As promised, this should explain my feelings on my recent switch to a vegetarian diet. I would like to preface this briefly. This is my personal belief and I am not preaching this way of life as right for everyone. Each person brings their own set of beliefs with them through life, and they are just as valid as mine. I offer this as explanation for my own actions. I do not judge others for making different choices with their lives.
I feel obligated to explain myself. Let me try to make sense of what is going on in my head, but don’t be surprised if contradictions arise, as my brain is rarely at peace with itself. This will also be a bit longwinded.
In January, I made the decision to stop eating meat. So, I stopped. I failed to take into account that so few people make this life choice. I forgot that there would be plenty who would not understand and who would forget that I no longer consume animals. I had not planned out what I would say to those who questioned me. I had no speech prepared. What’s worse, I didn’t even have a clear sense of purpose.
It actually all started about twelve years ago. I had become interested in adopting a vegetarian diet back when I was in high school, but had great fears of alienation from my friends. A minor medical problem helped prompt me to follow through with my plans, since I was not supposed to eat fried foods or red meat. I slowly phased poultry, pork, & red meat out, opting for fish or non-meat choices. Slowly, I changed my diet, but never officially (or fully) eliminated meat from my diet. I simply repressed my reasons for cutting back and found that not thinking about it was easier than dealing with the moral dilemma.
Several years later, my convictions gone, I was once again eating beef. And I didn’t give any more thought to it. So much was happening in my life, and I was not the center of my existence for many years. This made it easy to not focus on what I felt or believed, worrying too often about how my decisions would affect my friends and family.
As long as two years ago, I was reevaluating my life and again considering cutting meat out of my diet. I think I needed to grow up to understand how right I believed that decision would be. Over the past year, I have tried varying degrees of not eating meat, trying to stop, but failing.
I was eating lamb when it dawned on me. I had an overwhelming need to purge the animal from my body — to remove it’s masticated carcass from within me. It made me cry. I couldn’t believe how barbaric it now seemed to have actually ordered slabs of an animal with thoughts and feelings. It just seemed so simple a solution too — don’t eat anything possessing intelligence.
I really was unsure of what I meant by this and how this would play out. I honestly expected to revert back to not giving my burgers a second thought. I considered eating fish, but couldn’t justify that until I had sorted out what my feelings were. I knew what I wasn’t willing to eat any longer: cattle, pigs, chickens, moose, sheep, turkeys, deer, cephalopods, etc. If it was having thoughts about something, it was off my menu.
So, that is the reason. I believe that it is wrong to continue eating meat when you believe that the animals you are eating can think and feel. I also feel that it is wrong to keep animals in buildings, feeding them genetically manipulated “food,” just for the convenience of having prey when we want it. I believe that we have evolved as a species to a point that renders the eating of meat archaic, barbaric, & unnecessary.
I welcome comments or messages on this subject. It is still a loose mass of barely solid concepts for me. It is coming together slowly and it just feels right. Thanks for taking the time to read this.
Here are a few quotes from others who got it:
One farmer says to me, “You cannot live on vegetable food solely, for it furnishes nothing to make the bones with;” and so he religiously devotes a part of his day to supplying himself with the raw material of bones; walking all the while he talks behind his oxen, which, with vegetable-made bones, jerk him and his lumbering plow along in spite of every obstacle. ~Henry David Thoreau
I did not become a vegetarian for my health; I did it for the health of the chickens. ~Isaac Bashevis Singer, quoted in You Said a Mouthful edited by Ronald D. Fuchs
I have no doubt that it is a part of the destiny of the human race, in its gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals, as surely as the savage tribes have left off eating each other…. ~Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854
A man of my spiritual intensity does not eat corpses. ~George Bernard Shaw
I have always eaten animal flesh with a somewhat guilty conscience. ~Albert Einstein
My refusing to eat meat occasioned inconveniency, and I have been frequently chided for my singularity. But my light repast allows for greater progress, for greater clearness of head and quicker comprehension. ~Benjamin Franklin
Featured image: Eileen Hood, “Sheep & Lambs” (1917)