Happy Anniversary to Me
Just recently, a friend of mine confessed to me that she really wasn't sure whether she could date a non-vegetarian. She told me this in a slightly-embarassed manner, questioning whether or not it was strange and wrong that she felt this way. This came at a time when I was (and am) celebrating my tenth year of vegetarianism (two of which were years spent as a vegan). Ten fucking years. I don't give a shit whether or not it's self-indulgent, but I'm patting myself on the back for that. That's more than 1/3 of my life. It also coincides with my adoption of my two cats who were previously strays who hung out in my yard (and which I found myself in awe of, being that I am shocked on pretty much a daily basis about the extremely potent feelings of love I have for the two of them). It also happens to coincide with a discussion I just recently had with a co-worker about Vitamin B12 and her children's semi-vegetarianism. And even moreso, it coincides with my viewing this Saturday of a short film called "The Witness"--a film that surprised me even while it told me something that I already knew.
It is strange how sometimes you can only pick a star out of the sky when you stop staring so intently at it and look away to other things. Only then does it suddenly blaze bright out of the corner of your eye. Only while not so focused on its energies are you able to read its light.
I was thinking this on Saturday night, not realizing how this notion was going to come to interconnect so intimately with the sudden epiphany brought on by the film I saw--here I was with my vegetarianism so strongly in the foreground of my brain that only once I looked away from it, once I saw these things as new again--the pain, the suffering that drew me to it--that I was able to recognize its light again. And its light doesn't just encompass vegetarianism anymore--the sudden epiphany that eggs, milk, and other animal by-products lend it its fuel as well.
So, weirdly and suddenly this weekend, in a move not far removed from those cartoon characters that step on a rake in the grass whose handle shoots upwards from the motion, smacking them right between the eyes, I've decided I need to attempt the road of veganism again. This scares me. All Saturday night and Sunday it scared me and I could think about little else.
It's a fucking hard thing to do. I say this not to pat myself on the back, not to win your admiration, not for any of those reasons. I say it because it IS a fucking hard thing to do, and I *AM* fallible and so I'm fucking scared that I won't have the willpower. I'm scared because this sudden realization coincides with other major changes in my life that I've implemented over the last couple months (the cats, That Which Will Not Be Spoken of Here, etc.). I'm scared and intimidated.
But goddamn if I'm not gonna try my hardest again on this one. I need to.
I don't think I'm better than anyone else. I don't. I sure as *shit* am not perfect. But I do think that I'm doing the right thing when it comes to being vegetarian. This doesn't mean that I think less of you for eating meat. But it also doesn't mean that I'm gonna feign that I don't think there's a "right path" on this one--because I do.
I've been brainwashed by meat-eaters (and by some vegetarians too, sadly enough) to think that it's not alright for me to talk about how meat-eating is wrong, even if a meat-eater opens the door to that discussion, through poking fun, through nastiness.
I've been guilt-tripped into that for much too long, having to quietly take it up the ass from meat-eaters in an attempt to dispel the myth that all vegetarians constantly think they're better than everyone else and constantly feel the need to lecture everyone else. I've sat next to plenty a meat-eater for years and years while they eat a big ol' sloppy plate of meat and I've not said a word, and yet I *STILL* get crapped on. I don't feel the need to comment on *YOUR* eating habits each time I go out to eat with you, so shut the hell up about mine.
There is not one of us vegetarians that's vegetarian just so we can rub it in your face. Just like there's none of you folks who are pro-choice, pro-life, anti-Bush, pro-the war, etc. for the sole reason that you want to rub it in the opposing side's face. And if you actually think that, you are just goddamn being silly. You are these things because you feel strongly about them, just like we're vegetarian because we feel strongly about vegetarianism--the majority of us feel passionately about animal rights. So stop convincing yourself that this is why we choose to not eat meat, that we like to sit around and think we're better than you, because who in their right mind would waste their time and energy completely changing their diet for only that reason? I mean, goddamn, I can sit there and think that right now without having to change ANYthing about my life. =)
Instead of picking on us vegetarians, instead of poking fun, instead of rolling your big stupid eyes, recognize that vegetarianism is hard work and give us a fucking break. Recognize that the major reason that you are *NOT* a vegetarian is because you KNOW and RECOGNIZE it is hard work and that you don't have the willpower to take that step. And instead of giving us crap, give us a goddamn encouraging word for once, a pat on the back, a little sparkle in your eye of admiration for the fact that we have the willpower to do something that you have not had the willpower to do yourself. And if you can't take it that far, at least just hold back the joke, silence yourself when you're about to make fun.
Most of you know where I stand on vegetarianism and animal rights. Those of you I love and am friends with have at some point in time argued with me about my vegetarianism or at least sat and listened to me ramble on about it. And (I hope) most of you recognize that I'm not the kind of person who sits around and lectures people every time they eat meat in my presence.
