The reluctant vegetarian
|Image via etsy.com|
This last Tuesday it hit me. I can’t do it anymore. I can’t eat meat.
So I told my mum I couldn’t eat meat anymore which now means I’m officially a vegetarian (because telling your mum something makes it official, obviously).
Ever since I first learnt where meat comes from I have struggled to eat it. I cannot comprehend how I can love animals (it’s not uncommon for me to threaten to launch myself from a moving vehicle in an attempt to run into a passing farm to pet little lambs) but also eat them. In psychology we call this cognitive dissonance.
Most people feel at least a little bit uncomfortable about petting that cow with the beautiful big brown eyes that looked directly into their own and then eating it that night. Some people deal with this by ignoring or suppressing these feelings, some make an effort to ensure the meat they do consume is from an animal that lived in ‘humane’ circumstances, and others become vegetarians or vegans.
There is no right or wrong way to feel about eating meat (although there is an abundance of scientific evidence that we could all benefit from eating less meat and selecting more sustainable sources).
For some people (and animals) eating meat is essential to their survival; they may live in parts of the world where there isn’t much vegetation or where they need the unique nutrition profile of a particular meat to live in their climate. It's also possible that meat might be more affordable for certain people who are struggling to feed themselves and their family.
It’s for these reasons and many more that (in my opinion) the blanket statement ‘eating meat is bad’ doesn’t apply to our world. And yet this is what some people assume you are saying when they hear you say, “I’m a vegetarian.” People can see the different choices of others as a statement against their own.
In some ways I wish I was more comfortable with eating meat. I hate inconveniencing people with ‘special’ meal requests (especially after years of being on various clinician-initiated food intolerance diets), and I understand the benefits of eating meat and arguments about it being a ‘natural’ thing to do.
People are complex. Life is complex. Instead of busting out the ‘How do you known someone’s vegetarian/vegan? They’ll tell you’ joke, why not take a moment to engage with that person about their choice?
Or don’t and move on.