hard. But I think living your life just the way you want is definitely worth it.