But on this, my tenth year of vegetarianism, I say once and for all, to those of you I love, and I say it this once only, so you know and I don't have to say it again and listen to you roll your eyes and talk about the "high horses" of vegetarians:
"In any case, the idea that "humans come first" is more often used as an excuse for not doing anything about either human or nonhuman animals than as a genuine choice between incompatible alternatives. For the truth is that there is no incompatibility here... there is nothing to stop those who devote their time and energy to human problems from joining the boycott of the products of agribusiness cruelty... [W]hen nonvegetarians say that "human problems come first" I cannot help wondering what exactly it is that they are doing for human beings that compels them to continue to support the wasteful, ruthless exploitation of farm animals.""
There are tons of folks who are against the war in Iraq because of the torture and death that goes along with such a war. There are tons of you who are against capital punishment for the same reasons, against abortion as well. And yet, you don't bat an eyelash at eating meat. You complain about how you're stuck funding a war with your tax-money, funding death and destruction that disgusts you to your very core. You don't have much choice on that one--pay your taxes or go to jail. And yet you WILLINGLY shell out money to an industry whose very existence rests on the need for this death and destruction. The meat industry is one of the few industries that relies on death in order to stay in business. The funeral home industry is another, but those folks aren't going out and killing people just so they can keep the money rolling in for themselves. The meat industry would not be here were it not for the fact that they've made death an industry. They are making money off of killing beings and hording it in their big corporate pockets, and that is nothing but fucked up.
In all these other realms--abortion, capital punishment, the war in Iraq, the fact that death and what some perceive as torture/cruelty is involved opens the door for these issues to be a question of morality. Is capital punishment a moral response to an immoral action? Or is it equally immoral? Meat-eating has cruelty and death at its very core as well, making it also a moral issue. And yet, it is the only moral issue whose viewpoint is a whisp of ethereal vapors in the air. There are books and books and books and essays and essays and essays written to protest the practice of abortion. There are books and books and books and essays and essays and essays written in defense of abortion. Same with capital punishment. Same with the war in Iraq. There are books and books and books and essays and essays and essays written in support of vegetarianism/against the meat-industry. But I'd like you to show me even *ONE* book that dedicates itself to offering an argument in support of meat-eating that really just makes you stop and think, that makes you go, well, damn, I'm glad I make the active decision to eat meat (and it *IS* an active decision). I'd like you to show me one book that even ATTEMPTS this, even if not doing the best of jobs in defending this viewpoint. You'd be hard-pressed to, let me tell you. Don't you wonder why that is?
Don't ask yourself what reasons you have for not being vegetarian. Ask yourself what good concrete justifications you have for being in support of eating meat. These are two hugely different questions. I can list off a multitude of reasons not to be vegetarian--if you don't get your daily balance of vitamins and nutrients, it can leave you feeling off-kilter and even affect your health; it's a difficult thing to do; it is more expensive than eating meat, etc. But I can't think of one good reason *TO* eat meat. Heart attacks. No. Potential illnesses stemming from the fact that the meat industry has some of the shittiest regulations in existence. No. Unnecessary killing of animals. No. Supporting the mistreatment/suffering of workers. No. Shelling out money to a huge disturbing disgusting industry that makes money off of death and torture. No.
Perhaps this is because the justification for eating meat ultimately comes down to the following reasoning: Because I wanna! And this is a sad attitude--it's an attitude akin to little kids in a toy store who scream their bloody guts out because they feel that they are deserving of a new barbie or bike just because they want it. It's an attitude that parents and educators spend tons of time trying to beat out of these children's heads by saying, time and again, "That's not a good enough reason." And really, it's not.
I challenge you to compose for me a developed argument in support of eating meat--not an argument that rests on picking apart vegetarianism, but one that offers a cogent line of reasoning for eating meat. And if you can't, I challenge you to question why that is. I challenge you to pick up Slaughterhouse by Gail Eisnitz and read it, to jump around on the PETA website (I may disagree with how their organization chooses to endorse vegetarianism, but the pictures and stories they show/tell about factory farming are true), Mercy for Animals, Veg for Life, etc. (folks, this shit *isn't* sensationalism--these are the cold, hard, unbiased facts of the matter) and educate yourself (look at the pics, read the testimonials about what's involved in what you choose to eat) and then continue to eat meat if you so choose, but at least do it as an informed consumer. I challenge you. Right here and right now.
That is all I have to say about the subject. You now officially know where I stand, on this tenth year of my vegetarianism. I don't look down upon you for eating meat. Beyond this blog entry, I feel no need to lift my voice to "lecture" you again about why I think eating meat is wrong. *UNLESS* you open that door. If you open your mouth to criticize me for being vegetarian, if you say something making fun of the tofu on my plate, if you joke about slipping meat into my food, if you as much as roll your eyes, you *ARE* opening that door, and I am *NOT* gonna shut the fuck up.
You feast on your plate of flesh. I know where you stand on the topic. You now know where I stand. But do not even *BREATHE* a word about my eating habits, because goddamn if I'm not feeling like the Ali of the veggie world this year, this month, this week, this day, and I *WILL* fuck you up.
Happy anniversary to me. =)